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February’s Finest

It's time to hibernate, cocoon and cuddle up, so here are some intriguing novels to bring into your warm lair / BY Nathalie Atkinson / February 3rd, 2021


Coming in the throes of winter, February is the shortest month, but the anticipation of spring can make it feel the longest. Luckily, many of our favourite authors have new reads out – like U.S. crime writer Joe Ide’s latest, Smoke, or Canada’s own criminal lawyer-crime writer Robert Rotenberg with his new thriller Downfall – and our list of other notable novels will help while away the hours.

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image. 

1Good Neighbors Sarah Langan

Give me a good gossipy cul-de-sac any day: in this case it’s the crescent-shaped block of Maple Street in the Long Island suburb of Garden City. It’s set in a near future, where climate change touches the doorstep of a tight-knit community one stifling summer by opening up a large, spontaneous sinkhole. The heat and fear only amplify existing petty jealousy and class conflicts. Told in retrospect and peppered with newspaper clippings and true crime reportage, the novel dissects the incidents that led to the block’s now-infamous murders and will make you realize how much good fences really do make good neighbours.


2My Year Abroad Chang-rae Lee

From Lee, a Pulitzer finalist for his novel The Surrendered, comes a winding, shaggy-dog story about how, exactly, a college student ended up in far-flung adventures with a band of international criminals. It’s an escapist picaresque about cultural immersion and rediscovery — and that’s only part of this madcap tale.


3Fake Accounts Lauren Oyler

Brooklyn-based literary critic Oyler’s fair but unsparingly snarky reviews often go viral, so it makes sense she would explore romance, deception and the nature of social media identity in her debut novel. The premise: a young culture journalist discovers her boyfriend has a secret digital life as a popular anonymous conspiracy theorist. Like Emma Jane Unsworth’s Adults and Leigh Stein’s Self Care, the novel captures the rhythms and internal monologues of being, as they say, “extremely online” so that it’s simultaneously an experience of that which it critiques.


4The RemovedBrandon Hobson

Hobson, a member of the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation, was a National Book Award finalist for his coming-of-age story Where the Dead Sit Talking. His latest mines Cherokee folklore and family history to trace “calcified grief.” Set in Oklahoma, the shifting perspectives of several storytellers recount how tragedy and injustice reverberate for the Echota family. Trauma is at the root of their lives, both the recent killing of one of their own by a police officer and the historical wound of the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of 100,000 Indigenous people by the U.S. government in the 1800s.


5Blood GroveWalter Mosley

In the summer of 1969, a young white Vietnam veteran with PTSD ambles into the small office of Ezekial “Easy” Rawlins. The new installment in the acclaimed series by Mosley (Devil in a Blue Dress) is especially moody, as the veteran calls on the Black detective to figure out what’s real and what isn’t. (It’s one thing to investigate a murder, quite another to figure out whether one actually took place.) Mosley’s depiction of the racist climate of the city will be familiar because of how little it has changed.


6Kill the MallPasha Malla

Though there’s no mention of the many odd, after-hours misadventures in his cheery weekly progress report, the narrator of this book certainly experiences his share after accepting a residency at the decaying local mall in the weeks leading up to the Madness Sale. A taciturn caretaker, eccentric food court regulars, and a mysteriously inscribed gold ring are some of the recurring oddities in this jovial horror novel that aims to critique consumer culture.


7The Sharpest NeedleRenee Patrick

Golden-age Hollywood history plays a major role in the fictional escapades of amateur sleuths Lillian Frost and Edith Head, the top costume designer at Paramount. Taking place in 1939, their new client is Marion Davies, the actress and longtime mistress of William Randolph Hearst, who’s worried about poison pen letters aimed at her circle (consider it the perfect companion to Mank, the new movie about the making of Citizen Kane). Subplots ripped from the day’s political and entertainment headlines, as Zoomer discovered when we spoke with the pseudonymous writing couple last year, bring famous cinematic personalities to life as the duo go behind-the-scenes to solve the case. A delight for classic film fans.


