The best new books arriving in February offer something for everyone. Memoirs from Rebecca Carroll and Randa Jarrar explore questions of identity and belonging. New fiction from Brandon Hobson and Chang-rae Lee follow characters as they navigate how the past has impacted their present. And Henry Louis Gates, Jr. weaves together over 400 years of history in his sweeping account of the Black church in America. These books are accompanied by dazzling short story collections, heartbreaking debuts and more. Here, learn more about the 14 new books you should read in February.
Milk Fed, Melissa Broder (Feb. 2)
Rachel is a 24-year-old obsessed with counting her calories. Every part of her routine is regimented, from the chemical sweeteners she uses in her breakfast to the hours she spends on the elliptical, pedaling to absolutely nowhere. This all changes when her therapist asks her to cut off communication for 90 days with her mother—the woman whose own body image struggles shaped her daughter’s warped relationship with food. Enter Miriam: a young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at the frozen yogurt store Rachel frequents. She encourages Rachel to indulge and the two develop an unexpected bond, which author Melissa Broder explores in this thrilling examination of hunger, desire, faith, family and love.
Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir, Rebecca Carroll (Feb. 2)
In her memoir, WNYC cultural critic Rebecca Carroll details her aching journey to understanding her racial identity. Growing up, Carroll was the only Black person in her small New Hampshire town, where she lived with her adoptive white parents. Later, her youth was further complicated by the presence of her birth mother, a white woman, who constantly tore apart her daughter’s sense of self. In reflecting on her relationships with her adoptive parents, birth mother and overwhelmingly white town, Carroll looks at what it means to belong, revealing in harrowing terms what she had to endure in order to heal.
The Low Desert: Gangster Stories, Tod Goldberg (Feb. 2)
The fast-paced fictional crime stories in Tod Goldberg’s latest collection feature a cast of characters navigating mysterious, tragic and occasionally funny situations. One piece follows a waitress on the hunt for her missing daughter, another captures what happens when a drug dealer meets a lawyer and a clown at a bar. These 12 stories, set in the same universe as Goldberg’s 2014 novel, Gangsterland, are anchored in southern California’s Inland Empire, and coalesce into a stirring portrait of the region.
The Removed, Brandon Hobson (Feb. 2)
In his devastating new novel, Brandon Hobson dissects a Cherokee family’s grief over the loss of their teenage son. It’s been 15 years since police fatally shot Ray-Ray, and his parents, older sister and younger brother are achingly reminded of his loss as the anniversary of the tragedy is just days away—and coincides with their annual family bonfire. Flipping between the voices of the family members, Hobson depicts the lingering effects of trauma, and the way grief informs memory and love.
Love Is An Ex-Country: A Memoir, Randa Jarrar (Feb. 2)
Writer and performer Randa Jarrar takes a cross-country road trip, from California to Connecticut, and brings readers along for the ride in her new memoir. Her journey frames Love Is An Ex-Country, which examines events on the road. Jarrar, a Muslim Arab-American, details a confrontation she has with a racist truck driver, the visit she makes to the neighborhood where her immigrant parents lived in Chicago and more. The author reflects on everything from her relationship with her body image to the domestic assault she experienced as a child, and then years later as a wife. Throughout, Jarrar shares how she learned to celebrate who she is in a country built against her.
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, Cherie Jones (Feb. 2)
Lala lives in Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, a fictional resort town at the heart of Cherie Jones’ debut novel. She’s a hair braider stuck in a doomed marriage, which is made all the worse when her husband Adan’s burglary of a nearby beach mansion does not go as planned. The incident not only forever alters Lala’s life, but that of Mira, a former local who is on vacation with her family and staying in the house of the botched robbery. Adan’s criminal act sets off a chain of consequences that are devastating for all involved. In tracing the paths of the two women, Jones illustrates the complexities of race and class in an evolving tourist town, moving between perspectives of a cast of characters to reveal the horrific aftermath of a crime gone wrong.
