February’s Best New Books to get through winter

February’s Best New Books to get through winter

In Reading Lists, Reading Lists - Best New Books by Dana Hamilton

February’s Best New Books to get through winter

Cold winter weather was made for curling up with a good book — more like several good books — and luckily we have many to recommend. This month’s best new books include what could be described as “Game of Thrones” set in the Persian empire, “Succession” at a Wisconsin Chinese restaurant, and a reimagining of Agatha Christie’s real-life eleven-day disappearance. If you’re looking for a Valentine’s read, there’s also an advice columnist’s meditations on marriage.

Black Girls Must Be Magic by Jayne Allen 

Los Angeles TV reporter Tabby Walker decides to have a baby on her own but gets more than she bargained for when she discovers the donor is her ex-boyfriend. You’ll cheer Tabby on as she navigates juggling a career, relationships, and single motherhood with her circle of unforgettable friends by her side. In this highly anticipated second novel, Jayne Allen (Black Girls Must Die Exhausted) sets up the trilogy perfectly for its final installment.

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The Black Agenda by Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman and Tressie McMillan Cottom 

Public policy researcher Opoku-Agyeman gathers top Black experts from across the country to share how to implement anti-racist ideas and policies in an array of fields, including climate, healthcare, wellness, education, technology, criminal justice, and the economy. An important read for those wanting to be better allies and learn how to help usher in a more equitable world. 

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Black Joy by Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts

“You hand us the fatback of a pig and we use it to make savory greens,” writes author Tracey M. Lewis-Giggetts. “You hand us a fledgling radio station and we turn it into a media empire. … We are alchemists.” Beautiful and heartbreaking, you’ll reach for this comforting collection of essays on how Black joy is a tool of resilience when times feel tough. 

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While Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerburg has testified before Congress time and again, Rep. Khanna continues to demand more accountability. His district includes Silicon Valley and the headquarters of big tech companies like Meta, Google, and Apple, and he’s concerned about the lack of regulation in the rapidly changing industry. Social media is changing the way the world works, and Khanna’s thoughtful ideas to reform and modernize tech are worth considering. 

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The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont 

“I read the article once, twice, then a third time. Finally, I put it aside but the story followed me. I couldn’t get it out of my mind,” says author Nina de Gramont when she learned of Agatha Christie’s 11-day disappearance in 1926. In this devilishly clever novel, de Gramont weaves intricate storylines between Christie, her husband, and her husband’s mistress to ultimately create an enjoyable reimagining of a scandal that still remains shrouded in mystery nearly a century later. 

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Don’t Cry for Me by Daniel Black 

On his deathbed, a Black father attempts to make amends through a series of letters with the gay son he rejected. Sure to tug on readers’ heartstrings, this epistolary novel on what it means to be a man is a memorable portrait of the painful wisdom that often comes with regret.

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The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang 

Family dysfunction abounds in this reboot of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov set among a Chinese American immigrant family. Between a reimagined murder trial (an update of the original) and real-life examples of anti-immigrant sentiment, Chao breathes new life into the classic immigrant tale and creates a story that reads like “Succession” if it were set in a Chinese restaurant in Wisconsin.

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Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh

The only anecdote to a closed mind is an open book. While the plot of Mercy Street is centered around the intersecting lives of characters working and protesting at a women’s health clinic, Haigh’s expert handling of the controversial topic of abortion, plus interesting and complicated characters, will draw you in.

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This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

This enemies-to-lovers tale has an emotional plot, beautiful prose, and major Cinderella vibes when the love interest, a lowly servant, becomes the heir to the Jinn kingdom. Who doesn’t love a long lost queen and a forbidden romance? National Book Award-nominated author Mafi describes this first book in her new fantasy series as “‘Game of Thrones’ set in the Persian empire.”

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Unstoppable by Chiquis Rivera

Back with a new memoir about the hardships she overcame following the tragic death of her mother, Chiquis Rivera is, well, unstoppable. Whether it be stepping into the role of new motherhood to her younger siblings, a painful breakup with the man she thought would be her husband, or the bumpy road to becoming a successful singer, Rivera’s signature warmth and positivity shine through. “Either I thrive or I learn,” says the Latin Grammy winner – words all of us could hear right now. 

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Foreverland by Heather Havrilesky

In her newest memoir, New York Magazine’s longtime “Ask Polly” advice columnist shares candid reflections on the monotony of matrimony, as well as the unspoken, often complicated emotions associated with the life milestone. Other married folks will nod along while reading this witty and realistic take on the lifelong project that is marriage.

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The Great Mrs. Elias by Barbara Chase-Riboud

A murder occurs in broad daylight on Park Avenue and a woman’s former identity comes to light. So begins the true story of Hannah Elias, a Black woman who rose from poverty and became the owner of a brothel that catered to New York City’s upper crust in the early 1900s. This vivid character portrait — peppered with flashbacks to Elia’s past life — slowly builds momentum as it approaches an ending that’s just as scandalous as it was at the turn of the century.

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God is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland

Theologian, social psychologist, and activist Christena Cleveland had a crisis of faith when she realized she did not relate to the white male God she’d been taught to worship growing up. If you, too, have longed for divinity that doesn’t look white and male, Cleveland’s spiritual journey to creating her own relationship with the Sacred Black Feminine may help inspire you to embark on your own. 

