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21 of Winter’s Top New Books

A Kristin Hannah novel, crime stories from George Pelecanos, an homage to the Bee Gees and more hot reads coming this season


spinner image from left to right book covers the story of the bee gees by bob stanley then mrs quinns rise to fame by oliva ford then hard by a great forest by leo vardiashvili then owning up by george pelecanos then the women by krisin hannah then learning to love midlife by chip conley
Pegasus Books / Pamela Dorman Books / Riverhead Books / Mulholland Books / St. Martin's Press / Little, Brown Spark / Tanya Shulga / Getty

Every season has its charms for readers, but there’s surely nothing cozier than snuggling up under a fuzzy blanket with a good book during winter’s cold, dark nights. We’ve highlighted 21 fiction and nonfiction titles coming out in the next three months, including some lighthearted novels, gripping thrillers, two books about aging well and memoirs from Billie Dee Williams and Patti Davis.   

Fiction  

For readers looking for novels on the lighter side, there’s a new offering in paperback from Suzanne Allain (Mr. Malcolm’s List): The Ladies Rewrite the Rules (Jan. 9), billed as “a romantic comedy with a feminist bent” and set in Regency England. Here wealthy high society widows protest their presence in a directory of rich, single women and fight the fortune hunters. ​

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The Friendship Club by the best-selling Robyn Carr (Jan. 23) is centered around Marni McGuire, the host of a cooking show, who’s in her mid-50s and trying to navigate the dating world after being widowed and divorced. Three women in her life — her best friend, pregnant daughter and an intern on the show — face their own relationship challenges, but they learn to rely on each other for invaluable support and friendship.

The Excitements by CJ Wray (Jan. 30) is a madcap tale of two nonagenarian World War II veterans, sisters Josephine and Penny Williamson who are celebrated for their heroics in the war. It turns out there’s so much more to their story, as their great-nephew Archie discovers while accompanying his aunts on an extremely eventful trip to Paris. ​

And Mrs. Quinn’s Rise to Fame by Olivia Ford (Jan. 30), is a sweet-sounding debut featuring Jenny Quinn, 77, who applies to be a contestant on a baking show (Britain Bakes) and enters a new world of rising fame. The delicious recipes bring back memories of the past, including those of a long-ago deceit that Jenny fears will be brought to light amid the publicity and threaten her marriage of 60 years. ​​

For gothic suspense, check out The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins (Jan. 9), author of The Wife Upstairs. This twisty, twisted tale is centered around the death of North Carolina’s richest woman, Ruby McTavish Callahan Woodward Miller Kenmore, who’s left her estate to her adopted son. He rejects the vast estate for a normal life in Colorado until he’s pulled back into the fold 10 years later, only to discover some disturbing truths about the heiress (who was — red flag! — widowed four times) and the fortune she left behind.​​

The Fury by Alex Michaelides (Jan. 16), best-selling author of The Silent Patient, features a reclusive ex-movie star who invites a small group of friends and family to her private Greek island, where they find themselves cut off from the outside world by fierce winds (called the Fury). Their tense interactions and backstories are all described by an unreliable narrator, playwright Elliot Chase, who begins his tale: “There were seven of us in all, trapped on the island. One of us was a murderer.”​

spinner image from left to right harbor lights by james lee burke then the hidden life of cecily larson by ellen baker then the ladies rewrite the rules by suzanne allain
Atlantic Monthly Press / Mariner Books / Berkley / Tanya Shulga/Getty

You can find shorter-form mysteries in two new collections:​

Harbor Lights (Jan. 23) from the Edgar Award–winning mystery/crime author James Lee Burke features eight stories, including a never-before-published novella. One features an oil rig worker in South America who seeks justice after witnessing a brutal attack on a village; another is about undercover union organizers who find that a Hollywood actor who plays Western heroes has a dark side. ​

Owning Up by George Pelecanos (Feb. 6) contains four novellas from the legendary film and TV producer (The Wire) and crime writer known for his novels set in Washington, D.C. His latest collection includes a story about a woman who discovers blistering truths about the past when she meets a man who knew her grandmother. ​

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There’s an element of autobiography in Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili (Jan. 30), a debut novel about a young boy, Saba, who fled the republic of Georgia for Britain with his father and brother. Twenty years later, Saba follows his brother to Georgia, both on a dangerous quest to find their father, who disappeared there. Vardiashvili, who, like Saba, left post-Soviet Georgia for London as a child, received high praise from Booklist for his “heartrending, beautifully crafted” story, which Publishers Weekly says “will leave readers breathless.”

