Ten books to read this month

Photo: The Washington Post

There are so many great books coming out through the fall, including a number from big-name authors. This month’s selections include a few of those along with books by writers you likely haven’t heard of before. It would be difficult to decide which group is better. Best not to try; just read them all.

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“Life of A Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy,” by Edward Ball (Aug. 4)

Ball’s latest memoir is about his great-great-grandfather Constant Lecorgne, a white French Creole who became a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Ball approached descendants of the African American people who were victims of Lecorgne and his cohort to share their narratives. A powerful, relevant and personal story about how we look at the word “heritage.”

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“Luster: A Novel,” by Raven Leilani (Aug. 4)

“You are a desirable woman. You are not a dozen gerbils in a skin casing,” the protagonist of this novel tells herself early in this strange, hilarious, important debut. Edie wants to be a painter, but she’s young, black and depressive, with no clue how to get what she wants. After falling for the much-older Eric, Edie finds herself part of his open marriage and an unwilling role model for his daughter. But what happens when their family flailing inspires her art?

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“Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” by Isabel Wilkerson (Aug. 4)

In “The Warmth of Other Suns,” Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, explained how the Great Migration changed our country forever. In “Caste,” Wilkerson shows the distinctions between race, class and caste, the latter a means of ensuring that there is always a “bottom rung” for humans to supposedly rise above. Yet that deep rut has many costs, and not just for those consigned to remain there.

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“On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake,” by Sarah Chayes (Aug. 11)

Chayes, whose “Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security” won the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, once worked as a special assistant on corruption to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She understands the corrosive nature of malfeasance, and she has examples from plenty of presidential administrations to remind us what absolute power does.

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“The New Wilderness: A Novel,” by Diane Cook (Aug. 11)

In a near-future America, the only natural area that remains is called the Wilderness State. When the government asks for volunteers to live there without any modern tools or amenities, a family of three agrees despite the rigid rules – no staying in one place longer than seven days, for example – and the rangers who enforce them. More than a version of “Survivor: Woodlands,” this novel asks tough questions about love and sustainability.

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“Reaganland: America’s Right Turn 1976-1980,” by Rick Perlstein (Aug. 18)

The author of “Nixonland” and “The Invisible Bridge” returns with the finale of his trilogy about American conservatism. Readers can decide for themselves whether Perlstein deserves to be called “the hypercaffeinated Herodotus of the American century,” as the Nation magazine dubbed him, but there’s no doubt his energetic writing takes his topic to an engaging level.

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“Black Bottom Saints: A Novel,” by Alice Randall (Aug. 18)

In Detroit’s celebrated Black Bottom neighborhood, Joseph “Ziggy” Johnson writes about gossip, emcees a night club, runs a theater school and keeps tabs on the city’s elite, including Count Basie and Ethel Waters. As he lies in a hospital dying, he curates a list of “52 Saints” and tells their stories – oh, and he provides cocktail recipes, too.

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“Winter Counts: A Novel,” by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Aug. 25)

The first in a planned series set on the fictional Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, “Winter Counts” is a first-rate thriller that also delivers first-rate commentary on our nation’s colonial crimes. Virgil Wounded Horse, Rosebud’s local enforcer, needs to stop the flow of heroin into his community, and into his nephew’s veins. That quest will take him on the road, with his ex-girlfriend, to confront terrifying enemies.

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“Squeeze Me: A Novel,” by Carl Hiaasen (Aug. 25)

Leave it to Hiaasen to lampoon what is going on in Washington with a socialite’s murder in Palm Beach. Kiki Pew, a founding member of the POTUSSIES, women dedicated to the president, disappears from a charity gala and is found in a concrete grave. The president declares she’s been killed by “immigrant hordes,” but wildlife wrangler Angie Armstrong senses something closer to the White House is responsible.

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“Vesper Flights: Essays,” by Helen MacDonald (Aug. 25)

If you haven’t read “H Is for Hawk,” MacDonald’s splendid 2015 memoir about raising a goshawk while grieving her father’s death, please put that title on top of your TBR pile, with this one directly beneath it. The essays in “Vesper Flights” prove that the author is a nature writer on par with Annie Dillard, one whose keen observations about everything from migrations to mushrooms intertwine with a compassionate perspective on her fellow humans.

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Patrick is the editor, most recently, of “The Books That Changed My Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians and Other Remarkable People.”



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