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Every month, a deluge of new books comes flooding out from big publishers, indie houses, and self-publishing platforms. So every month, The A.V. Club narrows down the endless options to five of the books we’re most excited about.
The Books Of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk
The Books Of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk (trans. by Jennifer Croft; February 1, Riverhead)
Olga Tokarczuk is one of our greatest living fiction writers, Jennifer Croft’s translations are always magnificent, and this epic thousand-page novel is said to be their magnum opus. Paginated in reverse as a nod to Hebrew bookbinding, The Books Of Jacob is the story of Jacob Frank—a real-life Jewish mystic who claimed to be a reincarnated messiah in 18th-century Poland and amassed tens of thousands of followers. First published in Poland in 2014, the Nobel Committee specifically cited The Books Of Jacob when they awarded Tokarczuk the 2018 prize in literature. This could well be a decade-defining book akin to Bolaño’s 2666.
Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda
Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda (trans. by Sarah Booker; February 8, Coffee House)
Six girls in a private Catholic high school in Ecuador turn to the occult in Mónica Ojeda’s macabre English-language debut novel, Jawbone. The girls’ ringleader, Annelise, entertains her friends with tales of a made-up deity and eggs them on with strange dares. Soon enough, she and her friend Fernanda are falling in love, raising the stakes of Annelise’s fabricated creepypasta. Ojeda has drawn comparisons to Shirley Jackson, H.P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe, and Publishers Weekly calls this novel “creepy good fun.”
Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James
Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James (February 15, Riverhead)
Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the first book in Marlon James’ Dark Star trilogy, was a violent, sprawling, thrilling read. The Man Booker Prize-winning author’s follow-up, Moon Witch, Spider King, promises to deliver more of the same, with a twist. The titular Moon Witch, Sogolan, retells the plot of the first book from her perspective, complicating the already complicated world of the Dark Star trilogy. James has an uncanny ability to use multiple perspectives to deepen and expand his worlds, and that bodes very well for his forthcoming book.
Pure Colour by Sheila Heti
Pure Colour by Sheila Heti (February 15, Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Sheila Heti is one of the most innovative and interesting writers working today. Her prior two novels, How Should A Person Be? and Motherhood, were ponderous and experimental works of autofiction. Pure Colour has Heti examining many of the same questions about what it means to exist in the world, this time outside the autofictive realm. Heti is a challenging, engaging writer and every new stylistic step is an exciting one.
True Story: What Reality Says About Us by Danielle J. Lindemann
True Story: What Reality Says About Us by Danielle J. Lindemann (February 15, Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Taking a critical eye to pop culture is built into The A.V. Club’s DNA. And when it’s in the service of unpacking our guiltiest of guilty pleasures? Even better. That’s why we’re excited about True Story: What Reality Says About Us from sociologist Danielle J. Lindemann. Lindemann takes readers on a guided tour of reality television, from MTV’s The Real World up through Survivor, the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchises, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and The Real Housewives. She gets in close to dissect reality TV at the micro-level, then zooms out to determine what these shows have to say about race, gender, and sexuality in America.
More in February
The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang (February 1, W.W. Norton); The Employees by Olga Ravn (February 1, New Directions); Very Cold People by Sarah Manguso (February 8, Hogarth); The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman (February 8, Penguin); Be Here To Love Me At The End Of The World by Sasha Fletcher (February 15, Melville House); Chilean Poet by Alejandro Zambra (February 15, Viking); Black American Refugee: Escaping The Narcissism Of The American Dream by Tiffanie Drayton (February 15, Viking); Lurkers by Sandi Tan (February 15, Soho); House Of Sky And Breath by Sarah J. Maas (February 15, Bloomsbury); Swimming With Dead Stars by Vi Khi Nao (February 22, FC2); Off The Edge: Flat Earthers, Conspiracy Culture, And Why People Will Believe Anything by Kelly Weill (February 22, Workman); When I’m Gone, Look For Me In The East by Quan Barry (February 22, Pantheon); Memory Of Departure by Abdulrazak Gurnah (February 22, Bloomsbury)