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We're always excited to greet each season's best new books, but this winter's batch is especially wonderful. We've highlighted 20 of them below, including new page-turners from big names like Stephen King and Lisa Gardner, as well as books from literary lights such as Joyce Carol Oates and Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for The Sympathizer. Then there are the lesser-known or first-time authors with absolute must-reads, including Chris Whitaker's We Begin at the End and Sarah Langan's Good Neighbors. You can't go wrong adding any of these to your winter reading list.
The Dead of Winter: Three Giordano Bruno Novellas by S.J. Parris
Acclaimed British author S. J. Parris brings back her beloved monk-turned-spy Giordano Bruno in three spectacular novellas, The Secret Dead, The Academy of Secrets and The Dead of Winter. All stories in the trio are set in the fascinating world of 16th-century Italy, where Bruno takes his vows in the deeply religious Dominican order, working in the infirmary, not completely sure that he made the right choice. But then patients start mysteriously dying. Suspicious, he begins to investigate, putting both his life and his career on the line, and forcing him to choose between his religious order and justice.
Eddie's Boy by Thomas Perry
As soon as you turn the first page of Edgar Award winner Perry's dark and dramatic novel, you'll see why he's been called the master of suspense. In this third sequel to Perry's The Butcher's Boy, hit man Michael Schaeffer, now in his 60s, finds himself peacefully retired with his wife in a Yorkshire manor, his glory days as an apprentice assassin and taking down the mob with a thug named Eddie seemingly over. But the past comes back to stalk him when a younger, deadlier new crop of mafia tries to take his life, propelling him into a frenetic cat-and-mouse game from Australia to the United States. Could his very survival depend on a return to the brutal ways of his youth?
The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.
This beautifully written debut novel — and likely award magnet — is a love story about two enslaved men, Isaiah and Samuel, whose devotion to each other leads to trouble on a brutally run Mississippi plantation. Voices of their African ancestors are woven throughout the book, Toni Morrison-style, with a complex mix of characters, including an older enslaved man, Amos, who embraces the plantation owner's Christianity and becomes a preacher. This draws attention to what's now viewed as a sinful kind of love between the two men, and the tension builds toward an inevitably violent reckoning.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
One of the most buzzed-about books of the season, The Push is reminiscent of Lionel Shriver's ultra-disturbing and supersmart We Need to Talk about Kevin. Told in the form of a letter ("I want to tell my side of the story"), a mother, Blythe, reveals the distressing history of her troubled daughter, Violet. Is something innately wrong with Violet, or is Blythe unable to bond with her because her own dysfunctional mother and grandmother have ruined her for any kind of real attachment? As Blythe's marriage falls apart from the stress, Violet's actions grow increasingly unsettling. Written by a former Canadian book publicist, this psychological page-turner will have book clubs talking.
The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin
Readers will want to curl up with a warm blanket by the fire for this novel inspired by real events from beloved best-selling author Benjamin (known for her megahit The Aviator's Wife). She uses her prodigious gifts for bringing history to life in this story of the devastating 1888 storm that buried the Great Plains, threatening immigrant children whose horrifying choice was to remain in an increasingly freezing schoolhouse or risk their lives and set out for home in a blinding storm. Based on actual stories of survivors, Benjamin weaves in a diverse cast of characters, including two schoolteacher sisters — one becomes a hero, the other a pariah — a servant girl struggling to survive, and a newspaperman who discovers hope and redemption among all the loss.
Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner
Gardner, author of the blockbuster series featuring detective D.D. Warren (When You See Me, Never Tell), offers her first stand-alone thriller in more than 20 years. Our narrator is a middle-aged recovering alcoholic, Frankie Elkin, who's made it her mission to find missing women. When a Haitian teen, Angelique Badeau, vanishes from her gritty Boston suburb, Frankie is on the trail. But the more she searches, the more resistance she meets from both cops and locals, until her own life seems in imminent danger. Who doesn't want this young girl to be found and why? Full of riveting characters, this high-anxiety tale will keep readers guessing.
Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan
The setting for this mesmerizing novel is a quiet suburban street whose center literally and figuratively falls away during a brutally hot summer when a sinkhole opens up, spewing a smelly black sludge. After a girl falls in, a troubled woman starts pointing fingers at one family (they never did fit in), and the nastiness escalates on Maple Street — Langan's witty reference to “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” the famous Twilight Zone episode about scapegoating turned deadly. A must-read from the Bram Stoker award-winning author (she's known for her horror stories) that offers both page-turning suspense and brilliant social commentary.
