The start of the New Year is fast approaching, and we’re counting down the days until 2020 is officially over! To build the excitement and anticipation, we’ve rounded up a bunch of 2021 releases that we can’t wait for you to read, from Angie Thomas’s newest to buzzworthy debuts. If you pre-order these fabulously gripping reads now, you’ll thank yourself when the books arrive in the new year, and you’ll have plenty to look forward to throughout 2021. Cheers to a fresh pile of TBR books!
Emily’s Pick: When I first saw this cover, I was immediately enraptured, and then became even more so after reading its timely and striking story of a loving family torn apart by civil war and the unjust immigration system. We follow Mauro and Elena as they fall in love in a Colombia ravaged by civil war. Their past sheds a gripping light that makes the story pulse with urgency as, years later, we watch as their youngest child, Talia, races to reunite with her parents and siblings before their plane leaves for America. Mirroring the fragmented family itself, the book’s story line reflects bits and pieces of each character’s perspective in time and place, until it all comes together into a beautiful, yet terrifying work of art. Author Patricia Engel is herself the daughter of Colombian immigrants—and she lends an incredibly moving and authentic voice to a family struggling to keep it all together through the realities of a broken immigration system. Publication Date: March 2, 2021
“Remarkable...this is as much an all-American story as it is a global one.” —Booklist (starred review)
For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.
Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family in the north.
How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. And all the while, the metronome ticks: Will Talia make it to Bogotá in time? And if she does, can she bring herself to trade the solid facts of her father and life in Colombia for the distant vision of her mother and siblings in America?
Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.
Holly’s Pick: I must admit, I’m a sucker for a sweeping story of historical fiction. That’s why I’m most excited for Julia Kelly’s newest novel THE LAST GARDEN IN ENGLAND. Present day, we meet Emma, who is dedicated to reviving long-neglected gardens. After getting the opportunity to restore the gardens of the famous Highbury House estate, designed by her hero Venetia Smith in 1907, Emma dives deep into the garden’s past and uncovers long-held secrets. Back in 1907, Venetia Smith has made herself known as a garden designer and is given the chance to change her life forever with her designs for the Highbury House. In 1944, when World War II threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, Beth is drawn to the estate too. Three very different women are thus brought together over time. Spanning decades, the special and beloved garden at Highbury House connects these three women in some very unexpected ways. Publication Date: January 12, 2021
From the author of the international bestseller The Light Over London and The Whispers of War comes a poignant and unforgettable tale of five women living across three different times whose lives are all connected by one very special place.
Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.
1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.
1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.
In this sweeping novel reminiscent of Kate Morton’s The Lake House and Kristin Harmel’s The Room on Rue Amélie, Julia Kelly explores the unexpected connections that cross time and the special places that bring people together forever.
Anne’s Pick #1: If you've been on Bookstagram at all this month, chances are you've seen this cover everywhere! I read an eGalley but am still DYING for a hard copy because I'm obsessed with this book. THE OTHER BLACK GIRL is a deeply unsettling thriller about all the social calculations that go into being "the only Black girl" at work at a top book publisher and what happens when someone new upsets the status quo. This story is Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada—and as a bonus, author Zakiya Dalila Harris comes from a publishing background, so you can expect an inside look at the industry (you know, but with more...murder). Full of biting social commentary and dark twists and turns, you have to add THE OTHER BLACK GIRL to your TBR list. Stat. Publication Date: June 1, 2021
“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original. This is an exciting debut.” —Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Hotel
Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.
A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.
