10 Must-Read Books for February


It’s only the second month of 2014, and we already have a bunch of books to jot down for end-of-year list consideration. We’ve still likely got a month or more of winter cold to look forward to, and thankfully, the pile of great reads (including a stellar selection of short-story collections) due out in February provides plenty of reasons to stay inside until things start to thaw out.

Because, by Joseph Riippi(February 1)

With Because, Joseph Riippi has given us the sort of book that slaps us in the face, then hugs us, and then does it all over again. His short sentences read more like laundry lists of things (some attainable, others impossible to get) that we really would all want in our lives. From love and fulfillment to family and dogs, Riippi condenses the human experience into a book that might just change you for the better.

The UnAmericans, by Molly Antopol (February 3)

Who doesn’t love a great short-story collection that looks at the Jewish experience from America to Eastern Europe? And while some might hear “Jewish short-story collection” and default to Philip Roth’s Goodbye Columbus, Antopol writes with heart and wisdom reminiscent of Bernard Malamud, telling stories of a specific group’s experiences in a way that anyone can relate to.

Praying Drunk, by Kyle Minor(February 4)

It says “Stories” on the cover, but Kyle Minor’s book is something different from a set of short, unrelated fictions. In fact, the author instructs us to not skip around, because the stories are meant to be read in order. A writer of unique talent and vision, Minor writes in a way that calls to mind Donald Barthelme, but also made me think of Flannery O’Connor at certain points.

The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq, Hassan Blasim (February 5)

Hassan Blasim’s very important collection of short stories is one of the rare fictional accounts of the Iraq War written from an Iraqi’s perspective and put out by a big American publisher (Penguin). Blasim is up to the task, giving us stories that could only come out of firsthand experience of the war, with writing chops that make his descriptions unforgettable.

More Than Conquerors, by Megan Hustad (February 11)

We love a good memoir about a person moving on from their deeply religious past. Here, Hustad tells the story of her evangelical Christian family, and does us a solid by holding nothing back. An investigation into her background, her family, and — most importantly — herself.

Quesadillas, by Juan Pablo Villalobos (February 11)

If you haven’t expanded your horizons by reading literature from around the globe in 2014, Juan Pablo Villalobos, the Mexican-born writer living in Brazil, might be your best place to start. His short, satirical novel takes place in a small Mexican town in the 1980s, focusing on a large, unusual family stuck at home amid political unrest.

Bark, Lorrie Moore (February 25)

A new Lorrie Moore collection is always worth celebrating — and since it’s taken her 15 years to give them to us, the eight stories in Bark should keep us talking for the rest of 2014.

MFA vs. NYC: Two Cultures of American Fiction, edited by Chad Harbach(February 25)

Sure, there are writers not living in New York, and there are also writers who have received no “formal” training via an MFA program. What this Chad Harbach-edited collection looks at is the cult of these two institutions among writers, and why so many are willing to throw away loads of money even though results are definitely not guaranteed. George Saunders, Elif Batuman, Emily Gould, David Foster Wallace, and others contribute to a discussion that is sure to kick up a thousand think-pieces by New York writers with MFAs.

Kinder Than Solitude, by Yiyun Li (February 25)

Yiyun Li has already been graced with a MacArthur “Genius Grant” and named one of The New Yorker‘s prestigious 20 Under 40. With this mystery that moves back and forth between contemporary America and China in the 1990s, she gives us a story laced with intrigue, friendship, and culture.

What’s Important Is Feeling, by Adam Wilson (February 25)

Wilson showed a keen ability to balance making us laugh and crafting a debut novel that was as warm as it was dark with 2012’s Flatscreen. But the book also provided an interesting commentary on contemporary America, which (along with coming-of-age tales) is major theme of this short-story collection. The result is sure to lead you to the same conclusion we have arrived at: Adam Wilson is one of our best young writers.