Later by Stephen King
Another King novel! This one will be published as a paperback original with a pulp fiction-style cover (similar to his 2013 novel Joyland). It's about an unusual boy, Jamie Conklin, who is able to see recently dead people and get them to reveal sometimes dangerous secrets because they are unable to lie to him. Yes, the book has a wildly implausible premise, but it's an entertaining and breezy read, with the stellar storytelling that has justly made King a literary legend.
Blood Grove by Walter Mosley
The recent winner of a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation, Mosley proves that his gritty genius shows no signs of stopping. Here he returns to his favorite character, Easy Rawlins, an unlicensed African American private detective who'll stop at nothing to solve a case. But this new case is a mind-bender: A young Vietnam War veteran, still shell-shocked, claims he stabbed a man who was abusing a woman. But the soldier was knocked out, and when he came to, both the man and the woman had vanished. Did this really happen or is it his PSTD talking? And if it did happen, where in the world are they? Mosley has his finger on the pulse of racial and cultural issues of the late ‘60s, and the book is sure to make readers ponder just how much has and hasn't changed today.
The Unwilling by John Hart
This one almost didn't make the list, only due to its extremely graphic scenes, but if you can stomach a little torture — or can't and are willing to skim a few of the paragraphs — this is a pretty unforgettable and propulsive read by the Edgar Award-winning author of best sellers such as Redemption Road and The Hush. The torture is perpetrated by two of the most frightening villains imaginable (we're talking Hannibal Lecter-level freakiness), but the center of the story is a family torn apart during the Vietnam War. One son was killed fighting; another, Jason, has come home with deep emotional scars and drug addiction; and the youngest, Gibby, still in high school, feels compelled to rescue Jason from his demons. When Jason's girlfriend is brutally murdered, Gibby gets caught up in Jason's dark world along with their father, a police officer. It's extremely well-written (though a bit gruesome) suspense with emotional depth.
The (Other) You: Stories by Joyce Carol Oates
The prolific Oates — she's published 58 novels, books of poetry and nonfiction — offers a brilliant collection of linked stories. They explore the alternate realities of a diverse group of people, from a woman who realizes she's somehow skipped time and is about to relive a terrorist attack to a child who is both alive and not alive after a tragic accident. It's a stellar collection that fascinates as well as unsettles, from one of our literary icons. And also not to be missed: Oates is publishing a new poetry collection at the same time, American Melancholy, about love, loss, racism and politics.
The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Can we escape our past to find our future? This highly anticipated sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer brings back the titular character, who is now a refugee in 1980s Paris with his blood brother, Bon. While the pair survives by dealing drugs, the bright capitalistic future they imagine soon turns dark as the Sympathizer struggles with memories of his former brutal “reeducation,” troubling conflict among politicized friends and the increasingly unsavory cost of his illegal career. It's a gripping tale of loyalty, friendship, ideologies and what it takes to carve out a new life.
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
How hot is We Begin at the End, a debut novel? The publisher has announced a first printing of 500,000 copies, a nearly unheard-of number for a relatively unknown author. Read it and you'll see why: It's extraordinary, a heart-rending story centered on a terrible accident in a small California town that led to the death of a child and a prison sentence for a teenager. The story is about the fallout 30 years later — including at least one apparent murder — that's shouldered by a tough little 13-year-old named Duchess Day Radley and her younger brother, raised by a troubled single mom, and a police chief who's tragically consumed by the past.
More novels of note:
Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson
Set in Italy during the Nazi occupation, a romantic historical novel about a young Jewish woman who flees Venice and disguises herself as a Christian farmer's wife in the countryside. (Jan. 5)
The Removed by Brandon Hobson
A unique story about a Native American family haunted by the tragic killing of their son by a police officer 15 years ago, told from different characters’ perspectives, with some supernatural elements. (Feb. 2)
Black Widows by Cate Quinn
An entertaining story that's like HBO's Big Love with a murder mystery: A man is found dead near his remote Utah home, and his three wives are all suspects. (Feb. 9)
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Set during a drought in 1930s Texas, where a mother has to make difficult choices to allow her family to survive. Not as wonderful as The Nightingale, but sure to be a big best seller. (Feb. 9)
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
A moving novel featuring a teenage girl in Colombia whose parents have been separated while attempting to start a new life in the U.S., splitting the family and leaving her torn between two worlds. (March 2)
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
The first novel by Ishiguro (author of 1989's The Remains of the Day) since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 2017, about an “artificial friend” named Klara, tasked with alleviating loneliness in young people. (March 2)
Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig
The story of a group of women from Smith College who set out for Europe in 1917 to help the French, devastated by Germany's invasion. (March 2)