Sep 15, 2023

9 New Books We Recommend This Week

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In the publishing world, September is traditionally the start of “big book” season, not necessarily in terms of size — although often that, too — but in terms of popularity and prestige. Right on cue, our recommendations this week include new novels from some of the biggest names in the business (Lauren Groff, Stephen King and Zadie Smith), along with nonfiction detailing the romantic and literary lives of the perennial favorites George Orwell and George Eliot.

We also recommend a poetry collection, a true-crime biography and a history of East Germany before the wall fell — and, in the Nordic equivalent of those collaborations between James Patterson and Bill Clinton, an Icelandic thriller co-written by a crime novelist and the country’s current prime minister, Katrin Jacobsdottir. Happy reading.

—Gregory Cowles

Based on a celebrated 19th-century criminal trial in which the defendant was accused of impersonating a nobleman, Smith’s novel offers a vast, acute panoply of London and the English countryside, and successfully locates the social controversies of an era in a handful of characters.

In this seamlessly plotted thriller, co-written by the current prime minister of Iceland and translated by Victoria Cribb, a journalist who decides to reinvestigate the decades-old disappearance of a young woman discovers that the truth always rises to the surface, no matter how ugly it is or how powerful the players are.

Bloomsbury | $29.99

Beware the kindly retired professors in King’s latest novel, which is set during the pandemic and charges into thorny debates from masking policies to Black Lives Matter protests. The private investigator Holly Gibney is trying to track down a young woman who went missing not far from the professors’ home.

Even George Orwell, whose dealings with women were often problematic, admitted that he behaved badly toward his first wife, Eileen O’Shaughnessy. This book focuses on O’Shaughnessy, and combines her story with a bravura analysis of female invisibility.

Knopf | $32

One more for the thick pile of biographies of the Victorian novelist, but with a difference: Carlisle emphasizes Eliot’s scandalous, yet productive, long relationship with George Henry Lewes, who, while married to another woman, both provided her comfort and promoted her career.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $30

In Groff’s capacious fifth novel, a solitary servant girl leaves an unnamed 17th-century colony in which fear and hunger have bred only violence and sets out into the wilderness, knowing there will be danger ahead, but perhaps not so much as she left behind.

Riverhead | $28

In this impressively researched history of East Germany, Hoyer excavates the human and the worthwhile from the rubble of a police state. Her lens is primarily on geopolitics, but her narrative kicks into gear when she lingers on the lives of ordinary East Berliners.

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