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Matthew Salesses! V (Eve Ensler!) Doomsday cults! 26 books out in paperback this February.


Gabrielle Bellot

February 2, 2024, 4:12am

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the new books coming out each month. And, as a result, it’s easy to miss or put off getting books that came out in hardcover, even the ones that garnered all the buzz. But fear not: the paperback reprints of February (also, how is it already February of 2024?) are here. Below, you’ll find a roving selection of books newly released in paperback this month.

There are hotly anticipated novels by DK Nnuro, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, Matthew Salesses, and many others; Michelle Dowd’s account of doomsday cult life; Toni Bentley’s fittingly terpsichorean reflections on ballet and George Balanchine; Johan Eklöf’s moving musings on nighttime and the need for darkness in an increasingly bright world; poignant essays by V (Eve Ensler); and much, much more.

If you missed these when they first came out, you have another chance to pick them up now—and, Dear Reader, you certainly should.

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What Napoleon Could Not Do - Nnuro, Dk

DK Nnuro, What Napoleon Could Not Do
(Riverhead)

What Napoleon Could Not Do is a multifaceted drama of familial relationships, duty, loss, and dreams deferred. Nnuro creates beautiful symmetry between America and Ghana, juxtaposing the physically draining disappointments of the Ghanaian government with the emotionally draining letdowns of the U.S. bureaucracy. He boldly explores discrimination across and within race and culture and intricately crafts characters….Nnuro establishes himself as a powerful storyteller.”
Booklist

Gone Like Yesterday - Williams, Janelle M.

Janelle M. Williams, Gone Like Yesterday
(Tiny Reparations Books)

“There’s so much music in the engrossing pages of Gone Like Yesterday—in the songs of mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, would-be lovers, and the ancestors who watch over us. With lyricism and precision, Janelle M. Williams deftly captures the complicated beauty and chaos within our deepest relationships. A magical, mesmerizing debut!”
–Deesha Philyaw

A Spell of Good Things - Adebayo, Ayobami

Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, A Spell of Good Things
(Vintage)

“Adébáyọ̀ follows up Stay with Me with this bright and distinctive tragedy….The story’s violent denouement is as devastating as it is inevitable. Pitch-perfect details provide a sense of the characters’ lives…and as the characters are pushed to the brink, Adébáyọ̀ delivers a searing indictment of the country’s corruption and gender inequalities. This packs a powerful punch.”
Publishers Weekly

Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult: A Memoir - Dowd, Michelle

Michelle Dowd, Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult: A Memoir
(Algonquin)

“On the surface, Forager is about dramatic circumstances most of us will never experience—growing up inside a doomsday cult. This unusual lens, however, also mirrors more universal questions, such as how to build meaning out of trauma, how to tell the stories of our lives even as those lives intersect with others’, how nature is a healing force even as we participate in its destruction. Michelle Dowd takes on the real, sticky, human issues without easy answers or platitudes and with a voice that is fully her own.”
–Gina Frangello

Serenade: A Balanchine Story - Bentley, Toni

Toni Bentley, Serenade: A Balanchine Story
(Vintage)

“Bentley, who danced under Balanchine’s direction at the New York City Ballet for a decade in the 1970s and 80s, tells a history that is as vivid and poetic as the dance itself….She weaves in impressive detail about the actual technique of ballet, articulating the dancer’s physical experience for the reader….Serenade…will delight balletomanes…but it will also appeal to those newer to the dance world, with its delicate balance of personal memoir, rarefied elegance, history of the arts and pure human interest.”
The New York Times Book Review

The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins and the Fight for Women in Science - Zernike, Kate

Kate Zernike, The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins and the Fight for Women in Science
(Scribner)

“What Nancy Hopkins achieved is exceptional—in science of course, but more broadly in society. What Kate Zernike has achieved in this brilliant book is also exceptional—a condemnation of the treatment of women in science and a riveting story about the drive to pursue science.”
–Siddhartha Mukherjee

O Body - Sullivan, Dan Sully

Dan Sully Sullivan, O Body
(Haymarket)

“Dan ‘Sully’ Sullivan’s O Body is an act of profound and sweet wondering. The word I mean is care-for the home of one’s own body, and the shelter we might make of each other. When he emerges, he brings with him devotion: to a city, a home, a partner, a daughter, all of them with their own permanent rooms in this luminous, this accidental, this precious, O body.”
–José Olivarez

The Nursery - Molnar, Szilvia

Szvia Molnar, The Nursery
(Vintage)

