Books

The Best New Books to Read This January

Four standout new releases of the month-and one old favorite to revisit.
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This month, dive into a memoir about the transformative power of literature, try a biography of a Hollywood It Girl, devour a novel about high crimes and fine China in 18th-century England, learn about the ways that innovators live fearlessly, or revisit a classic tale of American youth that has itself entered middle age.

All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf

Some of our most intimate relationships can be with people we’ve never met, but who have nonetheless inspired us, so much so we feel as if we know them. For first-time author Katharine Smyth, that person was Virginia Woolf. Smyth, an American who was raised in New England by a British father and an Australian mother, read To the Lighthouse while abroad at Oxford. Part memoir, part literary criticism, the book examines Smyth’s own life in parallel—and contrast— to that novel’s themes.

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The Blue

The latest novel from Nancy Bilyeau, a T&C contributor and historical fiction favorite, The Blue follows a young woman in 18th-century England who dreams of becoming a painter, but instead finds herself involved with a dangerous plot that reaches all the way to the throne. History buffs will appreciate Bilyeau’s attention to detail, and thriller fanatics will enjoy her expert pacing and skilled storytelling. Either way, you might never look at a piece of porcelain the same way again.

Hollywood's Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A.

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Eve Babitz was the L.A. It Girl of the 1960s and 70s, dallying with Jim Morrison, designing album covers for Buffalo Springfield, and floating in Joan Didion’s orbit. Babitz turned her experiences into autobiographical novels and stories that were largely unappreciated during her career, but her work has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years—particularly among young women whose lives could not be further from the hedonistic, deliciously reckless days she chronicled. For this book, Lili Anolik gained unprecedented access to Babitz—who has been living as a recluse since a fire in the 1990s left her badly burned. The result is an intimate biography of a glamorous writer and a portrait of the city she called her playground.

Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose

Start the new year with an inspirational call to action. Jean Case, the first female Chairman of the National Geographic Society, sets out to show how five principles can change your life from one of fear to one of courage. She traces how innovators and icons—from Jane Goodall to Jose Andres—have succeeded by placing a big bet, taking bold risks, learning from their failures, reaching beyond their bubbles, and allowing urgency to conquer fear.

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Portnoy's Complaint

The novel that cemented the late Philip Roth as one of the leading voices of his generation is itself turning 50 this year. And while the story of the young Alexander Portnoy and his troubles, thoughts, and desires as told through therapy sessions has become one of the most celebrated books of its era—Time put it on a list of the 100 best English-language novels—for first-time readers and old fans alike, it hasn’t lost any of its potency.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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