September Books 2012

Although the the season has yet to declare itself, harvest is here. The air is cooling, warning of the winter that is coming. Still, the tomatoes ripen on the vine. The last of the sweet corn droops on the stalks. Plump pumpkins dot the fields.

It's fitting to begin September with Harrison's book, not only as an ode to the season, but because I am the farmer's daughter, (in actuality, one of five of the farmer's daughters).

Happy reading everyone.

The Farmer's Daughter - Jim Harrison
The three stories in The Farmer's Daughter are as different as they are unforgettable. Written in the voice of a home-schooled fifteen-year-old girl in rural Montana, the title novella is an uncompromising, beautiful tale of an extraordinary character whose youth intersects with unexpected brutality and of the reserves she must draw on to make herself whole. In another story, Harrison's beloved recurring character, Brown Dog, still looking for love, escapes from Canada back to the States on the tour bus of an Indian rock band called Thunderskins. And in the concluding story, a retired werewolf attempts to lead a normal life but is plagued by feverish episodes of lust, physical appetite, athletic exertions, and outbursts of violence under the full moon.

The Devil All The Time - Donald Ray Pollack
In the backwoods of Ohio, Willard Russell’s wife is succumbing to cancer, no matter how much he drinks, prays, or sacrifices animals at his "prayer log." Meanwhile, his son Arvin is growing up, from a kid bullied at school into a man who knows when to take action. Around them swirl a nefarious cast of characters—a demented team of serial killers, a spider-eating preacher, and a corrupt local sheriff—all braided into a riveting narrative of the grittiest American grain.

Knockemstiff - Donald Ray Pollack
In this unforgettable work of fiction, Donald Ray Pollock peers into the soul of a tough Midwestern American town to reveal the sad, stunted but resilient lives of its residents. Spanning a period from the mid-sixties to the late nineties, the linked stories feature a cast of recurring characters who are irresistibly, undeniably real. A father pumps his son full of steroids so he can vicariously relive his days as a perpetual runner-up body builder. A psychotic rural recluse comes upon two siblings committing incest and feels compelled to take action. Donald Ray Pollock presents his characters and the sordid goings-on with a stern intelligence, a bracing absence of value judgments, and a refreshingly dark sense of bottom-dog humor.

Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper - Harriet Scoll Chessman
Harriet Scott Chessman takes us into the world of Mary Cassatt's early Impressionist paintings through Mary's sister Lydia, whom the author sees as Cassatt’s most inspiring muse. Chessman hauntingly brings to life Paris in 1880, with its thriving art world. The novel’s subtle power rises out of a sustained inquiry into art’s relation to the ragged world of desire and mortality. Ill with Bright’s disease and conscious of her approaching death, Lydia contemplates her world narrowing. With the rising emotional tension between the loving sisters, between one who sees and one who is seen, Lydia asks moving questions about love and art’s capacity to remember. Chessman illuminates Cassatt’s brilliant paintings and creates a compelling portrait of the brave and memorable model who inhabits them with such grace. Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper includes five full-color plates, the entire group of paintings Mary Cassatt made of her sister.

A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Bulider - Michael Pollen
Michael Pollan's unmatched ability to draw lines of connection between our everyday experiences- whether eating, gardening, or building-and the natural world has been the basis for the popular success of his many works of nonfiction, including the genre-defining bestsellers The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. With this updated edition of his earlier book A Place of My Own, readers can revisit the inspired, intelligent, and often hilarious story of Pollan's realization of a room of his own-a small, wooden hut, his "shelter for daydreams"-built with his admittedly unhandy hands. Inspired by both Thoreau and Mr. Blandings, A Place of My Own not only works to convey the history and meaning of all human building, it also marks the connections between our bodies, our minds, and the natural world.

Mrs. Freud - Nicolle Rosen
This intriguing novel reveals a woman sorely neglected by history: Sigmund Freud+s wife, Martha. In this voyage into the depth of memory, comparable to that of psychoanalysis, Martha says more than she had ever intended.-How is it possible to have spent my entire life without thinking a single minute for myself? How could I have dedicated every moment to the fulfillment of someone else+s work-and life-to the detriment of mine? Why did I accept being upstaged, first by my own sister and later by my daughter?+ These are the gnawing questions Martha Freud struggles to answer when an American journalist engages her in a long correspondence at the end of her life after Sigmund died. From their letters, the woman whom biographers have painted as perfectly subservient, always in the shadow of the great man, emerges as a keen and thoughtful observer in her own right. Drawing on archival documents, letters, and papers, MRS. FREUD is a highly researched and informed view of an era shaken by wars and the birth of psychoanalysis. Nicolle Rosen, a psychoanalyst herself, shows Martha in a human light, as the privileged witness to Sigmund Freud. From this intimate perspective, we glimpse the great scientist and his famous daughter, Anna, described without any indulgence, as well as the entire Freud family in their peregrinations.

Twelve Sisters - Leslie Beaton Hedley
On the surface, the fast and testimony meeting seems quite ordinary. Prelude music only slightly masks the noise as members of the ward fill up the pews and the bishop smiles benignly over the assembling Saints. But beneath their scrubbed and freshly pressed exteriors, each of the women in the Foothills Ward struggles with challenges and decisions that others in the congregation are not aware of. In this beautifully crafted novel, we share the lives of twelve "ordinary" Latter-day Saint women - discovering in their diversity and their yearnings toward sisterhood what it means to be a woman in the Church today.

A Passage to India - E. M. Forster
Britain’s three-hundred-year relationship with the Indian subcontinent produced much fiction of interest but only one indisputable masterpiece: E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India, published in 1924, at the height of the Indian independence movement. Centering on an ambiguous incident between a young Englishwoman of uncertain stability and an Indian doctor eager to know his conquerors better, Forster’s book explores, with unexampled profundity, both the historical chasm between races and the eternal one between individuals struggling to ease their isolation and make sense of their humanity.

Girlchild - Tupelo Hassman
Rory’s been told that she is one of the “third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the county and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social workers’ reports, half-recalled memories, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world even as she searches for the way out of it.

Late Bloomers - Brendann Gill
In sparkling profiles written by veteran New Yorker contributor Brendan Gill, the stories of these resilient people unfold. Some, such as Raymond Kroc (the founder of McDonalds) and Harry Truman changed careers relatively late in life. Others, such as botanist George Washington Carver, worked for years in their profession, finding recognition only later. Many of those profiled, including Julia Child and Gertrude Jekyll, didn't even begin producing their life's work until middle age.

Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen - Donia Bijan
For Donia Bijan’s family, food has been the language they use to tell their stories and to communicate their love. In 1978, when the Islamic revolution in Iran threatened their safety, they fled to California’s Bay Area, where the familiar flavors of Bijan’s mother’s cooking formed a bridge to the life they left behind. Now, through the prism of food, award-winning chef Donia Bijan unwinds her own story, finding that at the heart of it all is her mother, whose love and support enabled Bijan to realize her dreams.

This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness - Laura Munson
Poignant, wise, and often exceedingly funny, this is the moment-by- moment memoir of a woman who decided to let go-in the midst of the emotional equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane. It recounts what happened as Munson set out on her spiritual journey-and provides raw, powerful inspiration to anyone searching for peace in an utterly unpredictable world.

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