“Brilliant…an essential and surprisingly thrilling book about motherhood….Molnar’s book, with its nameless protagonist and oppressive non-eventfulness and cool prose, suggests the work of a number of contemporaries—Ottessa Moshfegh, Sheila Heti—but in the end it’s Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ that’s the most apt shelfmate. We are watching a consciousness unravel.”
The New York Times

Up with the Sun - Mallon, Thomas

Thomas Mallon, Up With the Sun
(Vintage)

“[A] keen portrait of 1980s New York….What emerges as the book unfolds is a pensive, often gorgeous depiction of the contrast—or really, the continuum—between gay life in Manhattan before Stonewall and life on the cusp of the AIDS epidemic, a contrast that grows sharper, and infinitely sadder, as the book proceeds….Up With the Sun‘s great triumph is to render its world in not two dimensions but three, to make the lives of a pair of peripheral players not merely operatic but genuinely, shatteringly tragic.”
The Washington Post

I Have Some Questions for You - Makkai, Rebecca

Rebecca Makai, I Have Some Questions for You
(Penguin)

[I Have Some Questions for You] embraces the intricate plotting and emotional heft that made [Makkai’s] previous novel, The Great Believers, a Pulitzer finalist…Makkai sharply conveys the insidiousness of misogyny…[and] deftly explores how remembrance can melt into reverie….The result is not a book that leers at a discrete and unfathomable act of violence but one that investigates…’two stolen lives.’”
The New Yorker

Reckoning - Ensler, Eve

Eve Ensler, Reckoning
(Bloomsbury)

“Riveting….V [Eve Ensler] digs deep to find the words to constructively address sexual atrocities and everyday sexism….This far-reaching, deeply affecting collection will garner avid attention and ignite passionate discussion.”
Booklist

Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want - Benjamin, Ruha

Ruha Benjamin, Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want
(Princeton University Press)

“This is an openhearted, multilayered work that vibrates with ideas on ways to make a new world out of the interlocking crises of COVID-19 and racial capitalism. Progress may be a ‘tear-soaked mirage,’ as Benjamin writes, yet her book is far from devoid of a sense of humor or hope, full of ways to ‘live poetically’ while remaking the systems that have failed us.”
New York Magazine

The Darkness Manifesto: On Light Pollution, Night Ecology, and the Ancient Rhythms That Sustain Life - Eklöf, Johan

Johan Eklöf, The Darkness Manifesto: On Light Pollution, Night Ecology, and the Ancient Rhythms That Sustain Life (trans. Elizabeth Denoma)
(Scribner)

“What is lost when darkness disappears? Stargazing, flowers that unfold by moonlight, phosphorescence in the sea, and something deeper yet. With extraordinary insight, Johan Eklöf explores the influence of night on nature, on cities, and in our connections to one another….a scintillating read by a conservationist of true literary flair, who has spent long hours tuning his attention to twilight and nocturnal life.”
–Rebecca Giggs

The Sense of Wonder - Salesses, Matthew

Matthew Salesses, The Sense of Wonder
(Back Bay Books)

“Throughout The Sense of Wonder, Salesses refuses to shy away from frank discussions of race or racism, even as he centers the hopes and fears, frustrations and professional triumphs, of his protagonists. Salesses also declines to bench a complex formal device that would, in the hands of a lesser writer, dissolve under pressure as the clock runs out. Above all, the novel chooses itself. Like ‘the Wonder’ or ‘Linsanity,’ you may just have to see it to believe.”

American Mermaid - Langbein, Julia

Julia Langbein, American Mermaid
(Vintage)

American Mermaid is shapeshifting novel composed of wildly divergent elements—a biting Hollywood satire, a magical realist book-within-a-book, and a moody meditation on identity and selling out. It probably shouldn’t work, but it succeeds brilliantly, thanks to Julia Langbein’s tonal control and wicked sense of humor. This is a a debut novel of unusual ambition and scope.”
–Tom Perotta

Commitment - Simpson, Mona

Mona Simpson, Commitment
(Vintage)

“Excellent….An absorbing, moving portrait of a Los Angeles family as they navigate financial troubles, addiction and, centrally, mental illness….As Simpson follows the kids into adulthood, where their lives and careers split and intersect, the reverberations of their childhoods ripple forward, too….[Commitment captures] the pain and joy and strangeness of being a person in a family.”
Vanity Fair

We Are Too Many: A Memoir [Kind Of] - Pittard, Hannah

Hannah Pittard, We Are Too Many: A Memoir [Kind of]
(Holt)

