Any bookstore you walk into will have a table piled high with the newest releases. But how do you separate the best from the rest when you’ve also got countless emails to answer, several shows queued up on Netflix, and maybe a date to go on or a day care to choose?
Below you’ll find our list of books out now or very soon, as well as a small selection of older books that are fitting for our particular time.
NEW & RECOMMENDED:
In Jamie Quatro’s debut novel, Maggie is a writer in an apparently happy marriage with two grown children. But when she meets a poet, James, whose intellectual capabilities are a match for her own, she becomes entranced. As Maggie and James exchange letters that are as steamy with spiritual questions as with erotic undertones, they begin to yearn for each other. “There is you, and there is God,” Maggie writes to James. “I’m not sure, anymore, there’s a difference.” But then, what of the sacred bonds of marriage Maggie is tied up in? Ultimately, maybe nothing is sacred when desire is involved.
(Jan. 9, Grove Press)
Here’s another debut novel, but this one’s from 73-year-old Cuban American playwright and activist Ana Simo. "Heartland" is a seriously disturbed, incredibly weird and an overall excellent first novel. In it, the narrator, who is meant to be writing a biography, suffers from a terrible, almost physical, writer’s block. She decides to do something a little different, and to place herself in the action for once: She’ll stalk and try to get revenge on the woman who stole her lover, Bebe. All this takes place in an America a little sideways of ours, where there is widespread famine and a ruling caliphate in Constantinople. This is the kind of book you’ll want to dive into instead of going out — it’s got all the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll you could want, but you get to stay in your pajamas while indulging in it.
(Jan. 16, Restless Books)
Debuting on the New York Times bestseller list, Morgan Jerkins’s first book is getting exactly the kind of press it deserves. Jerkins writes candidly about topics like vaginoplasty, Sailor Moon, Beyoncé and dating, while always tying her personal insights to the larger cultural reality we are living in. With searing insight into the daily life and concerns of black girls and women, Jerkins’s essays also look at class, colorism, and the ways white and black women interact. You’ll find yourself immersed in Jerkins’s observations and historical tie-ins.
(Jan. 30, Harper Perennial)
This book is a beautiful and well-put-together collection of essays by Zadie Smith, a cultural critic, thinker and author. In essays ranging in topic from Michael Jackson’s dancing to how we will answer to our children and grandchildren about our failure to pay attention to global warming, this book will have you clenching your fists, either in anger or in order to punch the air in joyful recognition. Smith is able to articulate her thoughts about art, literature and life in a perfect and poignant way.
(Feb. 6, Penguin Press)
“Text me when you get home,” your friend says after a long night. Journalist Kayleen Schaefer has gone through all sorts of friendships in her life, and she, like many of us, knows that friendships are vital. Through interviews with authors who write about incredible and potent friendships — Megan Abbott and Judy Blume are two examples — as well as historical and cultural research, Schaefer discovers that she is not alone in her belief in female friendship. Rather than pitting women against one another — a narrative we see all the time in TV and film and pop culture — celebrate the women in your life with this fantastic and fun read.
(Feb. 6, Dutton)
You may be familiar with Daphne from myth: the naiad, or water spirit, who was chased by the god Apollo and was turned into a laurel to save her virginity. Will Boast’s Daphne is a woman with a rare medical condition called cataplexy, an offshoot of narcolepsy, in which a person experiencing intense emotions becomes paralyzed or unable to move, even while remaining conscious. As a result, Daphne carefully curated her life so as to avoid such intensity. She has a routine down and spends much of her time alone. When she meets Ollie, however, something shifts. Will she risk intimacy and paralysis, or run back into isolation? You don’t have to have cataplexy to know intimacy is scary, and Daphne’s reality is an extreme version of something we’ve all been through.
(Feb. 6, Liveright)
This is a funny, feminist and irreverent read. Since it’s made up of short tales, it’s a great book to read in bursts if you’re also short on reading time. Mallory Ortberg has great fun in this book reexamining gender norms, ending stories with matter-of-fact common sense and remixing “The Wind in the Willows” with “Winnie the Pooh.”
(March 13, Henry Holt and Co.)
Cult figure and author Lynne Tillman is back with a vengeance. After 10 years, this new novel about our obsession with images — capturing them, keeping them, showing our lives through them — is a book perfect for our generation. Ezekiel has always been fascinated with photos, ever since he pored over the family albums as a child. Now a grown man, with a broken heart and an intense career as a cultural anthropologist and ethnographer, Ezekiel spends his time meditating on the notion of images, of masculinity and of the preservation of the Kardashians. Is this book strange and sometimes difficult? Yes. But it’s also an incredible look into the mind of a modern man and his particular male gaze. Tillman’s wicked imagination is worth every second.
(March 13, Soft Skull Press)
In Chelsey Johnson’s debut, Andrea Morales is a queer artist living in Portland in the late ’90s. While most of her friends and lovers are lesbians, there is the one guy, Ryan, who chases after her. When Andrea gets pregnant, she has to come out of the closet, again, to her queer family and confess that she has been having an affair with a man. Ten years later, her daughter begins getting curious about her father, and Andrea finds herself confronting memory lane.
(March 20, Custom House)
This novel will take you from Hollywood to a tropical island and back. Charlie Outlaw is a newly discovered actor, suddenly famous and making all the missteps that fame can cause. Charlie flees his life, his missteps and his breakup on a remote island, where he gets kidnapped. It’s not quite satire, because Leah Stewart respects the craft of actors too much to rag on them entirely, but it’s still a lighthearted and loving book to curl up with.
(March 27, G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
This book by Naomi Alderman is incredibly relevant, especially in the #MeToo moment. In this startlingly imaginative novel, teenage girls around the globe discover they have the power to shock people with their hands, and they learn soon enough to awaken the power in older women as well. As men panic and begin trying to segregate and protect themselves, women prove that they won’t be stopped.
With the Winter Olympics underway, take a dip into this young adult book that will leave you feeling warm-hearted. Esperanza Flores is a Dominican American figure skater, and not the typical Olympic athlete for the U.S. team. She lands a spot on the team anyway, where she has to contend with mean girls and an attractive male skater who may not be entirely trustworthy.
As more women are stepping up and running for office, "Sister Citizen” explores the damning, shaming and destructive stereotypes black women in the United States face. Melissa V. Harris-Perry, professor of political science at Tulane University, uses literary analysis, surveys and focus groups to try to understand black women’s sense of citizenship, as well as what they’re looking for in terms of political organization.
An anti-romantic novel, “Mr. Fox” is about a writer who keeps killing his heroines, until one of them comes to life and joins him and his wife in the house. Is she a figment of his imagination? Is he going mad? Maybe or maybe not. In a series of stories, the two characters duke it out, as she demands he respect her as a character and he continues trying to put her down. He may be in love with her, but she is certainly far more independent than he could ever imagine. A bit of a mind-twisting book, it respects your intelligence, which is exactly what its protagonist doesn’t manage to do with his own creations.