Features

The Best New Books of February 2019

New novels from Marlon James, Charlie Jane Anders, Elizabeth McCracken, and more.

Usually, the best thing about February is that my eternal nemesis, January, has been defeated once again. But this February is particularly stacked with great books, including long-anticipated novels from Elizabeth McCracken, Sandra Newman, Marlon James, and Charlie Jane Anders, as well as a few fascinating debuts. Here are our picks for the 15 best new books of February 2019.

Bowlaway
By Elizabeth McCracken
Ecco, February 5

“A sweeping and enchanting new novel from the widely beloved, award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken about three generations of an unconventional New England family who own and operate a candlepin bowling alley. In a voice laced with insight and her signature sharp humor, Elizabeth McCracken has written an epic family saga set against the backdrop of twentieth-century America. Bowlaway is both a stunning feat of language and a brilliant unraveling of a family’s myths and secrets, its passions and betrayals, and the ties that bind and the rifts that divide.”

Magical Negro
By Morgan Parker
Tin House, February 5

“From the breakout author of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé comes a profound and deceptively funny exploration of Black American womanhood. Magical Negro is an archive of black everydayness, a catalog of contemporary folk heroes, an ethnography of ancestral grief, and an inventory of figureheads, idioms, and customs. These American poems are both elegy and jive, joke and declaration, songs of congregation and self-conception. They connect themes of loneliness, displacement, grief, ancestral trauma, and objectification, while exploring and troubling tropes and stereotypes of Black Americans.”

The Atlas of Reds and Blues
By Devi S. Laskar
Counterpoint, February 5

The Atlas of Reds and Blues grapples with the complexities of the second-generation American experience, what it means to be a woman of color in the workplace, and a sister, a wife, and a mother to daughters in today’s America. Drawing inspiration from the author’s own terrifying experience of a raid on her home, Devi S. Laskar’s debut novel explores, in exquisite, lyrical prose, an alternate reality that might have been.”

Black Leopard, Red Wolf
By Marlon James
Riverhead, February 5

“In the stunning first novel in Marlon James’s Dark Star trilogy, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child. Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.”

This Is Not a Love Song
By Brendan Mathews
Little, Brown and Company, February 5

“If Mathews’s novel The World of Tomorrow was an “outsized” entertainment, a “big, expressive debut” (Wall Street Journal), then This Is Not a Love Song, two stories from which have been included in The Best American Short Stories, is glorious proof that he excels equally as a miniaturist. From rock-star flameouts to church burnings to ordinary people trying not to fall out of love, these stories are packed with vivid detail, emotional precision, and deft, redemptive humor.”

The Ruin of Kings
By Jenn Lyons
Tor Books, February 5

“Kihrin grew up in the slums of Quur, a thief and a minstrel’s son raised on tales of long-lost princes and magnificent quests. When he is claimed against his will as the missing son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds himself at the mercy of his new family’s ruthless power plays and political ambitions. Practically a prisoner, Kihrin discovers that being a long-lost prince is nothing like what the storybooks promised. The storybooks have lied about a lot of other things, too: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, and how the hero always wins. Then again, maybe he isn’t the hero after all. For Kihrin is not destined to save the world. He’s destined to destroy it.”

The Made-Up Man
By Joseph Scapellato
FSG, February 5

“Immediately and wholly immersive, Joseph Scapellato’s debut novel, The Made-Up Man, is a hilarious examination of art’s role in self-knowledge, a sinister send-up of self-deception, and a big-hearted investigation into the cast of characters necessary to help us finally meet ourselves.”

The Night Tiger
By Yangsze Choo
Flatiron Books, February 12

The Night Tiger draws us into a world of servants and masters, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and forbidden love. But anchoring this dazzlingly ambitious, propulsive novel is the intimate coming of age of a boy and a girl, each searching for their place in a society that would rather they stay invisible.”

Rag
By Maryse Meijer
FSG Originals, February 12

“From the author of Heartbreaker, a disquieting collection tracing the destructive consequences of the desire for connection A man, forgotten by the world, takes care of his deaf brother while euthanizing dogs for a living. A stepbrother so desperately wants to become his stepsibling that he rapes his girlfriend. In Maryse Meijer’s decidedly dark and searingly honest collection Rag, the desperate human desire for connection slips into a realm that approximates horror.”

The City in the Middle of the Night
By Charlie Jane Anders
Tor Books, February 12

“January is a dying planet–divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk. But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside. Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal. But fate has other plans–and Sophie’s ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.”

Lost Children Archive
By Valeria Luiselli
Knopf, February 12

“As the family drives—through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas—we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. Told through several compelling voices, blending texts, sounds, and images, Lost Children Archive is an astonishing feat of literary virtuosity. It is a richly engaging story of how we document our experiences, and how we remember the things that matter to us the most. With urgency and empathy, it takes us deep into the lives of one remarkable family as it probes the nature of justice and equality today.”

The Heavens
By Sandra Newman
Grove Press, February 12

“A work of rare literary brilliance and emotional power, The Heavens is a mesmerizing novel of love and dreams that moves between a reimagined New York City and Elizabethan England and asks how our world comes to be.”

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming
By David Wallace-Wells
Tim Duggan Books, February 19

“In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await—food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. But the world will be remade by warming in more profound ways as well, transforming our politics, our culture, our relationship to technology, and our sense of history. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today.”

Bangkok Wakes to Rain
By Pitchaya Sudbanthad
Riverhead Books, February 19

“A house in Bangkok is the confluence of lives shaped by upheaval, memory, and the lure of home. A missionary doctor pines for his native New England even as he succumbs to the vibrant chaos of nineteenth-century Siam. A post-WWII society woman marries, mothers, and holds court, little suspecting her solitary future. A jazz pianist in the age of rock, haunted by his own ghosts, is summoned to appease the resident spirits. A young woman tries to outpace the long shadow of her political past. And in New Krungthep, savvy teenagers row tourists past landmarks of the drowned old city they themselves do not remember. Time collapses as these stories collide and converge, linked by the forces voraciously making and remaking the amphibious, ever-morphing capital itself.”

The Body Myth
By Rheea Mukherjee
Unnamed Press, February 26

“Mira is a teacher living in the heart of Suryam, a modern bustling city in India, and the only place in the world the fickle Rasagura fruit grows. Mira lives alone, and with only the French existentialists as companions, until the day she witnesses a beautiful woman having a seizure in the park. Mira runs to help her but is cautious, for she could have sworn the woman looked around to see if anyone was watching right before the seizure began. Mira is quickly drawn into the lives of this mysterious woman Sara, who suffers a myriad of unexplained illnesses, and her kind, intensely supportive husband Rahil, striking up intimate, volatile and fragile friendships with each of them that quickly become something more.”

1 comment on “The Best New Books of February 2019

  1. Great list. Very exciting. ON THE COME UP – Angie Thomas?!!

    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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: