5 Life-Changing Books You Need to Read in 2019
14 New Books You Need to Read This February
Whether you're looking for some thought-provoking political analysis, tales of the strength of women, or something a little steamy to see you through Valentine's Day, these February releases offer plenty to suit your palate.
With aValley of the Dolls-esque flair, this debut novel imagines the lives of House of Xtravaganza creators Angie and Venus Xtravaganza (familiar to many from the 1991 filmParis is Burning), with a keen eye on the LGBT subculture of '80s and '90s New York. Infused with glitz as well as heart, the story explores life as racial and sexual minorities—the pains and the triumphs, the grit and the thrills—in a way that feels personal, even for those who never walked the ballroom scene.
The House of Impossible Beautiesby Joseph Cassara, , amazon.com on February 6.
The oft-underused epistolary format gets a revival in this fraught, racially-charged romance. The story revolves around Roy and Celestial, newlyweds with a seemingly ideal life—right up until Roy is arrested for a crime he didn't commit. Through seven years of imprisonment, the couple's messages expose the unraveling of their marriage as anger and suspicion take hold and Celestial grows closer to longtime friend Andre. Subtle and carefully-executed, Jones revitalizes familiar tropes with a modern, intrinsically American sensibility.
An American Marriageby Tayari Jones, , amazon.com on February 6.
Dozens of characters populate the stories of Danielle Lazarin's confident, powerfully-written debut collection. But whether it's a teenager dealing with her mother's death, a woman trying to buy an apartment, or a mother moving her daughters to the suburbs, Lazarin's themes stand out starkly: women, the ways they define themselves, and the ways they relate to one another.
Back Talkby Danielle Lazarin, , amazon.com on February 6.
Unflinching and sometimes brutally personal, Terese Marie Mailhot's debut memoir delves into her coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation, and how her experiences as a Native woman inevitably painted her struggles with mental illness, her role as a mother, and her work as an esteemed writer. With concise, lyrical prose, Mailhot illuminates her history—an abusive parent, a teen marriage, and a child removed from her care by the courts—in a way that feels as much like an elegy as a collection of memories.
Heart Berriesby Terese Marie Mailhot, , amazon.com on February 6.
There've been any number of schlocky tales of the human-canine bond over the years—enough to turn off even the most devoted of dog lovers. This is not one of them. After inheriting her longtime friend and mentor's Great Dane upon his suicide, the unnamed narrator (a self-professed cat-person living in a too-small apartment that doesn't allow dogs) finds a cohort in grief and a lens through which to examine her own complicated feelings about loss and mourning.
The Friendby Sigrid Nunez, , amazon.com on February 6.
On the brink of her impending nuptials, Laura Smith finds herself enthralled by the disappearance of Barbara Newhall Follett, a trailblazing author and adventurer who left behind an unhappy marriage and vanished without a trace in 1939. Grappling with what the future will hold for her, the nature of marriage, and a yearning for some ephemeral idea of freedom, this cleverly-written memoir follows Smith as her restless musings twine with Follett's trail, two kindred spirits finding one another across the span of time.
The Art of Vanishingby Laura Smith, , amazon.com on February 6.
Few writers are able to move as nimbly between fiction and non-fiction as Zadie Smith, a skill fully displayed in the author's latest collection of essays. Pulled predominately from her work for theNew Yorkerand theNew York Review of Books, Smith's topics range conversationally from racial politics to art to social media, all with the incisive, approachable tone that has made her work so beloved.
Feel Freeby Zadie Smith, , amazon.com on February 6.
Acerbic wit and a love of literature color this picaresque novel starring Bibi aka Zebra, a 22-year-old on a "Grand Tour" of her family's exile from Iran in the '90s. Her exploits—a complicated romance with her equally-displaced Italian lover, her philosophical musings on art, and her belief that her mother has been reincarnated as a cockatoo—are, by turns, hilarious and poignant, painting a magnetic portrait of a young woman you can't help but want to know more about.
Call Me Zebraby Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, , amazon.com on February 6.
From versatile bestselling author Amy Bloom comes a new historical fiction novel about a secret love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok. Through Bloom's trademark elegance and wit, this historical reimagining of Hickok transforms into a fascinating character study as the intimate outsider in the FDR White House opines on the goings-on of the administration, Eleanor herself, and life after the presidency.
White Housesby Amy Bloom, , amazon.com on February 13.
Part magical realism, part meditation on mental illness, Akwaeke Emezi's debut novel follows Ada, a young Nigerian woman whoseogbanje—a set of spiritual identities that have taken up residence inside of her head—intrude upon her life as she travels to the United States for college. As these metaphysical entities alternately protect her and spur her to harm, Ada's struggle provides a thought-provoking and visceral exploration of life with an altered state of mind.
Freshwaterby Akwaeke Emezi, , amazon.com on February 13.
Noir fans won't be able to resist this sultry, suspenseful novel. Centered on Polly, a woman with a secretive past and a husband and child she's recently run out on, the tale weaves through her new assumed life as a diner waitress, a budding attraction to her equally-mysterious coworker, and a checkered past that seems determined to come back to haunt her.
Sunburnby Laura Lippman, , amazon.com on February 20.
Gathered from recent lectures by Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson, this series of impassioned essays revolve around history, faith, and politics. The self-identified Calvinist muses with eloquence about the state of historical erasures and how they're reflected in our modern political sensibility, the state of education, and the role of Christianity in the modern world.
What Are We Doing Here?by Marilynne Robinson, , amazon.com on February 20.
While the nine short stories in Anjali Sachdeva's debut collection don't necessarily belong to the horror genre, there's a merciless quality to them that will haunt readers long after the last page has turned. Spanning realism, science fiction, and everything in between, Sachdeva creates unique, convincing, and often gut-wrenching worlds in each of her pieces. Her richly-crafted characters—from two Boko Haram kidnapping victims forging new lives to humans faced with alien overlords who demand they replace their hands with metal prosthesis—will keep readers on their toes and the edge of their seats.
All the Names They Used For Godby Anjali Sachdeva, , amazon.com on February 20.
Raised with no formal education by survivalist parents, Tara Westover was an unlikely candidate to one day earn a PhD from Cambridge. Yet that's precisely the journey she details in her inspiring, hugely anticipated memoir. Raw and thoughtful, Westover takes readers through a childhood so isolated from the mainstream that even events like the Holocaust were unknown to her, her experience teaching herself enough math and science to pass the ACTs, the culture clash of attending a metropolitan college, and the poignant struggle between her love for her family and her desire for a life beyond anything they could have imagined.
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