6 debut books you should read this February

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Each month, we will pick a handful of buzzworthy and under the radar debut books we feel you’ll enjoy.


Willa & Hesper by Amy Feltman (Grand Central; 2/5)

The story of two young women who fall in love too quickly and run from one another. Hesper heads to her family in Georgia where her family history begins to unravel. Willa travels with a guided group to Holocaust sites in Europe hoping to override her emotional state. Alternating between their points of view, the story reveals what we discover about ourselves in the pits of despair.

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (Random House; 2/12)

In the heart of the Cold War, a young, black, female intelligence officer finds herself in West Africa in a story that informs us of a part of history rarely taught in schools. The spy novel gets flipped on its head as we follow Marie in a very literary and a very non-white, male thriller that uses true events surrounding a man known as “Africa’s he Guevara” as it’s backdrop.

Rutting Season by Mandeliene Smith (Scribner; 2/12)

A collection of stories about women in different parts of their lives. Smith’s writing is very focused on the ordinary and the beauty that lays within it. Her wry observations take readers to a variety of settings and scenarios from high school drug dealing to a police standoff.

The Study of Animal Languages by Lindsay Stern (Viking; 2/19)

Stern provides an insightful look into a marriage and the difficulties of communication. Two married college professors have a wedge driven between them when an attractive new colleague comes to town. It is a fresh take on the unraveling of a marriage and fragility of our egos.

Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad (Riverhead; 2/19)

A portrait of life in Bangkok told through loosely connected threads narratives. Don’t confuse this with a story collection. Each thread connects to the other in unique ways. Reading this feels meditative and insightful.

Aerialists by Mark Mayer (Bloomsbury; 2/19)

The circus is used as a common theme in these nine stories. Mayer uses the bold, grandiose characters and settings found under the big tent. Every story feels big. There are murders, romances, and elephant dissections that are all expertly crafted.

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