What Our Literary Editor Thinks You Should Be Reading This February

Sam Peet /
Sam Peet / | © Culture Trip

From essays by Zadie Smith to Icelandic fiction, by way of political journalism from Russia, here are the most notable new releases in books this February.

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro

Jamie Quatro’s Fire Sermon is a powerful exploration of desire between Maggie and James, two lovers caught in an extra-marital affair, told through dynamic and intimate prose. Both with separate families rooted in the Christian tradition, their illicit love affair deftly explores the implications of their impulses against their theological beliefs.

Cover courtesy of Picador

The Only Story by Julian Barnes

Having won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for A Sense of an Ending, and publishing The Noise of Time to great acclaim in 2016, The Only Story is the third in a series of recent novellas by one of Britain’s most celebrated novelists. Set in suburban Surrey of the 1960s, The Only Story offers an original take on love’s curious path.

Feel Free by Zadie Smith

Best known for her award-winning fiction White Teeth, On Beauty and more recently Swing Time, Zadie Smith’s most recent book Feel Free is a collection of essays about a myriad of subjects. From Jay-Z to the environment to Knausgaard, Smith’s essays retain the insight, candour and humour of her much-loved fictional prose.

The Long Hangover: Putin’s new Russia and the ghosts of the past by Shaun Walker

The Long Hangover explores how the Russian government has come to terms with its Soviet past, reuniting the nation around a common narrative. Both a bottom-up and top-down journey into Russian politics, The Long Hangover is a combination of thrilling reportage and insightful analysis from the Guardian’s leading Moscow correspondent.

Cover courtesy of Oxford University Press

Spring by Karl Ove Knausgaard

In the third part of Knausgaard’s seasonal quartet, the narrator recounts one day in April between a father and a newborn daughter. Oozing with Knausgaard’s quintessential realism, Spring is a fascinating collision of the everyday and the exquisite.

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

Characterised as ‘an aching yet hopeful story’ by Behold the Dreamers author Imbolo Mbue, Everything Here is Beautifultells the story of two sisters, one of whom suffers from a serious mental illness. Beyond detailing the complexity of their relationship, the book is also a story of migration, home and what it is to stay hopeful in the face of darkness.

Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch

Brit(ish) is a powerful exploration of ‘race, identity and belonging’ from celebrated barrister-turned-writer Afua Hirsch. Told through her own experience of everyday racism in the UK, Hirsch provides a detailed social commentary on the wider issues of race in modern-day Britain. Read the opening to her book here.

Cover courtesy of Jonathan Cape

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

Set in Harlem’s vibrant ballroom scene of ’80s New York, The House of Impossible Beauties is an electrifying debut from Joseph Cassara. Inspired by the House of Xtravaganza, featured in iconic documentary Paris is Burning, Cassara’s novel follows a group of gay and transgender characters, searching for meaning and identity against a backdrop of sex work, addiction and abuse.

Red Coloured Elegy by Seiichi Hayashi

Cartoon publishing house Drawn and Quarterly are publishing an all new edition of Seiichi Hayashi’s Red Coloured Elegy,one of Japan’s most celebrated graphic novels. Following the volatile and unpredictable relationship between Ichiro and Sachiko, two artists desperate to make it, Hayashi’s comic tells an intimate and complex love story while shedding light on the political landscape of Japan in the 1970s.

Hotel Silence by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Described as ‘the heart’s finest map-maker’ by fellow Icelandic writer Sjón, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir’s latest novel Hotel Silenceis a charming and peculiar story of one man at a crossroads in life. Winning the the Icelandic Literary Prize in 2016, Hotel Silence follows a man named Jónas, all but entirely alone and separated from his loved ones, who finds reasons to hope in this run-down, battered and eccentric hotel.

Cover courtesy of Pushkin Press

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Akwaeke Emezi’s debut Freshwater is a completely unique novel that explores the fragmented selves of a Nigerian woman named Ada. Narrated from multiple perspectives, Freshwater is a dynamic encounter with selfhood, mental illness and the complex experience of being.

Gringa by Joe Thomas

Gringa is the second title in Joe Thomas’s series of thrillers featuring detective Mario Leme. Set in the harsh metropolis of São Paolo, in the build up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Leme investigates the curious disappearance of a young English journalist that leads him into the murky depths of the city’s political underworld.
Culture Trip will review selected titles from this list later this month.

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