The Best Books Of February Are All Right Here

Elizabeth Kiefer

After the longest January we can remember (who allowed a month to have five Mondays, am I right?), February is here. And with it, a whole new batch of books to curl up with while the sun still sets early, and the temperatures still hover a few degrees too low.

Book-lovers, you’re in luck. February holds gems from debut novelists, seasoned writers, and a memoirst whose story you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Specifically, we’re talking about Tara Westover’s Educated, in which she recalls her childhood in an off-the-grid, very religious household, and how she pursued a PhD despite not having stepped into a classroom until she was 17. Two of February’s novels about college-aged women function as the perfect fictional follow-ups to Educated. In Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi, our highly intellectual protagonist goes on an international romp in pursuit of higher knowledge. And in Akwaeke Emezi’s stunning debut, Freshwater, a woman travels to America from Nigeria for college – and the spirits that live inside her mind awaken and come along with her.

So, without further ado, here are the books we’re excited for in February. Our official book club pick is An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

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Back Talk

By Danielle Lazarin

The women and girls in Danielle Lazarin’s excellent short story collection don’t need you to tell them who they are. They know who they are — it’s the whole life and relationships stuff they haven’t quite figured out yet. There is a girl whose heart is stretched from mourning her mother, and falling in love. There is an unnamed teenager, caught between forces of masculine aggression. There are sisters whose mutual understanding verges on psychic. Lazarin’s trove of protagonists, ranging in age, circumstance, and city, will speak to a different part of you.

Out February 6

An American Marriage

By Tayari Jones

Read this book, sure — just prepare to fling it across the room in frustration, and in empathy, for the sheer difficulty of each main character’s situation. It’s a year into their marriage, and Celestial and Roy are still in that dreamy, young lovers phase when the future stretches boundlessly before them. Then, during an evening stay at a motel, Roy is wrongly accused of rape and later sentenced to 12 years in prison in Louisiana. While he’s locked up and in standstill, Celestial’s life keeps going: Her work as an artist takes off, and she sees her relationship with her old best friend in a new light. And then, Roy comes home, all ready to resume their life together. Can she? Debate freely at your next book club.

Out February 6

Force of Nature

By Jane Harper

If you’re the kind of person who relishes gossiping about coworkers, then Force of Nature will appeal to you in some deep, primal way. The entire book is essentially coworker drama — mixed in with a dramatic disappearance in the Australian bush. A randomly selected group of employees sets off on a corporate wilderness retreat far outside of Melbourne. The female group returns hours later, and without Alice Martin. Flipping between the perspective of police agent Aaron Falk and the actual events of the trip, Harper will keep readers taut from endless cliffhangers. Force of Nature is the kind of crime novel that will appeal to everyone.

Out February 8

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death

By Maggie O’Farrell

In this memoir, Maggie O’Farrell catalogues in undramatic, even-keeled prose, her 17 distinct brushes with death. There was an encounter with a serial killer in an abandoned town in Scotland, and the time she jumped off a coastal cliff as a teenager, and 15 more close calls. While the memoir is stark in its subject matter, its effect is just the opposite. It makes you realise the preciousness of life. The value in each passing second that is yours. This memoir will change your perception of life.

Out February 6


By Lisa Halliday

A young woman having an unexpected, surprisingly tender affair with an older, Pulitzer Prize-winning author in New York, soon after 9/11. An Iraqi-American man detained at an airport in 2008. An interview between a luminary thinker nearing the end of his life. In her stunning debut novel, Lisa Halliday places three storylines in close proximity, leading to fascinating contrasts. After reading only a few sentences of her intelligent prose (and that dialogue!), you’ll be itching for her next novel, whenever it should come.

Out February 8

Feel Free

By Zadie Smith

General tip: When Zadie Smith publishes something, read it. Feel Free is Smith’s take on contemporary culture. In this essay collection, she applies her wit and incisive perspective to creators, like Beyonce and Joni Mitchell, places, like Manhattan and London, and phenomena, like rap music and British politics. You’ll come away from the book feeling like you understand the world just a little bit more.

Out February 8

She Regrets Nothing

By Andrea Dunlop

At her mother's funeral, Laila discovers the existence of a glitzy, breezy world of wealth – and that she's related to it. Laila's three cousins, Liberty, Leo, and Nora Lawrence, show up at the funeral to meet their long-lost cousin, separated after a family rift. Now that nothing's tying Laila to her Michigan home, she decides to try her hand at social climbing the Manhattan ladder. Throughout She Regrets Nothing, you (along with the Lawrence cousins) are never sure whether you trust Laila or not, and that's part of the fun. She Regrets Nothing is the love child of Gossip Girl and Crazy Rich Asians, plus the social climbing of a Gatsby party.

Out February 6

The Great Alone

By Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah's gripping WWII novel, The Nightingale, taught us the lesson that when it comes to her novels, we should prepare to stay up all night reading. In The Great Alone, Hannah's intrepid heroines are Leni and Cora Allbright, who move to Alaska at the whim of Allbright patriarch, Ernst. Nobody is prepared for the harsh Alaska winter, least of all Ernst. His mind is fracturing, just at the moment that life has become the most inhospitable. Leni and Cora are on their own.

Out February 8

White Houses

By Amy Bloom

If this political climate has you down, then delving into the story of history’s most notable women, Eleanor Roosevelt, may prove a helpful buoy. In White Houses, you’ll encounter a different side of the renowned first lady. The historical fiction novel is narrated from the perspective of Lorena Hickok, Roosevelt’s long-time friend and lover. By page three, Roosevelt is stripped down to her stockings. White Houses is part love story, part portrait of two remarkable women, and so completely vivid you’ll think you’re living through it.

Out February 13


By Tara Westover

Fans of The Glass Castle and Wild will find a new inspiring heroine in Tara Westover, the author of this fascinating memoir. To say Westover grew up unconventionally would be a massive understatement. Westover and her six older siblings lived entirely off the grid in the mountains of Idaho. Her father, a devout Mormon, didn’t believe in conventional schooling or government aid, so Tara was 17 the first time she was in a classroom. And yet: Tara, propelled forward by some inner hunger, educated herself, went to college, and then received a PhD from Cambridge. This gripping coming-of-age story shows a woman’s world being opened through education.

Out February 22

All the Names They Used for God

By Anjali Sachdeva

Are you ever-so-slightly bitter that you, an adult, are supposed to have outgrown fairy tales by now? Don’t worry — thanks to Sachdeva’s debut short story collection, you can have fairy tales for grown-ups. The stories in All the Names They Used For God are myths told in spare, but effective, sentences. Even if they’re set in the modern day, each imagines a world in which the possibility for magic isn’t entirely ruled out.

Out February 20

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