Book Roundup: February Winter Reads

Cold weather got you grounded? Snuggle up with one of these new reads, including great graphic novels, engrossing narrative nonfiction, and "the next Gone Girl."


The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins

Of all the books out there trying to be the next Gone Girl, few come as close as Hawkins’s debut suspense story about Rachel, an alcoholic who passes the time on the commuter rail by making up stories about the people around her, only for that fantasy to be shattered after witnessing a real-life event. “She makes the fateful decision to cross a line, from voyeur to active participant in their story. But once that line is crossed, she finds there’s no going back,” Hawkins explains.

January 13, Riverhead.

It Was Me All Along
Andie Mitchell

Speaking of NYT bestsellers, food blogger Andie Mitchell’s memoir about her struggles with obesity and her incredible weight loss is in the nonfiction top 10. Mitchell, a Boston-born NYC transplant, weighed 268 pounds at the age of 20. She realized something had to change. Not only did Mitchell succeed in halving her weight, but she even did it while studying abroad in Italy, of all places. The memoir has been praised for its candor and inspirational attitude, which is also echoed on her blog, Can You Stay for Dinner?

January 6, Clarkson Potter.

William Nicholson

Scandalous! Emily Dickinson helps guide the two parallel love stories in this novel, one set in the present and the other in 1880s Amherst. Present-day Londoner Alice is researching a screenplay about the past love affair between Emily Dickinson’s brother and an Amherst College faculty wife. When Alice goes to Amherst to work, she starts up her own affair with a local academic. The novel’s author is William Nicholson, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of GladiatorLes Misérables, and Unbroken, among others.

February 10, Simon and Schuster. Nicholson will read from Amherst at Harvard Book Store on March 11 at 7 p.m.

The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson

Swanson’s novel is a modern Strangers on a Train. Ted and Lily meet on a flight from London to Boston, during which Ted reveals his frustrations with his wife Miranda. He could kill his wife, Ted half jokes. “I’d like to help,” Lily replies. Once in Boston, the two proceed in plotting Miranda’s murder. Yikes.

February 3, William Morrow. Swanson will visit Brookline Booksmith on February 10 at 7 p.m.

The Sculptor
Scott McCloud

Graphic novel enthusiasts likely know McCloud as the author of Understanding Comics, his 1993 illustrated overview of the form. In his new novel, protagonist David makes a deal with Death to be able to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. With only 200 days left to live, David finds himself in an inconvenient creative rut. The fact that he’s just met the love of his life makes matters that much more complicated.

February 3, First Second. McCloud will discuss The Sculptor at Brattle Theatre on February 5 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $5, Harvard Book Store.

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
Steven Pinker

Restore your faith in humanity with this Harvard professor’s exploration of violence in human history. Pinker argues in his 2011 tome that we are, in fact, far less violent than in previous eras. Go us! Better Angels is the second selection in Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook book club, A Year of Books, and it’s worth warning you that it is a whopping 832 pages. Take that, Piketty.

October 4, 2011, Viking Books.

The Boston Raphael: A Mysterious Painting, an Embattled Museum in an Era of Change, and a Daughter’s Search for the Truth
Belinda Rathbone

Rathbone’s book is part art history, part memoir. Her father, Perry Rathbone, was the director of the MFA in 1969 when the museum announced the acquisition of what was believed to be a newly discovered Raphael. The authenticity of the painting became a point of contest in the states and in Europe, placing Perry Rathbone at the center of a media frenzy. Belinda Rathbone looks back at this pivotal moment in her father’s career and offers readers an in-depth look at art history and museum politics.

October 1, 2014, Godine. Rathbone will visit Brookline Booksmith on February 18 at 7 p.m.

We Are Pirates
Daniel Handler

You might know Handler by another name: famed children’s book author Lemony Snicket. He’s ditching the pen name for We Are Pirates, a story about a father and daughter, both with a hankering for adventure. While struggling radio producer and father Phil embarks on a work trip, his 14-year-old daughter Gwen assembles a team to go treasure-hunting in San Francisco Bay. Aaarg!

February 3, Bloomsbury. Handler will read from We Are Pirates at First Parish Church on February 20 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5, Harvard Book Store.

How to Grow Up
Michelle Tea

Another San Franciscan, Michelle Tea, releases her memoir this month, which reviewers have deemed charming, witty, and impossible to put down. In How to Grow Up, Tea shares her personal journey from a self-described outsider in Chelsea, Mass., who fled the town at age 19, to “an awkward stumble toward the life of a Bonafide Grownup.”

January 27, Plume. Tea will visit Brookline Booksmith on February 12 at 7 p.m.

The First Bad Man
Miranda July

Multidisciplinary artist Miranda July’s first foray into novel-writing already has critics abuzz. For The First Bad Man, she opened an online store that sells 50 items mentioned in the book, for example, a hairbrush clotted with blond hair. Some praise July’s out-of-the-box thinking, while others are curmudgeonly. Ah, so this is what happens when the experimental world of art meets the risk-averse world of publishing.

