Here it’s almost September already and I haven’t even discussed August releases yet. But there’s too many good novels (see list at right) to skip from spotlighting them.
Of course a lot of people this month are talking about Haruki Murakami’s latest novel “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” which is about a man in his mid-30s who journeys to visit four of his former high school friends to find out why they cut off all relations with him during college. Who better than Ti over at Book Chatter to be the fan ambassador for this new book. She’s read about everything he’s written and I’m sure will have the lowdown soon on where this particular novel stands amid all his other famous works.
Weighing in at 640 pages, “We Are Not Ourselves” by Matthew Thomas is another novel making a splash this month. It’s about an Irish-American family in New York and their lives that chart the story of America’s 20th century. It’s been heralded as a literary breakout for Thomas whose debut has been ten years in the making. Author Chad Harbach calls it a “powerfully moving book” and Joshua Ferris says it’s a “masterwork.”
Other novels this month are also weighty in substance, taking on the seriousness of fall books instead of flighty, fun summer reads. Take for instance, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan which tells the story set in 1943 of an Australian who tries to save the men under his command while slaving in a Japanese POW camp along the Thai-Burma Railway. Flanagan’s novel apparently springs from his own father’s experiences working on the “death railway” during WWII. It has been much praised and is long-listed for the 2014 Man Booker Prize. (Stay tuned for the Booker short list to be announced on Sept. 9).
Also this month there’s “The Lotus and the Storm” a novel by Lan Cao, which illuminates the shattering effects of war as experienced by a South Vietnamese family, who forty years later living in Virginia discover truths about really happened during their years in Saigon. Author Ruth Ozeki calls the novel “profoundly moving” and Khaled Hosseini says it’s a “searing indictment of the American campaign in Vietnam.”
Another touted novel out this month “Before, During, and After” by Richard Bausch explores the effects that 9/11 has on a soon-to-be-married couple. While another “Your Face in Mine” by Jess Row explores issues of race and identity after a man undergoes racial reassignment surgery that allows him to pass as African American. One last one “The Dog” by Jack Livings, which captures lives set within contemporary China, has been called “a pitch-perfect account of modernization’s grueling aftermath” by Publishers Weekly.
Whoa when did summer end? These books all seem so weighty and significant. But I’m still in my summer reading mode and have picked three other novels a bit lighter in scope. First off, I’d like to check out Malcolm Brooks’s debut “Painted Horses” about a female archaeologist in the 1950s who is hired to explore a Montana canyon slated for damming and destruction. I’ve heard it’s good and I’m just in an American West frame of mind right now, thanks to Peter Heller’s novel “The Painter,” which I’m enjoying.
I might also pick up Ellen Cooney’s novel “The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances,” which is about two women who start a sanctuary for dogs high on a mountain where humans and canines help each other find new hope and new lives. Need I say more? If you’re a dog person like me, this story might be a wee bit hard to resist.
Lastly for novels out this month, I hope to check out Julie Schumacher’s “Dear Committee Members” because it looks funny and irreverent and hopefully is just the perfect book to end the summer on. I know a lot of bloggers have already blitzed through its short 192 pages and liked it. For those who don’t know it, Slate explains it’s a “funny and lacerating novel of academia written in the form of letters of recommendation.” Its protagonist professor Jason Fitger sounds like a hilarious piece of work so I don’t want to miss this one.
In movies out this month (see list at left), I know folks who’ve loved “Guardians of the Galaxy” but action blockbusters aren’t exactly my thing. I liked the book “The Giver” by Lois Lowry but I’m not sure about seeing the movie. And I haven’t read “The Hundred-Year Journey” by Richard Morais so I think I will likely wait to see that movie on pay-per-view as well as “The Trip to Italy,” though both might have potential.
In albums out this month (see list at bottom right), I’d likely pick Spoon’s “They Want My Soul,” or else the alt-country selection “Bahamas Is Afie” by the singer/guitarist who makes up Bahamas.
What about you -- which books, movies, or albums out this month are you most looking forward to?