Heather’s Pick #1: Even in virtual form, my book club’s monthly meetings have been one of the highlights of my year. They’re a chance to catch up, enjoy a glass of wine (or two), and chat about books with some of my closest friends. And I have to say, Tif Marcelo’s IN A BOOK CLUB FAR AWAY feels tailor-made to read and discuss with them. The novel welcomes us into the lives of three Army wives—Adelaide, Regina, and Sophie—who met in a book club and used to be best friends, until an abrupt falling out sent them in different directions. And yet, when Adelaide contacts Regina and Sophie out of the blue eight years later, they are unable to deny her request for help taking care of her young daughter while she undergoes emergency surgery. Is there a chance the three women can repair their friendship? Obviously, I must find out! Publication Date: April 6, 2021
From the author of Once Upon a Sunset and The Key to Happily Ever After comes a heartwarming and moving novel following three Army wives—estranged friends—who must overcome their differences when one of them is desperate for help.
Regina Castro, Adelaide Wilson-Chang, and Sophie Walden used to be best friends. As Army wives at Fort East, they bonded during their book club and soon became inseparable. But when an unimaginable betrayal happened amongst the group, the friendship abruptly ended, and they haven’t spoken since.
That’s why, eight years later, Regina and Sophie are shocked when they get a call for help from Adelaide. Adelaide’s husband is stationed abroad, and without any friends or family near her new home of Alexandria, Virginia, she has no one to help take care of her young daughter when she has to undergo emergency surgery. For the sake of an innocent child, Regina and Sophie reluctantly put their differences aside to help an old friend.
As the three women reunite, they must overcome past hurts and see if there’s any future for their friendship. Featuring Tif Marcelo’s signature “enchanting prose” (Amy E. Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake) and the books that brought them together in the first place, In a Book Club Far Away honors the immense power of female friendship and how love can defy time, distance, and all old wounds.
Heather’s Pick #2: There’s no rest for the wicked—or homicide detectives, for that matter. After solving the gruesome murder of a young woman in Katrine Engberg’s debut novel, THE TENANT, Copenhagen police investigators Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner catch another big case. Though Werner’s supposed to be on maternity leave and Kørner’s fresh off a divorce, the partners will do whatever it takes to find out who’s killing innocent patients at one of the city’s top hospitals. If you, like me, are a sucker for atmospheric Scandinavian crime dramas, you’re going to want to keep an eye out for this release too. Publication Date: January 5, 2021
Detectives Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner from the #1 international bestseller The Tenant—which New York Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs heralded as a “stunning debut”—return in this compulsively readable thriller as they race to solve a series of sordid murders linked to some of the most vulnerable patients in a Danish hospital.
Hospitals are supposed to be places of healing. But in the coronary care unit at one of Copenhagen’s leading medical centers, a nurse fills a syringe with an overdose of heart medication and stealthily enters the room of an older male patient.
Six days earlier, a paperboy on his route in central Copenhagen stumbles upon a macabre find: the naked body of a dead woman, lying in a fountain with arms marked with small incisions. Cause of death? Exsanguination—the draining of all the blood in her body.
Clearly, this is no ordinary murder. Lead Investigator Jeppe Kørner, recovering from a painful divorce and in the throes of a new relationship, takes on the investigation. His partner, Anette Werner, now on maternity leave after an unexpected pregnancy, is restless at home with a demanding newborn and an equally demanding husband. While Jeppe pounds the streets looking for answers, Anette decides to do a little freelance sleuthing. But operating on her own exposes her to dangers she can’t even begin to fathom.
As the investigation ventures into dark corners, it uncovers the ambition and greed that festers beneath the surface of caregiving institutions—all the more shocking for their depravity—and what Jeppe and Anette discover will turn their blood as cold as ice….
Sharon’s Pick #1: THE HATE U GIVE was one of my favorite reads of this year, so when I found out that Angie Thomas was returning to the Carter family and the world of Garden Heights, I was overjoyed. CONCRETE ROSE is set seventeen years before the events of THE HATE U GIVE, and focuses on Maverick Carter, Starr’s father. Mav is seventeen years old, dealing drugs for the King Lords in order to support his mother, and he has everything under control, until he finds out he is a father. In order to raise his child and finish school, Mav must walk away from the King Lords. However, as the son of a former gang legend, he must reckon with loyalty, revenge, and responsibility. Thomas’s exploration of Black boyhood and manhood through one of the most memorable characters in THE HATE U GIVE makes this one of my must-reads for 2021. Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Jess’s Pick #1: Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable tale of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together. It’s World War II setting alternates with Montana in the 1960s, and as the author skillfully draws the two plotlines together, I was totally rapt. Perfect for book clubs and bookworms alike! Publication Date: February 9, 2021
Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.
Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.
Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.
A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.
Allie’s Pick #1: I was a big fan of Christina McDonald's THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL, and I loved her follow-up novel, BEHIND EVERY LIE, so I was very excited to find out that she has a new book coming out this February! DO NO HARM follows a physician named Emma who, after her young son is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, goes to extreme lengths in order to fund the lifesaving treatment he needs. But when somebody ends up dead, Emma finds herself in a race to save her son before the truth catches up to her. I love a good thriller during the cold winter months, and DO NO HARM will go perfectly in my winter reading stack. Publication Date: February 16, 2021
From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Behind Every Lie and The Night Olivia Fell comes an unforgettable and heart-wrenching novel about the lengths one woman will go to save her son.
Emma loves her life. She’s the mother of a precocious kindergartener, married to her soulmate—a loyal and loving police detective—and has a rewarding career as a doctor at the local hospital.
But everything comes crashing down when her son, Josh, is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
Determined to save him, Emma makes the risky decision to sell opioids to fund the life-saving treatment he needs. But when somebody ends up dead, a lethal game of cat and mouse ensues, her own husband leading the chase. With her son’s life hanging in the balance, Emma is dragged into the dark world of drugs, lies, and murder. Will the truth catch up to her before she can save Josh?
A timely and moving exploration of a town gripped by the opioid epidemic, and featuring Christina McDonald’s signature “complex, emotionally intense” (Publishers Weekly) prose, Do No Harm examines whether the ends ever justify the means...even for a desperate mother.
Sharon’s Pick #2: Reading MILK FED is like eating your favorite flavor of frozen yogurt. This book is an absolute treat to read, and you can’t help yourself from going back for more of its sharply written, hilarious, erotic, and surprisingly touching prose. A twenty-four-year-old lapsed Jew, Rachel is convinced she is fine with merely subsisting as she maintains a strict, calorie-restricted diet, works a dead-end job at a Hollywood talent agency, and pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. However, when she meets Miriam, a zaftig Orthodox Jew, at her local frozen yogurt shop, Rachel can no longer suppress her desires—for unconditional love, for nourishment, and for spiritual fulfillment. Publication Date: February 2, 2021
“Milk Fed is a novel of appetites; a luscious, heartbreaking story of self-discovery through the relentless pursuit of desire. I couldn’t get enough of this devastating and extremely sexy book.” —Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House
A scathingly funny, wildly erotic, and fiercely imaginative story about food, sex, and god from the acclaimed author of The Pisces and So Sad Today.
Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting.
Early in the detox, Rachel meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.
Pairing superlative emotional insight with unabashed vivid fantasy, Broder tells a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we as humans can compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is a tender and riotously funny meditation on love, certitude, and the question of what we are all being fed, from one of our major writers on the psyche—both sacred and profane.
Anne’s Pick #2: When Faye steps into a box in the attic, she is transported far away from her present-day life with her husband and kids to the year before her mother died. Suddenly, she has the chance to reconnect with her long-lost mother, and even meets her own younger self, a little girl she barely remembers. But as Faye travels back and forth between her past and present, the box portal becomes more tattered, and she fears that she won't be able to visit again—or get back to her current life. FAYE, FARAWAY is dreamy, sincere, and completely unexpected, with all the heart (and time travel!) of THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE and the film ABOUT TIME. You will weep and smile throughout the book. It's the most perfect read-together for mothers and daughters who are looking to connect via Zoom or phone with a good book. (Don't tell my mom—it's her Christmas gift this year, which will arrive belatedly in January.) Publication Date: January 26, 2021
A heartfelt, spellbinding, and irresistible debut novel for fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Outlander that movingly examines loss, faith, and love as it follows a grown woman who travels back in time to be reunited with the mother she lost when she was a child.
Faye is a thirty-seven-year-old happily married mother of two young daughters. Every night, before she puts them to bed, she whispers to them: “You are good, you are kind, you are clever, you are funny.” She’s determined that they never doubt for a minute that their mother loves them unconditionally. After all, her own mother Jeanie had died when she was only seven years old and Faye has never gotten over that intense pain of losing her.
But one day, her life is turned upside down when she finds herself in 1977, the year before her mother died. Suddenly, she has the chance to reconnect with her long-lost mother, and even meets her own younger self, a little girl she can barely remember. Jeanie doesn’t recognize Faye as her daughter, of course, even though there is something eerily familiar about her...
As the two women become close friends, they share many secrets—but Faye is terrified of revealing the truth about her identity. Will it prevent her from returning to her own time and her beloved husband and daughters? What if she’s doomed to remain in the past forever? Faye knows that eventually she will have to choose between those she loves in the past and those she loves in the here and now, and that knowledge presents her with an impossible choice.
Emotionally gripping and ineffably sweet Faye, Faraway is a brilliant exploration of the grief associated with unimaginable loss and the magic of being healed by love.
Sharon’s Pick #3: The beginning of THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE seems auspicious enough. Ambrosia “Amb” Wellington is ten years out of college, trying to make a new life for herself, when she receives an invitation to her ten-year college reunion. However, this is accompanied by an anonymous note that reads, “We need to talk about what we did that night.” When Amb and her former best friend, Sloane “Sully” Sullivan, arrive at the reunion, they keep receiving increasingly menacing messages, and it becomes clear that the note writer doesn’t want answers: they want revenge. THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE is exactly the type of thriller I can’t wait to sink my teeth into. Publication Date: March 9, 2021
Two former best friends return to their college reunion to find that they’re being circled by someone who wants revenge for what they did ten years before—and will stop at nothing to get it—in this shocking psychological thriller about ambition, toxic friendship, and deadly desire.
A lot has changed in the years since Ambrosia Wellington graduated from college, and she’s worked hard to create a new life for herself. But then an invitation to her ten-year reunion arrives in the mail, along with an anonymous note that reads “We need to talk about what we did that night.”
It seems that the secrets of Ambrosia’s past—and the people she thought she’d left there—aren’t as buried as she’d believed. Amb can’t stop fixating on what she did or who she did it with: larger-than-life Sloane “Sully” Sullivan, Amb’s former best friend, who could make anyone do anything.
At the reunion, Amb and Sully receive increasingly menacing messages, and it becomes clear that they’re being pursued by someone who wants more than just the truth of what happened that first semester. This person wants revenge for what they did and the damage they caused—the extent of which Amb is only now fully understanding. And it was all because of the game they played to get a boy who belonged to someone else, and the girl who paid the price.
Alternating between the reunion and Amb’s freshman year, The Girls Are All So Nice Here is a shocking novel about the brutal lengths girls can go to get what they think they’re owed, and what happens when the games we play in college become matters of life and death.
Sharon’s Pick #4: My love of American cultural history knows no bounds, so when I heard about Paulina Bren’s THE BARBIZON, I knew I had to read it. This is the first book that discusses the fascinating history of the Barbizon, the most fabulous residential hotel for only women in America, which opened in 1928. Established in the wake of World War I when women were moving in droves to New York City, the Barbizon welcomed women from all paths of life, and offered an alternative to the uncomfortable boardinghouses women had been accustomed to. THE BARBIZON discusses the hotel’s ordinary and famous inhabitants, including Grace Kelly, Sylvia Plath, and Joan Didion, and how the Barbizon survived the Great Depression, clashed with the ideals of McCarthyism, and ultimately gave all women who resided there the chance to remake themselves. Publication Date: March 2, 2021
From award-winning author Paulina Bren comes the first history of New York’s most famous residential hotel—The Barbizon—and the remarkable women who lived there.
WELCOME TO NEW YORK’S LEGENDARY HOTEL FOR WOMEN
Liberated from home and hearth by World War I, politically enfranchised and ready to work, women arrived to take their place in the dazzling new skyscrapers of Manhattan. But they did not want to stay in uncomfortable boarding houses. They wanted what men already had—exclusive residential hotels with daily maid service, cultural programs, workout rooms, and private dining.
Built in 1927 at the height of the Roaring Twenties, the Barbizon Hotel was intended as a safe haven for the “Modern Woman” seeking a career in the arts. It became the place to stay for any ambitious young woman hoping for fame and fortune. Sylvia Plath fictionalized her time there in The Bell Jar, and, over the years, its almost 700 tiny rooms with matching floral curtains and bedspreads housed Titanic survivor Molly Brown; actresses Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Ali MacGraw, Jaclyn Smith, Phylicia Rashad, and Cybill Shepherd; writers Joan Didion, Diane Johnson, Gael Greene, and Meg Wolitzer; and many more. Mademoiselle magazine boarded its summer interns there, as did Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School its students and the Ford Modeling Agency its young models. Before the hotel’s residents were household names, they were young women arriving at the Barbizon with a suitcase and a dream.
Not everyone who passed through the Barbizon’s doors was destined for success—for some it was a story of dashed hopes—but until 1981, when men were finally let in, the Barbizon offered its residents a room of their own and a life without family obligations or expectations. It gave women a chance to remake themselves however they pleased; it was the hotel that set them free. No place had existed like it before or has since.
Beautifully written and impeccably researched, The Barbizon weaves together a tale that has, until now, never been told. It is both a vivid portrait of the lives of these young women who came to New York looking for something more, and an epic history of women’s ambition.
Allie’s Pick #2: AFTERSHOCKS is a book that I am so excited to put into the hands of all my family and friends in 2021. It’s a beautiful new memoir from Nadia Owusu that tells the story of her search for identity and a place to belong and call home. Unlike any memoir I’ve ever read, it’s told through the stages of an earthquake, as changes and revelations within her family leave Nadia feeling shaky and uprooted. It’s a powerful account that is also told in the most exquisite way. If you’ve loved memoirs like THE GLASS CASTLE or EDUCATED, you should definitely check out AFTERSHOCKS. Publication Date: January 12, 2021
In the tradition of The Glass Castle, a deeply felt memoir from Whiting Award–winner Nadia Owusu about the push and pull of belonging, the seismic emotional toll of family secrets, and the heart it takes to pull through.
Young Nadia Owusu followed her father, a United Nations official, from Europe to Africa and back again. Just as she and her family settled into a new home, her father would tell them it was time to say their goodbyes. The instability wrought by Nadia’s nomadic childhood was deepened by family secrets and fractures, both lived and inherited. Her Armenian American mother, who abandoned Nadia when she was two, would periodically reappear, only to vanish again. Her father, a Ghanaian, the great hero of her life, died when she was thirteen. After his passing, Nadia’s stepmother weighed her down with a revelation that was either a bombshell secret or a lie, rife with shaming innuendo.
With these and other ruptures, Nadia arrived in New York as a young woman feeling stateless, motherless, and uncertain about her future, yet eager to find her own identity. What followed, however, were periods of depression in which she struggled to hold herself and her siblings together.
Aftershocks is the way she hauled herself from the wreckage of her life’s perpetual quaking, the means by which she has finally come to understand that the only ground firm enough to count on is the one written into existence by her own hand.
Heralding a dazzling new writer, Aftershocks joins the likes of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and William Styron’s Darkness Visible, and does for race identity what Maggie Nelson does for gender identity in The Argonauts.
Anne’s Pick #3: I can't think of a character I've rooted for more than the protagonist of DARK HORSES, Roan Montgomery. She's on her way to becoming an Olympic horseback rider, but at age 15, she’s also ready to confront her long-term sexual abuse by her coach...who is also her father. This book certainly calls for a content warning for sexual abuse and incest, but debut author Susan Mihalic takes great care with Roan. So much of Roan's story is unexpected: the dynamic with other adults in her life, what it's like to fall in love and date while still dealing with abuse, her ability to fight for her survival and freedom, and the world of competitive horseback riding. DARK HORSES is shocking, and well-worth a read. Publication Date: February 16, 2021
A darkly gripping debut novel about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father.
Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan's relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.
At the intersection of a commercial page-turner and urgent survivor story, Dark Horses takes the searing themes of abuse and resilience in Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling and applies the compelling exploration of female strength in Room by Emma Donoghue. In much the same way that V.C. Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic transfixed a generation of readers, Susan Mihalic’s debut is set to a steady beat that will keep you turning the pages.
Jess’s Pick #2: I was absolutely haunted by this story and its incredible characters. Part thriller, part literary novel, and entirely fantastic, GOOD NEIGHBORS centers on a suburban street in the near future of Long Island. The cast of characters is diverse and complicated, and each one is entirely damaged in their own way. When a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, tensions rupture between the neighbors, secrets are revealed, and no one on Maple Street will ever be the same. Publication Date: February 2, 2021
“A modern-day Crucible….Beneath the surface of a suburban utopia, madness lurks.” —Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
“Sarah Langan is a phenomenal talent with a wicked sense of wry humor. Good Neighbors knocked me out. Like Shirley Jackson, Langan’s work blends a bleak streak with an underlying sense of the humane that wrung my heart.” —Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburb—pitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.
Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.
Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.
Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroeder—a lonely community college professor repressing her own dark past—welcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.
As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes that spins out of control. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.
A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.
Courtney’s Pick: I am incredibly excited for the iconic Christina Lauren’s newest novel, THE SOULMATE EQUATION. While using the classic trope of enemies to lovers, this dynamic duo creates a story so intriguing, I almost wish it were real. Why? Because our two love interests are pushed together by a DNA-based matchmaking company, having scored an unheard-of 98% match. Wouldn’t it be wild if your DNA kit came back with not only your family heritage, but also potential soulmates? I wouldn’t know whether to sign up or run far, far away. I do know, though, that come May, I will be devouring this appealing book from cover to cover. Publication Date: May 18, 2021
The New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners returns with a witty and effervescent novel about what happens when two people with everything on the line are thrown together by science—or is it fate? Perfect for fans of The Rosie Project and One Plus One.
Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard...and lonely.
But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands.
At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.
Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.
Heather’s Pick #3: Next year is going to be a very good one for Leigh Bardugo fans. Not only is Netflix set to release Shadow and Bone, a TV series based on her Grishaverse trilogy, but the author’s also gifting us a second Nikolai book, RULE OF WOLVES. Picking up where KING OF SCARS left off, RULE OF WOLVES finds King Nikolai Lantsov of Ravka backed into a corner and unsure of his next move as a rival country, Fjerda, threatens war. Luckily, the charming devil always has a few tricks up his sleeve, including backup from his formidable friends Zoya (the powerful storm witch who leads his military) and Nina (one of the best spies in the biz). Publication Date: March 30, 2021
Saimah’s Pick #1: Workplace rivals Henley and Graeme are competing to get the same promotion at their cruise-line company. They are each tasked with developing a marketing proposal to boost bookings for a Galápagos Islands trip. But first they have to go on the cruise… together. The pair have never met in person, but their fiery email exchanges are often a topic of office gossip. When they finally meet on the cruise, each is shocked to discover that the other person behind the emails is not who they imagined. As they spend more time together, their witty banter leads to sparks flying. Fans of Sally Thorne’s THE HATING GAME will enjoy this enemies-to-lovers romance! Publication Date: January 19, 2021
The Unhoneymooners meets The Hating Game in this witty, clever, and swoonworthy novel following a workaholic marketing manager who is forced to go on a cruise with her arch-nemesis when they’re up for the same promotion.
Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.
The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.
Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands...together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.
With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?
Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne, Shipped is a fresh and engaging rom-com that celebrates the power of second chances and the magic of new beginnings.
Saimah’s Pick #2: If you enjoy historical romances, you won’t want to miss this story from Martha Waters. Lady Diana Templeton and the Marquess of Willingham, Jeremey, are infamous among the high society of England. Their witty banter escalates during an argument at a ball, which then turns into a wager—Jeremy must marry within a year or he must pay Lady Diana a hefty sum of money. Shortly after, Jeremy appears at Diana’s home with a scandalous proposal to become his lover and give him an honest critique of his skills in the bedroom. The widowed Diana considers his proposition with the hopes that the gossip will signal to other gentlemen that she’s interested in taking a lover. Diana is confident that her relationship with Jeremy will also tip the scales in her favor to win their wager, but what she doesn’t anticipate are the fond feelings she experiences for the Marquess. Publication Date: April 6, 2021
The author of the “hilarious...joyful, elegant” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) To Have and to Hoax returns with an effervescent, charming, and swoon-worthy novel about a man and woman who never agree on anything—until they agree to a no-strings-attached affair in this Regency-era romp.
The widowed Diana, Lady Templeton and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham are infamous among English high society as much for their sharp-tongued bickering as their flirtation. One evening, an argument at a ball turns into a serious wager: Jeremy will marry within the year or Diana will forfeit one hundred pounds. So shortly after, just before a fortnight-long house party at Elderwild, Jeremy’s country estate, Diana is shocked when Jeremy appears at her home with a very different kind of proposition.
After his latest mistress unfavorably criticized his skills in the bedroom, Jeremy is looking for reassurance, so he has gone to the only woman he trusts to be totally truthful. He suggests that they embark on a brief affair while at the house party—Jeremy can receive an honest critique of his bedroom skills and widowed Diana can use the gossip to signal to other gentlemen that she is interested in taking a lover.
Diana thinks taking him up on his counter-proposal can only help her win her wager. With her in the bedroom and Jeremy’s marriage-minded grandmother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Willingham, helping to find suitable matches among the eligible ladies at Elderwild, Diana is confident her victory is assured. But while they’re focused on winning wagers, they stand to lose their own hearts.
With Martha Waters’s signature “cheeky charm and wonderfully wry wit” (Booklist, starred review), To Love and to Loathe is another clever and delightful historical rom-com that is perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Evie Dunmore.
Heather’s Pick #4: I’ll always remember the morbid fascination with which I read Ann Rule’s THE STRANGER BESIDE ME, especially the sections where the author detailed her own interactions with Ted Bundy before she knew he was, y’know, Ted Bundy. I expect to feel like just as much of a voyeur while reading Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan’s THE BABYSITTER, another true crime story that’s half-memoir. When Liza was a child in 1960s Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, she and her sister enjoyed countless afternoons in the care of a kind and thoughtful babysitter, Tony. Only, it turns out that the lovely garden he used to take them to on summer afternoons was also his favorite place to bury bodies. You see, the babysitter was actually Tony Costa, a sadistic serial killer whose sensational case would be all over the news by the end of the decade. Eeeek! But also...tell me more. Publication Date: March 2, 2021
A chilling true story—part memoir, part crime investigation—reminiscent of Ann Rule’s classic The Stranger Beside Me, about a little girl longing for love and how she found friendship with her charismatic babysitter—who was also a vicious serial killer.
Growing up on Cape Cod in the 1960s, Liza Rodman was a lonely little girl. During the summers, while her mother worked days in a local motel and danced most nights in the Provincetown bars, her babysitter—the kind, handsome handyman at the motel where her mother worked—took her and her sister on adventures in his truck. He bought them popsicles and together, they visited his “secret garden” in the Truro woods. To Liza, he was one of the few kind and understanding adults in her life. Everyone thought he was just a “great guy.”
