7 Books You Need to Read This September

From non-essential mnemonics to a Bettie Page retrospective, there’s something for everyone this month

The Best of the West

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

(Riverhead, $30)
By Steven Johnson
Did you know that before Edison laid claim to it, a French publisher was actually the first person to invent the phonograph? (Unlike Edison, however, said publisher forgot to include playback.) In this enlightening tome, Johnson traces the little known origin stories of everyday objects ranging from clocks to eyeglass lenses. More than uncovering their unlikely beginnings, however, he draws fascinating conclusions about these objects and their large-scale historical repercussions—wait until you read the explanation about clean water paving the way for computer chips.
Out: September 30

Non-Essential Mnemonics: An Unnecessary Journey into Senseless Knowledge

(Prospect Park Books, $15)
By Kent Woodyard
You’ve always needed a mnemonic to remember the names of Elizabeth Taylor’s seven husbands, right? Right? Thankfully, L.A.-based writer Woodyard has compiled a book of all the mnemonics you could ever hope to memorize, even if you don’t really want to. Complete with lovely illustrations by Mark Downey, Mnemonics is an offshoot of Woodyard’s column by the same name on the Web site McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
Out: September 2

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

(W. W. Norton and Company, $25)
By Caitlin Doughty
We all tend to have a curiosity that skews slightly morbid. (If we didn’t, shows like Botched wouldn’t exist.) In this unconventional, candid, and often amusing coming of age story, Doughty (now a mortician with an alternative funeral practice) shares recollections from her time working in a crematory, where flaming skulls and ash-laden machines were common workday hurdles.
Out: September 15

Bettie Page: Queen of Curves

bettiepage(Rizzoli, $50)
By Petra Mason
Featuring over 200 photos—some of them never-before-seen—from the collection of notorious pinup photographer Bunny Yeager, this substantial coffee-table book offers a comprehensive glimpse into the life of Bettie Page via a collection of “lens-fogging” images. Meow.
Out: September 30

The Best of the Rest

The Bone Clocks

(Random House, $30)
By David Mitchell
From the brain that brought you Cloud Atlas, Mitchell’s newest trippy, fantastical, genre-bending saga will leave you enthralled as ever by the story of Holly Sykes, a young runaway who is perpetually plagued by psychic phenomena. As has been the case with Mitchell’s previous works, characters from his other titles make an appearance in The Bone Clocks, which lends a welcome cohesiveness to his oeuvre.
Out: September 2

Not That Kind of Girl

(Random House, $28)
By Lena Dunham
The creator and writer of HBO’s Girls releases her much anticipated collection of essays this month. As for what to expect, Dunham says it best: “I am not a sexpert, a psychologist, or a dietician. I am not a mother of three or the owner of a successful hosiery franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontlines of that struggle.”
Out: September 30

Station Eleven

(Knopf, $25)
By Emily St. John Mandel
Mandel’s novel is dystopian, but don’t expect Divergent or The Hunger Games. The book follows a peripatetic Shakespeare troupe navigating a post-pandemic world, the small group putting art and humanity above all else. Mandel moves back and forth through time as a means to depict pre- and post-pandemic life, expertly intertwining the fates of her characters and giving life to a sad but beautiful world.
Out: September 9