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Sep 7, 2005 at 12:00 am

It always sounds a bit odd when book publishers assign seasons to their reading lists, as though an enjoyable “summer read” would be any less satisfying in the winter. Of course, it’s also a functional way to divide their year into four parts, and the third begins now. These are selections worth considering from the new “fall season.” Some are of our own choosing, others eagerly anticipated by readers, both professionals and those who do it — as it’s meant to be — simply for pleasure.

Sundown Towns, by James Loewen (New Press, $29.95); Sept. 29 — The bestselling author of Lies My Teacher Told Me offers the first-ever book on a little known topic — the “sundown towns” throughout the United States that used whatever tactics necessary to exclude African-Americans, and to a lesser extent other non-whites. The sobriquet comes from the practice in many such towns — nearly all of them outside the Deep South — of posting signs warning, “Nigger, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on You,” on their streets. Loewen cites 472 sundown towns in Illinois alone, and in Michigan examines, among others, the histories of Wyandotte and Grosse Pointe.

The Summer He Didn’t Die, by Jim Harrison (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24); newly released — One of the few living masters of the novella, native son Harrison here offers three, adding to a body of fiction and poetry that’s earned him an international reputation. Fans will be happy to know that the first of them, the title piece, continues the adventures of Brown Dog, the hapless and horny northern Michigander whose simple sense of justice and ethics invariably gets him into spectacularly improbable trouble.

On Beauty, by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press, $25.95); Sept. 13. — Five years after grabbing center stage with her first novel, White Teeth, the author now offers her third, the story of an expatriate Brit, a Rembrandt professor who hates Rembrandt and who, after a calamitous affair with an academic colleague, tries to revive his love for, and 30-year marriage to, his African-American wife.

Made in Detroit: A South of 8 Mile Memoir, by Paul Clemens (Doubleday, $23.95); Sept. 13 — Born on the city’s East Side in the year Coleman A. Young was first elected mayor, Clemens tells his own tale of growing up white and Catholic in post-riot Detroit, the decline of the city he still calls home, and “the social class distinctions unique to Detroit that attend being a minority where minorities are the majority.”

Lies and Other Tall Tales, by Zora Neale Hurston (HarperCollins, $15.99); Oct. 1 — The gun-toting, self-sufficient, literary Queen of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s, whose literary works returned to print in the ’70s after decades of an obscurity engineered by others, sometimes offered money to people for their best stories and “lies.” Now, in a rerelease aimed at the children’s market — although anyone who loves language will eat up the stories — some of them are retold as much for the color of the language as content. Take a taste: “I seen a man so short, he had to get up on a box to look over a grain of sand.”

The Commitment, by Dan Savage (Dutton, $24.95); Sept. 15 — Syndicated sex-columnist and Metro Times favorite Savage turns his signature hilarity and honesty inward with a personal story of gay marriage, how the subject played with his Catholic mother and Republican dad, and the politics of the love that dare not speak its name.

The Physics of Superheroes, by James Kakalios (Gotham, $26); Sept. 29 — Under the laws of real-world physics, could legendary superheroes do what they do? How many cheeseburgers, say, would the Flash have to cram into his furnace to run top speed? A cleverly masked text on physics, the book and its university prof author find that “comic-book heroes and villains get their physics right more often than you think.”

Bob Dylan Scrapbook: An American Journey, 1956-1966 (Simon & Schuster, $45) Sept. 26 — Combining multimedia memories of Dylan from the singer-songwriter-philosopher-activist-poet’s own archives, including handwritten lyrics; material from the Scorsese documentary covering the same period; plus interviews with friends and family, and a bonus CD of early interviews with the man himself; it’s a slip-cased keeper of cultural history.

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, foreword by Thomas Keller (Norton, $49); Nov. 21 — Polcyn, chef-owner of Milford’s Five Lakes Grill and one of metro Detroit’s finest chefs, teams with highly regarded food writer Ruhlman to put the chef’s favorite subject on paper, illustrated with photos that are both beautiful and instructional, and offer dozens of recipes for the home cook who’d like to make his or her own first-class sausages, pates, terrines and their rightful accompaniments.

John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth, by Elizabeth Partridge (Viking Juvenile, $24.99), Oct. 6 — Written for young adults, this biography begins with the night Lennon was born during a World War II air raid on Liverpool, through childhood, rebel rock, the Beatles and all that went with being one, life with Yoko and untimely death. It’s already getting raves both for graphic design and archival photos tracking the artist’s life.

Ric Bohy is editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]