September books

The Arts

September 1, 2020

Notable new releases.

compiled by Sally Brewster

The Awkward Black Man, by Walter Mosley

In this collection of simple and complex portraits of a wide range of Black men, Mosley defies the stereotypical images that abound in American culture. The characters in these 17 short stories run the gamut, from hapless nerd to the deliberately blind victim of loneliness, with insecurities on full display. These first-person narratives present an array of men in varying circumstances facing racism, obstructed opportunities and other terrors of modern life, including climate change, natural and manmade disasters, homelessness, urban violence, and failed relationships. Master storyteller Mosley has created a beautiful collection about Black men who are, indeed, awkward in their poignant humanity.

Agent Sonya: Moscow’s Most Daring Wartime Spy,
by Ben Macintyre  

This true-life spy story is a masterpiece about the woman code-named “Sonya.” Over the course of her career, she was hunted by the Chinese, the Japanese, the Nazis, MI5, MI6 and the FBI — and she evaded them all. Her story reflects the great ideological clash of the 20th century — between communism, Fascism and Western democracy — and casts new light on the spy battles and shifting allegiances of our own times. With unparalleled access to Sonya’s diaries and correspondence and never-before-seen information on her clandestine activities, Ben Macintyre has conjured a page-turning history of a legendary secret agent, a woman who influenced the course of the Cold War and helped plunge the world into a decades-long standoff between nuclear superpowers.

Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else, and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything. Add to the mix a fearless 87-year-old woman, a flustered real-estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world. Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them — the bank robber included — desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next. 

Just Like You, by Nick Hornby

Lucy used to handle her adult romantic life according to the script she’d been handed. She met a guy just like herself: same age, same background, same hopes and dreams; they got married and started a family. Now, two decades later, she’s an almost divorced, 41-year-old schoolteacher with two school-aged sons, and there is no script anymore. When she meets Joseph, she isn’t exactly looking for love — she’s more in the market for a babysitter. Joseph is 22, living at home with his mother, and working several jobs, including the butcher counter where he and Lucy meet. Not a match anyone one could have predicted. He’s of a different class, a different culture and a different generation. But sometimes it turns out that the person who can make you happiest is the one you least expect, though it can take some maneuvering to see it through. Just Like You is a brilliantly observed, tender but also a very funny new novel that gets to the heart of what it means to fall surprisingly and headlong in love.

Dear Ann, by Bobbie Ann Mason

Ann Workman is smart but naïve, a misfit from rural Kentucky who went to graduate school in the transformative years of the late 1960s. While Ann fervently seeks higher learning, she wants what all girls yearn for — a boyfriend. But not any boy. She wants the “real thing,” to be in love with someone who loves her equally. Then Jimmy appears, as if by magic. Although he comes from a different background — upper-middle class suburban Chicago — he is a misfit too, a rebel who rejects his upbringing and questions everything. Ann and Jimmy bond through music and literature and their own quirkiness. But with the Vietnam War looming and the country in turmoil, their future is uncertain. Many years later, Ann recalls this time of innocence — and her own obsession with Jimmy — as she faces another life crisis. Seeking escape from her problems, she tries to imagine where she might be if she had chosen differently all those years ago. What if she had gone to Stanford University, as her mentor had urged, instead of a small school on the East Coast? Would she have been caught up in the Summer of Love and its subsequent dark turns? Or would her own good sense have saved her from disaster? Beautifully written and expertly told, Dear Ann is the wrenching story of one woman’s life and the choices she has made.  SP

Sally Brewster is the proprietor of Park Road Books, located at 4139 Park Road.

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