Best literature and fiction of January

Erin Kodicek on January 10, 2020
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An emotional story of struggle and resilience; one of the most buzz-worthy books of early 2020; a complicated portrait of modern India; the latest from a literary legend, and more.  

See all of our literature and fiction picks, or browse the rest of the Best Books of the Month


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Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

There are some books whose descriptions defy their own power. Dear Edward, at least from my point of view, is one such novel. The premise is stark: the aftermath of a plane crash that killed 191 souls on board except a young boy named Edward. And the structure is somewhat expected: it shifts in time between after the crash and the cross-country flight that ended in devastation. But to view Dear Edward by its plot points and form only hints at the emotions one might experience while reading. So let me tell you this, Anne Napolitano’s novel made me breathe deep with heartbreak and made me cry, I mean cry-in-public, cry. But, it also made me laugh out loud and marvel at the resiliency of the human heart and the power that one person’s friendship can have on another – no matter the age. This is a novel that is more than the sum of its parts that despite the necessity of tissues, is a joy to read. —Al Woodworth


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American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Lydia Quixano Pérez runs a bookstore in Acapulco, Mexico, where she lives with her husband, Sebastián, who is a journalist, and their son, Luca. When a man starts visiting her store, buying books and striking up a friendship, she has no idea initially that he will be responsible for turning her life upside down. But Lydia and Luca will have to flee Acapulco, setting them on a journey they will share with countless other Central and South Americans-turned migrants. There is very little I can say about this novel that hasn't already been said, and it hasn't even been published yet. The buzz has been building early, and when it does go on sale it will likely be one of the most talked about (and widely read) books of the year. From the colossal opening chapter to the epilogue, American Dirt is a novel of crisp writing, urgent pacing, and remarkable empathy. It deserves the attention of a large audience. —Chris Schluep


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Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi

Tishani Doshi’s poetic chops are on full display in this ungentle but powerful portrait of modern India. In Small Days and Nights, a woman reeling from a failing marriage, and the loss of her mother, discovers that her parents had another child before she was born. So, Grace Marisola returns to Pondicherry from the U.S. where she inherits a house, and her sister’s care-giving duties. As she navigates this new and precarious life, wrestling all the while with loneliness and the pressures of familial duty, she learns some hard truths about her family, her home country, and herself that shake her to the core.  


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A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

From the author of The House of the Spirits and numerous other bestselling novels, force of nature Isabel Allende’s latest is an epic and emotional adventure that follows two refugees who have fled the Spanish American War. Roser is a young widow who must weather the sorry deck life has dealt with a doctor who is the brother of her deceased husband. They enter into a marriage of convenience to survive and so begins a series of unfortunate events in their quest to find a place they can call home. An engrossing, and ultimately hopeful, read.  

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