Ah, February. The shortest month of any year in what has been the longest year in recent memory, although time's nature as a construct has become woefully more obvious to many of us. With February comes Black History month and Valentine’s Day, which this month's book club picks cater to splendidly. Whether you’re preparing for a (virtual?) date with a special someone or hoping to honor and celebrate Black history or simply want a way to escape the winter doldrums, if anyone asks what you’re up to this month, just say you’re fully booked.
The book: Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan (Atria)
Recommended for: When you’re tired of walking around your boring neighborhood for the umpteenth time and wish you had some spicy new gossip about your annoying next-door neighbors.
Our reviewer says: “Bram Stoker Award winner Langan crafts an incisive story about a seemingly pleasant neighborhood in 2027 Long Island, where the appearance of a massive sinkhole ratchets up local tensions.” Read more here.
Recommended for: When you can’t concentrate on a 60-second YouTube video, let alone a whole novel, and need something with shorter stories but with the same depth and attention to character development as a full-length novel.
Our reviewer says: “Northern Florida looms large over the 11 stories that comprise Moniz’s smart debut collection, a comingling of themes of adolescent discovery, family strain, and temptation’s dangerous appeal.” Read more here.
The book: Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (Scribner)
Recommended for: If you couldn’t get Eat, Pray, Love out of your head and need a reminder of how much love you deserve on your journey to self-discovery.
Our reviewer says: “Broder delivers a bittersweet and erotic account of a woman’s intertwining relationship to food, her mother, and her sexuality.” Read more here.
Recommended for: Logophiles—or word nerds, if you will. Who needs a Valentine when words like “mountweazel” (n.) and “relectoblivious” (adj.) exist?
Our reviewer says: “In Williams’s comically inventive debut novel, a woman must ferret out the falsities intentionally embedded in a dictionary.” Read more here.
Recommended for: When you feel like love is dead after a horrible breakup and need to be reminded that new love can hide in unexpected places.
Our reviewer says: “Cross-Smith explores fragility, grief, and the effects of mental illness in this wonderfully strange novel about new love between broken people.” Read more here.
Recommended for: Those who want to escape the cold—or the too familiar living-room-turned-home-office—for a beach town and a new, if harrowing, perspective.
Our reviewer says: “Jones’s intense debut explores the poverty and crime in Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, amid an explosive collision between tourists and locals.” Read more here. (https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-316-53698-1 )
The book: Send for Me by Lauren Fox (Knopf)
Recommended for: When you need reassurance that love has the ability to endure through even the toughest of times—and perhaps even through generations.
Our reviewer says: “Fox draws on old family letters for a poignant fictional memoir of her Jewish grandparents, who left Germany in 1938 with her mother and settled in Milwaukee. Annelise, the daughter of bakery owners in Feldenheim, Germany, is struggling with her own adolescence against the backdrop of rising anti-Semitism.” Read more here.
Recommended for: When you want to take a break from romantic love because love exists in many forms—like the boundless love a mother has for her child and the strength it takes to cultivate that bond.
Our reviewer says: “Hannah brings Dust Bowl migration to life in this riveting story of love, courage, and sacrifice.” Read more here.
Recommended for: When you’re tired of all the heteronormative cis couples that saturate the romance market and want the complete opposite of that.
Our reviewer says: “Peters’s sharp comedy charts the shifting dynamics of gender, relationships, and family as played out in three characters’ exploration of trans femininity.” Read more here.
The book: Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
Recommended for: When you want to take a deep dive into the racism and lack of representation in the entertainment industry and what it’s like to break into it as an Asian man.
Recommended for: When you want to understand what your friend is saying when they say they wish you knew how it feels to be part of a community but not look like you belong.
Our reviewer says: “Bennett explores a Louisiana family’s navigation of race, from the Jim Crow era through the 1980s, in this impressive work.” Read more here.
Recommended for: When you love the royalcore aesthetic but all the books you find are about Western European nobility and you want to pivot into the lushness of the Ottomans at their height.
Our reviewer says: “Shafak's rambling historical epic weaves its way through the rule of three sultans in 16th-century Istanbul.” Read more here.
Recommended for: Those days where you want your heart rate to go up but don’t feel like reading about people falling in love.
Our reviewer says: “Pearse’s engrossing debut boasts a highly atmospheric setting. Le Sommet, originally a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in the Swiss Alps, was abandoned for decades, until it was renovated as a luxury hotel.” Read more here.
The book: Luster by Raven Leilani (FSG)
Recommended for: When you’re looking for a Black woman who is actually the main character with a love interest, and not the problematic loud best friend sidekick.
Our reviewer says: “Leilani debuts with a moving examination of a young black woman’s economic desperation and her relationship to violence.” Read more here.