It's hard to resist the lure of seat-back entertainment and smartphone apps on our commute—be it cross continent or just a subway ride to the office. But this month, we're challenging ourselves to unplug and commit to a really good book. Here, 9 new titles we're itching to read now, from reimagined historical thrillers to modern anti-romances.
Everything is Horrible and Wonderful, Stephanie Wittels Wach
In February 2015, rising TV writing star Harris Wittels (Parks and Recreation, The Sarah Silverman Program) died of a heroin overdose. His tragic death rocked the comedy community who knew of his addiction, but thought he was in a good place following a second stint in rehab. In Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss, Wittels' older sister Stephanie explores her brother's addiction, her family's grief, and the radical love that exists between siblings.
Girls Burn Brighter, Shobha Rao
Poornima's life is in a dark place when Savitha, an energetic, independent girl moves into her home to work one of her family's sari looms. For the first time since her mother's death, her family's subsequent impoverishment, and her father's desperation to find his daughter an arranged marriage, Poornima feels reinvigorated and hopeful. But when Savitha is whisked out of their home after a traumatizing act, Poornima reels from her friend's absence and sets off on a harrowing journey to find her. In her breakneck debut novel, Shobha Rao confronts some of the most dire issues women in developing nations are facing today: sexism, domestic abuse, and human trafficking.
Stray City, Chelsey Johnson
After coming out of the closet and breaking free from her Midwestern Catholic upbringing, Andrea Morales' life starts to flourish in Portland, Oregon, where she's settled into a supportive community of lesbians. While she's finally found her place, one drunken night—and an out-of-character hookup later, she finds herself pregnant and decides to keep the child. Fast forward ten years later and Lucia, Andrea's perceptive daughter starts to ask questions about the father she's never met, forcing her mother to face her past.
The Hunger, Alma Katsu
We've all heard of the Donner Party—the group of American pioneers who set out for California in May 1846 only to wind up stuck in the Sierra Nevada range in the dead of winter, forced to resort to cannibalism to survive. Pairing cold hard history with fantastical twists and turns, in The Hunger, Alma Katsu reimagines the eerie tale through a supernatural lens. What if it wasn't just a series of ill-advised choices that led the Donner Party to their demise, but some lurking evil that's been waiting for them in the mountains all along?
Just the Funny Parts, Nell Scovell
Hollywood is notorious for being a boys' club, but Nell Scovell managed to do more than just break in. For more than thirty years now, the New Englander has been writing, producing, and directing some of our favorite TV shows, including The Simpsons, NCIS, Late Night with David Letterman. Following her former boss's sex scandal in 2009, Scovell used the moment as an opportunity to push for equality in the writers' room and publicly call out other sexual harassers. Now one of the most outspoken women in LA, she has a thing or two to share about not only the biz, but male-dominated workplaces.
Speak No Evil, Uzodinma Iweala
From the critically acclaimed author of Beasts of No Nation comes another heart-wrenching, revelatory novel that, this time, follows the life of two seemingly well off students in Washington D.C. In his sophomore work, Iweala tells the story of best friends Niru—a Harvard-bound student whose Nigerian parents are unaware of the fact that he's gay—and Meredith—Niru's best friend and the daughter of prominent Washington insiders. After Niru's father finds out about his son's "sinful" secret, Niru's life spirals out of control as he struggles to deal with both his family's and society's expectations. While he'd normally have Meredith for emotional support, dealing with her own troubles, she's nowhere to be found.
Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen, Hannah Howard
At eighteen, Hannah Howard lands a hostess job at Picholine, a Provençal-inspired Michelin-starred restaurant in midtown Manhattan. While the teen spends her nights working the buzzy restaurant's front of house, during the day she's a full-time student at Columbia University. Though she struggles to find her place at school and deals with her fair share of shitty boyfriends, there's something else exhausting her energy—an eating disorder. In Feast, we see Howard confront her crippling condition and sense of self in an effort to heal her complicated relationship with food.
The Gunners, Rebecca Kauffman
In her much-anticipated sophomore return, Rebecca Kauffman (Another Place You've Never Been) continues to stun. At the center of her novel is Mikey Callahan, a thirty year old with macular degeneration who struggles to connect with those around him. After one of his close childhood friends commits suicide, he finds himself reuniting with his old group of buds—"The Gunners," who, together, face the dark secrets of their past and the path to a successful future.
Tangerine, Christine Mangan
Tangerine's release date may not be till March 20th, but the title has already been optioned for film by George Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures, with Scarlett Johansson to star in the pivotal role. The debut thriller from author Christine Managan follows the story of Alice Shipley as she arrives in Tangier with her new husband. While Morocco is supposed to be a fresh start, she quickly runs into Lucy Mason—an ex-roommate and friend that she hasn't spoken to for more than a year. As the two work to rekindle their old relationship and Alice settles into life among the hectic medinas, her husband, John, goes missing, and she's left questioning everything, including her enigmatic friend.
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