Between a global pandemic, devastating job losses, business closures and political divisions,2020 was unforgettable. But something that has remained steady is the solace many of us have found in books.
With that chaotic year behind us, we look toward the new year for a plethora of new reads to enjoy.
Here is a list of page-turning January through April releases that include tales of mystery, love, family drama, historical events and even a story involving a martini or three.
“The Charmed Wife” by Olga Grushin: In this darkly humored retelling of Cinderella, Grushin gives the maid-turned-princess exactly what she desired: to marry the man of her dreams. But 13 years later, she finds herself tired and angry, with a marriage gone horribly wrong. In her despair, she sneaks out of the castle one night to ask help from a local witch. But Cindy doesn’t want her husband back, no. She wants him dead. Jan.12, G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
“The Perfect Guests” by Emma Rous: In a mysterious story that extends through several generations, Rous writes about a crumbling family estate with more secrets than rooms. With an orphan and an aspiring actress both caught in the same strange allure of the house’s walls decades apart, they realize nothing is what it seems. Jan. 12, Berkley.
“Girl A” by Abigail Dean: Lex Gracie prefers not to think about the place where she grew up. Nicknamed the House of Horrors, it was a living nightmare created by her parents from which Lex was forced to escape, also freeing her older brother and four younger siblings. She doesn’t want to think about herself as Girl A and so far she has been able to not to think about her parents, with her mother spending the rest of her life behind bars. But when her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Dean writes a chilling and deeply disturbing story that will leave you with more questions than answers. Feb. 2, Viking.
“The Last Tiara” by M.J. Rose: Readers familiar with Rose’s historical fiction novels know they are usually centered around a decades-lost artifact that may or may not be magical. They won’t be disappointed with her latest work. After her mother’s death, Isobelle discovers a stunning silver tiara, stripped of its jewels, and knows she has to learn more about it. With the help of a reluctant young jeweler, she uncovers mysteries that take her to Imperial Russia and to her father, whom she has never met. Feb.2, Blue Box Press.
“The Love Proof” by Madeleine Henry: What happens when a physics prodigy has an instant connection with a boy she meets during their first week at Yale? In Henry’s cleverly written story, Sophie Jones and Jake Kristopher quickly become a couple. Physics will be Sophie’s solace when a surprising turn of events forces her to question life, love and if science can prove whether there is such a thing as soul mates. Feb.9, Atria.
“The Arsonists’ City” by Hala Alyan: An ancestral house in Beirut, Lebanon is at the center of Alyan’s powerful novel about a family forced to spread across the world, living a life of migration. After the death of her Lebanese husband, a Syrian mother and her three children will be drawn back to their war-ridden home after her eldest son, the new family patriarch, threatens to sell their old house in Beirut. March 9, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
“Love Like That: Stories” by Emma Duffy-Comparone: In this debut short story collection, Duffy-Comparone does an astounding job of portraying women navigating complex relationships or dealing with family drama. Through a woman struggling with a new kind of love triangle when she moves in with a divorced dad or a high school English teacher who gets pushed to her limits when a student plagiarizes, these stories perfectly reflect the meaning of finding yourself again. March 9, Henry Holt.
“Everything After” by Jill Santopolo: Santopolo draws tears with this one, even from the least sentimental readers by asking: If you had to choose between a lost love and a present one, which one would you favor? For Emily, the choice is easy. She married her devoted doctor husband Rob with whom she plans to start a family, and tries to forget about her great musical love, the man she lost 15 years ago. But when she hears a song on the radio, the melody and voice are painfully familiar. March 9, G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
“Silence Is a Sense” by Layla AlAmmar: With a powerful prose, AlAmmar pens a story about a young woman traumatized into muteness after a dangerous trip from war-torn Syria to the UK. In an attempt to explain her experience as a refugee, she begins writing for a magazine under the pseudonym “the Voiceless,” without explaining or revealing anything about herself. When anti-Muslim hate crimes rock her community, she must decide whether to remain silent or choose to have a voice. March 16, Algonquin.
“There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job” by Kikuko Tsumura: In this dark-humor tale, Tsumura spins the story of a young woman who walks into an employment agency and requests a job that is close to her home, requires no reading, no writing, and ideally, very little thinking. As the young woman searches for something she can’t seem to find, the reader understands that what she’s looking for has nothing to do with punching a time card. March 23, Bloomsbury.
“Of Women and Salt” by Gabriela Garcia: Garcia’s multi-generational story weaves present-day Miami with 19th-century cigar factories in Cuba to tell the tale of three women and the legacy they leave behind. “Of Women and Salt” gives readers a glimpse into a Cuban-American family’s roots and how personal and political betrayals have shaped their dynamic. March 30, Flatiron Books.
