Features

The 10 Best New Books to Read This January

There's no way to sugar-coat it: January is the worst month of the year. The holidays are over, families and friends are re-torn asunder, the work you ignored all December comes crashing down on you back at the office, and—don't forget—it's really, really cold.

jan

There’s no way to sugar-coat it: January is the worst month of the year. The holidays are over, families and friends are re-torn asunder, the work you ignored all December comes crashing down on you back at the office, and—don’t forget—it’s really, really cold. Luckily, these 10 books will take the edge off your post-holiday blues.


9780802125392_db20bDifficult Women by Roxane Gay
Grove Press, January 3

“Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State and the New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection. The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the elder sister’s marriage. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.”


9781250119841_3b950Letters to a Young Muslim by Omar Saif Ghobash
Picador, January 3

“In a series of personal letters to his sons, Omar Saif Ghobash offers a short and highly readable manifesto that tackles our current global crisis with the training of an experienced diplomat and the personal responsibility of a father. Today’s young Muslims will be tomorrow’s leaders, and yet too many are vulnerable to extremist propaganda that seems omnipresent in our technological age. The burning question, Ghobash argues, is how moderate Muslims can unite to find a voice that is true to Islam while actively and productively engaging in the modern world. What does it mean to be a good Muslim? What is the concept of a good life? And is it acceptable to stand up and openly condemn those who take the Islamic faith and twist it to suit their own misguided political agendas? In taking a hard look at these seemingly simple questions, Ghobash encourages his sons to face issues others insist are not relevant, not applicable, or may even be Islamophobic. These letters serve as a clear-eyed inspiration for the next generation of Muslims to understand how to be faithful to their religion and still navigate through the complexities of today’s world. They also reveal an intimate glimpse into a world many are unfamiliar with and offer to provide an understanding of the everyday struggles Muslims face around the globe.”


9780813168982_e173dThe Price of Scarlet by Brianna Noll
University Press of Kentucky, January 6

“In her debut collection, Brianna Noll fuses the scientific and fantastic, posing probing questions that explore the paradoxes of experience. Interweaving themes of creation, art, and nature, the poet gives voice to animate and inanimate figures such as woolly mammoths, star-nosed moles, cells, mylar balloons, and puzzle boxes. Her vivid poems obscure the line between what is literal and what is figurative. The result is alchemic and ethereal — each verse intricately layered with sharp observation as well as emotional and intellectual exploration and questioning. Collectively, the poems draw significantly on Japanese culture and language in their imagery, with cultural nuances and implications embedded in words and expressions. They tend to be tied, not to subjects, but to ways of seeing and considering the world. Noll’s lyrical voice reflects a curious and imaginative approach that results in tight poems, typically enjambed, which build together into a thoughtful collection. Her work offers ways of seeing and considering the world that exceed our lived experience, begging the reader to consider how far we are willing to go when faced with roadblocks, doubts, and uncertainties.”


9781944700041_579caWest Virginia by Joe Halstead
Unnamed Press, January 10

“When Jamie Paddock learns of his father’s suicide, memories of his childhood in West Virginia come roaring back. One of the few people in his town to ever make it out, Jamie’s living in New York City now, developing marketing videos for YouTube, struggling to write and partying a lot — all while suppressing the accent that gives him away. Spurred by an artistic curiosity surrounding his silent and private father, Jamie goes home, staying with his disabled mother and sister in their trailer, conveniently located between two Walmarts. Always poorer than the local coal miners, Jamie’s family relies on welfare, but it is the mystery of his father’s suicide that will help define Jamie’s identity and possibly decide whether he leaves West Virginia for good.”


