R29 Reads: The Books We’re Picking Up This February

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Love it or loathe it, once February rolls around, romance is on the cards. The pandemic might have cancelled your plans for an overpriced meal for two but Valentine’s Day is still very much happening, which is making us dive into the pages of a romance. Whether you first felt your heart flutter reading Romeo & Juliet or Call Me By Your Name, the power of a great love story can’t be underestimated and the classics have it in spades.

If you fancy diving into a new romantic tale this month, you’ll be happy to know that 2021 is providing the goods in the form of a new novel surrounding two young Black British people falling in love in south London. However, if you would rather sidestep any mention of romance this February, our list has plenty of non V-Day-related reading material too. From a factual read discussing the dangerously distracting power of the internet to a novel set during the Great Depression, there's something for everyone this February.

To take a look at everything R29 staff are reading this month, click through the slideshow ahead…

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

<strong>Sadhbh O’Sullivan, Health and Living Writer</strong><br><br><strong>Book: </strong><em>No One Is Talking About This</em> by Patricia Lockwood<br><br><strong>Why is it your February read? </strong>If you, like me, spent a big part of the 2010s having the voice in your head be slowly poisoned by Twitter Humour, starting Patricia Lockwood’s debut novel is like a slap in the face. Following the life of a woman who is famous on – and in many ways lives through – what she calls the 'portal', it’s a self-aware, almost too self-referential look at how one particular social media site can wind its way into the way we think, talk and see the world, and how that perspective can be shattered when real life intervenes. When I started the book I almost found it to be too much but got quickly drawn in. By the end, it made me cry.<br><br><strong>Patricia Lockwood</strong> No One Is Talking About This, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/no-one-is-talking-about-this/9781526629760" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Sadhbh O’Sullivan, Health and Living Writer

Book: No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

Why is it your February read? If you, like me, spent a big part of the 2010s having the voice in your head be slowly poisoned by Twitter Humour, starting Patricia Lockwood’s debut novel is like a slap in the face. Following the life of a woman who is famous on – and in many ways lives through – what she calls the 'portal', it’s a self-aware, almost too self-referential look at how one particular social media site can wind its way into the way we think, talk and see the world, and how that perspective can be shattered when real life intervenes. When I started the book I almost found it to be too much but got quickly drawn in. By the end, it made me cry.

Patricia Lockwood No One Is Talking About This, $, available at bookshop.org
<strong>Jessica Morgan, Staff Writer </strong><br><br><strong>Book: </strong><em>Open Water</em> by Caleb Azumah Nelson<br><br><strong>Why is it your February read? </strong>It’s been a really, really long time since a novel, especially a debut, stopped me in my tracks. <em>Open Water</em> is one of those books. It tells the story of two young Black British people falling in love in south London. Both went to private school where they struggled to belong, and are now artists — he a photographer, she a dancer. <br><br>A devastating love affair unfolds between these two friends who are trying to navigate a world that doesn’t see them. Nelson's lyrical prose explores the vulnerability and raw complexities of love while paying homage to Black art, with references to James Baldwin and musical artists such as J Dilla setting the backdrop for this intensely moving story. It’s one of the most beautiful novels I’ve ever read, impossible to put down even as it made my heart ache. Just stunning. <br><br><strong>Caleb Azumah Nelson</strong> Open Water, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/open-water/9780241448779" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Jessica Morgan, Staff Writer

Book: Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Why is it your February read? It’s been a really, really long time since a novel, especially a debut, stopped me in my tracks. Open Water is one of those books. It tells the story of two young Black British people falling in love in south London. Both went to private school where they struggled to belong, and are now artists — he a photographer, she a dancer.

A devastating love affair unfolds between these two friends who are trying to navigate a world that doesn’t see them. Nelson's lyrical prose explores the vulnerability and raw complexities of love while paying homage to Black art, with references to James Baldwin and musical artists such as J Dilla setting the backdrop for this intensely moving story. It’s one of the most beautiful novels I’ve ever read, impossible to put down even as it made my heart ache. Just stunning.

Caleb Azumah Nelson Open Water, $, available at bookshop.org
<strong>Jess Commons, Lifestyle Director</strong><br><br><strong>Book: </strong><em>The Four Winds</em> by Kristin Hannah<br><br><strong>Why is it your February read?</strong> Kristin Hannah is best known for her international hit <em>The Nightingale</em> about the German occupation of France (currently being turned into a film starring Elle and Dakota Fanning). But her back catalogue (there’s a <em>lot</em>) covers all sorts of historical moments, from 1970s off-grid Alaska to the siege of Leningrad – all through the gaze of young women. <em>The Four Winds</em> takes on the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in the 1930s as Elsa Martinelli makes the difficult decision to stay and fight for her land or move west to California. Hannah’s books are <em>long</em> so if you’re looking to get your money’s worth on this month’s Audible credit (20+ hours? Yes please), this could be it.<br><br><strong>Kristin Hannah</strong> The Four Winds, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/the-four-winds-9781529054569/9781529054569" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Jess Commons, Lifestyle Director

Book: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Why is it your February read? Kristin Hannah is best known for her international hit The Nightingale about the German occupation of France (currently being turned into a film starring Elle and Dakota Fanning). But her back catalogue (there’s a lot) covers all sorts of historical moments, from 1970s off-grid Alaska to the siege of Leningrad – all through the gaze of young women. The Four Winds takes on the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in the 1930s as Elsa Martinelli makes the difficult decision to stay and fight for her land or move west to California. Hannah’s books are long so if you’re looking to get your money’s worth on this month’s Audible credit (20+ hours? Yes please), this could be it.