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A Very Nice Girl by Imogen Crimp

In her debut novel, Imogen Crimp tells the story of Anna, a broke London opera student struggling to live the life she wants. An unflinching exploration of being a starving artist and navigating love and loss in youth (and all the messy bits in between), A Very Nice Girl provides razor-sharp commentary on careers in the arts, toxic relationships, and modern feminism for anyone who struggled through their twenties.

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Clean Air by Sarah Blake

It’s 2042, and the world has just endured a freak event that rendered the air unbreathable and killed much of the global population. After all they’ve been through, the unthinkable happens to Izabel: In her neighborhood, a killer starts slicing the plastic bubbles families’ homes are encased in one by one. Despite its terrifying plot, this gripping whodunnit is less of a gritty dystopian thriller and more of an engrossing meditation on how to find joy within a terrible situation. 

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Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie

Ophelia Rojas’ life gets thrown into disarray when Talia begins to occupy all her thoughts, drowning out her usual obsessions with botany and so, so many boys. Full of delightful and diverse side characters, this story of a messy identity crisis is highly relatable for anyone still figuring out where they fit on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

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You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen

You Truly Assumed follows three Black Muslim teen girls who have gained national attention after sharing their experiences with Islamophobia in the wake of a terrorist attack where the perpetrator was erroneously assumed to be Muslim. Sabreen’s book sheds light on lived experiences of Black Muslims that are rarely told by the mainstream media.

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Pure Colour by Sheila Heti 

A strange, Bible-esque journey peppered with jokes about the human experience, Pure Colour is about living in the first draft of Creation — and what happens when whatever force that created it is now ready to tear it apart. Unlike anything she’s written before, Heti fans may not get what they expect with Pure Colour, but that’s part of the beauty of her newest release.

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Owen is a boy with a bird in his chest. It’s always been there, but no one can know. Drawing upon her experience growing up queer in the early 2000s, Lund provides a new take on the coming-of-age novel in the story of Owen, a character you’ll want to hug throughout the entire book.

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Reclaim the Stars edited by Zoraida Córdova 

“Do you remember the first time you believed in the impossible?” asks editor Córdova in the introduction to this wondrous Latin American speculative fiction collection. Set across galaxies and magical realms, these uplifting stories from the likes of Daniel José Older, Mark Oshiro, Lilliam Rivera, and more bring hope of a better tomorrow.

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The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley 

When Jess Hadley’s brother ends up missing, she asks the tenants of his creepy, but once elegant apartment building about his whereabouts and each one deflects her questions. She soon finds out the building tenants are members of the same family who share a dark secret. Between the eerie atmosphere and quickly-paced plot, Foley sweeps readers away on an exciting thrill ride through Paris with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. 

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The Revenge of Power by Moises Naim 

The pandemic has set the stage for power grabs by authoritarian governments in countries like China, Hungary, and the Philippines, and journalist Moises Naim is unnerved by the implications. If you’re wondering how we got here, let Naim’s heavily researched and intelligent portrait of the global spread of totalitarianism serve as an authoritative voice of reason. 

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Carolina Built by Kianna Alexander

“Carolina Built” is a fictional biography of Josephine Leary, a woman born into slavery who became one of North Carolina’s first Black real estate entreprenuers. This story of grit and determination puts strong female characters in the spotlight and despite being historical fiction, feels incredibly realistic.

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Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin

In Manhunt, Gretchen Felker-Martin creates a grotesque and brutal post-apocalyptic world where a plague is turning men into violent cannibals, and two trans women are trying to survive by any means necessary. Part horror, part suspense, part gender commentary, this modern horror masterpiece will keep you on your toes. 

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Off the Edge by Kelly Weill

Before the pandemic, “Daily Beast'' reporter Kelly Weill brushed flat Eartherism off as a joke. The last few years made her reconsider. This deep dive into the history of flat Eartherism and its ties to more modern conspiracy theories like Y2K paranoia and QAnon is an engaging read for anyone wishing to understand the world we currently live in.

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Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

In Len’s imaginative start to a trilogy, monsters look like humans but have the ability to time travel by stealing part of a human’s life. A legendary monster hunter is wiping out the monster population en masse, threatening half-human, half-monster Joan Chang-Hunt’s existence. Tropes from across many genres are uniquely blended in this exciting debut.

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From Dust, a Flame by Rebecca Podos

From Lambda Award-winning author Podos comes a contemporary YA fantasy steeped in Jewish folklore. Upon turning 17, Hannah suddenly has snake-like eyes. Her mother goes off to find a cure, but doesn’t return. This takes Hannah and her brother, Gabe, on a journey that reveals their family’s Jewish heritage and supernatural history.

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About the Author: Dana Hamilton

Dana is a Los Angeles-based writer who loves everything about books, especially the publishing process! Before she became a journalist with outlets like New York Magazine, VICE, and Fodor's Travel, she helped authors bring their stories to life as an editor at HarperCollins and Hachette. In her free time, she loves to cook (and her New York Times Cooking subscription), listen to comedy podcasts while stuck in LA traffic, and do yoga.
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