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


The beginning of a new year is usually a time for reflection, to think back on what we’ve accomplished and what we hope to improve on in the months ahead. Given everything that 2020 threw at us, that may be a more fraught endeavor than usual for many. But if your resolutions for 2021 include becoming a better reader, whether that’s reading more nonfiction or poetry, discovering more writers in translation, or simply making more time for books in general, we’ve got you covered. Below are twelve titles being released in January to add to your to-read pile.

Unsolaced
By Gretel Ehrlich
Pantheon Books

Readers looking to fill the Barry Lopez-sized hole in their hearts shouldn’t miss the latest from the author of environmental classic The Solace of Open Spaces, which is now in its sixty-ninth printing. Publishers Weekly calls Ehrlich’s spiritual sequel to that work “a moving ode to a changing planet.”

Cover of Dangers of Smoking in Bed

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
By Mariana Enriquez; Translated by Megan McDowell
Hogarth

Short story lovers will want to eat up the latest from Argentina-based author Mariana Enriquez, whose previous collection Things We Lost in the Fire earned raves. Fellow master of the form Lauren Groff proclaims, “Enriquez’s stories are smoky, carnal, and dazzling.”

Cover of Raymundo Mata

The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata
By Gina Apostol
Soho Press

Back when this won the Philippine National Book Award in 2010, the Judges’ Citation called it an “audacious sword-play of a novel.” Now appearing in the U.S. in a sparkling new edition, its erudite and fragmented take on history will be a treat for fans of Vladimir Nabokov and Charlie Kaufman alike.

Cover of Detransition, Baby

Detransition, Baby
By Torrey Peters
One World

Chicago-born and University of Iowa MFA grad Torrey Peters may now make her home in Brooklyn, but readers everywhere will want to take note of her debut novel, which follows three women – transgender and cisgender – whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy. “Many books are good,” Jordy Rosenberg says. “This one is alive.”

Cover of Floaters

Floaters
By Martín Espada
W.W. Norton & Company

The latest collection from Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize winner, Guggenheim fellow, and impassioned activist Martín Espada takes its title from a notorious term used by Border Patrol agents to describe drowned migrants. Both elegiac and irrepressible, this is an essential read for anyone interested in poetry as a form of protest.

Cover of Remote Control

Remote Control
By Nnedi Okorafor
Tordotcom

Author Nnedi Okorafor has been steadily building a fanbase in the fantasy and sci-fi communities with her Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Binti series. Her latest, which follows a young girl who’s been turned into Death’s adopted daughter, is sure to expand her reach even further.

Cover of The Rib King

The Rib King
By Ladee Hubbard
Amistad Press

There’s no better way to get our attention than describing a book as “Upstairs Downstairs meets Parasite,” which is just what the publisher calls the latest from acclaimed author Ladee Hubbard. Centering on black servants exploited by a down-on-its heels upper-class white family, this is sure to sate the appetites of historical fiction fans.

Cover of Burnt Sugar

Burnt Sugar
By Avni Doshi
The Overlook Press

Shortlisted for both the TATA Literature Award in India and the 2020 Booker Prize, Avni Doshi’s debut novel appears in the U.S. for the first time already highly decorated. Noted by The Guardian as “startling in its venom and disarming in its humor,” readers looking for a bracing read should seek this one out.

Cover of Bride of the Sea

Bride of the Sea
By Eman Quotah
Tin House Books

For fans of Mohsin Hamid and Min Jin Lee, this debut from Arab-American author Eman Quotah, which spans four decades and two continents, will satisfy anyone looking for their next sweeping family saga. Rakesh Satyal praised it as “an intricately realized novel that honors every place it depicts.”

Cover of Shot in the Moonlight

A Shot in the Moonlight
By Ben Montgomery
Little, Brown Spark

From a Pulitzer finalist who specializes in resurrecting the untold stories of our nation’s history comes a remarkable piece of narrative nonfiction that brings the story of George Dinning, the first Black man in America to win damages after a wrongful murder conviction, to light. History buffs won’t want to miss this one, which Colson Whitehead declares “terrifying in its timelessness.”

Cover of The Copenhagen Trilogy

The Copenhagen Trilogy
By Tove Ditlevsen; Translated by Tiina Nunnally & Michael Favala Goldman
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Originally published between 1967 and 1971, the three volumes that make up Tove Ditlevsen’s memoir are gathered together in a handsome hardcover edition. Dismissed during her lifetime, Ditlevsen’s unsparing confessions plumb the darkest depths of addiction and artistry, and will appeal to fans of the auto fiction of Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy.

Cover of The Swallowed Man

The Swallowed Man
By Edward Carey
Riverhead Books

Readers longing for a bit of magic during this wintery season, look no further than the latest from Edward Carey, a re-styling of the Pinocchio fable that includes the author’s trademark hand-drawn illustrations. Max Porter calls it, “a strange and tender parable of two maddening obsessions: parenting and art-making.”



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