must reads

6 New Paperbacks You Should Read This January

Photo: Vulture

Each month, Maris Kreizman offers nonfiction and fiction paperback recommendations. You should read as many of them as possible.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Absolute power may corrupt absolutely, but it is a blast to enjoy the path to depravity in Naomi Alderman’s whirlwind of a novel, set in a world in which women suddenly gain remarkable strengths. The ability for women to easily kill with a flick of their hand changes sexual dynamics around the globe, and although the fallout isn’t pretty, it’s a thrill to watch women become empowered in ways they’d never dreamed of.

Just the Funny Parts by Nell Scovell

Nell Scovell has been in dozens of influential television writers rooms because she’s hilarious and brilliant, and has helped make everyone from David Letterman to Barack Obama and Miss Piggy appear funnier. But given the gender disparity Scovell experienced in TV, her experience was not all belly laughs. In fact, it’s inspiring that she’s managed to hold on to her sense of humor despite the indignities that come with having been the only woman in the room for so long.

Futureface by Alex Wagner

Oh how naïve we once were to believe in the glorious promise of the melting pot — the idea that in America all other cultural identities would become absorbed into a beautiful soup in which we’d all identify first and foremost as Americans. Half-Burmese and half–white European, journalist Alex Wagner was supposed to be a beacon of progress in a post-racial world that never emerged. Part memoir, part investigation, Futureface is Wagner’s reckoning with her family history and how much of who we are can actually be determined by a DNA test.

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson

Johnson’s posthumously published story collection was one of the best reviewed books of 2018, and for good reason. The title story is a knockout, an exploration of aging and mortality and the moments in life we tend to hold on to. The rest of the collection contains everything you might want in a follow-up to Jesus’ Son, featuring gritty, complex characters who come to life with prose that never fails to sparkle.

Adèle by Leila Slimani

The author of The Perfect Nanny released her debut novel in France in 2014, but now Americans finally get to read this short but weighty book about a self-destructive wife and mother caught in the throes of sex addiction. Now, the question is whether American readers will be scandalized by this messy and selfish and masochistic woman more or less than they were by the nanny who murdered her charges.

Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman

If you were a certain kind of New Yorker, you could experience FOMO in the early aughts even before social media was even a thing. In this page-turning oral history, music journalist Goodman lets us know what we were missing in the Lower East Side indie-rock scene, where bands like the Strokes, Interpol, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were at the center of a constant party. That many of the big personalities were straight-up douchebags only makes the reading more delectable.

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6 New Paperbacks You Should Read This January