1. What Happened by Hillary Clinton (Simon & Schuster)
Hillary Clinton’s eagerly anticipated memoir What Happened will officially be released on September 12, but it has already been grabbing headlines. Loosening up far more than has been her custom, Clinton owns up to personal mistakes but also points to outside forces that she suggests were insurmountable: inappropriate accusations and disclosures by former FBI Director James Coney, obsessive coverage of her email saga by news media, interference by Russian hackers, and a destructive primary battle with Bernie Sanders, who she blames for unnecessarily weakening her as she headed into the general election. Clinton saves her greatest wrath, however, for Donald Trump, calling him "a clear and present danger to the country and the world." When he stalked her during one debate, she writes that she considered saying: "Back up, you creep. Get away from me."
2. The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido by David Friend (Twelve)
In his lively, irrepressible look at the ‘90s, Friend focuses on sexual history in what he describes as the “high-living, free-spending, balls-out era from Reagan-Bush up through Clinton-Gore.” Vanity Fair editor, documentary producer and author of Watching the World Change: The Stories Behind the Images of 9/11, Friend makes connections between Washington, Hollywood and Madison Avenue. In this far-ranging book, he talks with notorious figures like Heidi Fleiss and Lorena Bobbitt, closely reads classics like David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd and Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, details the birth of reality TV, and has some fun explaining how Brazilian wax jobs and Viagra became so popular.
3. The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, with an Introduction by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (Knopf)
This stunning volume is a companion to the 10-part, 18-hour documentary The Vietnam War, which will begin airing on PBS on September 17, but it stands on its own as an authoritative source on a lamentable war that continues to haunt both Vietnam and America. The book is beautifully designed with extraordinary photographs, and it includes trenchant essays by prominent writers like Todd Gitlin and Viet Thanh Nguyen. Its greatest power, however, rests with its chorus of voices of ordinary people who lived these events – veterans (American, as well as North and South Vietnamese), anti-war activists, war correspondents, diplomats, and Gold Star mothers.
4. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin Press)
In Ng’s gripping and provocative novel, the invisible fault lines of race and class erupt in comfortable, liberal Shaker Heights, Ohio, one of the first planned communities in the United States. A prominent and affluent family is destabilized by the arrival of an alluring and charismatic artist and her adolescent daughter, who value art and creative expression over materialism. An explosive custody battle over an adopted Chinese baby divides the town, and Ng’s remarkable ability to convey a range of emotional and social perspectives makes this a powerful story of privilege, parenthood, and power dynamics in Middle America.
5. Liner Notes: On Parents & Children, Exes & Excess, Death & Decay, & a Few of My Other Favorite Things by Loudon Wainwright III (Blue Rider)
Loudon Wainwright III has mined his relationships with his father, Life magazine columnist Loudon Wainright, children Rufus and Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche, and ex-wives Kate McGarrigle and Suzzy Roche, for his music, and he does the same in this memoir. With confessional openness, Wainwright writes about his alcoholism, infidelities, recklessness and his complicated bond with his parents, particularly his father. In this ingeniously structured memoir, Wainwright peppers his self-deprecating stories with lines from his songs, and splices in a few of his father’s elegant and wry stories from Life, which make clear that despite their tensions, father and son shared many of the same themes and preoccupations.