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Never fear, our contributors are here to topple your December To-Be-Read stacks with their new release recommendations! Whether we’ve read them and can’t wait to see them on the shelves, or we’ve heard tell of their excellence in the book world and have been (not-so) patiently waiting to get our hot little hands on them, these are the new titles we’re watching our libraries and bookstores for this month.
What books are you looking forward to in December? Let us know in the comments below!
Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak (December 5, Bloomsbury USA): I am a sucker for a tale told over the course of a single day. I see it as an exercise for a writer to be able to spin a complicated, nuanced tale without the benefit of the freedom that time allows. On her way to a dinner party in Istanbul, Peri’s purse is grabbed and out falls a photograph featuring three women and their professor. The journey that night is where dark forces converge and big questions are asked. We learn more about those three women, their professor, and the elements that brought their worlds together.
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden (December 5, Del Rey): This is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy by Arden, a gorgeous retelling of Russian folktales. Historical fiction is a genre I hardly ever read, and I got completely sucked into this world. Arden’s writing is super descriptive and lyrical and Vasya is the kind of independent woman we need. After running into burnt and pillaged towns overtaken by rebels, Vasya becomes a hero and takes on the persona of Vasilii, a male. She also has a complicated relaysh with an ice demon and her fam has some serious drama. Have I convinced you yet?
Moral Combat by R. Marie Griffith (December 12, Basic Books): Many of the most divisive political issues of our day–birth control, abortion, gay marriage, transgender rights–have to do with sex. In Moral Combat, Griffith argues that these conflicts originated in the 1920s, when the Christian consensus about gender roles and sexual morality began to shift. Liberal protestants departed from the traditional teachings of fundamentalists and Catholics, and thus the culture wars were born. This history sheds light on these long-standing political battles and why we can’t seem to get past them.
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (December 5, Algonquin Books): A finalist for the 2017 Man Booker Prize, Elmet is a dark fairy tale, about a family living an idyllic solitary life in the woods, until a local landowner arrives on their doorstep and sets in motion a chain of events that threaten their happy existence and ends in catastrophe. It’s wildly imaginative and powerful. And dark. Did I mention it’s dark?
The Highland Guardian by Amy Jarecki (December 19, Forever): Third in Jarecki’s Lords of the Highland series, this book follows Captain Reid MacKenzie (who we met in book two) as he becomes the guardian of his dear friend’s daughter, Audrey. Surprisingly, Audrey isn’t a babe or young girl, but a woman of marriageable age who has an aversion to dancing but a panache for the harpsichord. Seriously complex and historically detailed, this book kept amazing me with its unassuming tenderness and sweeping prose.
A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev (December 26, Kensington Publishing): When the weather gets cold, I like to stay under my blankets and devour romance novels. I loved Sonali Dev’s book The Bollywood Bride, but this new romance intrigues me even more. It features a relationship between a girl with a mysterious illness who can’t leave her home’s germ free environment and the boy who washes her family’s windows in Mumbai. It sounds like a sexy, Indian version of Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, and I am so here for it!
The Dark Lord’s Daughter by Patricia C. Wrede (December 31, Random House): Ms. Wrede! We’ve missed your voice. We need your comedy, especially in this year. Readers, this book seems to be about the titular character inheriting a derelict evil kingdom. This can only be hilarious and insightful. I hope this provides more of the loving pokes at fantasy cliches and tropes, the way Dealing With Dragons did with Princess Cimorene running away to become a dragon’s cook and confidante. I cannot wait to read another fantasy adventure from this fabulous author.
Misfit City Vol. 1 by Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith, Kurt Lustgarten, and Naomi Franquiz (December 19, BOOM! Box): I became an instant fan of Misfit City when they released the first issue back in May. As a child of the ‘80s, I couldn’t help but be wooed by this clear homage to The Goonies. In this version, however, the group of misfit kids is made up of a bunch of kick-ass, talented, and smart young ladies. The full trade paperback is being released in December, and I cannot wait to own the full collection all in one volume. I will tenderly flip through its pages and think fondly back to the time when I was first introduced to these misfits.
Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey (December 5, Orbit): Persepolis Rising is the seventh book in The Expanse series and, like its predecessors, I have been waiting for it on the edge of my mental seat since finishing the previous installment. The continuing adventures of James Holden, Naomi Nagata, Amos Burton, Alex Kamal, Chrisjen Avasarala, Bobbie Draper, and an ever growing, ever rotating cast of diverse, compelling, and fascinating characters, are always a highlight of my reading year. The story keeps getting bigger and, improbably, better, somehow managing to meld intimate, personal narrative with a sprawling space opera I credit for bringing me back to hard sci-fi.
James Wallace Harris
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929-1963 (December 19, Recorded Books): I’ve been waiting for years for an audiobook edition of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame. It is the most popular science fiction anthology of short stories ever — just look at GoodReads list of Best Science Fiction Anthologies. The stories were selected by the Science Fiction Writers of America when they voted on their all-time favorite short stories. Robert Silverberg edited the original print edition in 1970. I love hearing science fiction read by professional narrators but most shorter works never get the audiobook treatment. So I’m anxiously awaiting to hear these 26 classic science fiction tales.
