Back to Books: 35 New Reads for February

Hello, friends! It’s been a while since we last brought you a fresh batch of staff recs, but our booksellers are back and better than ever with this new roundup! Need some literary fiction that will transport you to a distant place and time? We’ve got you. A mystery-thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat? We have those too. An essay collection that will expand your worldview? Look no further. Have a browse and find a new book to love!

Recommended by Lindsay

After Sappho: A Novel By Selby Wynn Schwartz Cover ImageAfter Sappho: A Novel

I loved this strange book of vignettes about women throughout history who were inspired by Sappho’s work. For an optimal reading experience, I’d suggest pairing it with Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter; a nice cup of tea (or wine if that’s more your speed); and a soundtrack of your favorite queer melancholic artists.

Recommended by Mary Grey

In the Upper Country: A Novel By Kai Thomas Cover ImageIn the Upper Country: A Novel

A journalist makes a bargain with a jailed escaped slave to trade stories in order to get testimony that may save her from execution for the murder of a bounty hunter. Each story is worthy of its own book and details an underrepresented Civil War era—the interwoven history of Black and Indigenous people. Thomas’s lyrical writing tells the story of the Underground Railroad and the effort to form a free Black settlement in Canada.

Our January First Editions Club pick! Scroll to the bottom to read about the February pick.

Recommended by Cat

The Faraway World: Stories By Patricia Engel Cover ImageThe Faraway World: Stories

Patricia Engel is one of those writers who is able to pull you into a story in just a few sentences. It’s magic. This short story collection is some of her finest work as she weaves unique but thematically connected stories about migration, belonging, family, and so much more.

Recommended by Kathy

The Mitford Affair: A Novel By Marie Benedict Cover ImageThe Mitford Affair: A Novel

Once again, Marie Benedict tells the story of lesser known women in history, and this time it’s the wild Mitford sisters who flirted with fascism, Hitler and the Nazi Party in the 1930’s. It’s a fascinating tale with surprising relevance to today.

Recommended by Sarah

Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion: A Novel By Bushra Rehman Cover ImageRoses, in the Mouth of a Lion: A Novel

If you loved On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, you won’t want to miss this beautiful coming-of-age story. The atmosphere of 1980s Queens is rich, the writing is detailed and full, and Razia is one of the most authentic characters I’ve read. Vibrant and moving, this book transported me simultaneously to places I’ve never been and to my own adolescence. I loved it.

Recommended by Sissy

How to Sell a Haunted House By Grady Hendrix Cover ImageHow to Sell a Haunted House

Two estranged siblings find themselves back in Charleston, SC after the sudden death of their parents. Their childhood home is FILLED with puppets and dolls… and something else. What could go wrong? Terrifying and hilarious, you’ll love Hendrix’s latest heartwarming tale.

Recommended by Jenny

Hell Bent: A Novel (Alex Stern #2) By Leigh Bardugo Cover ImageHell Bent: A Novel (Alex Stern #2)

Alex Stern is back at Yale and she’s determined to save the Virgil to her Dante, Darlington, from the clutches of Hell. With a ragtag team of well-meaning miscreants, Alex has to face even bigger demons (literally and figuratively) than before. Who knew that an Ivy League education would be so otherworldly? If you’re looking for the epitome of spooky dark academia, look no further than Ninth House‘s action packed sequel.

Recommended by Patsy

Sam: A Novel By Allegra Goodman Cover ImageSam: A Novel

More than a simple coming-of-age story, Goodman’s Sam introduces a feisty 8 year-old girl who loves rock climbing. We follow Sam through her teen years, pulling for her all the while. The broader story is one of support and of failing each other, of alienation and belonging, and of belief in oneself in a complicated world.

Recommended by Hannah

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone: A Novel By Benjamin Stevenson Cover ImageEveryone in My Family Has Killed Someone: A Novel

Fans of Knives Out, Glass Onion, Agatha Christie, Clue, and any mysteries that are as clever as they are funny will delight in these pages. I laughed at Ernest’s narration and antics while sleuthing the intricate clues throughout. Easily a new favorite mystery novel!