Kristin Hannah The Four Winds, $, available at bookshop.org
<strong>Georgia Murray, Fashion Editor</strong><br><br><strong>Book: </strong><em>Let Me Tell You What I Mean</em> by Joan Didion<br><br><strong>Why is it your February read? </strong>A new collection gathering essays written in the early years of her career, I can’t wait to get stuck into the inimitable Didion’s musings on everything from Gamblers Anonymous meetings and a Las Vegas reunion of WWII vets to Martha Stewart and Robert Mapplethorpe. Spanning politics, her own writing process, self-doubt and, of course, California, if it’s anything like the rest of Didion’s sharp, wise and witty work, it’ll be a welcome retreat from lockdown life. <br><br><strong>Joan Didion</strong> Let Me Tell You What I Mean, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/let-me-tell-you-what-i-mean/9780008451752" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Georgia Murray, Fashion Editor

Book: Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion

Why is it your February read? A new collection gathering essays written in the early years of her career, I can’t wait to get stuck into the inimitable Didion’s musings on everything from Gamblers Anonymous meetings and a Las Vegas reunion of WWII vets to Martha Stewart and Robert Mapplethorpe. Spanning politics, her own writing process, self-doubt and, of course, California, if it’s anything like the rest of Didion’s sharp, wise and witty work, it’ll be a welcome retreat from lockdown life.

Joan Didion Let Me Tell You What I Mean, $, available at bookshop.org
<strong>Alicia Lansom, Editorial Assistant</strong><br><br><strong>Book: </strong><em>Asylum Road</em> by Olivia Sudjic<strong><br><br>Why is it your February read? </strong>As soon as a colleague started speaking about this book, I knew it was something I wanted to read. Discussing one woman's relationship with her own identity, the story follows Anya as she returns to Sarajevo for the first time since fleeing as a child in the 1980s. Although there to announce her recent engagement to fiancé Luke, she soon begins to uncover details of her past and questions the relationships and boundaries that have existed both physically and metaphorically throughout her life. Looking at trauma through a timely lens, this book looks to be a powerful and thought-provoking read. <br><br><strong>Olivia Sudjic</strong> Asylum Road, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/asylum-road-9781526617385/9781526617385" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Alicia Lansom, Editorial Assistant

Book: Asylum Road by Olivia Sudjic

Why is it your February read?
As soon as a colleague started speaking about this book, I knew it was something I wanted to read. Discussing one woman's relationship with her own identity, the story follows Anya as she returns to Sarajevo for the first time since fleeing as a child in the 1980s. Although there to announce her recent engagement to fiancé Luke, she soon begins to uncover details of her past and questions the relationships and boundaries that have existed both physically and metaphorically throughout her life. Looking at trauma through a timely lens, this book looks to be a powerful and thought-provoking read.

Olivia Sudjic Asylum Road, $, available at bookshop.org
<strong>Vicky Spratt, Features Editor </strong><br><br><strong>Book: </strong><em>The Disconnect: A Personal Journey Through the Internet</em> by Roisin Kiberd<br><br><strong>Why is it your February read? </strong>Daily, I weigh up the pros and cons of the internet. We are more connected than ever. There are many reasons why that’s good. But how far has it taken us away from who we really are, from who we really want to be? It’s sharp, sad and funny: I got lost in the chapter about dystopian yet alluring night gyms and felt both angry and vindicated in the chapter about online dating. If you, like me, have ever had to cut yourself off from an endless scroll and then felt the existential weight of being at once plugged into and removed from the rest of the world, then this book is for you.<br><br><strong>Roisin Kiberd</strong> The Disconnect: A Personal Journey Through the Internet, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/the-disconnect-a-personal-journey-through-the-internet/9781788165778" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Vicky Spratt, Features Editor

Book: The Disconnect: A Personal Journey Through the Internet by Roisin Kiberd

Why is it your February read? Daily, I weigh up the pros and cons of the internet. We are more connected than ever. There are many reasons why that’s good. But how far has it taken us away from who we really are, from who we really want to be? It’s sharp, sad and funny: I got lost in the chapter about dystopian yet alluring night gyms and felt both angry and vindicated in the chapter about online dating. If you, like me, have ever had to cut yourself off from an endless scroll and then felt the existential weight of being at once plugged into and removed from the rest of the world, then this book is for you.

Roisin Kiberd The Disconnect: A Personal Journey Through the Internet, $, available at bookshop.org

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