12 Must-Read Books of January 2024 – Chicago Review of Books


Get your to-read list ready, because with the New Year comes new opportunities to discover exciting debuts and the latest releases from your favorite authors!

There is no slow ramp up when it comes to 2024, as January sees a number releases we’ve been greatly anticipating here at the Chicago Review of Books. We hope your New Year is filled with bright memories and great reads!

The Furies: Women, Vengeance, and Justice
By Elizabeth Flock

In this powerful feminist history, Elizabeth Flock examines how three real-life women have used violence to fight back, and how views of women who defend themselves are often distorted by their depictions in media and pop culture. The Furies is a marvel of journalism and research, as it spans the globe to explore the disparate lives of a woman denied the protection of the Stand-Your-Ground law, a leader of a gang in India, and a fighter of a militia in Syria; but it is the way Flock brings these stories together that highlights the true questions about how to achieve true gender equality in the face of violence and power.

You Dreamed of Empires
By Álvaro Enrigue
Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
Riverhead Books

You Dreamed of Empires is one of our team’s most anticipated books of 2024, so it’s a good thing we don’t have to wait long for its release! This kaleidoscopic colonial revenge story slyly subverts the first meeting between conquistador Hernán Cortés and emperor Moctezuma, turning a moment of two worlds colliding into an opportunity for true interrogation about the lies empires are built upon. Álvaro Enrigue’s latest is a true achievement in historical recreation, imagination, and translation. You Dreamed of Empires belongs at the top of your 2024 reading list.

The Best That You Can Do: Stories
By Amina Gautier
Soft Skull

Primarily told from the perspective of women and children in the Northeast who are tethered to fathers and families in Puerto Rico, the stories in The Best That You Can Do explore the cultural confusion of being one person in two places. Winner of the 2023 Soft Skull-Kimbilio Publishing Prize Amina Gautier brings an incredible attention to the interior lives of her characters; her work is consistently filled with moments of nostalgia and discontent, as she refuses to shy away from the problems of individual and collective displacement. 

By Sven Holm
Translated from the Dutch by Sylvia Clayton
FSG Originals

Welcome to Termush, an exclusive seaside resort designed for the end of the world. Designed for the ultra wealthy and carefully manicured to keep up the appearance of luxury amid catastrophe, the staff work behind the scenes to pipe soothing music into the halls and quickly remove the dead birds that fall out of the sky. But as the veneer of control begins to crack, it becomes clear that the residents of Termush can’t insulate themselves from the effects of cataclysm or the moral fallout of using their wealth to separate themselves from the fat of those trapped outside. This rediscovered classic of Scandinavian fiction proves to be even more relevant today. 

By Miya Coleman
Button Poetry

From acclaimed Chicago spoken word artist Miya Coleman comes Cottonmouth, a powerful poetry collection that explores what makes up a home and also, more importantly, what doesn’t. Coleman’s poetry is a delight on a reader’s ears, equally knotty and graceful as she examines cycles of grief, familial trauma, and its aftermath. 

The Waters
By Bonnie Jo Campbell
W.W. Norton & Company

2024 is still young, but we’re already being treated to releases that we’re sure to be talking about throughout the year, including The Waters by Bonnie Jo Campbell. On an island in the Great Massasauga Swamp—an area known as “The Waters” to the residents of nearby Whiteheart, Michigan—an herbalist and eccentric Hermine “Herself” Zook has healed the local women of their ailments for generations. But when the rage of the area’s violent men begins to divide the community, it threatens the resilience of nature and the lives of those who have found a life in this small corner of the world. 

By Marie-Helene Bertino
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Adina Giorno, a girl born at the moment when Voyager 1 is launched into space carrying its famous golden record, is clearly different—not only because of her sickly appearance but also because she possesses knowledge of a faraway planet. Using a fax machine, Adina begins to send messages to her extraterrestrial relatives about the life she is making for herself among the humans. Beautyland infuses the intrigue of the search for extraterrestrial life with a sharp exploration of human fragility and loneliness to create an unforgettable sci-fi story. 

By Sarah Ghazal Ali
Alice James Books

Moving between the scriptures of the Qur’an and the Bible, Theophanies explores the complexities and spectacles of gender, faith, and family by unraveling the age-old idea that seeing is believing. Every poem delicately weaves the wondrous and the mundane to interrogate what it truly means to exist in the legacy of the divine, which creates a tension between our desire for meaning and the often more harsh realities of life. Theophanies is a debut that reads like a poet’s third or fourth book, as Sarah Ghazal Ali writes with a level of knowledge and care of her craft that few others possess. 

See Also

By Kaveh Akbar
Knopf Publishing Group

We’re greatly anticipating the fiction debut of acclaimed poet Kaveh Akbar here at the Chicago Review of Books. Martyr! follows Cyrus, a young man obsessed with martyrs who is grieving the death of his mother, whose plane was shot down over the skies of the Persian Gulf in a senseless accident. In his search to uncover his family’s many mysteries, Cyrus discovers a painting in the Brooklyn Museum that makes him question who his mother truly was. Akbar brings his talent for lyricism to his prose, charting a story filled with longing, loss, and the possibility for meaning.

Last Acts
By Alexander Sammart

Last Acts is a hilarious and heart-breaking novel about a father and son’s struggling relationship and the absurdities of American life. The novel follows David Rizzo and his son Nick as they try to avoid bankruptcy on David’s failing firearms store, which unravels into a series of hijinks, false hope, and impending disaster. Bringing a sharp wit and deep understanding of the complications of our modern gun and opioid crises, Alexander Sammart has created an unforgettable debut in the mold of Don DeLillo and Stephen Markley.

Come and Get It 
By Kiley Reid
G.P. Putnam’s Sons

If you didn’t think January was already a great month for readers, let us tell you that Kiley Reid is back after her New York Times bestselling novel Such a Fun Age. When a senior resident assistant Millie Cousins accepts a strange offer from a visiting professor in hopes of getting a job and buying a house, she finds herself caught in a messy entanglement that threatens to upheave her dreams for the future. Come and Get It is a page-turning read filled with vengeful pranks and intrigue, but at its heart it is a fascinating portrait of our obsession with material wealth. 

By Christina Cooke

Carrying the remains of her younger brother, Akúa flies from Canada to her native Jamaica to reconnect with her estranged sister Tamika. As the two explore the island and the memories of their childhood, Akúa must confront the worries that she is not Jamaican enough and reckon with her childhood trauma of growing up gay in a deeply religious family. In part a novel about diaspora, family legacy, and sexual awakening, Broughtupsy is fully a profound and skilled debut. 


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