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Slow But Sure: 11 Books to Read in January

Eleven new novels from literary stars like Hisham Matar, Kiley Reid and Dolly Alderton will help a dreary month speed by / BY Nathalie Atkinson / January 5th, 2024

January is a month like any other, yet often feels like a Monday that lasts forever. (Cue the annual memes of a bearded, scraggly Tom Hanks at the end of Cast Away.) The scientific explanation for the interminable feeling is that our internal dopamine clock changes our perception of time after the fun festive season.

Our pick of January’s most anticipated literary fiction, old-fashioned charmers and propulsive thrillers will not only help while away the days during the winter doldrums – you’ll actually want time to slow down.

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image. 

1Nonfiction by Julie Myerson

The English author made headlines more than a decade ago with The Lost Child, a memoir about how she and her husband grappled with their decision to kick their eldest son out of the family home at 17, due to his heavy drug use (he sold his side of the story to the tabloids). Myerson’s new novel is both a literary ghost story and comeback of sorts, in which an unnamed narrator (also a writer) weaves back and forth in time to consider the ethics of writing from life, and her efforts to save her teenage daughter from drugs. Critics say the devastatingly raw novel, “blazes with truths about not just addiction but female identity and maternal love, compassion and creativity.” (Jan. 2)

2My Friendsby Hisham Matar

Already garnering awards buzz, this delicate interior novel from the American Libyan writer whose memoir, The Return, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, has been likened to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. The novel examines repression and freedom of speech by following the lives and close friendships of Khaled, Mustafa and Hosan, three Libyan exiles living in the United Kingdom, from 1983, during the Moammar Gadhafi era, through to the Libyan uprisings during the Arab Spring. (Jan. 9)

3The Watersby Bonnie Jo Campbell

For her first novel in a dozen years, the acclaimed Michigan author (Once Upon a River) – dubbed “a feminist counterpoint to John Irving”– pens a compelling Midwestern gothic that blooms into a realist fairy tale, albeit singed at the edges by a distinctly Shakespearean flame. It’s set in a peculiar community in rural Michigan where Herself, as the matriarch and folk healer is known, lives in a cabin on a swampy island. After raising three daughters, each with similar healing powers, she is enlisted to help raise a granddaughter in the wilds of nature. (Jan. 9)

4Eli Harpo’s Adventure to the Afterlifeby Eric Schlich

Eli Harpo is known as The Chosen One in his devout Kentucky Baptist community after a near-death experience at age four where he saw heaven. As a teenager, Eli finds himself recounting the story on a publicity tour for the Bible World theme park. But was it really a miracle, or just capitalism and toxic religion? Told during Eli’s college years, with glimpses of his childhood and that fateful teenage road trip, this anticipated debut from a teacher of creative writing at the University of Memphis is both a heartfelt coming-out story about evangelical Christianity and sexuality and an affecting satire. (Jan. 16)

5The Furyby Alex Michaelides

Every year, reclusive former movie star Lana Farrar invites old friends to her private Greek island to escape the miserable English winter. Sounds dreamy, right? Readers worth their Agatha Christie know what tropes come next: Secrets and past slights that amplify when the group is cut off from civilization. As this idyllic vacation goes awry, the suspense is narrated by Lana’s sardonic friend, Elliott, with the twists you’d expect (and a few you don’t) from the British writer of the New York Times bestseller The Silent Patient. (Jan. 16)

6Divaby Daisy Goodwin

Fresh from centennial celebrations of her birth, it’s shaping up to be the year of Maria Callas, with Angelina Jolie shooting an impressionistic biopic about the legendary soprano and London-based Goodwin (The American Heiress, Victoria) penning this engrossing portrait of the celebrated singer’s scandalous, longtime love affair with Aristotle Onassis, one of the world’s richest men. The historical novel tracks Callas’ majestic career, and spheres of celebrity and fashion, through to the tragic end of the fairytale romance, when Onassis abruptly married former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. (Jan. 23)

7Blizzardby Marie Vingtras, trans. by Jeffrey Zuckerman

This gripping race against time about Thomas, a 10-year-old boy missing in the middle of an Alaskan snowstorm, is not only an exploration of the Far North, but a panorama of the fates of those desperate to locate him and the people who have chosen to make this remote part of the world their home. Vingtras’ debut novel was a runaway bestseller in France, and won a slew of literary awards, including the 2022 French booksellers’ prize for best novel of the year. (Jan. 23)

8Good Materialby Dolly Alderton

This is the one we’ll still be talking about on Valentine’s Day: Andy, a 30-something comedian picking up the pieces after his heart was broken, is doing more spiralling and obsessing than he is moving on in this clever, tender and observational break-up novel. It’s Bridget Jones meets Sliding Doors, told from the perspective of the guy, but when his ex, Jen, gets her say, the love story gets two points of view. If there’s any justice, it will be the North American breakout for Alderton, a wildly popular British journalist who is lesser known elsewhere, just like High Fidelity was for Nick Hornby. She should be a household name. (Jan. 30)

9Interesting Facts About Spaceby Emily Austin

Enid is a neuro-divergent lesbian and true-crime obsessive who’s hard of hearing, full of anxiety and paranoia (an irrational fear of bald men, for example), and constantly wonders if she’s a bad person. This, as she navigates her first serious relationship, cares for a depressive mother and tries to get to know her half-sisters. The Ottawa-based writer explores the reasons people self-sabotage, while also tackling grief, parental neglect and mental illness, in a hilarious and thoughtful novel. (Jan. 30)

10Come and Get Itby Kiley Reid

We’ve been impatiently awaiting new work from the University of Michigan professor since her 2019 smash hit, Such a Fun Age, was longlisted for the Booker Prize. This sharply-observed send-up of academia does not disappoint. Millie, a Black resident assistant at an Arkansas college, is infatuated with Agatha, a white visiting professor, and becomes embroiled in her research into financial attitudes and documentation of the school’s scholarship scammers. It’s a provocative look at perspectives on money, privilege, power dynamics and privilege. (Jan. 30)

11Mrs. Quinn’s Rise to Fameby Olivia Ford

Here’s an uplifting charmer for fans of Julia Child, The Great British Bake Off and Lessons in Chemistry: Jenny Quinn, a 77-year-old retiree living in rural England, applies to a reality-show baking competition. To her surprise (and that of her doting husband of 60 years, Bernard), she makes it! Jenny’s recipes are inspired by her life, and the novel – by a London-based former reality TV producer who knows the milieu – flashes back to these milestones when the septuagenarian reminisces about the backstory of each perfect pastry. A lovable cast of characters, the well-drawn intimacy of a long and lived-in marriage and plenty of evocative descriptions of food make it a delectable read. (Jan. 30)


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