January 13, Scribner.

Trigger Warning
Neil Gaiman

Gaiman’s new book of “short stories and disturbances” includes stories, verse, and even a special Doctor Who story. The anthology has a little of everything: horror stories, fairy tales, fresh takes on Sherlock Holmes, and more.

February 3, William Morrow.

The Boston Girl
Anita Diamant

Here’s a story about growing up in Boston in the early 20th century. The first-person novel is about Addie, who was born in 1900 and grew up in the North End. At age 85, she tells her granddaughter about growing up in the area through tough times like the flu epidemic, WWI, the Depression, and so on.

January 27, Scribner.

The Martian
Andy Weir

Re-released last year by Broadway Books, The Martian tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney, who is left stranded on Mars after a dust storm. The space-survival story is being adapted into a film by Ridley Scott, and will star—drumroll please—Matt Damon as the male lead.

October 28, 2014 (reprint), Broadway Books.

Serpents in the Cold
Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Graham Purdy

Two lifelong Bostonians decide to take it upon themselves to fight crime in this novel set in the 1950s. A year after the Brink’s robbery, Cal O’Brien and Dante Cooper are struggling with their identities post-WWII. Meanwhile, a serial killer is on the loose murdering disadvantaged women. Cal and Dante decide to take on the case. No, they’re not actually Batman and Robin.

January 20, Mulhollond Books.

Models of Influence: 50 Women Who Reset the Course of Fashion
Nigel Barker

Fashion photographer Nigel Barker—who you might remember was a judge on America’s Next Top Model—is releasing a book featuring 50 influential models, including (of course!) Mrs. Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen. The book includes 200 photographs along with annotations and anecdotes from 70 years of fashion and household names like Twiggy, Turlington, Kloss, and Upton.

February 10, Harper Design.

Believer: My Forty Years in Politics
David Axelrod

From starting out as a journalist covering political corruption to being the president’s senior advisor, David Axelrod has always been a believer. That’s the theme of his new memoir, which will cover his decades-long career in politics, including working on political strategy for Hillary Clinton, Deval Patrick, and the focal point: his 20-year friendship with Barack Obama.

February 10, Penguin Press.

Black History Month:

March: Books One and Two
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

March: Book Two is the highly anticipated second installment to U.S. Congressman John Lewis’s graphic novel trilogy, a memoir about growing up in rural Alabama, meeting Martin Luther King Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement. Book One was critically lauded for its vivid use of imagery, which offered readers a new way to see and learn about the historic Civil Rights Movement.

August 13, 2013, and January 20, Top Shelf Productions.

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America
Jill Leovy

The deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York have revitalized a conversation about race and crime in America. Jill Leovy will add to the discussion this month with her new book Ghettoside, which tells the story of a murder of a black American in South L.A., just one of thousands like it that happen each year. Leovy’s narrative nonfiction explores police and race in a way that is revealing, gripping, tragic, and engrossing. Ghettoside is published by Spiegel and Grau, which also published Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson last year.

January 27, Spiegel and Grau.

Valentine’s Day:

The Book of Love: Improvisations on a Crazy Little Thing
Roger Rosenblatt

True to its title, here’s a book that’s all about love, from courtship and marriage, to heartbreak and ecstasy, and so on. Rosenblatt seeks to define this thing we call love in a variety of ways: picking lines from love songs, imagining fictional love-related scenarios, and even including love notes addressed to “you,” his wife of 50 years. All together now: Aww…

January 20, Ecco.

Deeper Dating: How to Drop the Games of Seduction and Discover the Power of Intimacy
Ken Page

If Rosenblatt’s book is a layman’s exploration of love, then look to Ken Page’s Deeper Dating for your scientific take. Page is a psychotherapist, and in his book shares inspiring stories and tactics for making meaningful and lasting relationships.

December 30, 2014, Shambhala. Page will visit Brookline Booksmith on February 6 at 7 p.m.

Plus, download these digital freebies:

2014 Year in Focus
Getty Images

With magazines like Sports Illustrated laying off all their staff photographers, the talented work produced by organizations like Getty becomes that much more valuable. Year in Focus is a perfect example, boasting amazing photos and stories from last year’s news, sports, and entertainment. The free enhanced e-book comes with video highlights and interactive 360-degree views from the Olympics, the World Cup, and the Oscars red carpet. I spy Will and Jada, do you?

Free on iBooks, Getty Images.

Buzz Books 2015: Spring/Summer
Publisher’s Lunch

Publisher’s Lunch, the industry’s “daily essential read,” has been sharing previews of great books coming out each season for several years now. The latest edition of Buzz Books includes excerpts from about 40 upcoming reads, including Dennis Lehane’s World Gone By, out March 10. It’s the perfect way to get excited again about that “read more” resolution you’ve been failing at.

Free on iBooks, Kindle, and Nook, Publisher’s Lunch.