This September will be particularly insane for novels. If it fits a back-to-school theme to have the big literary hits of the fall drop then, it's also confusing. Most people would otherwise read these while lying on the dock over Labor Day weekend. Instead that's a privilege reserved for the humblebraggers who get galleys over the summer.

It is a lot of books to sort through. Here are the four novels being published (three on the Tuesday after Labor Day) that I think will give you the best whirl around the nerdy dance hall that is the reading of contemporary fiction:

The Secret Place by Tana French

The latest in her series of Dublin murder mysteries that have a sort of effortless grace to them, this one set at a girls' school. If you've never read French before you're missing something awfully special; start with her first, In the Woods. They're all linked. [Powell's]

10:04 by Ben Lerner

A metafictional novel I have not myself read. The people who did, though, seem to have loved even more than his first much-beloved Leaving the Atocha Station. Warning: this is a writer's writer's book about a writer, a genre which turns some people off at the gate. [Powell's]

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

A book about, uh, hmm, hard to summarize: the struggle between good and evil? And also, in places, about a man putting his daughters to bed. Per Kathryn Schulz at New York, it "almost manages to make the rest of his work look hidebound and provincial." And remember, this is the guy who wrote Cloud Atlas, a book which weaves together six different plotlines across centuries. [Powell's]

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The latest in the British author's series of historical romances about (often enough) lesbians. This one finds her with a lonely spinster taking in a pair of louche houseguests. Sex and blood ensue. It's perfectly transporting though like a lot of Waters' fans I'd be so happy to see her revisit the 19th century sometime soon. [Powell's; not out till the 16th]

Get through those four and then we can talk about October.

[Image by Jim Cooke]