9781940430867_3faae.jpgRevise the Psalm: Work Celebrating the Writing of Gwendolyn Brooks
Edited by Quraysh Ali Lansana and Sandra Jackson-Opoku

Curbside Splendor, January 17

“The year 2017 marks the 100th birthday of the late poet and cultural icon Gwendolyn Brooks. Miss Brooks’ depictions of poor and working class African Americans provides insight into the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and her lens on the Great Migration, hard and necessary truths about race injustice, and the Black Power movement interprets and contextualizes current racial inequities and tensions. This collection of poetry, essays, and art inspired by the work of Miss Brooks celebrates her life, writing, and activism.”


9781941088661_765b3Heritage of Smoke by Josip Novakovich
Dzanc Books, January 10

“Short story writer, novelist and essayist Josip Novakovich returns with his first collection of stories since being named a finalist for the prestigious 2013 Man Booker International Prize. In Ex-Yu, he explores the major themes of war and exile, of religiosity and existentialism, that have defined his fiction and earned him a place among the pantheon of international writers addressing contemporary literature’s most pressing questions. Masterpieces such “Honey in the Carcase”, “White Mustache”, and “Acorns”, unflinching in their humanity and realism, take us into the brutal despair of the Bosnian War. In between, dry humor and world-weary wisdom infuse such exile preoccupations as soccer, terrorism, and cigarettes. Taken together, this latest collection comprises a bravely intelligent mosaic of what it means to be torn from one’s country and one’s self.”


9781619028456_1bd6cIf You Are There by Susan Sherman
Counterpoint, January 10

“Set in the early 1900s, the novel follows young Lucia Rutkowski who, thanks to the influence of her beloved grandmother, escapes the Warsaw ghetto to work as a kitchen maid in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the bustling city of Paris. Too talented for her lowly position, Lucia is thrown out on the street. Her only recourse is to take a job working for two disorganized, rather poor married scientists so distracted by their work that their house and young child are often neglected. Lucia soon bonds with her eccentric employers, watching as their work with radioactive materials grows increasing noticed by the world, then rising to fame as the great Marie and Pierre Curie. Soon, all of Paris is alit with the news of an impending visit from Eusapia Palladino, the world’s most famous medium. It is through her now famous employers that Lucia attends Eusapia’s gatherings and eventually falls under the medium’s spell, leaving the Curie household to travel with her to Italy. Ultimately, Lucia is placed directly in the crosshairs of faith versus science–what is more real, the glowing substances of the Curie laboratory or the glowing visions that surround the medium during her séance?”


9781250113320_1e13aLillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
St. Martin’s Press, January 17

“Set on new year’s eve, 1984, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish walks the length of Manhattan and encounters a vibrant cross-section of fellow urbanites and recollects an eventful life. It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk. As she crosses the unsafe landscape of a run-down Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. As she strolls, she recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America, cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown. A love letter to city life no matter how shiny or sleazy, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic, from the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.”


9781101906729_967ddHuman Acts by Han Kang
Hogarth, January 17

“In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed. The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho’s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho’s own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice. An award-winning, controversial bestseller, Human Acts is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity.”


9781941040492_9fc8bNine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan
Tin House, January 24

“Three intertwining voices span the twentieth century to tell the unknown story of the Jews in Ireland. A heartbreaking portrait of what it means to belong, and how storytelling can redeem us all. At the start of the twentieth century, a young girl and her family emigrate from Lithuania in search of a better life in America, only to land on the Emerald Isle instead. In 1958, a mute Jewish boy locked away in a mental institution outside of Dublin forms an unlikely friendship with a man consumed by the story of the love he lost nearly two decades earlier. And in present-day London, an Irish journalist is forced to confront her conflicting notions of identity and family when her Jewish boyfriend asks her to make a true leap of faith. These three arcs, which span generations and intertwine in revelatory ways, come together to tell the haunting story of Ireland’s all-but-forgotten Jewish community. Ruth Gilligan’s beautiful and heartbreaking Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan explores the question of just how far we will go to understand who we really are, and to feel at home in the world.”

1 comment on “The 10 Best New Books to Read This January

  1. Kerman Raines

    Thank you for you stand against hate.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: