10 debut books you should read this February

As Biden’s Administration takes off, books coming out largely deal with the America we lived in for the past four years. The first titles coming up range from fiction exploring conspiracy theories to poverty and nonfiction tackling abuse and exploring queer culture. These ten authors are setting the tone for what books can do.

Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler (Catapult; Feb 2)

Oyler‘s literary criticism is sharp and witty. Her book, which is the perfect post-Trump novel, is no different. An unnamed character discovers her boyfriend is a well known online conspiracy theorist. While that relationship is the backbone of Fake Accounts, the meat of the book examines how truths online blur and shift on a daily basis. No one is telling the truth… is that such a bad thing?

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz (Grove; Feb 2)

The stories in Moniz‘s collection focus on girlhood and womanhood. Set largely in Florida, Moniz takes back the state the internet loves to make fun of and whose literature has been controlled exclusively by white writers. The collection pushes how literature can reveal how intimacy, grief, violence, and place can be explored in writing. Milk Blood Heat is a perfectly crafted story collection. From start to finish, Moniz highlights how perfect a short story can be.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones (Little, Brown; Feb 2)

Jones allows trauma and grief to consume her characters as well as the readers in her Barbados-set debut. The plot follows four people wanting to set a new course of life, but it doesn’t always come as easy as it should be. Violence looms over every decision, which can be difficult to digest at times. If you can get through the roughness of the book, you’ll easily find the beauty.

Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen (HMH; Feb 2)

Chen‘s stories are exquisitely crafted and told. Drawing from her years as a reporter, it feels no stone is left unturned in these stories about freedom, Chinese culture, activism, violence and more. She meticulously plots these stories that feel so grounded in reality – even when she’s toying with magical realism.

The Weak Spot by Lucie Elven (Soft Skull; Feb 9)

Elven’s book is mysterious. It’s about a mysterious woman in a mysterious town. More importantly it isn’t concerned with these mysteries necessarily. They’re tackled, but what makes this book – clocking in at under 200 pages – a perfect afternoon read is her craft. She allows the book to be weird and allows readers to connect the dots and let the story breathe on its own.

Gay Bar by Jeremy Atherton Lin (Little, Brown; Feb 9)

Lin writes a biography of sorts of the gay bars and clubs that were the backbone of the LGBTQ community for so long. At times a straightforward history book and at times a love letter to these locations, the book offers insight to how a community ticked and why certain watering holes were flocked to for parties. Gay Bar is a vital book about the past, present, and future of queer culture.

American Delirium by Betina Gonzalez, trans. By Heather Cleary (Henry Holt; Feb 16)

In her English-language debut, Gonzalez takes readers into a small Midwestern American town that is overrun a serious of mysterious events. It all starts when the deer of the area start attacking the townsfolk and an ex-hippie decides to fight back. The plot runs along two others – one about a nine year old girl trying to solve her own family’s mystery, and an immigrant taxidermist who finds himself unable to continue to live a quiet life when he gets pulled into all of the mysteries.

Let’s Get Back To the Party by Zak Salih (Algonquin; Feb 16)

Salih‘s debut asks: what does it mean to be a gay man today? Generations collide when a 30-something teacher grows jealous of teens who can be open with their sexuality. He befriends an older gay man who doesn’t quite get today’s expressive community. The book follows this friendship, while examining queer culture of today and yesterday, in a very passionate portrayal of unforgettable characters.

As You Were by David Tromblay (Dzanc; Feb 16)

Tromblay‘s memoir is difficult to digest. He examines his relationship with his father, his time in rough boarding schools, and the trauma set forth by both of those settings. As You Were offers an unflinching and no-holds-barred insight into molestation, violence, and alcoholism and how cycles of abuse can continue or be broken.

No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (Riverhead; Feb 16)

Lockwood follows up her memoir Priestdaddy with a debut novel is equally reminiscent of doom scrolling on social media in 2021 combined with the raw emotions of your teenage self’s LiveJournal. Lockwood is crafty and savvy with a bite. She knows how to balance pushing boundaries while letting readers feel cozy even if they don’t realize why they feel that way.

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