8Slough HouseMick Herron

(Feb. 9) The recent passing of the late, great John le Carré leaves a gaping hole, so the arrival of his heir apparent’s new book “could not be better timed.” Herron’s brand of thriller is where spy craft meets office comedy and satirizes Brexit-era espionage, featuring the misfits and screw-up agents, or slow horses, banished to toil in obscurity by MI5. The seventh book in this ongoing series looks at media corruption, the privatization of government departments, and populist movements. Read our profile of Herron and catch up, ASAP; it’s currently being adapted by Apple+ with Gary Oldman as the motley crew’s irascible head agent Jackson Lamb, alongside Kristin Scott Thomas and Jonathan Pryce.


9A Town Called SolaceMary Lawson

(Feb. 16) It’s been almost a decade since Lawson’s breakout debut Crow Lake was published. Her latest book returns to small-town Northern Ontario, this time in 1972, where eight-year-old Clara anxiously awaits the return of her runaway teenage sister. She’s also bemused by the mysterious absence of their elderly neighbour Mrs. Orchard, and the arrival of Liam, the recently divorced and unemployed 30-something who seems to have inherited her home. These three characters tell the story of how Liam came to know Mrs. Orchard from their points of view, but Lawson’s portrayal of wise, young Clara is especially well done.


10Crocodile TearsMercedes Rosende

(Feb. 18) This crime novel by Rosende, a Uruguayan lawyer and journalist by day, is about a heist gone wrong on the streets of Montevideo after a psychopath attempts to rob an armoured vehicle. The dynamic between investigator Leonilda Lima (a cop underestimated by her male colleagues) and her criminal foil, Ursula, provides a tone reminiscent of Killing Eve. In its English-language debut, this bungled caper’s black comedy has earned comparisons to Elmore Leonard.


11The Blizzard PartyJack Livings

(Feb. 23) The party in question was thrown in a grand Upper West Side apartment on the night of New York’s historic 1978 snowstorm, and changed the lives of several guests forever (asThe Ice Storm did for New Canaan, Conn.). Livings, whose debut story collection The Dog was a 2014 New York Times best book of the year, delivers a swirling and absorbing more-is-more tale – think Tom Wolfe. As lives intersect and overlap, the story reaches back to World War Two-era Poland and forward to the 9/11 fallout. “We do live in the past and future simultaneously, don’t we?” one character posits.


12The Kitchen FrontJennifer Ryan

(Feb. 23) Whether your competition of choice is Nailed It, Sugar Rush or The Great British Bake Off, this historical novel that goes inside a BBC-sponsored cooking competition will be a binge read. Ryan, author of bestseller The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, offers another heartwarming charmer about the unlikely friendships between scrappy war widow Audrey, posh Gwendoline, maid Nell and chef Zelda – all vying for the prize of radio cookery program co-host. The 1942 setting offers glimpses of how women made do under war restrictions beyond food rationing, and Ryan also sprinkles real point-stretching recipes and unusual substitution ideas throughout — though you may not want to try them at home.


THE SCROLL

Here are the 5 Books on Bill Gates’ Holiday Reading ListThe billionaire philanthropist is giving hundreds of copies to little libraries around the world


Sheila Heti and Eli Baxter Among 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award WinnersToronto writer Sheila Heti took home the fiction award for 'Pure Colour,' a novel the GG peer assessment committee called "a work of genius."


Suzette Mayr Wins $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for ‘The Sleeping Car Porter’The 2022 Giller Prize jury called Mayr's novel "alive and immediate — and eerily contemporary."


Writers’ Trust of Canada Awards: Authors Nicholas Herring, Dan Werb Nab Top PrizesThe Writers' Trust of Canada awards amounted to a combined monetary prize value of $270,000.


