At the risk of repeating ourselves for, say, the next four years: Now is a great time to get lost in a book, if only for a little while. And this February, in particular, is a great month to do just that. While you can certainly reference our master list of early 2017 books here (February standouts include: Claire Fuller's Swimming Lessons; Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee; Alana Massey's All the Lives I Want; Jennifer Wright's Get Well Soon; There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé, by Morgan Parker; and Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders), we have also selected seven other books for this month, all of which feel very necessary to read right now. Because without good books, where even are we? Still living in a proto-fascist society, only with less intellectually stimulating material with which to engage. And wouldn't that be terrible.
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (available now)
Whitaker's debut novel is smart, funny, and vibrant, beautifully capturing the intricacies of friendship, artistic partnerships, and the complexities of the balance that must be struck in those often fraught relationships. It is a vital read for anyone who has grappled with strong feelings of desire and ambition, never knowing for sure what it will take to achieve their goals, and whether it's worth the cost. Also, don't miss out on Whitaker's recent essay on BuzzFeed about what it was like to date after giving up drinking.
Universal Harvester by John Darnielle (available February 7)
It only makes sense that a lyricist as profound and masterful as Mountain Goats' John Darnielle would also be a brilliant prose stylist, but it still feels like the most wonderful of surprises to get to rediscover that every time Darnielle releases a new book. His latest starts off in a small Nevada town in the '90s, and the protagonist, Jeremy, works at a video store. (Is there a more '90s job than that?) Jeremy's narrative journey is eerie and unsettling; it's one you won't soon forget, that will haunt you in the best possible ways.
A Separation by Katie Kitamura (available February 7)
Who doesn't love a compulsively readable story about infidelity and intense love? Kitamura's novel has been called "a literary Gone Girl" by The Millions, and while that might be enough to draw you in, let us just elaborate to say that Kitamura achieves something truly remarkable with A Separation, in that she takes the well-trod grounds of marital betrayal and love gone wrong and makes them into something wholly new and fresh, as if polishing a rock found underfoot, thus revealing shiny new facets, and turning that old stone into a diamond.
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (available February 7)
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his 2015 novel The Sympathizer, Nguyen is back with a sublime collection of short stories exploring issues like immigration, identity, refugees, family, loyalty, friendship, and love. The precision and sensitivity with which Nguyen captures the lives of his characters will leave you breathless and thankful that a voice like this exists, especially in times like these.
Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach (available February 21)
We do love a good mystery, and Dolan-Leach's debut novel is a prime example of the form. Centered around twin sisters Ava and Zelda (one's missing and presumed dead, naturally), Dead Letters centers around the most dysfunctional of families, and reading it feels like embarking on a literary scavenger hunt that you never want to end.
Abandon Me by Melissa Febos (available February 28)
Febos is powerfully talented, and her latest book—a fiercely intimate personal narrative of her experiences connecting to the people around her—is raw and gripping. It sticks to you like an open wound; it's a lyrical, masterful work by one of our most fearless and brilliant writers.
Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz (available February 28)
Starting off in South Korea in 1978, just as the country was going through the massive transformation which would make it the complicated and often internally divided economic powerhouse that it is today, Wuertz's masterful novel traces the paths of two friends who come from very different backgrounds, but whose trajectories have taken them to the same point in time. This is a story of love and passion, betrayal and ambition, and it is an always fascinating look at a country whose many contradictions contribute to its often enigmatic allure.