But there was one thing she didn’t know; their babysitter was a serial killer.
Some of his victims were buried—in pieces—right there, in his garden in the woods. Though Tony Costa’s gruesome case made screaming headlines in 1969 and beyond, Liza never made the connection between her friendly babysitter and the infamous killer of numerous women, including four in Massachusetts, until decades later.
Haunted by nightmares and horrified by what she learned, Liza became obsessed with the case. Now, she and cowriter Jennifer Jordan reveal the chilling and unforgettable true story of a charming but brutal psychopath through the eyes of a young girl who once called him her friend.
Sharon’s Pick #5: One of my 2021 resolutions is to keep myself engaged in discussions surrounding intersectionality and social justice, and WHITE FEMINISM will be one of my go-to guides in navigating this discourse. In this critical and insightful deep dive, journalist Koa Beck discusses how the topic of feminism has been commodified and racialized, and analyzes the consequences of these phenomena. Beck tracks the history of how the feminist movement came to be defined by white people, and how this has left behind disenfranchised and historically marginalized communities. WHITE FEMINISM also provides a path forward to ultimately creating a more inclusive feminist movement. Publication Date: January 5, 2021
A timely and impassioned exploration of how our society has commodified feminism and continues to systemically shut out women of color—perfect for fans of White Fragility and Good and Mad.
Join the important conversation about race, empowerment, and inclusion in the United States with this powerful new feminist classic and rousing call for change. Koa Beck, writer and former editor-in-chief of Jezebel, boldly examines the history of feminism, from the true mission of the suffragettes to the rise of corporate feminism with clear-eyed scrutiny and meticulous detail. She also examines overlooked communities—including Native American, Muslim, transgender, and more—and their difficult and ongoing struggles for social change.
In these pages she meticulously documents how elitism and racial prejudice has driven the narrative of feminist discourse. She blends pop culture, primary historical research, and first-hand storytelling to show us how we have shut women out of the movement, and what we can do to course correct for a new generation—perfect for women of color looking for a more inclusive way to fight for women’s rights.
Combining a scholar’s understanding with hard data and razor-sharp cultural commentary, White Feminism is a witty, whip-smart, and profoundly eye-opening book that challenges long-accepted conventions and completely upends the way we understand the struggle for women’s equality.
Zoey's Pick: If you loved books like H IS FOR HAWK and GRIEF IS A THING WITH FEATHERS, you're going to want to read FEATHERHOOD. It's the memoir of a man named Charlie and his friendship with his pet magpie, Benzene. In the words of Elton John himself: "FEATHERHOOD is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I urge you to seek it out, buy it, and be enchanted. It's incredibly moving, and I loved every single page." Publication Date: January 5, 2021
“I loved every single page.” —Elton John
“The best piece of nature writing since H is for Hawk.” —Neil Gaiman
In this moving, critically acclaimed memoir, a young man saves a baby magpie as his estranged father is dying, only to find that caring for the mischievous bird saves him.
One spring day, a baby magpie falls out of its nest and into Charlie Gilmour’s hands. Magpies, he soon discovers, are as clever and mischievous as monkeys. They are also notorious thieves, and this one quickly steals his heart. By the time the creature develops shiny black feathers that inspire the name Benzene, Charlie and the bird have forged an unbreakable bond.
While caring for Benzene, Charlie learns his biological father, an eccentric British poet named Heathcote Williams who vanished when Charlie was six months old, is ill. As he grapples with Heathcote’s abandonment, Charlie comes across one of his poems, in which Heathcote describes how an impish young jackdaw fell from its nest and captured his affection. Over time, Benzene helps Charlie unravel his fears about repeating the past—and embrace the role of father himself.
A bird falls, a father dies, a child is born. Featherhood is the unforgettable story of a love affair between a man and a bird. It is also a beautiful and affecting memoir about childhood and parenthood, captivity and freedom, grief and love.
Photo credit: iStock / monap