The 10 Books You Should Be Reading This January
Some espionage, some architecture and some creepy tales for the colder months
How are you kicking off your 2023? Maybe you’re looking to have a more productive year or learn something new about science or technology. Or perhaps you’re just looking to find somewhere cozy to sit down with a compelling story. We’ve got all of those bases covered with this list of 10 books due out this month — ranging from thrilling novels to mind-expanding works of nonfiction.
Suzie Sheehy, The Matter of Everything: How Curiosity, Physics, and Improbable Experiments Changed the World (Jan. 10)
Read enough science writing and you’re liable to hear about a host of experiments and breakthroughs in physics, each of which helps us get a better understanding of the world in which we live. But for a layperson, it can sometimes be difficult to understand exactly what’s happening in those experiments — or precisely how you’d observe a subatomic particle. Hence Suzie Sheehy’s new book, which helps to demystify those very concerns — and reminds us of what they can reveal.
Bret Easton Ellis, The Shards (Jan. 17)
Bret Easton Ellis has made a name for himself as one of the most discussed writers of his generation, with several acclaimed books to his credit and something of a reputation for provocation to boot. His new novel The Shards ventures into territory that’s at once familiar and unpredictable for him. He’s revisiting early-80s Los Angeles via a character who shares a few crucial details with his author — but there’s also a serial killer in the mix. This might not be the 80s nostalgia you were expecting.
Erika Bolstad, Windfall: The Prairie Woman Who Lost Her Way and the Great-Granddaughter Who Found Her (Jan, 17)
What happens when a journalist who’s made a career out of writing about the outdoors explores her own family’s relationship to the environment? Erika Boldstad has been working on the book that became Windfall for a long time, and it has an inherently compelling hook: she’s using her own great-grandmother’s history with oil in North Dakota to explore that state’s fraught relationship with the boom-and-bust cycles of the oil industry.
Paul Goldberger, Why Architecture Matters: Revised Edition (Jan. 31)
When it comes to architecture, Paul Goldberg has a fantastic sense of the issues at stake and the visionaries who create it. He’s received a Pulitzer Prize for his writings on the subject, in fact. This year brings with it a revised edition of his book Why Architecture Matters, which offers a detailed look into specific architects and spaces that have made a difference in people’s lives.
Sean Adams, The Thing in the Snow (Jan. 3)
There’s something about unnerving stories set in the cold that makes them that much creepier. (Exhibit A: a certain John Carpenter film starring Kurt Russell.) Sean Adams’s new novel ventures into similarly uncanny territory, telling the story of a research outpost in the midst of a frigid climate and the minimal staff tasked with keeping it running. What happens when a bizarre object shows up with little indication of its origins? If you think that tensions might ratchet up, well, you’re not wrong.
Jamie Kreiner, The Wandering Mind: What Medieval Monks Tell Us about Distraction (Jan. 3)
Unless you have phenomenal self-control, distraction is probably something that you’re contending with on a regular basis. Whether it’s the demands of family or push notifications on your phone, it can be hard to focus on any number of things. Jamie Kreiner’s new book offers an unexpected point of reference for this nominally-modern condition: monks living hundreds of years ago. How they experienced and contended with distraction might surprise you; it could also be the key to a less distracted 2023.
Will Self, Why Read: Selected Writings 2001-2021 (Jan. 17)
Whether he’s writing stylistically innovative fiction or expanding the boundaries of what nonfiction can do, Will Self has established himself as a singular and influential writer over the last few decades. The new collection Why Read offers readers highlights from 20 years of his work, with Self covering subjects ranging from George Orwell to Chernobyl. It’s a fine introduction to a major literary voice.
Kashana Cauley, The Survivalists (Jan. 10)
Kashana Cauley’s bibliography spans fiction, nonfiction and work for television. (This included writing for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, who’s among this novel’s blurbers.) Her debut novel follows an ambitious lawyer who finds herself enmeshed in the world of doomsday preppers. Things get even more surreal — and more resonant to the present moment — from there.
Megan Garber, On Misdirection: Magic, Mayhem, American Politics (Jan. 10)
There are a number of ways you might find yourself thinking about misdirection these days. Maybe you’re watching a magic trick; maybe you’re thinking about the plot of a murder mystery. In her new essay collection, Megan Garber offers a deep dive into the practice and use of misdirection — and of how it can have applications on the grandest stages of all.
Jim Popkin, Code Name Blue Wren: The True Story of America’s Most Dangerous Female Spy — And the Sister She Betrayed (Jan. 3)
What makes someone engage in espionage? And what makes someone else, from a wildly similar background, engage in a completely different approach to life? Jim Popkin’s new book explores the case of a Pentagon analyst jailed for spying for Cuba — and contrasts her with her siblings, who were career FBI agents. If you think that has all the ingredients for a memorable work of nonfiction, you are correct.
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