Home » Hot Type for Savvy Travelers — The Best Books For September 2021

Hot Type for Savvy Travelers — The Best Books For September 2021

by Our Editors
Best Books of September 2021

Our best books for September are a panoply that explore everything from literal “runway” fashions (Come Fly With Me) to a deep dive investigation into true crime (Last Call ); a debut memoir from a Grindr advice columnist (Hola, Papi! How To Come Out In A Walmart Parking Lot…) to a tawdry, titillating tale of lost boys (Yes, Daddy) and a lot more.

Come Fly With Me- Best Books of the Month of September 2021Prior to airline deregulation in 1978, U.S.-based airlines were unable to compete based on ticket price, so everything from in-flight meals to cabin décor to flight attendant (née stewardess) uniforms was glammed-up and promoted to distinguish one airline brand from the next. The public didn’t think of jets as flying buses, but as fabulous experiences worth gussying up for. As Jason Gay writes in his introduction to former Rolling Stone photography director Jody Peckman’s Come Fly With Me: Flying In Style (Rizzoli. $29.95. www.rizzoliusa.com), “There was indeed an era when ordinary humans arrived at the airport in suits and dresses…[but] flying isn’t the least bit stylish anymore, except for one elevated category of human: celebrities.” In this slim, snazzy volume, Peckman has curated a literal runway fashion show: paparazzi shots of stars on the tarmac, moving walkways and rolling stairways of airports around the world. Flash! Here’s John Lennon and Yoko Ono en route in matching white outfits and shoulder length hair. Snap! Rihanna blocks a pap’s view of her face with giant metallic seafoam puffy jacket. Click! A stocking-footed Steven Tyler’s raccoon coat coordinates delightfully with the two scruffy mutts he’s carrying through the terminal. Pop! Watch Joan Collins smirk as her manservant handles six behemoth Louis Vuitton bags on which the designer’s signature LV is prominently overlaid with the diva’s “J.C.” Now wake up from your dream and shoehorn yourself into that Southwest economy seat! Remember your place in this world, knave!

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Hola Papi- Best Books of the Month September 2021You get a sense of John Paul Brammer’s distinctive blend of cleverness and insight from the very first chapter of his charmer of a memoir ¡Hola Papi! How To Come Out In A Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons (Simon & Schuster. $26. www.johnpaulbrammer.com): Recalling his heavy Grindr use during college, he writes “I wouldn’t have called myself a sex addict, Reader…I was more of an affirmation junkie.” Brammer, who later came to public attention as a humorous advice columnist on that very same hookup app, leverages the advice column format in his book-length debut. But rather than the rehash compilation of columns that would be the easiest way to cash in on his reputation-making gig, Brammer uses typical reader questions to interrogate his own life in earnestly funny personal essays. A reader’s query—“Something bad happened to me. Can I be mad about it like…years later?”—is alchemized into Brammer’s “How to Disagree with Who You Used to Be.” “How do I forgive and forget?” begets “How to Chat With Your Childhood Bully Over a Gay Dating App.” The Spanish in the book’s title represents Brammer’s reclaiming of the insensitive greeting he’s sometimes received from non-Latinx gay men, but more than his ethnicity or his sexuality, Brammer’s debut book shines with a generous humanity.

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Here for it - Best Books of the Month September 2021If you enjoy Brammer’s book, you may also get a kick out of R. Eric Thomas’ Here For It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America (Ballantine. $14.99. www.rericthomas.com), another cheerfully written collection of essays that often deal with challenging subjects, especially, in Thomas’ Case, race and religion. A proudly queeny African-American writer who spent his sheltered teen years in an upscale largely white suburban high school before heading off to Columbia University, Thomas writes about the awkwardness of fitting in at college, especially in his relationship with the Black Student Union. He also explores his true passion for churchgoing—“ It’s theater, it’s high camp, it’s cabaret!”— while simultaneously posing questions about the details of Christianity. Alas, one finishes the book with many unanswered questions about Thomas himself. He skates over his expulsion from college and vaguely hints at very dark periods in his twenties, but never puts meat on those bones. No doubt all will be revealed in a further memoir, but it’s clear that in this go round, the author is here just for the easier parts of it.

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Castle Faggot - Best Books of the Month September 2021Open your mental drawbridge to let in Castle Faggot (Semiotext(e). $15.95. mitpress.mit.edu). Or keep it closed and man the parapets. The latest short fiction experiment from Canadian author Derek McCormack is a scatological riff on gay sensibilities, in which Mallarmé, Bataille, and Proust are name-dropped alongside fecal analogs of Coco Chanel (Cocoa), Walt Disney (Walt Doody), and Count Chocula (Count Choco-log). A language confectioner, McCormack (The Show That Smells, Grab Bag) uses childish babble and pop culture references to provoke readers and playfully poke at literary convention. Perusers of a certain age may genuinely smile at his nostalgia-prodding references to the likes of Rankin-Bass Claymation christmas specials, Paul Lynde, and Rip Taylor, but will likely scratch their heads in regard to the meaning of it all.