“Kapow! Kablam! This is the most explosive, (self-explosive, marriage-exploding, form demolishing) memoir I’ve read in eons!”
–Emma Straub

The Absent Moon: A Memoir of a Short Childhood and a Long Depression - Schwarcz, Luiz

Luis Schwarz, The Absent Moon: A Memoir of a Short Childhood and a Long Depression (trans. Eric M. B. Becker)
(Penguin)

“A Brazilian writer and publisher memorably chronicles his Jewish upbringing in São Paulo as an only child plagued by depression. In this beautifully composed narrative, Schwarcz investigates the undigested trauma from his postwar childhood, a time shadowed by the long-lasting guilt and depression of his Hungarian Jewish father, András….[This book] will resonate with anyone dealing with depression, anxiety, mental illness, and/or generational trauma. A riveting literary memoir.”
Kirkus Reviews

Jellyfish Age Backwards: Nature's Secrets to Longevity - Brendborg, Nicklas

Nicklas Brendborg, Jellyfish Age Backwards: Nature’s Secrets to Longevity
(Back Bay Books)

“Nicklas Brendborg takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the science of aging….he navigates this bustling discipline with graceful clarity, dispelling common myths along the way.”
New Scientist

The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise - Oakley, Colleen

Colleen Oakley, The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise
(Berkley)

“Oakley (The Invisible Husband of Frick Island) draws on Thelma and Louise for this delightful story of an elderly woman and her caregiver who go on the run….The antics of this unlikely duo makes for an entertaining buddy drama.”
Publishers Weekly

Brutes - Tate, Dizz

Dizz Tate, Brutes
(Catapult)

“Dizz Tate’s Brutes is marketed as The Virgin Suicides meets The Florida Project. That’s an apt comparison, considering the violent, dangerous pleasures lurking in this coming-of-age story, which follows a group of young girls who flock around the radiant local televangelist’s daughter—until she one day disappears. This is a riveting tale, one that refuses to sacrifice nuance nor insight for the sake of its propulsive narrative.”
ELLE

Empty Theatre: A Novel: Or the Lives of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Sisi of Austria (Queen of Hungary), Cousins, in Their Pursuit of - Jemc, Jac

Jac Jemc, Empty Theatre: A Novel: Or the Lives of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Sisi of Austria (Queen of Hungary), Cousins, in Their Pursuit of
(Picador)

“Jac Jemc’s latest novel slithers through history to bring us a gloriously reimagined pair of hopeless, wounded dreamers, Empress Sisi and King Ludwig II. Bitterly comic and amusingly tragic scenes are linked together in a narrative as brilliant and beguiling as any of the glorious baubles desired by Ludwig himself. Brimming with wit, style, and grace, Empty Theatre is a satire ultimately as compassionate and sincere as this reader could wish. A tour de force.”
–Maryse Meijer

China After Mao: The Rise of a Superpower - Dikötter, Frank

Frank Dikötter, China After Mao: The Rise of a Superpower
(Bloomsbury)

“Challenges assumptions about China’s speedy, four-decade rise and its transformation from a reclusive agrarian economy into a global superpower….Dikötter’s well-researched volume marks an important contribution to the literature on China’s rise. Highly recommended.”
Choice

The Incredible Events in Women's Cell Number 3 - Yarmysh, Kira

Kira Yarmysh, The Incredible Events in Women’s Cell Number 3 (trans. Arch Tait)
(Grove Press)

“A first novel that skillfully breaks the claustrophobia of life in a jail cell by cataloging Anya’s life before her imprisonment….The familiar trials and tribulations that everyday Russians face stand out in dramatic effect as Yarmysh illuminates the subtly veiled political dissent within an oppressive society straining at the seams.”
Booklist

Cold People - Smith, Tom Rob

Tom Rob Smith, Cold People
(Scribner)

Cold People is a zany, wildly gripping, dark futuristic fantasy that achieves escapist lift-off [and] recalls H.P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein….Wild, imaginative, [and] fast moving.”
Vogue

The Blackhouse - Johnstone, Carole

Carole Johnstone, The Blackhouse
(Scribner)

“Spins Norse legends, Hebridean superstitions, Bronze Age history and canny Scottish wisdom into a deeply absorbing and wildly atmospheric mystery about the dangerous brew of self-loathing, familial duty and guilt. Johnstone cleverly sets revelations, sometimes sinister, always startling, across her plot….The alchemy of place, plot and character is the white-bright light at the core of Johnstone’s novel.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune



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