THE WINTER MONTHS ARE UPON US, and temperatures continue to drop, making many of us dread even the idea of stepping outdoors. One of the best things to do at this time of year is get lost in a good book, blankets optional. Whether you pair it with tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, lounge in bed or curl up your couch, tweet lines as you go or keep it all to yourself, a pile of great books will be your solace. As you recover from difficult conversation over the holidays and prepare yourself for the year ahead, you can dip in and out of other lives, observe predictable pitfalls, and assure yourself that you would have made better decisions. Whether you enjoy short stories, humorous essays, family sagas, or reading to learn, there’s something in this list for you.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
Author of Bad Feminist, a collection of essays that explore pop culture and feminism, Roxane Gay brings us a collection of short stories in her January 2017 release. It is realistic yet experimental, both in form and subject matter. The stories give a view of the world that is only held by the women who live in it, knowing that it is built to harm them. In a review for The Guardian, Claire Kohda Hazelton says of Gay’s characters: “Each possesses a strength that enables them to escape, move on or distance themselves from difficult situations.”
Buy Difficult Womenhere.
I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
Luvvie Ajayi, also known as Awesomely Luvvie, is a hilarious blogger, tech genius, and self-proclaimed professional shade-thrower. She brings out the best in her followers with her interactive posts that seem to beg for funny commentary. I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual is a humorous essay collection that pokes at our habits and consumption of popular culture and social media while discussing serious issues like racism and sexism. Shonda Rhimes positively reviewed the books, saying: “This truth-riot of a book gives us everything from hilarious lectures on the bad behavior all around us to razor sharp essays on media and culture.”
Buy I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual here.
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Author of Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout delivers another story about an unlikely protagonist. Lucy has been separated from her family — a husband and two daughters — for weeks, hospitalized after an appendectomy with an undiagnosed illness. She is visited by her estranged mother who talks about the lives of people Lucy once knew. Strout weaves a story that shows the nuance in family relationships and the existence of love that is never articulated.
Buy My Name is Lucy Barton here.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Commonwealth is Ann Patchett’s seventh novel, and her characters linger in the minds of anyone daring to engage them. She sets everything up perfectly, beginning with a christening party that changes the trajectory of everyone’s lives. Patchett moves us through decades, places, and characters, drawing us in by the drama she weaves, sometimes with humor. In a review for The New York Times, Curtis Sittenfeld said: “Patchett’s language is generally plain but occasionally soars satisfyingly; her observations about people and life are insightful; and her underlying tone is one of compassion and amusement.”
Buy Commonwealth here.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Lee Duckworth
Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth — whose TedTalk of the same name has been viewed over nine million times — wrote this book to zero in on the importance of grit, positioning it as the key ingredient to success. She posits that it is more vital than talent, using her own story as an example along with research conducted through her character lab. Her language is not at all technical, making it accessible to teachers, scholars, parents, coaches, and people who are generally interested in education and success.
Buy Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance here.
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
In her debut novel, Jade Chang tells the story of a Chinese immigrant family headed by know-it-all Charles Wang, who arrived in the U.S. after World War II with no money and built a cosmetics empire. The Wang family was wealthy until the financial market crash of 2008, so they’ve gone from rags to riches, and back to rags. Chang somehow slipps humor into the story, and allows Mandarin phrases to stand alone — no translations. In the October 2016 edition of ELLE, Lisa Shea wrote: “With mischievous, Dickensian glee, Chang’s prose power-drives the appealingly dysfunctional family, now a disgrace to the wet dream of capitalism, through their postfall paces.”
Buy The Wangs vs. the World here.
This is a small selection from scores of beautiful, funny, intriguing, disturbing books recently published. If you’ve got other great titles on your TBR (to be read) list, let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to let us know what you think when you read any or all of our recommendations.