10 books to add to your reading list in February



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Critic Bethanne Patrick recommends 10 promising titles, fiction and nonfiction, to consider for your February reading list.

February 2024 is a great month for books, said a brilliant colleague. With books ranging from brilliant women from history, to brilliant women writing history (ethnography and memoir), there’s plenty for nonfiction stans. Fiction lovers will be able to choose from equally brilliant debut novels, as well as new titles from — yes, brilliant — acclaimed authors.

FICTION

The Fox Wife
By Yangsze Choo
Henry Holt: 400 pages, $28
(Feb. 13)

Foxes can symbolize happiness, or cunning and trickery. Choo’s new novel takes place in the early 20th century, as a woman named Ah San stalks someone, frequently encountering shape-shifting foxes during her wintry journey across Manchuria. A delicate and suspenseful detective tale, it’s perfect to savor on a wintry weekend.

The Book of Love
By Kelly Link
Random House: 640 pages, $31
(Feb. 13)

Link, acclaimed for short stories (“White Cat, Black Dog”), releases her first novel, and its pages sing with her trademark fantastical and emotional tropes. Four teenagers — two of them sisters, three of them dead — are caught in a nefarious teacher’s scheme that could end in greater sorrow, unless the friends complete a series of always-complicated tasks.

Ours
By Phillip B. Williams
Viking: 592 pages, $32
(Feb. 20)

Fiction from a poet can land flat — or, like “Ours,” soar to the highest heavens. Williams builds a world near St. Louis where a free Black woman, Saint, purchases a town, renames it “Ours” and casts spells that cause a kind of “white plague.” But is that kind of freedom truly desirable? This debut is the first standout read of 2024.

Wandering Stars
By Tommy Orange
Knopf: 336 pages, $29
(Feb. 27)

“There There” was Orange’s Pulitzer-winning debut; “Wandering Stars” might be considered its follow-up, as it chronicles the Native American Bear Shield-Red Feather family. However, it first returns to the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre, in which ancestor Jude Star suffers oppression and displacement, trauma passed on through epigenetics and pain.

The American Daughters
By Maurice Carlos Ruffin
One World: 304 pages, $28
(Feb. 27)

Mother and daughter Sanite and Ady are sold to a rich New Orleanian named John du Marche in the 1850s. When Ady and Sanite are separated, Ady meets Lenore, proprietress of the Mockingbird Inn. Lenore actually runs an underground resistance society known as “The Daughters,” a witty Ruffin-esque turn on other so-called societies using those words.

NONFICTION

Latinoland: A Portrait of America’s Largest and Least Understood Minority
By Marie Arana
Simon & Schuster: 576 pages, $32.50
(Feb. 20)

Arana (“American Chica,” “Cellophane”) uses her own Peruvian American background to investigate the people of Central and South America who have made North America their home. While the author wonders whether Latino culture remains separate today, she also carefully shows how hard our nation’s almost 30% Spanish-speaking citizens have worked to gain opportunities, education and freedoms.

Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class
By Rob Henderson
Gallery Books: 336 pages, $29
(Feb. 20)

Born to a mostly absent father and a substance-addicted mother, Henderson bounced among seven foster families. He worked his way to Yale University and beyond, finally earning a doctorate in psychology. While Henderson has firm conservative principles, this is no “Hillbilly Elegy”; the book focuses on how to fix a system that doesn’t work for the needs of children.

Splinters: Another Kind of Love Story
By Leslie Jamison
Little, Brown: 272 pages, $29
(Feb. 20)

One of our best and most brutally candid contemporary writers, Jamison (“The Empathy Exams,” “The Recovering”) writes about her divorce, which happened while the couple’s daughter was just 1 year old. Although she was buoyed to leave a union filled with anger and loneliness, she now entered single parenthood, and discovered that no arrangement of life contains the perfection she’d long been acculturated to expect.

Grief Is for People
By Sloane Crosley
MCD: 208 pages, $27
(Feb. 27)

When Crosley’s closest friend, Russell, died by suicide, she needed to grieve. Instead, she obsessed about tracking down her grandmother’s jewelry, stolen from her apartment. Crosley is a superb and witty writer; she ties the losses together until we see, on the page, that she has managed to reach her feelings of anger and sadness, memories of laughter and pain.

Normal Women: Nine Hundred Years of Making History
By Philippa Gregory
HarperOne: 688 pages, $40
(Feb. 27)

You’ve devoured her novels, including “The Other Boleyn Girl,” but now Gregory shows off chops as a historian with a tome about British women of all types. Gregory doesn’t stint from covering the misogyny affecting those women, either. It’s a compendium and an amazing read, ending in 1994 when the Church of England first ordained women to the priesthood.



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