10 Must-Read Books of December – Chicago Review of Books


Well, that certainly was a year we all just endured. We at the CHIRB hope that you’ve found solace in the pages of a good yarn whenever possible, and that you’re able to celebrate the upcoming holidays both safely and joyfully. But 2020 isn’t quite done with us yet and there are still many wonderful books coming out that are worthy of your attention. Below we highlight ten fantastic titles to add to your to-read pile in December and beyond.

The Blade Between
By Sam J. Miller
Ecco

“Ronan Szepessy promised himself he’d never return to Hudson. The sleepy upstate town was no place for a restless gay photographer. But his father is ill and New York City’s distractions have become too much for him. He hopes that a quick visit will help him recharge. Ronan reconnects with two friends from high school: Dom, his first love, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. The three former misfits mourn what their town has become—overrun by gentrifiers and corporate interests. With friends and neighbors getting evicted en masse and a mayoral election coming up, Ronan and Attalah craft a plan to rattle the newcomers and expose their true motives. But in doing so, they unleash something far more mysterious and uncontainable.” 

Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother’s Letter to Her Son
By Homeira Qaderi; Translated by Zaman S. Stanizai
Harper

“In the days before Homeira Qaderi gave birth to her son, Siawash, the road to the hospital in Kabul would often be barricaded because of the frequent suicide explosions.  Propelled by the love she held for her soon-to-be-born child, Homeira walked through blood and wreckage to reach the hospital doors. But the joy of her beautiful son’s birth was soon overshadowed by other dangers that would threaten her life. Devastating in its power, Dancing in the Mosque is a mother’s searing letter to a son she was forced to leave behind.”

Black Futures
Edited by Kimberly Drew & Jenna Wortham
One World

What does it mean to be Black and alive right now? Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham have brought together this collection of work–images, photos, essays, memes, dialogues, recipes, tweets, poetry, and more–to tell the story of the radical, imaginative, provocative, and gorgeous world that Black creators are bringing forth today. Readers will go from conversations with activists and academics to memes and Instagram posts, from powerful essays to dazzling paintings and insightful infographics.”

The Disappearance of Butterflies
By Josef H. Reicholf; Translated by Gwen Clayton
Polity Press

“In the last fifty years our butterfly populations have declined by more than eighty per cent and butterflies are now facing the very real prospect of extinction. It is hard to remember the time when fields and meadows were full of these beautiful, delicate creatures. The eminent entomologist and award-winning author Josef H. Reichholf began studying butterflies in the late 1950s. He brings a lifetime of scientific experience and expertise to bear on one of the great environmental catastrophes of our time.” 

Cosmic Deputy: Poetry & Context 1968-2019
By Kalamu ya Salaam
University of New Orleans Press

Cosmic Deputy is a literary memoir from esteemed activist, educator, producer, and poet Kalamu ya Salaam. Representative poems from Salaam’s fifty years of writing are interspersed in an overarching essay tracing the poet’s multitude of influences. Toward mapping a theory of a Black literary aesthetic, Salaam explores the cultural inheritances of Black resistance movements, blues music, and the ways in which these sources and others have shaped not only his own work but Black letters more broadly.”

Crosshairs
By Catherine Hernandez
Atria Books

“Set in a terrifyingly familiar near-future, with massive floods leading to rampant homelessness and devastation, a government-sanctioned regime called The Boots seizes on the opportunity to round up communities of color, the disabled, and the LGBTQ+ into labor camps. In the shadows, a new hero emerges. After he loses his livelihood as a drag queen and the love of his life, Kay joins the resistance alongside Bahadur, a transmasculine refugee, and Firuzeh, a headstrong social worker. Guiding them in the use of weapons and close-quarters combat is Beck, a rogue army officer, who helps them plan an uprising at a major televised international event.”

Can’t Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop’s Blockbuster Year
By Michelangelo Matos
Hachette Books

“Everybody knows the hits of 1984 – pop music’s greatest year. From ‘Thriller’ to ‘Purple Rain,’ ‘Hello’ to ‘Against All Odds,’ ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ to ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,’ these iconic songs continue to dominate advertising, karaoke nights, and the soundtracks for film classics (Boogie Nights) and TV hits (Stranger Things). But the story of that thrilling, turbulent time, an era when Top 40 radio was both the leading edge of popular culture and a moral battleground, has never been told with the full detail it deserves – until now. Can’t Slow Down is the definitive portrait of the exploding world of mid-eighties pop and the time it defined, from Cold War anxiety to the home-computer revolution.” 

Snowdrift
By Helene Tursten; Translated by Marlaine Delargy
Soho Crime

“One winter night, 28-year-old Detective Inspector Embla Nyström receives a phone call that sends her reeling. It’s been fifteen years since Embla’s best friend disappeared from a nightclub in Gothenburg, but Embla recognizes her voice immediately. Lollo is still alive. But before Embla can dive into the case, she gets another phone call, this time from her cousin. A man has been found shot to death in one of the guest houses he and his wife manage in rural Sweden. When Embla arrives on the scene, she receives another shock. The dead man is Milo Stavic, a well-known gang member and one of the men she saw with Lollo the night she disappeared. With help from a handsome local detective and his poorly trained Belgian shepherd, Embla launches an investigation into the Stavic brothers, hoping it will bring her closer to finally finding Lollo and putting an end to her terrible nightmares.”

The Ancient Hours
By Michael Bible
Melville House

“Harmony, North Carolina is a typical town—full of saints and sinners you can’t tell apart. Its history echoes with lynchings and shootings; mob violence and vigilante justice. But those are just whispers of a past lost to time. The summer of 2000 was different. Told in a kaleidoscope of timelines and voices, Michael Bible examines every dimension of a tragic but all-too-American story. The victims, witnesses, perpetrators, and condemned comingle and evolve as the passage of time works its way through their lives. What emerges is a fable of the American South in the highest tradition: soaring, tragic, and eternally striving for redemption.”

Wound from the Mouth of a Wound
By torrin a. greathouse
Milkweed Editions

“‘Some girls are not made,’ torrin a. greathouse writes, ‘but spring from the dirt.’ Guided by a devastatingly precise hand, Wound from the Mouth of a Wound–selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil as the winner of the 2020 Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry–challenges a canon that decides what shades of beauty deserve to live in a poem. greathouse celebrates ‘buckteeth & ulcer.’ She odes the pulp of a bedsore. She argues that the vestigial is not devoid of meaning, and in kinetic and vigorous language, she honors bodies the world too often wants dead.”



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