Bob Dylan Releases ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song,’ a Book of Essays Dissecting 66 Influential SongsIn his new book, Bob Dylan offers up both critique and historical insight into various musical recordings of the last century by a variety of popular artists.


Prince Harry’s Memoir ‘Spare’ Will Be Published in January 2023The long-awaited memoir will tell with "raw unflinching honesty" Prince Harry's journey from "trauma to healing", his publisher said on Thursday.


Sri Lankan Author Shehan Karunatilaka Wins 2022 Booker PrizeKarunatilaka won the prestigious prize on Monday for his second novel ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’, about a dead war photographer on a mission in the afterlife.


Canadian Council for the Arts Reveals Governor General’s Literary Awards FinalistsThe finalists for the Governor General's Literary Awards spotlight books in both the English and French language, as well as translated works.


New Penguin Random House Award Named After Michelle Obama Will Honour High School WritersMichelle Obama Award for Memoir will provide a $10,000 college scholarship to a graduating public school senior based on their autobiographical submission.


French Author Annie Ernaux, 82, Becomes First French Woman to Win Nobel Prize for LiteratureThe author said, of winning, that "I was very surprised ... I never thought it would be on my landscape as a writer."


Hilary Mantel, Award-Winning British Author of ‘Wolf Hall’ Trilogy, Dies at 70Wolf Hall, published in 2009, and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, released three years later, both won the Booker Prize, an unprecedented win for two books in the same trilogy and making Mantel the first woman to win the award twice.


Prince William “Cannot Forgive” Prince Harry, According to ‘The New Royals’ Author Katie NichollPrince William “just cannot forgive his brother,” according to Katie Nicholl, author of 'The New Royals: Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy and the Future of the Crown.'


Five Finalists Announced for Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for NonfictionThe winner — to be announced on November 2 — will take home the annual $60,000 prize.


Peter Straub, Bestselling American Horror Writer, Dies at 79Friend and co-author Stephen King has said the author's 1979 book, "Ghost Story," is his favourite horror novel.


Rawi Hage, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Sheila Heti Make the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize Long ListThe jury read 138 books to choose 14 titles for the long list, one of which will win the $100,000 prize, one of the richest in Canadian literature


Salman Rushdie, Novelist Who Drew Death Threats, Is Stabbed at New York LectureThe Indian-born novelist who was ordered killed by Iran in 1989 because of his writing, was attacked before giving a talk on artistic freedom.


Raymond Briggs, Creator of Beloved Children’s Tale ‘The Snowman’, Dies at 88First published in 1978, the pencil crayon-illustrated wordless picture book sold more than 5.5 million copies around the world while a television adaption became a Christmas favourite in Britain and was nominated for an Oscar.


Canadian Author Emily St. John Mandel Makes Barack Obama’s 2022 Summer Reading ListObama's list includes everything from fiction to books on politics, cultural exploration and basketball.


Canadian Author Rebecca Eckler to Launch RE:books Publishing House Focused on Female Authors and Fun ReadsThe former National Post columnist says her tagline is ‘What’s read is good, and what’s good is read.’”


Brian Thomas Isaac’s “All the Quiet Places” wins $5,000 Indigenous Voices AwardThe B.C. author, a retired bricklayer, drew on his childhood growing up on the Okanagan Indian reserve for his coming-of-age story set in 1956


Canadian-American Author Ruth Ozeki Wins Women’s Book Prize for “The Book of Form and Emptiness”The UK judges said her fourth novel, inspired in part by the Vancouver Public Library, contained "sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy."


The Bill Gates Summer Reading List Includes a Sci-Fi Novel On Gender Inequality Suggested by His DaughterBill Gates' summer reading list includes fiction and non-fiction titles that cover gender equality, political polarization and climate change.


American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history


Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.


Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."


New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.


Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.


Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."


European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."


Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.


Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.


Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.


Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro


“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.


Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories


Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel


South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 


Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.


Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events


Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards


Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde


Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 


Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members


Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations


Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


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