13 new books coming in February

In Martin Puchner's "Culture: The Story of Us, From Cave Art to K-Pop," a Harvard professor goes wide, looking at standout moments and what they can tell us about our past and future.

Thirteen new books coming in February, in New York on Jan. 23, 2023. A salty historical romp, two deep dives into the entertainment industry, a handful of memoirs and Salman Rushdies much-anticipated new novel, Victory City. (Jong Hyup Son/The New York Times) Jong Hyup Son/The New York Times

‘Big Swiss,’ by Jen Beagin

Since she transcribes a sex therapist’s sessions, Greta, this novel’s unlikely heroine, is privy to all manner of intimate revelations. She falls for one, a married woman whom she thinks of as Big Swiss (owing to her ancestry and cool detachment from her emotional wounds). Things become more complicated when Greta recognizes the woman at the local dog park — and they begin an affair. (Scribner, Feb. 7)


‘Culture: The Story of Us, From Cave Art to K-Pop,’ by Martin Puchner

A Harvard professor goes wide in this study of the humanities and human creativity, looking at standout moments and what they can tell us about our past and future. As he guides readers along a Nefertiti to TikTok continuum, he shows how cultural exchange and innovation help societies address some of life’s most existential questions. (Norton, Feb. 7)


‘The Critic’s Daughter: A Memoir,’ by Priscilla Gilman

In this autobiography, the author grapples with her complicated and often painful upbringing in 1970s New York. Her mother is renowned literary agent Lynn Nesbit, but the real focus here is her late father, Richard Gilman, a drama critic and professor at the Yale School of Drama. After the marriage imploded, Nesbit shared revelations about her husband’s behavior with her adolescent daughter, who was left to make sense of his behavior and legacy. (Norton, Feb. 7)

‘Essex Dogs,’ by Dan Jones

A bestselling historian turns to fiction in this story of the Hundred Years’ War, which follows a troop of mercenaries hired to help England invade France in the mid-1300s. There’s plenty of action and bloodshed in this novel, the first in a promised trilogy. (Viking, Feb. 14)

‘Lives of the Wives: Five Literary Marriages,’ by Carmela Ciuraru

Infidelity, jealousy, malevolent neediness — there’s all manner of abhorrent behavior in this study of some notably unhappy relationships. Roald Dahl resented Patricia Neal, an acclaimed actress, after her star power surpassed his. Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia were terribly ill-suited, even as they produced some of postwar Italy’s most enduring literature. “Lives” also includes a lesbian couple, Una Troubridge and Radclyffe Hall, who enact a common dynamic seen in the book — one partner who insists on suppressing the other’s ambition. (Harper, Feb. 7)


‘Our Share of Night,’ by Mariana Enriquez. Translated by Megan McDowell

Enriquez’s frightening short stories have made her one of the most popular Latin American authors writing today. This new novel follows a grieving father, Juan — a medium who can make contact with dark, supernatural forces — who tries to protect his son from the family of his late wife. (Hogarth, Feb. 7)

‘Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears,’ by Michael Schulman

Schulman, a staff writer at The New Yorker, gives a spirited, occasionally dishy history of the ceremony, touching on the award’s most notable controversies and existential questions. (Harper, Feb. 21)

‘Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World,’ by Malcolm Harris

Harris’ earlier book “Kids These Days” was a broad cultural history of millennials, zeroing in on the unfair economic stereotypes that have dogged the generation. Now, he tells an ambitious story of Silicon Valley, showing how its specific culture and history allowed it to become the site of both breathtaking technological advancement and capitalist exploitation. (Little, Brown, Feb. 14)

‘Sink: A Memoir,’ by Joseph Earl Thomas

In his first book, Thomas details a difficult childhood in Philadelphia. The family battled addiction and poverty, and Thomas was abused, part of a culture in which “physical prowess was the only kind of knowledge that was acceptable,” as he said in a later interview. But video games and all manner of geek culture provided him an escape, and the author, now a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania, spins it into a brilliant coming-of-age story. (Grand Central, Feb. 21)


‘A Spell of Good Things,’ by Ayòbámi Adébáyò

In her second novel, Adébáyò looks at two young people in Nigeria with vastly different economic circumstances whose lives intersect amid a period of political and cultural struggle. Eniolá dreams of getting a better education after his family slid into poverty, while Wúràolá works as a hospital resident and came from a wealthier background. (Knopf, Feb. 7)

‘Unscripted: The Epic Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy,’ by James B. Stewart & Rachel Abrams

Two New York Times journalists build on blockbuster reporting as they dive into the power struggle to control Sumner Redstone’s entertainment empire, Paramount Global. (Penguin Press, Feb. 14)

‘Victory City,’ Salman Rushdie

In his first novel since he was grievously injured in a stabbing in August, Rushdie tells the story of a kingdom in southern India. Pampa is 9 when an encounter with a goddess brings her fantastical power: She speaks a mythical city into existence, tying her own fate to its destiny over the next 250 years. (Random House, Feb. 7)

‘Western Lane,’ by Chetna Maroo

In this debut novel, a Jain girl in London named Gopi copes with her mother’s death by dedicating herself to squash. She had always enjoyed the sport, but her new, intense regimen offers a distraction from grief, even as she encounters cultural and economic obstacles. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Feb. 7)

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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