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Chiffon Trenches - Best Books of the month September 2021As the creative director of Vogue during the magazine’s most influential years, caftan-clad André Leon Talley, was a fixture of the New York and Paris fashion scenes, an extremely rare African-American eminence in this rarified— and sometimes painfully race-conscious—world. Now out in paperback The Chiffon Trenches (Ballantine. $18. www.penguinrandomhouse.com), Talley’s second memoir, after 2003’s A.L.T. (Choose the new book for a more complete picture), made industry headlines with its score-settling anecdotes about longtime mentor and professional benefactor Anna Wintour, who Talley describes as unceremoniously cutting off their friendship with no explanation; and about designer Karl Lagerfeld, a longtime confidante who he ultimately recasts as an extraordinarily manipulative and malevolent character. While those hissy cats have been out of the bag for over a year now, they’re by no means the most compelling aspect of Talley’s story. Now 72, Talley is something of a tragic hero, having risen from a childhood in the Jim Crow south—where he was brought up by a maternal grandmother who allowed no white people into her house—to the heights of global couture, but not once having a significant sexual or romantic partner. The inner tension of his religious upbringing and his homosexuality ripples throughout the book, and while seldom addressed in great detail, weaves a dolorous tone beneath lots of superficial frivolity.

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Twilight Man- Best Books of the month September 2021Being gay in Los Angeles during the 1920s could lead to social isolation, negative business implications, and even legal prosecution for sex crimes. It couldn’t, however, stop a wealthy philanthropist from bequeathing his fortune to a handsome former salesclerk and would-be movie star: that’s the pivotal incident in the jawdropping family story uncovered by author Liz Brown, whose great-granduncle, Harrison Post, is the titular enigma of Twilight Man: Love and Ruin in the Shadows of Hollywood and the Clark Empire (Penguin. $17. www.lizbrown.la) Post was the not-so-secret lover of William Andrews Clark, himself heir to a Montana copper fortune, who helped fund the launch of the LA Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl. Ironically, it was Post’s own family, not Clark’s, that swooped in like vultures when he inherited millions; his sister snatched it and fled to Mexico. Post himself ended up in Europe, imprisoned by the Nazis before fruitlessly pursuing his stolen bounty. Author Brown, herself a lesbian, has exhaustively researched her ancestor’s twisted tale, driven by an urge to reveal hidden queer lives. And if her account suffers somewhat from an overabundance of detail, its storyline never fails to fascinate.

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Last Call- September Best Books of the MonthWhy has David Berkowitz, the serial killer known as Son of Sam who haunted New Yorkers’ dreams in the late 1970s received so much media attention over five decades (books, feature films, documentaries) while a more recent mass murderer in that city has been almost entirely forgotten? Unfortunately, its fair to assume it’s because, while Berkowitz preyed on young women, Richard Rogers claimed middle-aged gay men as his victims, and because he did so during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when news coverage of gay men was almost exclusively dedicated to stories about AIDS. Journalist Elon Green’s Last Call (Celadon Books. $27. www.elongreen.com) provides a long overdue deep dive into Rogers’ crimes and his innocent victims, some of whose deaths might have been avoided through more serious investigative attention from law enforcement agencies more empathetic to the queer community. Rather than building a Hannibal Lecter-like mythos around a killer, as so many crime authors have done, Green focuses on the reality of the men who were murdered; men whose partially closeted lives made it more difficult to investigate their deaths. True crime fans will find lots of gory detail and investigative procedural here, but they’re tempered by pathos and social awareness often lacking in the genre. Last Call will be all the creepier for some readers because some scenes take place in New York and Philadelphia bars that are still open today.

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AIRPLANE READ OF THE MONTH

Yes, Daddy | September Best Books of the MonthIf you’re looking for one last beach book this summer, here’s a tawdry, titillating melodrama that just a decade ago wouldn’t have been considered publishable by a mainstream American publisher: In Jonathan Parks Ramage’s Yes, Daddy (Houghton-Mifflin/Harcourt) Jonah, the central lost boy protagonist, is fleeing a midwestern preacher papa and conversion therapy when he arrives in the Big Apple only to discover a new father figure who proves rotten to the core. In this over-the-top gothic extravaganza, nubile newcomers to New York, including waiters, would be artists, actors, and aspiring fashion models, are first seduced, then emotionally and financially manipulated into indentured servitude by wealthy middle-aged A-gays. Imprisoned in a Hamptons concrete compound, the social climbing pretty boys are made sex slaves by a cadre of Broadway bigwigs. Piggylicious pulp, indeed.

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