No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin (December 5, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): I’m sure Ursula K. Le Guin needs no introduction. She’s one of my absolute favorite writers. Best known for her SFF, what you may not realize is she’s also a fantastic essay writer. I’ve re-read The Wave and the Mind quite a few times, and even assigned some of the essays to my college students. No Time to Spare collects essays from her blog. I keep up a bit with the blog, though not habitually, and what I can tell you is that these essays are likely to be saucy and politically engaged. Le Guin is an activist, and she gets angry (an elegant, well-thought angry, unlike my own anger). I’m also expecting some essays about her beloved cat Pard (or ‘by,’ because she writes these as if she were Pard!).
A Lady in Shadows by Lene Kaaberbøl (December 5, Atria Books): If you love historical mysteries, have I got the book for you! A Lady in Shadows takes place in 1894 Varbourg, France, where a young prostitute is murdered and rumors fly that Jack the Ripper has made his way across the Channel. But aspiring medical student Madeleine Karno has her doubts. I have to confess I thought the identity of the killer was a little too obvious, not to mention convenient. But I really did feel like I was transported to the late 19th century, and it was refreshing to read a book set in France outside of Paris. I loved Madeline and how she constantly pushed back against the goddamn patriarchy in her own way. And don’t even get me started on her fiancé, who is legit awesome. I can’t wait for more of these books to be translated into English.
This is Not A Valentine by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins (December 26, Chronicle): I loved everything about this book. Carter Higgins writes about different types of love in gorgeous prose, perfectly matched with Lucy Ruth Cummin’s charming illustrations. This is a picture book, but I plan to give a copy to my husband.
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (December 5, Gallery Books): Tiffany Haddish stole the show every time she walked into a scene on The Carmichael Show and with her character in Girls Trip. I love watching the internet cheer for her as her star rises so I’m really excited to read her essay collection. (I’m 40% through and I love that it’s 100% in her voice and feels like her telling you these stories, many heartbreaking, at a bar.)
Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard (December 12, Liveright): Mary Beard is a professor of classics who has written about what it’s like to be a woman with opinions in the public sphere. Now she’s here with a book on the subject. Women and Power looks at the ancient roots of misogyny and how it manifests itself today, especially in online contexts.
In the Fall They Come Back by Robert Bausch (December 12, Bloomsbury): I’m a sucker for good books about prep schools, and this fit the bill. It follows an idealistic new teacher fresh out of grad school who thinks he can save his students – except that mindset gets awfully problematic. Complex, layered, with well-developed characters – the level of skill it takes to write a book like this is admirable, and it’s evident in the writing.
Shadow Girl by Liana Liu (December 19, HarperTeen): I’m always here for anything Crimson Peak/Turn of The Screw/Jane Eyre-adjacent, making this shoot up to the top of my TBR. Mei is a contemporary teen girl who takes a job tutoring the daughter of a wealthy family in what turns out to be a maybe-haunted house. Add in family secrets, a brooding love interest, and bumps in the night, and you’ve got this highly anticipated December release!
Enchantress of Number by Jennifer Chiaverini (December 5, Dutton): Ada Lovelace is the world’s first computer programmer and the only legitimate child of English poet Lord Byron. Ada’s mother was a mathematician who was determined to keep Ada from following in her father’s footsteps. Ada’s destiny and her place in history is set when she befriends inventor, Charles Babbage. She helps him realize his vision while passionately studying mathematics, falling in love, and discovers the cause of her parents’ estranged relationship.
Dance With Me by Alexis Daria (December 12, Swerve): Alexis Daria captured all of our hearts really quickly with her heartfelt, heartwarming debut, Take The Lead. Dance With Me, the second in the duology, follows Natasha and Dimitri, a dancer and judge on a Dancing With The Stars-esque reality dance competition show. The couple has an on-again-off-again sexual relationship, but a bout of close proximity introduces them to each other in a different way, and some new sparks fly. After Take The Lead pulled my heart apart and tied it back together in the best way, I can’t wait to see how many tears (of joy, of overwhelming emotion) I’ll shed when I’ve finally finished this one.
Algedonic by r.h. Sin (December 12, Andrews McMeel Publishing): Lately I’ve been wanting to read more poetry. A friend gifted me a collection by a local artist and I devoured it in a single sitting, reigniting my love for this art form. This collection by African-American poet r.h. Sin has caught my eye because of the gorgeous cover and its discussion of the dichotomies of pleasure and pain. The subject matter and his Florida upbringing instantly reminded me of Moonlight, a film that had a profound effect on me last year. The icing on the cake was this quote from the collection that I found on a GoodReads review,
“she found heaven
in a bookstore
she got lost
in the pages.”