September '21 Book Recs

Melissa Lee
September 30, 2021

We’re back again with another month of recommendations! Our Discord members have shared their thoughts on some stand-out books from this month and our read-a-thon event (fun fact, we collectively read over 30 books in those 24 hours!). If a genre or premise interests you, why not add it to your TBR?

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Cover image of Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Recommended by Yasmine

Genre: Bildungsroman / Classic

CW: death, domestic abuse, guns, homophobia, racism, rape (mentioned), sexism, slavery, violence

Comments: Considered a classic of the Harlem Renaissance, Their Eyes Were Watching God is an American novel published in 1937 by Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston endeavours, through Janie Crawford’s three marriages, to highlight the evolving selfhood Janie experiences throughout her suffering. Hurston continues to engage the audience through phonetic dialect, drawing in on Janie’s struggle for independence and captivating the audience till the sad but satisfying conclusion.

Cover image of Where the Crawdads Sing.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Recommended by Erin

Genre: Mystery / Coming of Age / Romance / Historical

CW: sexism, racism, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse

Comments: Where the Crawdads Sing is a gripping novel that draws you in, not only with the murder mystery at hand but through the story of Kya Clark. Kya is an enchanting character who is able to grow and evolve and stay true to herself despite external judgement. Kya is the epitome of independence and commands your attention throughout the whole book. Owen’s setting of the marsh also becomes a source of tranquillity and joy for the reader, and it takes us into a whole new world. I cannot recommend this book any more!

Cover image of Mythos.

Mythos by Stephen Fry

Recommended by Nicole

Genre: Mythology / Retelling

CW: abduction, violence, sexual abuse, murder

Comments: This book takes the well-known stories of Greek mythology, starting right from the beginning with Chaos, and retells them with a captivating sense of humour and wit. I found it very enjoyable, and the story-telling approach of this novel is suitably entertaining for both beginning introductions to Greek mythology and those already well-versed in these myths. Definitely a fun and vibrant read.

Cover image of The Emporium of Imagination.

The Emporium of Imagination by Tabitha Bird

Recommended by Melissa

Genre: Fantasy / Magical Realism

CW: death, homophobia (mentioned), overdose (mentioned)

Comments: I was immediately captivated by the language of the first few chapters. It reminded me of when one first reads Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or has to suspend their disbelief at the magic of Mary Poppins. I was not expecting how well this story explores different types of grief – the loss of people, opportunities and time – but that is what made it a five star read for me. It doesn’t shy away from the trials arising from social norms and expectations but shows that there is still a way forward. If you’re looking for something that covers the bases of whimsicality and poignancy, this is a book for you.

Cover image of The Girl in the Tower.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Recommended by Katy

Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction

CW: arson, abduction, rape threats, slavery (mentioned), violence, gore

Comments: When accusations of witchcraft leave Vasya with a difficult choice between life in a convent or marriage, she chooses a third option – disguising herself as a boy and adventuring into the forests of Russia during a dangerous and unforgiving winter. This book was magical, atmospheric, occasionally dark and beautifully written. While I enjoyed Arden’s first novel, The Bear and the Nightingale, this was even better. There was a faster pace, more action, amazing character growth, gripping plot twists and even a bit of romance. The protagonist, Vasya, was more mature, and I loved the development in her relationships, especially her slow-burning romance with the winter demon, Morozko. I would give 4.5/5 stars to this enchanting medieval Russian fantasy.

Cover image of Upright Women Wanted.

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Recommended by Caitlin

Genre: Fantasy / LGBT Fiction

CW: child labour, death, domestic abuse, executions, grief, gun violence, hanging (mentioned), homophobia, murder, physical abuse, possessiveness, transphobia, violence

Comments: This book is everything I didn’t know I needed, and now I want more. This queer western dystopia follows Esther after she stows away in a Librarian’s book wagon. She’s on the run after her best friend, whom she was in love with, was executed for possession of resistance propaganda. This was a fast-paced read with incredible world-building, and the only problem I had was that it wasn’t long enough.

Cover image of The Well of Loneliness.

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

Recommended by Caitlin

Genre: Künstlerroman / LGBT Fiction

CW: death, gun violence, homophobia, hunting, racism, slavery (mentioned), suicide, war

Comments: Written in 1928 and promptly banned in Britain until 1949, The Well of Loneliness follows the life of Stephen Gordon as she navigates the world as a butch lesbian. This ground-breaking novel asserts the right of 'sexual inverts' (LGBT people) to exist in the context of a society that rejects them. 'If our love is a sin, then heaven must be full of such tender and selfless sinning as ours.'

Cover image of Dark Archives: A Librarian’s Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin.

Dark Archives: A Librarian’s Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin by Megan Rosenbloom

Recommended by Caitlin

Genre: Non-fiction / Literary Criticism

CW: body horror (mentions of human leather), death, murder, mentions of slavery, medical malpractice, mentions of medical procedures, gun violence, mentions of cadavers, mentions of war/violence, executions

Comments: Anthropodermic Bibliopegy is the term for books bound in human skin. While there are only a handful of confirmed cases of this practice, the science and mythology behind it is fascinating. Rosenbloom examines the history and ethics of this macabre subject in a well-researched and respectful way. This is definitely one of my favourite non-fiction books now.

Cover image of Uprooted.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Recommended by Katherine

Genre: Fantasy / Young Adult / Retelling

CW: attempted rape, adult-minor relationship, alcohol consumption

Comments: For fantasy Naomi Novik is good – Uprooted is my favourite . . . [it’s] sort of a fairytale retelling I suppose, but I don’t really think of [it] in that way.

Cover image of Spinning Silver.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Recommended by Katherine

Genre: Fantasy / Young Adult / Retelling

CW: death, physical abuse, rape (mentioned), sexual assault, murder, violence

Comments: Spinning Silver is good too . . . [it’s] sort of a fairytale retelling [of Rumpelstiltskin] I suppose, but I don’t really think of [it] in that way.

Cover image of The Philosopher’s Flight.

The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller

Recommended by Katherine

Genre: Dystopian / Historical Fiction / Fantasy

CW: sexism

Comments: Not high fantasy, but I do like alternate historical fiction, and it’s got magic and flying and does interesting things with the role of women.