Kristin Hannah sets her latest, The Women (Feb. 6), during the political tumult of 1965, when Frances “Frankie” McGrath, a sheltered young nursing student, joins the Army Nurse Corps and follows her brother to Vietnam. It’s an eye-opening and often terrifying experience that shapes and follows her long after she returns from the war. ​

​Fans of Iris Yamashita’s entertaining murder mystery City Under One Roof, published this year and set in an isolated apartment building in Alaska, can soon soak up its sequel, Village in the Dark (Feb. 13). Anchorage detective Cara Kennedy is still consumed by the mysterious deaths of her husband and son, and begins to uncover disturbing clues that suggest foul play.​

The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson by Ellen Baker (Feb. 20) opens with the title character dropped at an orphanage at age 4 by her mother, at her new boyfriend’s insistence. Cecily then is sold to perform with a traveling circus. The story jumps to 2015, when Cecily is 94 and a DNA test reveals tragic secrets from her past, stunning her children and grandchildren and throwing everything they thought they knew about the family into question. The book has received some glowing early reviews.​​

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spinner image from left to right latinoland by marie arana then what have we here by billy dee williams then splinters by leslie jamison
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Nonfiction

​In Single at Heart: The Power, Freedom, and Heart-Filling Joy of Single Life (Dec. 5), Bella DePaulo, 70, author of Psychology Today’s Living Single column, disputes the conventional wisdom that we all want to be coupled and touts myriad benefits of living alone, and by choice. With enough enthusiasm to make someone consider ditching his or her sweetheart, she includes advice on dealing with societal pressures to find a partner and how to savor and delight in your solitude.​ ​

Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song by Judith Tick (Dec. 5) is a deeply researched biography about the legendary singer and band leader — “the First Lady of Song” (1917-1996). The book describes a shy young woman who first found success at an amateur night competition at the Apollo, then went on to a stellar career and acclaim for her stunning vocal talent and improvisational skills, while facing her share of challenges, including deep-seated sexism within the jazz world. (In May, Fitzgerald fans can look forward to Ella by Diane Richards, a novelization of the singer’s life.) ​

Two upcoming books are aimed at making us feel better about — or helping us put the brakes on — aging. One is from Michael Greger, M.D., 51, founder of NutritionFacts.org and author of How Not to Die, who continues his series with another catchy (and overpromising) title: How Not to Age: The Scientific Approach to Getting Healthier As You Get Older (Dec. 5). He sets forth his premise that there are 11 pathways to aging in the human body, and they can be disrupted through dietary and lifestyle changes. ​

Another is Chip Conley’s Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better With Age (Jan. 16). Though midlife is usually followed by the word “crisis,” entrepreneur Conley, 63, says it can be a transformational, wonderful stage when, among other pluses, we can finally grow comfortable in our own skin and are able to let go of emotional baggage and the obligations that no longer serve us. ​

In Dear Mom and Dad: A Letter About Family, Memory, and the America We Once Knew by Patti Davis (Feb. 6), the daughter of late President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan dives into her childhood and familial relationships, offering frank reflections on growing up with rather distant parents. Davis, 71, also includes warmer memories, particularly from after her father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, while acknowledging the profound impact their parenting has had on her life. “We try to separate ourselves from [our parents], compose an identity that has nothing to do with them, but that never works out very well,” she writes. “It’s like sawing off an arm and then trying to climb a rope.”​

The Bee Gees — Barry and the late Maurice and Robin Gibb — had wild success with pop hits including “Stayin’ Alive” and “More Than a Woman,” yet never received the respect they deserved. So argues British author and musician Bob Stanley in The Story of the Bee Gees: Children of the World (Feb. 6), his biography of and passionate homage to this “deeply odd, and quite wonderful” band of brothers. ​​

Among the few celebrity memoirs out this winter (compared with the onslaught we saw in the fall) is What Have We Here? Portraits of a Life by Billy Dee Williams (Feb. 13), the 86-year-old actor known for playing Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars movies, as well as his roles in Brian’s Song (1971), Lady Sings the Blues (1972) and on Broadway. ​

Leslie Jamison’s moving 2018 memoir, The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, was the story of her sometimes torturous battle with addiction and fight to maintain sobriety. An intense, brilliant writer, Jamison, 40, next offers Splinters: Another Kind of Love Story (Feb. 20), detailing the end of her marriage and a different sort of recovery effort. ​

And in Latinoland: A Portrait of America’s Largest and Least Understood Minority by Marie Arana (Feb. 20), the 74-year-old Peruvian-born author offers a nuanced look at Latinos, who make up 20 percent of the U.S. population. It’s part history, part autobiography and part cultural commentary — or, as she puts it, “a sweeping personal portrait of our cohort in this country.”​​

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