New Book Releases: January 5, 2021

Each week, I’ll catalog the biggest and most exciting adult and YA fiction — and the occasional nonfiction — coming out that Tuesday.

BLACK BUCK, Mateo Askaripour. An unambitious 22-year-old gets a job doing sales at a buzzy new tech startup, where he finds himself transformed into a ruthless and determined ladder climber. “An intellectual and captivating work of satire,” writes Bookpage in a starred review. Bookshop.

NORA, Nuala O’Connor. A reimagining of the life of Nora Joseph Barnacle, James Joyce’s lifelong lover. “A moving examination of an unforgettable family,” writes Publisher’s Weekly. Bookshop.

THE LIFE I’M IN, Sharon G. Flake. In this companion novel to the beloved The Skin I’m In, a young girl is lured into a life of human trafficking. Bookshop.

A CROOKED TREE, Una Mannion. When a 15-year-old and her 12-year-old sister get in an argument on a drive with their mother, the 12-year-old is kicked out of the car, setting in motion a series of violent acts that will change the family forever. “Suspenseful, affecting, and disarmingly evocative of childhood,” says Kirkus. Bookshop.

LOVE SONGS FOR SKEPTICS, Christina Pishiris. A music editor gives a famous band’s latest album a terrible review, and begins to fall for the band’s publicist just as her childhood crush returns after decades of absence. “Like a favorite playlist, this cozy rom-com hits the right notes,” writes Kirkus. Bookshop.

A DEADLY FORTUNE, Stacie Murphy. In Gilded Age New York, an orphan supports herself and her foster brother as a fortune teller, but when a head injury dramatically expands her talents, she finds herself imprisoned in a notorious insane asylum. In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly writes that “Murphy chillingly evokes some social ills of 19th-century America, including the complete control of women by their husbands.” Bookshop.

THE WIFE UPSTAIRS, Rachel Hawkins. A modern retelling of Jane Eyre, set in Birmingham, Alabama. Bookshop.

BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME, Julia Claiborne Johnson. A hilarious, moving story about a young man in 1930s Nevada who works on a divorce dude ranch. Better Luck Next Time “brims with the clever banter and farcical situations of a classic Capra film… Johnson’s novel soars,” writes Publisher’s Weekly in a starred review. Bookshop.

A LIE SOMEONE TOLD YOU ABOUT YOURSELF, Peter Ho Davies. A couple experiences immense anxiety as their young child unsteadily grows up. In a starred review, Kirkus says it’s “perfectly observed and tremendously moving: This will strike a resonant chord with parents everywhere.” Bookshop.

OUTLAWED, Anna North. On the run from her town where barren women are hanged as witches, a 17-year-old joins a band of outlaws who aim to create a safe haven for outcast women. “This feminist western parable is impossible to put down,” writes Publisher’s Weekly in a starred review. Bookshop.

NICK, Michael Farris Smith. A Great Gatsby prequel, about Nick Carraway’s life before he met Jay Gatsby. “A compelling character study and a thoroughly unconventional prequel,” writes Kirkus. Bookshop.

HOLD BACK THE TIDE, Melinda Salisbury. In this YA horror, a teenager raised by her murderer father must protect her Scottish community from a monster known as the “òlanfhuil.” “Skin-tingling, blood-curdling horror perfect for reading by firelight,” writes Kirkus. Bookshop.

PICKARD COUNTY ATLAS, Chris Harding Thornton. In Nebraska in 1978, a small town is torn apart when a family patriarch decides to end the search for his son’s body, who was murdered decades ago. Tana French calls it “an atmospheric, slow-burning beauty of a book, rich with raw-edged lyricism and achingly real characters.” Bookshop.

THE WOMAN OUTSIDE MY DOOR, Rachel Ryan. In the haze of grief after her much-loved mother dies, a young woman becomes paranoid that there’s something off about her son’s imaginary friend. Bookshop.

THE LIAR’S DICTIONARY, Eley Williams. A disaffected Victorian lexicographer writes false entries into the dictionary he’s working on; a century later, an intern is tasked with hunting down these fictitious items before the project is digitized. “For a novel as finely tuned as this, to leave one with a sense of the intoxicating hopefulness of chance is its greatest achievement in a competitive field,” writes the Los Angeles Review of Books. Aggregated critical reviews, Bookshop.

THE HEIRESS: THE REVELATIONS OF ANNE DE BOURGH, Molly Greeley. Prescribed laudanum as a baby, a young woman questions the reality of her supposed illness and necessity of the drugs she takes when her father dies, leaving her millions. Bookshop.

THE PORTRAIT, Ilaria Bernardini. As her secret lover lies in a coma, a renowned writer commissions a portrait of herself from his artist wife. Bookshop.

WHITE FEMINISM, Koa Beck. A history of feminism, by the former editor-in-chief of Jezebel. Bookshop.

THE PROPHETS, Robert Jones Jr. Two enslaved young men find the love they hold for each other threatened as other enslaved people on the plantation begin to turn on each other. “The lyricism of The Prophets will recall the prose of James Baldwin. The strong cadences are equal to those in Faulkner’s Light in August,” writes Edmund White in a starred review for Publisher’s Weekly. Bookshop.

THE FORTUNATE ONES, Ed Tarkington. When a working class kid from Nashville is admitted to an elite private school, he forms a close — and emotionally taxing — friendship with a wealthy student and his family. “Tarkington’s strong story of loyalty and the corruption of privilege transcends the familiar set-up,” says Publisher’s Weekly. Bookshop.

THE PUSH, Ashley Audrain. A young mother, determined to be the parent she never had, becomes convinced that something is wrong with her newborn daughter. “A finely wrought psychological study of motherhood and inherited trauma,” writes Kirkus. Bookshop.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE, Marie Benedict. Agatha Christie’s husband attempts to unravel her real-life, two week disappearance in 1926. “A stunning story of yet another woman who seems to have it all, but who, like many, must fight to hold on to what she refers to as her ‘authentic self,’” writes the Washington Post. Bookshop. [December 29]

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I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.

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