It’s time once again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month. Publication dates are as listed in January 2023 and are subject to change. Blurbs are from GoodReads/publishers.
A Minor Revolution: How Prioritizing Kids Benefits Us All by Adam Benforado (February 7)
At the dawn of the twentieth century, a bright new age for children appeared on the horizon, with progress on ending child labor, providing public education, ensuring food and drug safety, combating abuse and neglect, and creating a juvenile justice system. But a hundred years on, the promised light has not arrived. Today, more than eleven million American children live in poverty and more than four million lack health insurance. Each year, we prosecute tens of thousands of kids as adults, while our schools crumble. We deny young people any political power, while we forgo meaningful action on the issues that matter most to them: gun violence, racism, inequality, and climate change.
Murder at an Irish Castle (Irish Castle Mystery #1) by Ellie Brannigan (February 7)
Rodeo Drive bridalwear designer Rayne McGrath expected her thirtieth birthday to start with a power lunch and end with champagne, lobster, and a diamond engagement ring from her fiancé. Instead, flat-broke and busted, she’s on a plane to Ireland where she discovers that she’s inherited a run-down family castle. Uncle Nevin’s will contains a few caveats—for example, if Rayne doesn’t turn McGrath Castle around within a year, the entire village will be financially destroyed.
With the fate of the town in her hands, and rumors that Rayne’s uncle’s death wasn’t actually an accident, she can’t possibly go back to her old life in L.A. As the devastating truth about her uncle dawns on Rayne, it’s not just her reputation that’s on the line, it’s her life.
The Promise of a Normal Life by Rebecca Kaiser Gibson (February 7, 2023)
The unnamed narrator is a fiercely observant, introverted Jewish-American girl who seems to exist in a private and separate realm. She’s the child of a first-generation doctor and lawyer—whose own stories have the loud grandeur of family legend—in an America where Jews are excluded from the country club across the street. Her expectations for adulthood are often contradictory. In the changing landscape of the 1960s, she attempts to find her way through the rituals of life, her geography expanding across the country, across the ocean, and into multiple nations.
Along the way, she meets a glamorous hairdresser on a cruise ship to Israel, loopy tarot-card-reading passengers, and Alice-in-Wonderland lawyers in Haifa. There’s a blue-eyed all-American college boyfriend, a mystified tourist agent in the Lofoten Islands, a handsome eligible rabbi in LA, a righteous and self-absorbed MIT professor, and a clandestine, calculating lover in Boston. Eventually, she finds her own compass, but only after being swept to several distant shores by many winds.
Comet Madness by Richard J. Goodrich February 15
Halley’s Comet visits the earth every seventy-five years. Since the dawn of civilization, humans had believed comets were evil portents. In 1705, Edmond Halley liberated humanity from these primordial superstitions (or so it was thought), proving that Newtonian mechanics rather than the will of the gods brought comets into our celestial neighborhood. Despite this scientific advance, when Halley’s Comet returned in 1910 and astronomers announced that our planet would pass through its poisonous tail, newspapers gleefully provoked a global hysteria that unfolded with tragic consequences.
Ring of Solomon by Aden Polydoros (February 21)
The little beachside town of San Pancras is not known for anything exciting, but when Zach Darlington buys a mysterious ring at the local flea market, his quiet little hometown is turned topsy-turvy by monsters straight from Jewish folklore and a nefarious secret society focused on upholding an apocalyptic prophecy.
Zach discovers that the ring grants him strange powers, and he’s intrigued; maybe he can use the ring’s strengths to halt the slew of anti-Semitic and homophobic bullying he’s experiencing at school. But soon the ring brings unexpected visitors—Ashmedai, King of Demons, in the guise of a preteen boy named Ash, and the local chapter of the Knights of the Apocalypse, a secret society intent on completing a creepy prophecy that will bring three monsters to Earth to start the events of the end of times.
The original manuscript of 120 Days of Sodom, a tiny scroll penned in the bowels of the Bastille in Paris, would embark on a centuries-spanning odyssey across Europe, passing from nineteenth-century banned book collectors to pioneering sex researchers to avant-garde artists before being hidden away from Nazi book burnings. In 2014, the world heralded its return to France when the scroll was purchased for millions by Gérard Lhéritier, the self-made son of a plumber who had used his savvy business skills to upend France’s renowned rare-book market. But the sale opened the door to vendettas by the government, feuds among antiquarian booksellers, manuscript sales derailed by sabotage, a record-breaking lottery jackpot, and allegations of a decade-long billion-euro con, the specifics of which, if true, would make the scroll part of France’s largest-ever Ponzi scheme.
The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz February 21
Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.
But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.
The Ship Beneath the Ice: The Discovery of Shackleton’s Endurance by Mensun Bound (February 28)
On November 21, 1914, after sailing more than ten thousand miles from Norway to the Antarctic Ocean, the Endurance finally succumbed to the surrounding ice. Ernest Shackleton and his crew had navigated the 144-foot, three-masted wooden vessel to Antarctica to become the first to cross the barren continent, but early season pack ice trapped them in place offshore. They watched in silence as the ship’s stern rose twenty feet in the air and disappeared into the frigid sea, then spent six harrowing months marooned on the ice in its wake. Seal meat was their only sustenance as Shackleton’s expedition to push the limits of human strength took a new form: one of survival against the odds.
As this legendary story entered the annals of polar exploration, it inspired a new global race to find the wrecked Endurance, by all accounts “the world’s most unreachable shipwreck.” Several missions failed, thwarted, as Shackleton was, by the unpredictable Weddell Sea. Finally, a century to the day after Shackleton’s death, renowned marine archeologist Mensun Bound and an elite team of explorers discovered the lost shipwreck. Nearly ten thousand feet below the ice lay a remarkably preserved Endurance, its name still emblazoned on the ship’s stern.
It’s Boba Time for Pearl Li! by Nicole Chen (February 28)
Pearl Li is ready to spend the summer before seventh grade hanging out with her two best friends, crocheting the cutest amigurumi dolls, and visiting her favorite tea shop, Boba Time. Its quirky owner, Auntie Cha, is the only adult Pearl can confide in about her art—if only her tech-obsessed family would understand her love of crafts!
After Pearl learns of Boba Time’s financial troubles, she decides to sell her amigurumi to raise money for the shop. But as she navigates the ups and downs of running a business, Pearl realizes that monetizing her passion is more complicated than she could’ve ever imagined. Can Pearl save Boba Time before it’s too late?
All the Knowledge in the World: The Extraordinary History of the Encyclopedia by Simon Garfield (February 28)
The encyclopaedia once shaped our understanding of the world.
Created by thousands of scholars and the most obsessive of editors, a good set conveyed a sense of absolute wisdom on its reader. Contributions from Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Orville Wright, Alfred Hitchcock, Marie Curie and Indira Gandhi helped millions of children with their homework. Adults cleared their shelves in the belief that everything that was explainable was now effortlessly accessible in their living rooms.
But now these huge books gather dust, and sell for almost nothing on eBay, and we derive our information from our phones and computers, apparently for free. What have we lost in this transition? And how did we tell the progress of our lives in the past?