“Wild Women and the Blues” by Denny S. Bryce: In 1925, Chicago is the place where jazz rules supreme, and the Dreamland Café is the hottest black club in town. For sharecropper’s daughter Honoree Dalcour, Dreamland offers a path to the good life, socializing with celebrities like Louis Armstrong and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.
Ninety years later, film student Sawyer Hayes arrives at the bedside of 110-year-old Honoree, is the only person who can help answer the many questions he has about the legendary Micheaux. If he can talk to her, his thesis will be complete and open new doors for him.
Bryce takes readers from Roaring Twenties Chicago to the 21st century, in a riveting tale that speaks of ambition, forbidden love and courage. March 30, Kensington.
“Gold Diggers” by Sanjena Sathian: A story that weaves social satire, magical realism and Indian-American culture across two continents and four generations, Sathian flawlessly portrays the experience of growing up in a diaspora. “Gold Diggers” narrates the story of two second-generation Indian-American teens with very different dreams for the future. Crossing each other’s paths will forever change what they thought they wanted and what they must do to achieve it. April 6, Penguin Press.
“Open Water” by Caleb Azumah Nelson: In this powerful debut novel, two young people meet in a crowded London pub. Both are Black British artists, with scholarships to private schools where they always struggled to belong. They begin to fall in love, but their relationship is continuously challenged by fear and violence, and in the course of a year, their love will be tested in the harshest ways. April 13, Grove Press.
“You Love Me” by Caroline Kepnes: The third installment in the “You” series, now a must-watch Netflix show, is Kepnes’ return to the devious mind of a sociopath bookseller, Joe Goldberg. In “You Love Me,” Joe says goodbye to the big city and hello to the simple life on a little island in the Pacific Northwest. After getting a job at the local library, he meets her: librarian Mary Kay DiMarco. But Joe is determined to keep his cool, make her part of his life little by little. But Mary Kay already has a life, and there may be no room for Joe in it. April 16, Random House.
“Under the Wave at Waimea” by Paul Theroux: When 60-something has-been surfer Joe Sharkey accidentally kills a stranger while driving home one night after too many drinks at a Oahu bar, he feels his life is over. Theroux weaves a complicated and empathetic character with Sharkey who with his girlfriend Olive, seek the dead man’s identity, which might just help Joe find his life’s purpose again. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 16.
“Fall: The Mysterious Life and Death of Robert Maxwell, Britain’s Most Notorious Media Baron” by John Preston: Much has been said about disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s former girlfriend and associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, who is currently in prison on federal charges of enticement of minors and sex trafficking of underage girls. But not enough has been said of her father Robert Maxwell, a billionaire who actively competed with Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, with owning a vast media empire that included British Printing Corporation, Mirror Group Newspapers and Macmillan Publishers.
This and other stories of how Maxwell rose from rags to riches only to fall to financial disgrace and his frequent power struggles with both Murdoch and then real-estate empresario Donald Trump, are methodically and richly detailed in Preston’s book to encapsulate a story of lies, deceit, betrayal and death. Feb. 9, Harper.
“The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free” by Paulina Bren: The legendary Manhattan hotel for women built at the height of the 1920s, was meant to be a “home away from home” for the labeled ‘modern career woman.’ Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Ali MacGraw, Jaclyn Smith, Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion all lived within the walls of The Barbizon, and its almost 700 tiny rooms. Bren methodically explores the time after World War I, when many women were refusing to stay home, wanting instead not only their freedom, but also a chance to dream big. March 2, Simon & Schuster.
“Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan-Am”: Considered one of the best airlines of its day, Pan-Am recruited not only the best pilots, but also the best stewardess. Some of the company’s mandatory requirements for the position between 1966 and 1975, were for women to have a college education, speak two languages, be between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall, weigh between 105 and 140 pounds, and be younger than 26 years old. In “Come Fly the World,” Cooke tells the fascinating story of several Pan-Am stewardesses, as they were called back then, and their roles in many historical events, including Operation Babylift, the evacuation of 2,000 children during the fall of Saigon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 2.
“Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul? Essays” by Jesse McCarthy: An assistant professor of English and African American studies at Harvard University, McCarthy writes a variety of gut-punching essays on race and culture. From Toni Morrison to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s case for reparations, McCarthy’s words blend together social justice, art, literature, and politics in the 21st century. March 9, Liveright.
“Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz: The Rebellion of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton” by Gail Crowther: What could be more entrancing than reading about the complicated friendship between two literary titans like Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath? With an engaging prose, Crowther describes how the two women met at a workshop and formed a relationship that would eventually be complicated by jealousy and competition. Gallery Books, April 20.