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8 Books to Add to Your February Reading List

There may not be enough time (or money...thanks, holidays) to properly escape February’s lingering winter gloom, but our favorite—hopefully fireside—reading chair has never looked better. Here, 8 of this month's most exciting releases, including a page-turning psychological thriller and a compendium of thought-provoking essays by the inimitable Zadie Smith.

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1

Feel Free: Essays, Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith has rocked the literary world again, this time with a collection of both unpublished and classic essays (lifted from The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books) that explore timely topics in politics, pop culture, social media, and beyond. From her approachable perspective on global warming to a personal reflection on her love of libraries, Smith proves her range—and talent—as a master of both fiction and non-fiction.

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2

Madness is Better Than Defeat, Ned Beauman

It’s the late 1930s, somewhere in the Honduran jungle, and a Hollywood film crew and New York corporation are at a standoff regarding the fate of a newly discovered Mayan temple—where they remain, at an impass, for 20 years. It’s 1959, in Virginia, and a rogue CIA agent searches a warehouse full of film. It’s 1930s again, but in California, and a studio exec slinks through a playboy mansion. For anyone who becomes bored with a single plot line, get ready for this fever dream of a novel—another humorous, intelligent, and hyper-imaginative narrative (his fourth) from rising English novelist Ned Beauman.

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3

An American Marriage, Tayari Jones

A fresh, contemporary take on what marriage—and race—means in America today. Roy and Celestial, two African American newlyweds based in the South, are faced with the greatest test when Roy is wrongly imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Through his 12-year sentence behind bars, the twosome grapple with suspicion, pride, anger, and forgiveness—and the choices one faces when one’s life moves forward while another’s is left behind.

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4

Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi

The powerfully poetic first novel from writer Akwaeke Emezi tracks the life and struggles of Ada, a Nigerian woman who moves to America for college but is increasingly plagued with ogbanje—spiritual identities inside her head that become more and more influential of her actions and sense of self. An unsettling exploration of mental illness—and heart-wrenching until the very end.

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5

Sunburn, Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman’s latest crime thriller is as tense and steamy as the summer it’s set in. Two strangers—Polly, who has secretly just run away from her husband and daughter, and Adam, a temporary line cook—meet in a tavern and begin a sultry love affair. But luck is not on their side. A death occurs, and suddenly, they are ensnared in a game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy everything. This is modern noir at its best.

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6

Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot

Terese Marie Hailhot’s lyrical coming-of-age memoir is a brave and moving study of the traumas of abuse and mental illness that followed her from her childhood home on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in America’s Pacific Northwest to her roles as a mother and, eventually, writer.

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7

Back Talk, Danielle Lazarin

In the wake of the widespread #MeToo movement, this powerful short story collection could not be more well-timed. A multitude of characters are introduced throughout Back Talk—teenagers, college graduates, mothers, daughters—but their tales, however different, are thematically the same: strong female voices and lives and the way in which they connect with each another.

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8

How to Stop Time, Matt Haig

Stopping time—it’s a fantasy we’ve all dreamed of, at some point in our lives. Matt Haig explores the concept with twist: what if time continued to move forward, except for you? Protagonist Tom Hazard has been 41 years old for centuries, so falling in love has never been an option—until he meets someone that makes him wish his extraordinary circumstances were anything but.

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