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Chicagoist's September Book Recommendations: Familiar Faces, New Names

By Maggie Hellwig in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 6, 2012 3:20PM

Plenty of well-known authors are releasing new novels this month. So many, in fact, that it was impossible to choose just three, as per our usual. So here are the four books we have our eyes on this month. Keeping them on your to-read list will prove as a blessing when the chill of fall announces itself.

Irvine Welsh

Welsh's 1993 release Trainspotting was seen as a breakthrough novel for many reasons. It tightly framed a picture of Edinburgh overrun by economic hardship and struggling to escape the AIDS and drug epidemics still lingering from the 80s. More than that, the picture Welsh painted was shocking and the medium executed with a sharp Leith accent.

This month Welsh, now a Chicago resident, releases the prequel to Trainspotting: Skagboys. The novel takes us back to the 80s when Mark Renton was clean. We learn how Renton, Spud Murphy, Tommy Lawrence, and Sick Boy brave and ultimately succumb to the heroin epidemic, plagued by the unpredictable crimes of Matty Connell and Franco Begbie. While some reviews claim that Skagboys does nothing that Trainspotting hadn't effectively accomplished, it's worth a read for those of us who have investment in the characters, the history of Edinburgh, or admire Welsh as a complex story-teller.

This is How You Lose Her
Junot Díaz

This How You Lose Her is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Diaz's third novel. You may have marveled at the genius of Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao or may have traveled back further to the first book that placed him within literary conversation: Drown. Whether you are familiar with his prose or not, This is How You Lose Her has already received its praise as a beautifully written trail of short stories.

Mainly, each story is about love: the formation of love; the loss of it; betrayal; and the love of a parent. Sources inform us that where Díaz meets the reader with sentiment, he head butts against it with brutal honesty. The character Yunior is followed through the Dominican Republic, Boston, and Jersey, as he womanizes, but also as he genuinely experiences the waxing and waning cycles of his love life.

The Casual Vacancy
J.K. Rowling

It seems that everything that Rowling does in her post-Harry Potter days must come under some kind of scrutiny. Even the revealing of the book cover for her new book has created a buzz.

While to some, the cover art may resemble a box of McDonald's fries, we think it shouldn't be nearly as interesting as what's be inside. The Casual Vacancy is Rowling's first adult novel, which is fetching enough for our curiosity that we'll pick up the book. Within, the reader will be transported to the town of Pagford and fraught with the death of Barry Fairbrother. Barry leaves behind him an empty seat on the parish council. While Pagford appears at first sight to be quaint and charming, the flaws found at the town's core are slowly breeding a conflict over the council replacement. From her web site's summary of the novel, it seems that Rowling has kept her tradition of compelling plot line alive, and now we are eager to see if the hype holds up to the product.

The Minus Times Collected: Twenty Years/Thirty Issues (1992-2012)
Edited by Hunter Kennedy

Featherproof Books and Drag City have combined forces to produce an anthology of the literary magazine The Minus Times. Minus Times has remained confusing, to say the least. The address on their "coordinates page" glares at us with the humorous caption: "We like old postcards from young Turks & fellow travelers/ Submissions upon request, only./ Same goes for art, unless it fits on a postcard./ But cocktails are welcome anytime."

Despite its evasive nature, we've come to know the lit magazine as always typewriter-written and terribly witty. The collection includes: an intro by Patrick deWitt; contributions from Sam Lipsyte, David Berman, Jeff Rotter, and Wells Tower; illustrations from artists such as Dave Eggers and Brad Neely; and interviews with a young Stephen Colbert, Daniel Clowes, and Barry Hannah. The book is already available, and quite inexpensive for the amount of literary and artistic eye candy that you'll receive.