It’s so weird writing “2022” in a blog post. In a lot of ways, I still feel trapped in 2019. The pre-pandemic days, back when life was simpler and I didn’t have to worry whether going into the grocery store would kill me. In times like these, we need a form of escapism, and that’s exactly what reading is for. These 10 authors have created full on pieces of literature for us to read and escape our lives for a while, and we should celebrate them for it! Inclusion on this list does NOT mean I have read the book (I will specify if I have), it only means that I want to read the book at some point in the future.

Fiona and Jane, by Jean Chen Ho (Jan. 4th)

A witty, warm, and irreverent book that traces the lives of two young Taiwanese American women as they navigate friendship, sexuality, identity, and heartbreak over two decades.

Best friends since second grade, Fiona Lin and Jane Shen explore the lonely freeways and seedy bars of Los Angeles together through their teenage years, surviving unfulfilling romantic encounters, and carrying with them the scars of their families’ tumultuous pasts. Fiona was always destined to leave, her effortless beauty burnished by fierce ambition–qualities that Jane admired and feared in equal measure. When Fiona moves to New York and cares for a sick friend through a breakup with an opportunistic boyfriend, Jane remains in California and grieves her estranged father’s sudden death, in the process alienating an overzealous girlfriend. Strained by distance and unintended betrayals, the women float in and out of each other’s lives, their friendship both a beacon of home and a reminder of all they’ve lost.

In stories told in alternating voices, Jean Chen Ho’s debut collection peels back the layers of female friendship–the intensity, resentment, and boundless love–to probe the beating hearts of young women coming to terms with themselves, and each other, in light of the insecurities and shame that holds them back.

Spanning countries and selves, Fiona and Jane is an intimate portrait of a friendship, a deep dive into the universal perplexities of being young and alive, and a bracingly honest account of two Asian women who dare to stake a claim on joy in a changing, contemporary America.

A story about female friendship that endures even through tough times is something that we don’t see enough of in literature, and so I’m excited that there’s a whole book about it! Sometimes friends come in and out of our lives, and this book seems to be a tribute to that. I’m excited to read a story that’s centered on women living their lives! I don’t have much else to say about this book, except that I’m excited to read it!

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Olga Dies Dreaming, by Xochitl Gonzalez (Jan. 4th)

A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots, all in the wake of Hurricane Maria

It’s 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo, are bold-faced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s powerbrokers.

Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1%, but she can’t seem to find her own…until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets…

Twenty-seven years ago, their mother, Blanca, a Young Lord-turned-radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.

Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history, Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife and the very notion of the American dream–all while asking what it really means to weather a storm. 

This book seems like a great mix of family drama and drama with the world at large, which is what I love to read about. It got rave reviews from ARC readers, including one by Shea that said “If a book could be an intersectional feminist anthem, this is it”. That was enough to convince me to add it to my TBR right there. I’ve also heard that it’s going to be adapted into a Hulu series, which is hugely exciting news especially given the book hasn’t even been released yet, so I’ve got to start reading!

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The Maid, by Nita Prose (Jan. 4th)

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

I’m not going to lie, I strongly debated adding this one to the list. On the one hand, I do want to read it, and so it belongs in my top 10 most anticipated. On the other hand, the description sounds like they are coding Molly as autistic without actually saying the word, which makes me worried for how they’ll handle her character. I haven’t read any of Prose’s other work to be confident in how she will handle mental health disorders in her characters, and the fact that her presumed autism causes her to be suspected of a crime has me worried. I ended up deciding to include it here because it has potential to be a really good book and I’m eager to hear all of your opinions on it.

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To Paradise, by Hanya Yanagihara (Jan. 11th)

From the author of the classic A Little Life, a bold, brilliant novel spanning three centuries and three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss and the elusive promise of utopia.

In an alternate version of 1893 America, New York is part of the Free States, where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems). The fragile young scion of a distinguished family resists betrothal to a worthy suitor, drawn to a charming music teacher of no means. In a 1993 Manhattan besieged by the AIDS epidemic, a young Hawaiian man lives with his much older, wealthier partner, hiding his troubled childhood and the fate of his father. And in 2093, in a world riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule, a powerful scientist’s damaged granddaughter tries to navigate life without him—and solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearances.

These three sections are joined in an enthralling and ingenious symphony, as recurring notes and themes deepen and enrich one another: A townhouse in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village; illness, and treatments that come at a terrible cost; wealth and squalor; the weak and the strong; race; the definition of family, and of nationhood; the dangerous righteousness of the powerful, and of revolutionaries; the longing to find a place in an earthly paradise, and the gradual realization that it can’t exist. What unites not just the characters, but these Americas, are their reckonings with the qualities that make us human: Fear. Love. Shame. Need. Loneliness.