Recommended by Jenny

Stone Blind: A Novel By Natalie Haynes Cover ImageStone Blind: A Novel

For those of a love of Greek mythology, A Thousand Ships‘ author Natalie Haynes returns with a gorgeous retelling of the story of Medusa. Growing up mortal and raised by Gorgons, Medusa’s life is a tangled web spun by the greedy and narcissistic gods and goddesses of Olympus. This tale takes readers on renewed journeys with classic favorites— all with a surprising twist.

Recommended by Marcia

Just the Nicest Couple By Mary Kubica Cover ImageJust the Nicest Couple

Attention, suspense readers! A surgeon leaves for work one morning after a fight with his wife and doesn’t come back home. Did he leave his marriage or has something more sinister happened? Who was the last person to see him and what do they know? I stayed up way too late reading this and have zero regrets about it. So good!

Recommended by Sarah

Lavender House: A Novel By Lev AC Rosen Cover ImageLavender House: A Novel

This is the queer Knives Out I didn’t know I needed. The characters are complex, the premise is unique, and the mystery is compelling, but what sets this whodunit apart is how immersed you’ll feel in 1950s San Francisco and what it was like to be queer at that time. The nuanced social commentary is just as important as the mystery itself. I can’t wait for the next P.I. Mills mystery!

Recommended by Katie

Sorry, Bro By Taleen Voskuni Cover ImageSorry, Bro

After her white tech-bro boyfriend botches the proposal, Nar decides to call her mom for help. And so our heroine finds herself forced to attend a month long “Explore Armenia” event with all the eligible Armenian men in the city. But things don’t go as planned, and Nar find herself exploring both her culture and her sexuality in this delightful sapphic romance.

Recommended by RJ

The Two Doctors Górski By Isaac Fellman Cover ImageThe Two Doctors Górski

The Two Doctors Górski is a dark and compelling novella about magic, mind-reading, and academic abuse about the damage we do to others when we can’t face ourselves.

Recommended by Chelsea

The Villa: A Novel By Rachel Hawkins Cover ImageThe Villa: A Novel

Rachel Hawkins is an automatic read for me because she writes compelling stories with twists galore. I really enjoyed the dual timelines and the exploration of who exactly defines the truth in stories. I also immediately wanted to travel to Italy upon finishing it, so this is a perfect escape for the gloomy winter days.

Recommended by Katie

Radiant Sin (Dark Olympus) By Katee Robert Cover ImageRadiant Sin (Dark Olympus)

I would follow Katee Robert anywhere. Truly. Radiant Sin is the most recent book in her Dark Olympus series, and in it we are treated to maybe one of my favorite duos, Apollo and Cassandra. If you love greek retellings, dark romance, and lots of steam, this series is for you!

Recommended by Jenness

Better the Blood By Michael Bennett Cover ImageBetter the Blood

A gripping debut thriller from a Maori author about heritage and identity, loyalty and responsibility. Detective Hana Westerman is a terrific character – flawed, moral, driven, and compassionate. This is a riveting (serial killer) story about ancestry, oppression, and the fight for justice.

Recommended by Cat

Decent People By De'Shawn Charles Winslow Cover ImageDecent People

There’s been a triple murder in the still-segregated small town of West Mills, North Carolina- three adult siblings shot to death in their home. As both Black and white members of the community contend with the fallout of the deaths and the gossip that swirls, we are taken into the narrative of the community members. This is as much a whodunnit as it is a story about community and its complexities.

Recommended by Hannah

Two Wrongs Make a Right (The Wilmot Sisters Series #1) By Chloe Liese Cover ImageTwo Wrongs Make a Right

What happens when two people who are totally wrong for each other get tricked into going on a date? They get revenge on their matchmaking friends, of course! But will these two aDORKable secret softies catch feelings? As always, Liese delivers on excellent representation and lovable characters. This swoony, steamy novel is endlessly endearing… prepare to fall hard for Jamie & Bea!

