New Reads for September 2019

Five can’t-miss books out this month—two powerful novels, rediscovered short stories, a football-fan delight, and scenes of bygone Charleston
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The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Set in antebellum Virginia, this reimagined look at the Underground Railroad is the first novel from Ta Nehisi Coates, the National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me. Water is a motif throughout his masterfully written story—from the Middle Passage that forced Africans into a life of slavery in the colonies, to the near-drowning the main character, Hiram Walker, survives that sets his life on a new course. 

Lost Charleston, by Leigh Jones Handal

A new and fascinating coffee table book is full of vintage photographs of the Charleston, South Carolina, icons that have disappeared over recent decades, including the original Folly Beach pier and pavilion that burned in 1977, the Kress lunch counter where in 1960, Burke High School students staged a sit-in to protest segregation, and the many faded cathedrals, hotels, and houses that were lost to fires, hurricanes, or development. There’s a note of hope in the introduction: “What amazes me is not so much what has been lost,” writes author Leigh Jones Handal, a longtime Charlestonian and tour guide, “but what has survived it all.”

The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett

Fans of the novelist Ann Patchett, who co-owns Parnassus Books in Nashville, launched her 2016 novel Commonwealth onto bestseller lists and will be thrilled that the author is now back with The Dutch House. With this compelling story about a mansion in Philadelphia and all the interwoven stories of the characters who have lived there over generations, Patchett delivers another entertaining and observantly wise read.

Chasing the Bear, by Lars Anderson

Lars Anderson, a journalism instructor at the University of Alabama, builds an in-depth comparison between two Alabama coaching titans—Bear Bryant and current head coach Nick Saban. Anderson draws on historic reports as well as the one-on-one interviews he has conducted with the famously media-reluctant Saban since the late 2000s, when he was a senior writer at Sports Illustrated

Where The Light Falls, by Nancy Hale, edited by Lauren Groff

Although she has been mostly forgotten, the short story sage Nancy Hale (1908–1988) was a gifted and renowned writer in the middle of the last century. Lauren Groff, author of the 2018 National Book Award Finalist short story collection Florida, shines the spotlight back on Hale by editing and collecting these twenty-five of her greatest works spanning subject matters of the South, family, and exploration of her own mental illness. In the forthcoming October/November 2019 issue of Garden & Gun, books columnist Jonathan Miles gives a full review.