February is a short month, which might mean you have less time than usual to read whichever book your book club is picking up. Never fear: This month’s picks are so good, we bet you’ll fly through them and savor every moment. Whether you’re craving some essays by Zadie Smith or a spine-tingling thriller full of secrets, there’s a book here to keep you and your friends up chatting long past your bedtimes. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
You know what they say about dogs: They’re man’s best friend. In Sigrid Nunez’s new novel, a Great Dane named Apollo becomes a woman’s best friend. The unnamed female narrator inherits Apollo when her friend (Apollo’s owner) commits suicide. She isn’t necessarily ready for a dog, and they definitely aren’t allowed in her apartment building. Still, she takes Apollo in, and develops a loving–some might say obsessive–bond with the animal. This book is a great pick, especially if there are dog owners in your book club.
This novel will transport your book club to a dark and upsetting chapter in Australian history. Tommy and Billy McBride are teenage brothers living on the Australian frontier in the 1880s. When their parents (and dogs) are murdered, Tommy and Billy become convinced that it was their stockman Joseph who did it. Joseph is Aboriginal, and the brothers, bent on avenging the deaths of their parents, join the Queensland Native Police and strike out to look for him. The ensuing journey is violent, and the brothers will never be the same afterwards. This is a heavy book club pick, but a good choice for those interested in the history of the Australian frontier.
Maggie O’Farrell hasn’t had one brush with death, or even two. She’s had seventeen of them, and in this memoir, she tells the story of those near misses and reflects on what they meant to her. She begins by telling the story of meeting a man, alone, as she was walking one evening. He insisted that she use his binoculars to look at some nearby birds; later, a woman was found strangled to death by a pair of binoculars at the hands of the same man. With an opening anecdote like that, your book club is sure to be hooked. We predict lots of interesting conversations about near-death experiences and what it means to have survived them.
Sometimes essays are the perfect, unexpected book club pick. And if those essays happen to be by Zadie Smith, so much the better! Here, Smith is writing about a range of topics from Madonna to libraries. In a starred review, Kirkus raved: “She is never less than a formidable intellect, with an imposing command of literary and artistic canons.” We bet you’ll have trouble picking your favorite essay out of this impressive bunch. For the intellectual book club, there’s no better pick this month.
Polly is in Belleville, Delaware, but she doesn’t plan on staying for long. She’s leaving, and so is Adam, the man she meets at the bar in town. But somehow, both of them throw their plans to the wind when their paths cross. Their relationship heats up, and then it gets downright dangerous. Both Adam and Polly have a past, and before long, it starts to catch up to them. Your book club won’t be able to put this thriller down. Plus, you know when a book gets stars from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, it has to be good.
Shopaholics, assemble. Sophie Kinsella’s latest is sure to please her longtime fans and new readers alike. After ten years together, Sylvie and Dan have settled into a comfortable rhythm as both parents and partners. But they’re both shaken by a trip to the doctor. No one is sick or gravely ill. In fact, they’re healthy enough that the doctor believes they have another 68 years of marital bliss ahead of them. Determined to make those 68 years new and exciting, Sylvia and Dan decide to start giving each other surprises. Some are laughable, some laughably bad, and some are just bad. The only thing that isn’t surprising? How downright delightful this novel is.
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and illustrated by Emily Carroll
If your last book club meeting was canceled in favor of attending the Women’s March, this is the book for you. Adapted from Laurie Halse Anderson’s critically acclaimed novel Speak, this unforgettable graphic novel delivers a powerful story about trauma, assault, and finding your voice. High school freshman Melinda is treated as an outcast and pariah after calling the cops and breaking up the last big party of the summer. But what no one knows is that she was calling for help after being raped by an upperclassman. Melinda blocks the night from her mind as best she can, and shuts down. Her grades drop, her friends shun her, and she remains completely silent about the true events of that night. But when her attacker begins to move in on other girls, Melinda is driven speak out and protect the girls at her school. Emily Carroll’s artwork is breathtaking, perfectly capturing the horror that real-life monsters instill and the bright spark of hope that support and understanding can bring.
Book clubs looking to have a nuanced discussion about society’s obsession with beauty and the cost we pay for it will find themselves swept away by Dhonielle Clayton’s young adult fantasy novel. In the decadent world of Orléans, citizens worship the Belles, who have the ability to alter the appearances of others. When they come of age, Belles are assigned areas of the city to live and work in, and one lucky Belle is asked to serve the royal family. Camellia Beauregard believes it is her destiny to be selected by the queen to live in the palace. But being chosen turns out to be more of a curse than a blessing. This is one of the buzziest YA books of the year. Don’t miss out.