What We're Reading: Sara Gruen's Latest and More

The novels -- and novel-like memoirs -- we're reading this week are helping us transition into fall.

It's a bittersweet week in the Marie Claire books department: While we're excited to be wearing sweaters again soon (and to see all the fashionistas swarming Lincoln Center — that's in our hood! — instead of Bryant Park this week), we're a little bummed that summer's over. Luckily, our bedside tables are stocked with two engaging novels and two fascinating memoirs to help us ease back into meaty-reading season.

Ape House

Author: Sara Gruen, author of the bestselling Water for Elephants (also known as that circus book they're making the movie of with Robert Pattinson. Mmm. Wait, where was I?).

Genre: Animal-lover lit

What Happens: When animal rights activists mob the Great Ape Language Lab, a research center focused on bonobo apes and the way they communicate, scientist Isabel Duncan is severely injured, reporter John Thigpen is mobilized, and the bonobos become a media sensation. To save her beloved bonobos from reality show hell, Isabel must team up with John, and a cast of kooky characters, and combat her own social anxiety.

When to Read It: When your cat can spare a few hours to sit in your lap — and will agree to stop pawing at the pages.

Details: Random House, $26, September 7

The Pleasure Seekers

Author: Tishani Doshi, an award-winning poet, dancer, and much-lauded Indian writer. This is her first novel.

Genre: Cross-cultural love story

What Happens: An Indian man, Babo, and a Welsh woman, Sian, are both new to London and overwhelmed. They find comfort — and passion — in each other, but Babo's family won't approve unless Sian agrees to live in Madras for two years. Thus begins the story of the hybrid family they create together, against the odds.

When to Read It: After a less-than-perfect weekend with your in-laws.

Details: Bloomsbury, $15, September 5

True Spirit: The Story of a 16-Year-Old Australian Who Sailed Solo, Nonstop, and Unassisted Around the World

Author: Jessica Watson, the feisty, fun teen sailor we told you about in our June issue, who set sail from Sydney last October in her quest to become the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe nonstop. Now she's got a memoir, which doesn't make us feel even more unaccomplished at all. Nope.

Genre: Whiz-kid autobiography

What Happens: Jessica spends 210 days and 22,000 nautical miles at sea after spending years preparing to achieve her audacious goal. The book is an expanded version of the engrossing, upbeat blog Jess kept while at sea.

Where to Read It: On dry land, unless you like seasickness.

Details: Simon & Schuster, $16, September 7

Designated Fat Girl

Author: Jennifer Joyner, a North Carolina TV and radio journalist.

Genre: Gut-wrenching body image memoir

What Happens: Joyner spares no details in telling the story of how she spent years slowly killing herself with food. Her food addiction sent her weight to more than 300 pounds, lost her jobs, and ruined relationships with friends. She also talks about her decision to have gastric bypass surgery — and the resulting complications.

When to Read It: When you're ready for a no-holds-barred look at what it's really like to be addicted to food.

Details: skirt!, $16.95, September 1


The amazing, hilarious, fascinating (and adorable!) Mark Oldman has a new book that's a must for anyone who likes wine — or anyone who doesn't like it but wishes they did. Mark's motto: "Drink bravely." And that's just what he helps you do in Oldman's Brave New World of Wine: Pleasure, Value, and Adventure Beyond Wine's Usual Suspects, by uncovering the best-kept secrets of the world of oenophiles. He interviews everyone from restaurateurs to wine-loving celebs about their favorite lesser-known bottles. You'll never order boring old Chardonnay again. (W. W. Norton & Co., $19.95, September 6.)