Amazon's best books of January: Today's releases

Erin Kodicek on January 07, 2020
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Today's releases include a Dennis Lehane-esqe thriller, Peggy Orenstein's follow-up to Girls & Sex, "the first great history book" of the decade, and more.

Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.


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Long Bright River: A Novel by Liz Moore

Many thrillers distract the readers with false leads and red herrings—it’s part of the joy of reading a good thriller. Long Bright River distracts the reader from seeing the wood for the trees too, by going back to childhood to painstakingly lay out the events that made once-close sisters take divergent paths in life. Raised by their bitter grandmother, Mickey is now an arrow-straight cop, raising a child alone, while Kacey is a victim of Philadelphia’s opioid epidemic. Estranged from one another, Mickey’s job enables her to keep tabs on her sister along with all the other lost souls and criminals on her regular beat. Every sighting of Kacey means one more day Mickey doesn’t have to worry about her sister turning up among the dead in the opioid-ravaged Kensington section of Philly. But when a string of murders coincides with Kacey’s disappearance, Mickey’s fears overrule her good sense and she obsessively hunts for Kacey in a neighborhood riddled with crime, corruption, addiction, danger, and deception. Both a harrowing tale that shows how the arc of addiction can feel like death by a thousand cuts to the rest of the family, and a tense, layered police procedural with a strong sense of place that puts it right up there with the best of Tana French or Dennis Lehane, readers will be thinking about Long Bright River long after the final page is turned. —Vannessa Cronin


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Boys & Sex by Peggy Orenstein

In her 2016 book, Girls & Sex, Peggy Orenstein spoke with hundreds of high school and college-aged girls about their thoughts on hookups, love, body shaming, virginity, abstinence, and much, much more. Now Orenstein talks with boys from the same age group, revealing that their path through the modern sexual landscape is just as twisty and thorny, if not more so, as girls’. Consent, pornography, hookup culture, gender identity, sexual preference, and a constantly changing definition of masculinity are among the issues boys struggle with and talk with her about. Orenstein’s straight-ahead questions paired with the boys’ vulnerable answers make Boys & Sex a captivating, eye-opening read. A must for anyone who has a boy or young man whom they love in their life. —Adrian Liang


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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: Ann 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 your 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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Wilmington's Lie by David Zucchino

Usually, when we read history, we at least have a cursory knowledge of the subject at hand. Sometimes, however, a book comes along that just surprises. How did we not know about this before? we ask ourselves. Wilmington’s Lie is such a book. After the Civil War, Wilmington, North Carolina prospered. It was the state’s largest city, with a busy port and a mixed race community that featured a burgeoning black middle class. But in 1898, a group of white supremacists decided to do something to turn back the page. David Zucchino’s well-researched book delivers an account of one of the few times a group of people has violently overthrown the government in this country. Although the violence that swept over Wilmington’s black community was later covered up as “a race riot,” this was a blatant act of racism, a brutal stab for power. We did not have to wait long for the first great history book of the new decade. —Chris Schluep


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The Night Country: A Hazel Wood Novel by Melissa Albert

Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood first drew us into the Hinterland, her dark fairy tale world come to life. Now her spellbinding sequel, The Night Country, takes readers deeper into the darkness. Alice Proserpine, Alice-Three-Times in her origin story, has left the Hinterland for New York City. She is not alone. Others from the Hinterland are there, too, trying to live as humans in a place they don’t belong. Someone begins killing these storybook characters, but who is doing it, and why? The love story between Alice and the boy Finch shines light and hope into the novel’s shadows, and I sped through the pages of The Night Country, heart in my throat, marveling at each new thread of the story, and hoping none of the characters I loved would die. The Night Country has new fairy tales and journeys to follow, and one tale in particular becomes the key to what is happening in both the fading Hinterland and in New York City. Albert has crafted a sequel that can also stand on its own, and for those among us who love a good fairy tale, and a mystery, The Night Country is a dragon’s hoard of riches. —Seira Wilson

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