Our February Between the Covers Romance Book Club pick! Sign up for the BtC email newsletter here.

Recommended by Aly

Ghost Music By An Yu Cover ImageGhost Music

By An Yu

Set in modern day China, a young woman is haunted in more ways than one: by her husband’s lies, by her mother-in-law’s presence, and by the talking mushrooms that visit her dreams. This book artfully captures the feeling of just trying to hold onto something that may have never been there in the first place.

Recommended by Ann

A Left-Handed Woman: Essays By Judith Thurman Cover ImageA Left-Handed Woman: Essays

A Left-Handed Woman is a treasure trove of brilliant essays about smart and compelling women written by the smart and compelling Judith Thurman. Buy this for anyone you admire (including yourself).

Recommended by Ann

Reckoning By V (formerly Eve Ensler) Cover ImageReckoning

V has taken the unimaginable abuse of her childhood and turned it into poetry, into plays, into forgiveness, and mostly, into action. She means to make the world a safer place for women, and I daresay she’s done more actual good on this front than just about anyone else. Reckoning is both necessary and electrifying.

Recommended by Ann

Losing Kay: Living and Dying with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy By Keith B. Simmons Cover ImageLosing Kay: Living and Dying with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

Losing Kay is open and loving and direct, full of certainty and doubt. It’s a wonderful record of love and endurance, and a generous field guide for anyone facing a similar path.

Recommended by Ann

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story By Bono Cover ImageSurrender: 40 Songs, One Story

By Bono

Like the man himself, the book is ridiculously entertaining and full of surprises. Loyalty, philanthropy, and re-invention are just a few of his hallmarks. A wild, engulfing ride.

Recommended by Sarah

How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures By Sabrina Imbler Cover ImageHow Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures

Wholly original, astonishingly informative, and powerfully written. Imbler describes marine life with reverence and compelling detail, and deftly intertwines the lives of the sea creatures with stories of their own experiences with gender, queerness, and identity.

Recommended by Ashby

The Written World And The Unwritten World: Essays By Italo Calvino Cover ImageThe Written World And The Unwritten World: Essays

I fell in love with Italo Calvino in college. This collection brought us back together. Each piece made me feel like a doe-eyed college student listening to a lecture by a favorite professor. He argues for translating texts rather than reading ones translated by others. He makes me want to live in his world, “a world made up of horizontal lines…” even if it means learning Italian.

Recommended by Katie

“You Just Need to Lose Weight”: And 19 Other Myths About Fat People (Myths Made in America) By Aubrey Gordon Cover Image“You Just Need to Lose Weight”: And 19 Other Myths About Fat People (Myths Made in America)

Aubrey Gordon is an absolute queen and one of the most interesting and diligent researchers in the field of fat studies. Fans of Your Fat Friend and Maintenance Phase will not be disappointed with her most recent book. And while you might still want to hurl expletives at perpetuators of fat-phobia in your daily life, this book at least arms you with quality research to throw as well.

Recommended by Patsy

The Bread Book: 60 artisanal recipes for the home baker (from the author of The Larousse Book of Bread) By Éric Kayser Cover ImageThe Bread Book: 60 Artisanal Recipes for the Home Baker

Attention pandemic bakers, pre-pandemic bakers, and all bread lovers: this gorgeous cookbook is for you. Renowned Parisian baker Eric Kayser offers his recipes and techniques for classic loaves (baguette, boule, brioche), ones composed of ancient grains, and breads stuffed with cheese, olives, fruits and nuts. Novice and experienced bakers alike will savor this collection down to the very last crumb.

