What’s that you say? You’ve already broken your resolution to read more in 2020? It’s not too late, and this month promises everything from big fat novels to big fat histories.
• “A Black Women’s History of the United States,” by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross (Feb. 4)
Two powerhouse historians give the black women who have been part of our country’s history their due. Their book addresses injustices, of course, but perhaps more important, it shows the many varied roles black women have inhabited, from enslaved people to beloved artists and stateswomen.
• “The Resisters: A Novel,” by Gish Jen (Feb. 4)
From its first page, Jen’s dystopian novel crackles with energy. Set in the near future, the story takes place in the new AutoAmerica, where the Netted live in luxury, while the Surplus struggle to earn their comforts. Unsettling yet light, funny yet meaningful, this book should keep you reading, then talking for months.
• “The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage,” by Mara Hvistendahl (Feb. 4)
Hvistendahl, a Pulitzer finalist who has covered China extensively, turns a 2011 case of Chinese trade spies into a riveting whodunit that delves into how nations protect their resources while still engaging in trade deals with rivals. You’ll learn a lot about China, but still more about the place it will hold in the global economy in the decades to come.
• “Verge: Stories,” by Lidia Yuknavitch (Feb. 4)
In her fiction (including “The Book of Joan”) and memoir (“The Chronology of Water”), Yuknavitch has established herself as a pied piper of misfits who will lead them not to doom, but to self-acceptance and compassion. Her new collection focuses on adults and children dealing with various forms of trauma.
• “American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI,” by Kate Winkler Dawson (Feb. 11)
Dawson (“Death in the Air”) returns with the tale of Edward Oscar Heinrich, a 1930s Berkeley, California-based forensic scientist who cracked at least 2,000 cases in his 40-year career. With a combination of brilliant investigative work and courtroom flair, Heinrich changed criminal investigations forever, and anyone fascinated by the myriad detective series and television shows about forensics will want to read it.
• “Franklin & Washington: The Founding Partnership,” by Edward J. Larson (Feb. 11)
Abolitionist Benjamin Franklin and slaveholder George Washington not only exemplify two strains of the American idea, but also collaborated for decades on its implementation. Pulitzer-winning historian Larson examines how two such different men could remain colleagues and friends from the French and Indian War through the ratification of the Constitution.
• “In the Land of Men: A Memoir,” by Adrienne Miller (Feb. 11)
Miller had a splendid career, moving from editing fiction at GQ to becoming the literary editor of Esquire and enjoying a close friendship with author David Foster Wallace before his death in 2008. Miller delivers a beautifully written, fiercely honest account of finding her way - and her voice - in a male-dominated industry.
• “Shuggie Bain: A Novel,” by Douglas Stuart (Feb. 11)
A debut novel that reads like a masterpiece, “Shuggie Bain” gives voice to the kind of helpless, hopeless love that children can feel toward broken parents. Shuggie and his mother live in a 1980s Glasgow subsidized-housing apartment tower, where she drinks and he explores his sexuality under circumstances that allow for scant imagination about a different future for either.
• “The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz,” by Erik Larson (Feb. 25)
Larson focuses on a single year in Winston Churchill’s life, the one that began on Sept. 1, 1939. On Churchill’s first day as prime minister of Great Britain, Adolf Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland and Belgium. The 12 months that followed illustrate the uncommon courage “Winnie” mustered to bind a nation together against a relentless enemy.
• “Apeirogon: A Novel,” by Colum McCann (Feb. 25)
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When an Israeli and a Palestinian both lose their daughters in different incidents of their region’s tragic violence, both become peace advocates. Based on real men and history, the novel bursts forth in short, numbered parts that allow for different kinds of media (including poetry, photographs and quotes).