To Paradise is a fin de siècle novel of marvellous literary effect, but above all it is a work of emotional genius. The great power of this remarkable novel is driven by Yanagihara’s understanding of the aching desire to protect those we love – partners, lovers, children, friends, family and even our fellow citizens – and the pain that ensues when we cannot.

This book sounds dark and complex and beautiful and I cannot wait to delve inside the world. I am curious how Yanagihara will handle the nuances of each of her characters, especially given that she has created two worlds which do not really exist. The world building will have to be top notch in order to pull this off, and world building is one of the most exciting things to read in my opinion. The book has gotten INCREDIBLE reviews from ARC readers and critics alike, and it’s top of the anticipated list for me. (this list is in date order; i was referring to the metaphorical rank order, which exists only in my own head)

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A Flicker in the Dark, by Stacy Willingham (Jan. 11th)

Goodreads Summary: From debut author Stacy Willingham comes a masterfully done, lyrical thriller, certain to be the launch of an amazing career. A Flicker in the Dark is eerily compelling to the very last page.

When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren’t really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?

In a debut novel that has already been optioned for a limited series by actress Emma Stone and sold to a dozen countries around the world, Stacy Willingham has created an unforgettable character in a spellbinding thriller that will appeal equally to fans of Gillian Flynn and Karin Slaughter. 

It’s no secret that psychological thrillers are one of my favorite genres, and I’m EXCITED for this one. It’s a debut novel, which I personally think normally makes thrillers better. At debut, the authors throw in all of their good ideas and best character development, because they know they only have one chance to make an impression. After your first novel it’s very hard to have a ~completely~ original idea in thriller, because readers start being able to anticipate the author’s style of twists. Obviously, I’m super excited for this one to come out!

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Weather Girl, by Rachel Lynn Solomon (Jan. 11th)

Goodreads Summary: A TV meteorologist and a sports reporter scheme to reunite their divorced bosses with unforecasted results in this charming romantic comedy from the author of The Ex Talk.

Ari Abrams has always been fascinated by the weather, and she loves almost everything about her job as a TV meteorologist. Her boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. Ari, who runs on sunshine and optimism, is at her wits’ end. The only person who seems to understand how she feels is sweet but reserved sports reporter Russell Barringer.

In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between Ari and Russell.

Working closely with Russell means allowing him to get to know parts of herself that Ari keeps hidden from everyone. Will he be able to embrace her dark clouds as well as her clear skies?

This book seems classic Hallmark level cute. I love a good friends to lovers story, and this seems like a quintessential telling of the trope. A few Goodreads users also shelved this under “mental health”, so that leads me to assume that the book will be slightly deeper than your average romance novel. The fact that we have a woman trying to be successful in the corporate world and finding love is always a great premise for a novel and although I don’t read a ton of romances, I would read this.

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Mouth to Mouth, by Antonie Wilson (Jan. 11th)

Goodreads Summary: In a first-class lounge at JFK airport, our narrator listens as Jeff Cook, a former classmate he only vaguely remembers, shares the uncanny story of his adult life—a life that changed course years before, the moment he resuscitated a drowning man.

Jeff reveals that after that traumatic, galvanizing morning on the beach, he was compelled to learn more about the man whose life he had saved, convinced that their fates were now entwined. But are we agents of our fate—or are we its pawns? Upon discovering that the man is renowned art dealer Francis Arsenault, Jeff begins to surreptitiously visit his Beverly Hills gallery. Although Francis does not seem to recognize him as the man who saved his life, he nevertheless casts his legendary eye on Jeff and sees something worthy. He takes the younger man under his wing, initiating him into his world, where knowledge, taste, and access are currency; a world where value is constantly shifting and calling into question what is real, and what matters. The paths of the two men come together and diverge in dizzying ways until the novel’s staggering ending.

Sly, suspenseful, and engrossing, Mouth to Mouth masterfully blurs the line between opportunity and exploitation, self-respect and self-delusion, fact and fiction—exposing the myriad ways we deceive each other, and ourselves.

I’m super intrigued to see if Wilson can pull this book off. It has potentially to either be an incredible earth shattering book that leaves me up all night thinking, or one that’s so dull I can barely get through it. Of course, odds are it will end up somewhere in between, but that’s hardly fun to think about. I love books like this, and so I’m certainly going to try to read it when it comes out.

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Reminders of Him, by Colleen Hoover (Jan. 18th)

Goodreads Summary: A troubled young mother yearns for a shot at redemption in this heartbreaking yet hopeful story from #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover.

After serving five years in prison for a tragic mistake, Kenna Rowan returns to the town where it all went wrong, hoping to reunite with her four-year-old daughter. But the bridges Kenna burned are proving impossible to rebuild. Everyone in her daughter’s life is determined to shut Kenna out, no matter how hard she works to prove herself.