Recommended by Ashby

Dinner with the President: Food, Politics, and a History of Breaking Bread at the White House By Alex Prud'homme Cover ImageDinner with the President: Food, Politics, and a History of Breaking Bread at the White House

Anyone who has written WITH and about Julia Child doesn’t need to convince me of his value as a writer. Prud’homme offers the history of food at the White House, the ways in which food plays a significant role in the personal lives of Presidents and State Dinners. Meals bring friends and enemies together and the scenes Prud’homme depicts have you seated to the right of the President.

Recommended by Sydney

Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now By Doryun Chong (Editor), Mika Yoshitake (Editor) Cover ImageYayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now

By Doryun Chong (Editor), Mika Yoshitake (Editor)

Introduced to me as the Princess of Polka Dots, Yayoi Kusama remains one of my all time favorite contemporary artists. Summing up seven decades of an artist’s career is no easy feat, but the M+ museum (home to several Kusama exhibitions) does a heck of a job.

Recommended by Jake

Bluets By Maggie Nelson Cover ImageBluets

“Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.” So begins Maggie Nelson’s modern classic Bluets, a lyrical blend of prose and poetry into an inimitable genre-bursting essay. Deeply affecting and breathtakingly original, Bluets is one of my favorite things ever written.

Recommended by Sissy

The Perfect Marriage: A Completely Gripping Psychological Suspense By Jeneva Rose Cover ImageThe Perfect Marriage

I stumbled upon Jeneva on TikTok… and bought her book because of her hilarious readings of harsh criticisms from her “pen-pal” Scott. The plot is twisty and FUN. It’s a wild ride and I’m so glad Scott wrote to her with his lame opinions. I now have a new favorite mystery author!

Recommended by Patsy

Hotel Splendide By Ludwig Bemelmans Cover ImageHotel Splendide

These keenly observed character sketches transport us to the 1920s luxury hotel and restaurant world with wit, charm, and acerbity. Beloved author of the Madeline series Ludwig Bemelmans paints portraits of over-sized characters from his days working at the Ritz Hotel in New York. Pure delight!

Recommended by Maddie

Nightbitch: A Novel By Rachel Yoder Cover ImageNightbitch: A Novel

Nightbitch is absolutely everything I want in a book. Brutal reflections on motherhood and loss of identity, all told through the lense of a deliciously absurd plot. Like a modern-day “Yellow Wallpaper.”

First Editions Club: February Selection

The Sun Walks Down: A Novel By Fiona McFarlane Cover ImageThe Sun Walks Down: A Novel

By Fiona McFarlane

Dear friends,

It’s hard to imagine someone not falling headlong into Fiona McFarlane’s The Sun Walks Down. I was completely in its thrall from page one. The story begins simply enough: on a very dry, hot day in the outback of Australia, the Wallace sisters have gone to a wedding, leaving their mother and little brother back on the farm. A dust storm blows up unexpectedly, the little boy, Denny, gets turned around, and because of that, everyone in the town of Fairly gets turned around.

Each character brings his or her own perspective to the story of the child who has wandered off, and each has a particular interest in the outcome: the policemen, the artists, the mother, the trackers, the newlyweds, the minister, the father, the sisters. Some of them long to be the hero of the story, others only want to save the child, while others find the whole situation a massive inconvenience. While they dither and plot and strive, Denny trudges further and further into the scorched landscape. The only person who can see the entire picture is the reader, which means you won’t be able to take your eyes off the page for fear of losing the boy.

This is a book that’s stayed with me. Its richness and urgency make it indelible. Here’s the quote I wrote for the jacket: “The Sun Walks Down is the book I’m always longing to find – brilliant, fresh and compulsively readable. It is marvelous. I loved it start to finish.”


Ann Patchett

More about our First Editions Club: Every member receives a first edition of the selected book of the month, signed by the author. Books are carefully chosen by our staff of readers, and our picks have gone on to earn major recognition including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Plus, there’s no membership fee or premium charge for these books. Build a treasured library of signed first editions and always have something great to read! Makes a FABULOUS gift, too.