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain (editors) (Feb. 2)
Beginning in 1619, Four Hundred Souls charts 400 years of African American history—with Black voices at the center. The anthology features 90 writers, with each taking on a different five-year period to provide a kaleidoscopic and impressive approach to retelling history. Their various pieces—written as essays, short stories, poems and more—showcase the enormous range of Black experiences in America, underlining that Blackness, and the history of Black people in America, can’t be defined by a singular narrative.
My Year Abroad, Chang-rae Lee (Feb. 2)
While caddying at a golf course back home in the States, Tiller, an American college student, meets Chinese-American entrepreneur Pong Lou. Though he didn’t know it at the time, their fateful meeting transforms Tiller’s life in ways he never imagined. Pong invites Tiller on a business trip across Asia, and it’s there that Tiller becomes Pong’s protégé. But Chang-rae Lee’s latest novel is about much more than a wild adventure abroad: The narrative flips between the past and present, where Tiller must process the impact that these travels had on him. It’s an energetic but tender exploration of cultural immersion, ambition and pleasure that takes many unexpected turns.
Milk Blood Heat, Dantiel W. Moniz (Feb. 2)
Eleven stories set against the backdrop of northern Florida comprise Dantiel W. Moniz’s electric debut collection. The characters in Milk Blood Heat are quietly forced to contemplate some of life’s biggest questions about death, friendship, womanhood and love. Among them are the estranged siblings on a road trip with their father’s ashes, an inseparable pair of adolescent friends rocked by tragedy and a woman haunted by the daughter she miscarried. Together, their stories, along with several others, create a tapestry of intimate moments punctuated by Moniz’s tight, uncompromising prose.
Fake Accounts, Lauren Oyler (Feb. 2)
Right before the inauguration of Donald Trump, the unnamed narrator of Lauren Oyler’s debut novel discovers that her boyfriend is not who she thought he was. While secretly scrolling through his phone, she learns that he’s a popular anonymous Internet conspiracy theorist. After the dissolution of their relationship does not go as she planned, the narrator finds herself no longer tied to New York and moves to Berlin. What ensues is a sharp meditation on the impact of living so much of our lives online, and the significant influence that often has on how we think of others and ourselves.
How to Not Die Alone, Logan Ury (Feb. 2)
As the title suggests, dating coach Logan Ury’s new book seeks to help those looking to find a long-lasting love. Ury, who is the Director of Relationship Science at Hinge, breaks down what makes a relationship work and why in her data-driven guide, which blends research with real-life stories. The book covers everything from tips on how to navigate online dating to what you should look for in a long-term partner.
Kink: Stories, R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell (editors) (Feb. 9)
In the introduction to their new collection, editors R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell declare that they want to take kink seriously. The fifteen stories that populate their anthology of literary short fiction certainly do that, investigating the intersection of love, desire and control in pieces that transport readers to therapists’ offices, dungeons and a sex theater in 20th-century Paris. These narratives seek to analyze how gender and politics inform pleasure and power, and are written by the very best of the genre—including Alexander Chee, Roxane Gay and Carmen Maria Machado.
The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Feb. 16)
In this sprawling companion book to his new PBS documentary series, historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. combines reflections on his childhood with centuries of history in his thoughtful examination of the Black church in America. Blending research, interviews with scholars and insights from his own life, Gates illuminates the central role of the Black church in the movement for social justice and the support network it has been for a community often in need of safe spaces. Unafraid to be critical, especially in detailing the church’s stances on issues related to gender and sexuality, Gates’ work is as comprehensive as it is celebratory.
Appropriate: A Provocation, Paisley Rekdal (Feb. 16)
Creative writing professor Paisley Rekdal tackles the definition of cultural appropriation and how it fits into our current political climate in her collection of essays, structured as a series of letters to an imagined student. Rekdal picks apart the hotly debated topic of who gets to tell what story as she examines the evolution of cultural appropriation as it pertains to literature. In her scrutinization of authorship, Rekdal points to bigger questions surrounding whiteness, identity and empathy.