We recommend: The best new book releases
The best of new fiction
Acts of God by Kanan Gill: Everyone knows the author as the comedian who rose to fame with his 2014 YouTube series called ‘Pretentious Movies Reviews’ which he co-hosted with his friend Biswa Kalyan Rath. Since then, he has dabbled in stand up, acting in Bollywood movies and was recently even seen in an international family flick ‘Christmas As Usual’. Now, we get to see him as a fiction writer. ‘Acts of God’ follows a Danish policeman who accidentally becomes a clothing-optional leader of a global group of Science Haters. (January 18)
Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar. This is the poet Kavek Akbar’s debut novel and it follows a young poet meditating on grief. Cyrus Shams is a drunk, an opioid addict and a poet who has inherited a lot of loss from his family. He is an orphan and his obsession with writing a book about martyrs leads him on a journey of dealing with death, sobriety and art. While dealing with heavy themes, this book is also funny and Akbar doesn’t shy away from examining the mysteries of his past.
According to Kirkus, this book is a “philosophical discourse inside an addiction narrative, all wrapped up in a quest novel. Imperfect, yes, but intense, original, and smart.” (January 23)
The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan: This debut novel from Chan is set during World War II when the Japanese forces invaded Malaysia. It focuses on the tragedies that befall Cecily Alcantara (a secret spy to the Japanese) and her family—consisting of an older daughter who works at a Japanese tea house, a 15-year-old boy who has disappeared and her youngest who is hiding in a basement. The book chronicles the horrors of war—surviving which comes with a cost.
Here’s what the New York Times loves about the novel: “What makes the book pulse with life is not the grand sweep of its ideas but the tenderness in its details, the ordinary ways that these characters love and laugh in the face of the extraordinary.” Seattle Times notes “Chan’s novel proves there are still fresh perspectives to reveal.” (January 2)
Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson. This is a fun locked room murder mystery set inside a train. Ernest Cunningham (our crime solver) is invited to a crime-writing festival, and he is aboard a famous train to make the journey. Along with him on the train are other crime writers, and soon one of them is murdered. Cunningham and the remaining writers now try to figure out who the killer is. It is someone among them. What happens when you’re in a room full of people who write detective stories for a living and one of them gets killed? Is it possible to find the killer, when everyone is good at getting away with murder in their books? These are some perilous questions that Cunningham has to figure out.
Kirkus reviews this story as “a supercharged meta-pastiche” and also says that the author has sprinkled “every scene with clever clues” and outdoes them in “setting up a dazzling series of false conclusions.” (January 31)
The Lost Van Gogh by Jonathan Santlofer: After a thrilling look into Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, in his 2021 novel titled ‘The Last Mona Lisa’, Santlofer now directs his attention to Vincent Van Gogh’s missing self-portrait. Luke Perrone—an artist and art professor—along with his girlfriend Alexis Verde—daughter of a notorious art thief—chance upon the lost Van Gogh only for it to get stolen again. With the help from officer John Washington Smith of the Interpol, the fiction ponders upon the secrets of the artist's last days. (January 1)
Rabbit Hole by Kate Brody. Fans of true crime and ‘Gone Girl’—this one is for you! After Teddy’s sister goes missing and his father commits suicide—Teddy learns her father was an active member of an online Reddit community committed to solving the mystery of her sister's disappearance. She instantly gets immersed in this puzzle and gets very intrigued by Mickey—a charming amateur online sleuth who is eerily keen on helping her solve the case.
The Guardian says that Rabbit Hole is “far more complex than a run-of-the-mill whodunnit” and more a “gritty, grubby tale of grief, family secrets and addiction.” (January 2)
My Friends by Hisham Matar. From the Pulitzer-prize winning author of ‘The Last Return’ comes a novel about three students who have been politically exiled from their homeland in Libya and must become their own kind of home to each other. My Friends is an achingly beautiful work of literature with Matar's gentle touch and resounding voice.
The Washington Post offers a lovely review of Matar’s work, and says “it’s gratifying to see this thoughtful writer take all the time he needs to wrestle until daybreak with the mysterious angel of his disquieted conscience” in ‘My Friends.’ (January 9)
Family Family by Laurie Frankel. This sweet poignant tale follows themes of adoption, love, connection and family through the life of TV actor and Broadway star—India Allwood—who is also an adoptive mother. This book paints an accurate portrayal of social media, a refreshing take on adoption with great common sense and hopefulness. (January 23)
This month’s poetry pick
Baal-o-Par: Collected Poems by Gulzar. This is a definitive collection of poems by the prolific Gulzar known for his lyrical expression, visual imagery and poetic thought. Newly translated in English by Rakshanda Jalil—and appear in bilingual form with the original poem in Devanagari script and the English translation on facing pages. This collection would make a great gift for someone you love! (January 25)
The best of the non-fiction list
The Furies: Women, Vengeance and Justice by Elizabeth Flock. An interesting—perhaps controversial—account of three real-life women who have used violence to fight back systems that continue to oppress them: a young woman who killed a man she said raped her but was denied the protection of the Stand-Your-Ground law; leader of a gang in Uttar Pradesh, India, dedicated to avenging victims of domestic abuse; a fighter in a thousands-strong all-female militia that battled ISIS in Syria. This non-fiction page turner is a must-read that provokes questions about how to achieve true gender equality, and offer profound insights in the quest for answers.
Kirkus describes this non-fiction read as a “stirring narrative of defiance” and the New York Times says that this book is “no rose-tinted call to arms. These women’s stories don’t lend themselves to easy morals… At the same time, the juxtapositions in “The Furies” provoke thought.” (January 9)
Tripping on Utopia by Benjamin Breen. This account explores the history of psychedelic drugs in the 20th century—and how it possibly impacted historical milestones—such as the Cold War and birth of the Silicon Valley. "It was not the Baby Boomers who ushered in the first era of widespread drug experimentation. It was their parents." This book offers a new take on the origins of psychedelic science with links to drug researchers with CIA agents, outsider sexologists, and the founders of the Information Age.
Los Angeles Times calls this “a gripping new book that tells us a remarkable story” and the author manages to incorporate “fresh archival research into his comprehensive history.” (January 16)
The Moral Contagion Julia Hauser & Sarnath Bannerjee. We love ourselves a good graphic account of information paired with fun illustrations. This one speaks adequately on the story of the devastating plague pandemic, other graphic narratives about pandemics and reflections on how societies and individuals tend to react when faced with an adversary such as this. In a way, this is story of modern civilisation—as the history of plague starts from the 6th century. (January 15)
Empireworld: How British Imperialism Has Shaped the Globe by Sathnam Sanghera: We know that the colonial rule of the British impacted billions of people around the world. Journalist Sathnam Sanghera in this provides a deep and insightful examination of British’s legacies across different countries from Mauritius to India to Nigeria and more. Britain’s idea of its history is very different from how its colonies experienced it, and this book is a great way to shed light on just how much of an impact the British Empire has had and what these consequences have been decades after its rule.
The Guardian offers an interesting review for Sanghera’s book by saying: “It’s a characteristically instructive vignette in Empireland, Sanghera’s impassioned and deeply personal journey through Britain’s imperial past and present.” (January 25)