December’s best new books

In Reading Lists - Best New Books by The Editors

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The holiday season looks very different this strange year. While traditional end-of-year parties are cancelled in 2020, there’s still something to celebrate: all the fantastic new books out this month! Ring in the new year with Michael Eric Dyson’s inspiring antiracism guide, Alyssa Cole’s steamy royal romance, Catherine Hernandez’s thrilling queer dystopian novel, and more. This December, stay in and revel in these exciting reads.

Long Time Coming by Michael Eric Dyson

Ibram X. Kendi calls Michael Eric Dyson’s passionate guide to reckoning with racism “powerfully illuminating, heart-wrenching, and enlightening.” Dyson (Tears We Cannot Stop, What Truth Sounds Like) maps the history of anti-Blackness in the United States through letters penned to victims of racial injustice — from Emmett Till to Eric Garner and Breonna Taylor — while charting the way forward to a more just and equitable future.
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Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

Described as Milkman meets Derry Girls, this charming, provocative Irish novel stars an unforgettable heroine living in a small Northern Ireland town where repercussions from the Troubles have big implications. Edgy and accessible, Michelle Gallen’s darkly funny debut has been shortlisted for the prestigious Costa Prize’s First Novel Award.
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Cornelius Sky by Timothy Brandoff

New Scribd Audio

Author Timothy Brandoff (who’s also a New York City bus driver) takes us to an upscale Manhattan apartment building in 1974 where Cornelius “Connie” Sky works as a doorman. A painful past has become a painful present, which is why Connie prefers to have his senses regularly dulled via a serious drinking problem. There are moments of light peeking through the haze though, like when he develops a fatherly relationship with one of the building’s tenants, the 13-year-old son of an assassinated president.
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How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole

One of the best romance books of 2020, according to Publishers Weekly, which writes: “[Alyssa] Cole subverts both expectations and gender roles with the smart, sexy contemporary romance that opens her Runaway Royals series. Anxious King Sanyu II has no desire to rule, but ambitious commoner Shanti Mohapti has enough political acumen for the both of them. Their unlikely arranged marriage strikes a delicate balance of politics and passion that is sure to delight.” A steamy read from the author of An Extraordinary Union where politics actually bring people together.
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The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley

A tribute to all the theater kids out there who love hijinks and drama. Mel is excited to work as a tech for her high school’s production of Les Misérables. She wants everything to go smoothly, so she’s determined not to fall for anyone involved with the musical to avoid cursing the show. But then Odile enters the scene, and sparks fly. Queerness is an accepted norm, and the romance is adorable.
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Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez

This chillingly prescient dystopian story from the author of Scarborough takes place in a not-too-distant future when anyone labeled “Other” is rounded up and imprisoned in a concentration camp. Refusing to go down without a fight, a Black drag queen rallies the resistance — including a trans refugee, a social worker, and a soldier gone rogue — to band together and rise up against their tyrannical oppressors. “I dare you not to cry or scream or marvel or, like me, do all at once while reading this book,” writes author Cherie Dimaline (Empire of Wild).
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Girl Gurl Grrrl by Kenya Hunt

Billed as Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist meets Issa Rae’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Kenya Hunt’s thought-provoking, heart-wrenching, and belly-laughing essays explore what it means to be Black and a woman right now. An essential collection for understanding our current cultural moment, Girl Gurl Grrrl will open your eyes and your heart.
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West Virginia by Joe Halstead

New Scribd Audio

After learning that his father committed suicide, aspiring writer Jamie leaves New York to head back to be with his disabled mother and sister in their West Virginia trailer. Once home, he begins to unearth strange clues about his secretive father’s aborted art career, as well as information about his mysterious death. A gripping debut novel.
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How to Sleep by Rafael Pelayo

If you have trouble sleeping, you’ve probably tried a number of remedies, from listening to podcasts promising to lull you to sleep to desperately trying to stick to over-simplified rules like “no screens before bed” and “no caffeine after lunchtime.” Stanford sleep expert Dr. Rafael Pelayo’s practical guide goes beyond simplistic, one-size-fits-all platitudes to get to the bottom of why a good night’s rest eludes you. Equal parts accessible science and actionable advice, How to Sleep shows you how to beat common sleep issues so that you can fall asleep and stay asleep. Your new favorite lullaby, this book will have you waking up refreshed and healthier overall.
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Survival of the Thickest by Michelle Buteau

You may not know Michelle Buteau’s name, but you know who she is. You’ve seen the stand-up comedian steal the show, just like in Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe, Russian Doll, and Tales of the City. Now, take a front row seat for her hilarious collection of essays revealing the, shall we say, less-than-glamorous road to making it in showbiz. From starting out in comedy as an opener for male strippers to dating disasters, marrying a Dutch man, and adventures with IVF, Buteau shares how she carved out roles for herself as a funny, thick woman of color in Hollywood.
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Take it Back by Kia Abdullah

Curl up in front of the fireplace and escape the cold this winter with this twisty courtroom thriller. London lawyer Zara left behind a high-profile corporate career to represent victims of sexual assault. When a 16-year-old girl accuses four teenagers from immigrant families of a horrific crime, the community erupts with outrage, but Zara is determined to uncover the truth. The tension builds throughout the shocking trial right up until the explosive ending in this thought-provoking page-turner.
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I Came As a Shadow by John Thompson

John Thompson — the son of an illiterate factory worker and a teacher denied work because of her skin color — rose to become the first Black coach of an NCAA championship basketball team. He did this on a campus, Georgetown, built by slaves. The stark contrasts in his moving memoir illuminate the racial progress made in this country, as well as how far we have left to go. It’s also the inspiring story of a leader who transcended his profession.
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Socialist Realism by Trisha Low

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Winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Nonfiction. Author Trisha Low heads west on a quest for “somewhere better” as she grapples with global politics and her deepest wishes in this lyrical, meditative memoir. “Inventive, wise, and revelatory … a searching interrogation of identity, art, and a desire for a life beyond what we are told is possible,” raves the Chicago Review of Books.
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The Days of Wine and Covid by Elizabeth Berg

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“Nan is sick of sourdough bread, and Martin is, too. It was a big relief when they admitted this to each other.” Bestselling author Elizabeth Berg takes you inside the home of an aging couple passing the days of the coronavirus pandemic in familiar ways: with a new dog and wine. It’s a touching, comical, and intimate snapshot of our time in lockdown, written while we all processed these unprecedented changes to our daily routines.
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The Sun and Her Stars by Donna Rifkind

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For a period of time in the 1930s and ’40s, one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters was the incredible Salka Viertel, a Jewish woman and recent immigrant. She and her director husband became well-known for their infamous Sunday parties which attracted countless other entertainment luminaries, particularly those who, like Salka, escaped Germany as Hitler rose to power. Donna Rifkind’s debut book is like an invitation to these rollicking parties and a VIP look at the tumultuous and scandalous world its guests inhabited.
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