10 Must-Read Books For February


Winter may be closing in, the nights may be frosty and cold, but we have book after book after book to keep you warm. It’s like the publishing industry just woke up from its winter hibernation, ready to regale us with stories. From a brilliant book about motherhood to the memoir of the coolest woman alive, there’s definitely a February book that will beguile and tempt you in equal measures.

A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power, Paul Fischer (February 3)

North Korea has a long, tangled history with the cinema, which has, more often than not, been used as a source of propaganda. In this book Fischer tells us the strange-but-true story of when Jong-Il kidnapped a South Korean actress and director so that the quality of North Korean’s propaganda could be taken up a notch. In short, Seth Rogen’s The Interview has literally nothing on real life. (30 Rock, on the other hand: semi-accurate as per usual?) — Elisabeth Donnelly

Get in Trouble: Stories, Kelly Link (February 3)

Kelly Link’s omnivorous imagination has been sorely missing of late, but thankfully she’s returned with this collection of short stories which features, among other things: “hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids.” — Jonathon Sturgeon

The Infernal, Mark Doten (February 17)

Doten’s debut novel about the Iraq War and a torture device that extracts “perfect confessions” arrives on the heels of the CIA/Senate Torture Report and the terrifying Guantánamo Diary. All of these books deserve to be read and discussed as a group. — JS

After Birth, Elisa Albert (February 17)

As sharp as a fresh-cut diamond, Albert’s novel follows three months in the life of Ari, a young mother in Utrecht, New York, traumatized by the birth of her young son Walker and hoping for a female friend. When pregnant Mina, a former member of the punk rock band the Misogynists, walks into her life, she thinks she’s found something. Bright, angry, very funny, diving into uncomfortable truths about the female body and female behavior, this novel has it all — and it may contain the best portrait of Albany, New York, since William Kennedy’s last novel. — ED

The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game, Mary Pilon (February 17)

Pilon, a reporter who has written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, makes her nonfiction debut with this dive into the real Monopoly. We’re told the game is a Depression-era success story, an unemployed guy made good — but as she reveals, that’s not even close to the truth, which is much more winding and twisting, involving feminists, Quakers, and anti-trust laws. — ED

Satin Island, Tom McCarthy (February 17)

McCarthy is one of the lone remaining torchbearers for the historical avant-garde, even if his novels aren’t especially difficult to digest. He’s an ardent and eloquent critic of literary realism, and his new novel features a corporate anthropologist who is tasked with writing a report that summarizes our era. — JS

Find Me, Laura Van Den Berg (February 17)

Plagues and immunity: two topics very much on the minds of humans right now. Van Den Berg’s debut novel — which follows two highly-acclaimed story collections — promises both in spades. — JS

Girl in a Band: A Memoir, Kim Gordon (February 24)

The coolest woman in the world tell us all about her life: growing up in California, going to art school, painting in weird New York, and playing in Sonic Youth for 25 years, with her former husband Thurston Moore. Gordon has always been the ultimate and, yet, a bit of an enigma; in this book she’s candid and beguiling, naming names and beautifully honest about her thoughts on the breakup with Thurston or being, as the title says, a girl in a band. — ED

The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy, David Graeber (February 24)

Anthropologist Graeber is one of our wildest thinkers (see Debt: The First 5,000 Years), and in this book, he takes on the topic of bureaucracy, arguing that what we think of as the root of our civilzation — capitalism, technology, rules and regulations — may just be what’s keeping us in chains. — ED

Lucky Alan: And Other Stories, Jonathan Lethem (February 24)

What’s a year without Lethem? I, for one, actually prefer the author’s short fiction — and with Lucky Alan, Lethem returns with nine variegated, and perhaps refreshing, pieces of short fiction. — JS