From Lily Allen's musings to Kate Tempest poetry: September’s top 10 books

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Francesca Brown
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As autumn arrives, some of the book world’s unmissable big hitters are out. Stylist’s books editor, Francesca Brown, picks the big 10

As the back-to-school vibe arrives in September so do some of 2018’s biggest and most anticipated titles. 

It’s essentially the time of year when publishing houses know people will be compiling their Christmas gift lists so the really big names hit the shelves (Lily Allen, Adele Parks and Kate Tempest) along with breakout titles (such as the engrossing Can We All Be Feminists?) which are likely to become huge talking points.

There’s also brilliant fiction from heavyweights including Kate Atkinson, Sarah Moss and Sally Rooney (her second book, Normal People, has already made the Man Booker longlist before publication) and also gems from upcoming new writers such as Tade Thompson and RO Kwon. Read now and be ahead of the game… 

The big fiction hitter: Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Nobody does humanity like Kate Atkinson; from her life-changing war books Life After Life to A God In Ruins via her Jackson Brodie series of books, she somehow manages to capture all the best and worst bits about humans while retaining that sense of humour that makes people so compelling. 

Transcription is no different: telling the tale of Juliet Armstrong, a typist who becomes involved in a wartime MI5 operation and the years that follow. Playing with notions of our perceptions as readers, the rise of fascism in Britain, authority figures and the lies we tell ourselves, this a gripping story that will remind you why you love reading in the first place.

You can read an exclusive interview about the book with author Kate Atkinson here.

(out 6 September, £20, Transworld)

My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

The celebrity one: My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

If you can imagine a book padlocked in a wooden lead-lined box which is then buried in a secret location, you have some idea of the secrecy surrounding Lily Allen’s forthcoming memoir. 

Thanks to the singer’s liberating approach to tackling even the most controversial of subjects: immigration, the Grenfell Fire, her personal experiences surrounding the #MeToo movement, My Thoughts Exactly, is not your run-of-the-mill celebrity essays. It’ll be autumn’s main topic of conversation.

(out 20 September, £20, Blink Publishing)

Can We All Be Feminists? edited by June Eric-Udorie

The feminist essays: Can We All Be Feminists? edited by June Eric-Udorie

September is big on feminism: The Guilty Feminist, Soraya Chemaly and Ruth Davidson all have books out but Can We All Be Feminists? is something else entirely. Edited by the amazing activist June Eric-Udorie, this is a call to arms for all feminists to take a good hard look at ourselves and think are we doing enough? Are we creating a feminism that embraces women marginalized by racism, ableism, homophobia, trans rights and beyond? With 17 writers including Emer O’Toole, Soofiya Andry and Afua Hirsch, this is not just a key read but a mandatory one.

(out 27 September, £13.99, Little, Brown)

Running Upon The Wires by Kate Tempest

The new poetry: Running Upon The Wires by Kate Tempest

Tempest’s first book of free-standing poetry since 2014’s Hold Your Own is a whirlwind of formal poems, spoken songs, ballads and fragments. Capturing the total loss at the breakdown of a beloved relationship or the dangers of catching a song on the radio that can floor you in an instant, Tempest uses words like a time traveller taking the reader into fragments of their own lives, successes and heartbreaks. Read and lose yourself in a total adventure.

(out 6 September, £9.99, Pan Macmillan)

I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

The thriller: I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

Adele Parks might be known for her “women’s fiction” (what is that phrase?) but she’s now turned her hand to her first domestic noir weaving together the emotions and ties that bind female friends with a crackingly paced twist of a tale. 

Mel and Abi are old uni friends who have lost contact but when Abi’s marriage breaks down she looks to Mel for help. What could go wrong? Parks’ understanding of friendship boundaries and the age-old dance of frenemies is the perfect backdrop for a story of revenge that just needs a quiet Sunday afternoon for total enjoyment.

(out 20 September, £6.99, HarperCollins)

The essential debut: The Incendiaries by RO Kwon 

The author Garth Greenwell (himself no slouch when it comes to writing) has described The Incendiaries as, “This debut novel is absolutely electric, something new in the firmament. Everyone should read this book.” He’s not wrong. 

Weaving together the stories of Phoebe, Will and John, it’s a book that weaves together religious fervour, love, cults, the inexplicable attraction of fundamentalism and terrifying violence in the manner of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Written over 10 years by debut novelist Kwon, this is set to be on some of 2018’s best book lists… 

(out 6 September, £14.99, Virago)

Normal People by Sally Rooney

The hotly anticipated follow-up: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney’s debut, Conversations With Friends, was a huge success with discerning readers (the characters behaved so badly that fights broke out across the Stylist offices about their behaviour) and Normal People is a beautifully written follow-up that captures the tentative and complex relations between people in love. 

Following Connell and Marianne from their teens in a small town in the west of Ireland to college in Dublin, it’ll leave you touched, uplifted, nostalgic and bereft. (Plus, no one else does dialogue this well observed…)

(out now, £14.99, Faber)

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

The indie gem: Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

“Darkness was a long time coming…” Never in our wildest dreams did we think a book about experimental Iron Age archaeology in Northumberland would leave us obsessed and gulping down 150 pages in less than two hours but Moss’ Ghost Wall is it. 

Telling the tale of two girls separated by centuries and filled with a slow creeping sense of dread and fear, this short-but-powerful novella will cement Moss as one of the finest contemporary writers working in Britain today. We’re very lucky to have her. Read this as the autumnal mists start rolling…

(out 20 September, £12.99, Granta)

The sci-fi one: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

The first novel in a sci-fi trilogy set in a future Nigeria, Thompson’s Rosewater is an ambitious epic that explores the arrival of an alien biodome on earth but also manages to incorporate all the best bits of a mystery/thriller to boot. 

Rosewater is the doughnut city that surrounds the dome where a frontier town of desperate humans attempt to find salvation from disease. With a winning hero who also has telepathic abilities, this series is going to be addictive. See you on the other side.

(out 20 September, £8.99, Little, Brown)

The Rise And Fall Of Becky Sharp by Sarra Manning

The thinking chicklit: The Rise And Fall Of Becky Sharp by Sarra Manning 

Serendipitously released to coincide with ITV1’s new feminist and highly entertaining retelling of Vanity Fair, Sarra Manning’s The Rise And Fall Of Becky Sharp is a modern-day update that manages to craftily reboot the original classic while skewering the modern-day quirks of 2018. 

Living in a world filled with reality TV, Downton pastiches, Bono boring on at those around him and Kanye and Kim snacking on vegan sausages in the pages of Tatler, Becky Sharp proves herself to be an unsinkable chick lit heroine for our social media age. It’s a brilliant and lively romp that only the grumpiest of readers could resist.

(out 6 September, £6.99, HarperCollins)


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Francesca Brown

Francesca Brown is books editor for Stylist magazine and Stylist Loves; she also compiles the Style List on a weekly basis. She is a self-confessed HBO abuser and has a wide selection of grey sweatshirts. Honestly, you just can’t have enough. @franabouttown