The new year means new books to read, and while January might be the time when Hollywood dumps its least-loved products upon unwitting audiences, the same is not true for the publishing industry. Rather, there are an abundance of excellent books to read this month—and beyond. And while you can check out our big 2017 book preview here and see for yourself the 50 books we’re super-excited are coming out during the first part of the year, here’s eight other titles that we can’t recommend highly enough and that are either out right now or about to be on a bookshelf near you. Winter has come, and it’s brought along with it a bunch of great things to read. So get to it.
8 Great Books To Read This January
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (available now)
This lyrically written gut-punch of a novel is filled with a sense of dread and pure foreboding; it’s impossible for the reader not to get swept away by the compelling plot and eerie atmosphere. Fridlund is masterful as she grapples with issues like desire, adolescence, trust, and secrecy. This would be an impressive book no matter what, but that it’s Fridland’s debut novel is all the more remarkable.
Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living edited by Manjula Martin (available now)
Martin has gathered together a veritable who’s who of contemporary publishing all in an effort to make transparent that most mysterious of questions: How is it possible to make money as a writer? The collection of essays and interviews are really illuminating and not only a must-read for anyone contemplating a career in writing, but for anyone who is interested in pursuing that most elusive of career goals: doing what you love.
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson (available January 10)
That the most dangerous place on earth is a suburban American high school shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has ever attended school, but that doesn’t mean that Johnson’s narrative doesn’t beautifully reveal the darkest side of adolescence in a way that feels fresh and nothing less than necessary—particularly now, when our PEOTUS has shown a propensity for bullying from his Twitter pulpit.
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (available January 10)
This newly translated work by Argentinian writer Schweblin is described as “a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale.” So, basically, all of our favorite things. Truly, though, Schweblin’s mastery over the surreal and intimately scary aspects of life is incredible, and this slim novel will unsettle you long after you’ve turned its final page.
Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers by Joel Whitney (available January 10)
When it was revealed a few years ago that some of mid-20th century America’s most beloved writers (think: RIchard Wright, Peter Mattheissen, George Plimpton) were also agents for the CIA, it shook the literary world. Whitney’s book explores how these literary figures navigated the boundaries between art and propoganda and grapples with the question of whether or not it is possible to separate the “good” work the CIA did (promoting and financially supporting great works of literature) and the undeniably bad work (toppling democratically elected regimes, funding assassins, spying on unsuspecting citizens). It’s a moral question for our times, and Whitney handles it with intelligence and grace.
Human Acts by Han Kang (available January 17)
Kang wrote one of our favorite books of 2016, The Vegetarian, and this follow-up is an early favorite for one of the best books of this new year. In it, Kang deals with issues of political turmoil and individual and collective struggles for justice and equality. It traces the experiences of many different South Koreans handling the tragic aftermath of a student protest which turned violent. Kang doesn’t flinch when portraying the agony felt by the characters, making this book an essential, moving treatise on life under an oppressive regime.
Days without End by Sebastian Barry (available January 24)
Barry’s latest novel allows you to get lost in history, as he travels back to the Civil War era, traversing the Western plains and setting up an epic tale of a found family, comprising two young American soldiers and a Native American girl, who must navigate some of the most contentious, complicated time in our nation’s history; a time which would ultimately determine America’s future course.
4321 by Paul Auster (available January 31)
Any time a new novel by Auster comes out, it’s a reason to get excited and this latest is no exception. 4321 traces the life of Archibald Isaac Ferguson, from the moment of his birth onward. Well, actually, 4321 traces the lives of Archibald Isaac Ferguson, because Auster takes readers down four different but parallel paths of possibility for Ferguson, each bearing some similarities to one another, but also marked differences. This glorious meditiation on fate and purpose, free will and chance is fiercely spellbinding, leading readers to question what it is they know about their own lives, what could have been, and what is still to come.