The only person who hasn’t closed the door on her completely is Ledger Ward, a local bar owner and one of the few remaining links to Kenna’s daughter. But if anyone were to discover how Ledger is slowly becoming an important part of Kenna’s life, both would risk losing the trust of everyone important to them.

The two form a connection despite the pressure surrounding them, but as their romance grows, so does the risk. Kenna must find a way to absolve the mistakes of her past in order to build a future out of hope and healing.

I am still waiting for It Ends With Us to come back from the library (I read half of it, was forced to return it, and now have it on hold again) so I need to finish that before I can think about another Hoover book, but so far she’s certainly an author that I’d want to read again! It seems like this book is going to be a return-to-hometown romance, which is something that I can always get behind!

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Manifesto: On Never Giving Up, by Bernardine Evaristo (Jan. 18th)

Goodreads Summary: From the bestselling and Booker Prize-winning author of Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo’s memoir of her own life and writing, and her manifesto on unstoppability, creativity, and activism

Bernardine Evaristo’s 2019 Booker Prize win was a historic and revolutionary occasion, with Evaristo being the first Black woman and first Black British person ever to win the prize in its fifty-year history. Girl, Woman, Other was named a favorite book of the year by President Obama and Roxane Gay, was translated into thirty-five languages, and has now reached more than a million readers.

Evaristo’s astonishing nonfiction debut, Manifesto, is a vibrant and inspirational account of Evaristo’s life and career as she rebelled against the mainstream and fought over several decades to bring her creative work into the world. With her characteristic humor, Evaristo describes her childhood as one of eight siblings, with a Nigerian father and white Catholic mother, tells the story of how she helped set up Britain’s first Black women’s theatre company, remembers the queer relationships of her twenties, and recounts her determination to write books that were absent in the literary world around her. She provides a hugely powerful perspective to contemporary conversations around race, class, feminism, sexuality, and aging. She reminds us of how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. In Manifesto, Evaristo charts her theory of unstoppability, showing creative people how they too can visualize and find success in their work, ignoring the naysayers.

Both unconventional memoir and inspirational text, Manifesto is a unique reminder to us all to persist in doing work we believe in, even when we might feel overlooked or discounted. Evaristo shows us how we too can follow in her footsteps, from first vision, to insistent perseverance, to eventual triumph

Personally, this is one of the books I am the most excited for this month, because it’s by one of the only authors I’ve read! Evaristo’s work of fiction was beautifully crafted, and so I’m excited to see how she translates her fictional writing style into a book about her own life. Memoirs are always difficult to concoct properly, but I have full faith that Evaristo’s will be a work of art.

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South to America, by Imani Perry (Jan. 25th)

Goodreads Summary: An essential journey through the American South—and the way it defines American identity—from one our most extraordinary writers on race and culture at work today  

We all think we know the South. Even those who have never lived there, who have never even been there, can rattle off a list of signifiers that define the South for them: Gone with the Wind, the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan, cotillions, plantations, football, Jim Crow, and, of course, slavery. For those who live outside the region, the South is very much about the profound difference between “us” and “them.” In South to America, Imani Perry shows in detail by infinitely careful detail that the meaning of American is inextricably linked with the South, and if we are American, we are all at least a little bit Southern.

In looking at the American South through a historic, personal, and anecdotal lens, Perry argues that the South is in fact the nation’s heartland. The formation of our country, our wealth, and our politics have always pivoted around the resource-rich region. A native of Alabama but raised in the North, Perry returns to the South—the place she has always called home—traveling through its cities and their cultural formations, studying its historical figures and institutions and the natural settings from which they sprang. Seeing the South as familiar and anew, Perry goes on a journey that brings her in contact with Southerners from all walks of life. She renders them with sensitivity and honesty, in addition to sharing her thoughts about a troubling history and the ritual humiliations and joys that characterize so much of Southern life.

This is the story of a woman going home—a Black woman and a Southern home—at a time when ideas of how the South should be are rising once again. South to America is an assertion that if we do indeed want to build a more humane future for the United States, we must center our concern below the Mason-Dixon Line. 

This book is going to be super interesting. I have a feeling that it will become a must read for everyone who talks about the South, whether in a political sphere or otherwise. Too often the south gets lumped in as all ignorant white people, ignoring the vast number of black and other people of color who live there. I’m hoping that this book will shine light on that, and also provide an interesting look at what it means to be southern in general. I’ve never lived in the south (minus the one month I spent in South Carolina, which hardly counts because I didn’t associate with anyone outside of the friends I went there with) so I’m looking forward to seeing how and why the south is this “nation’s heartland”.

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