Riot Headline Book Riot’s 2024 Read Harder Challenge

The Best New Book Releases Out January 23, 2024

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Erica Ezeifedi

Associate Editor

Erica Ezeifedi, Associate Editor, is a transplant from Nashville, TN that has settled in the North East. In addition to being a writer, she has worked as a victim advocate and in public libraries, where she has focused on creating safe spaces for queer teens, mentorship, and providing test prep instruction free to students. Outside of work, much of her free time is spent looking for her next great read and planning her next snack. Find her on Twitter at @Erica_Eze_.

If you, like me, are a lover of comics and graphic novels, I recommend adding all of the books from this list of the best comics of 2023 to your TBR.

And, if you’re interested in the world of children’s books, Cara Reese talks about how she highlights art and stories by Black artists through the publishing press she started, and Laura Sackton writes of seasonal picture books. Going up just a little in age, middle grade books out today include Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston, adapted for young readers, which tells the real story of Cudjo Lewis, the last-known survivor of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade; and Between Two Brothers by Crystal Allen, a story of forgiveness and brotherhood.

There are also a couple of sequels out. Kinning by Nisi Shawl is the long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s Everfair, a steampunk tale of an alternate Congo; and The Summer Queen by Rochelle Hassan comes after last year’s witchy YA dark forest romp The Buried and the Bound.

Finally, The Wharton Plot by Mariah Fredericks is the latest of a couple recent mysteries that have historical women as amateur detectives, the other being The Lace Widow, which follows Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza as she untangles a mystery in the early 19th century. In The Wharton Plot, 1911’s Edith Wharton is our amateur sleuth, and we follow her as she tracks a murderer through a Gilded Age New York City.

Within the new books below, there are meditations on grief — from the fantastical to the poetic — dark fantasy stories, fake dating, a nonfiction account of a Jim Crow mental asylum, and more.

cover of Martyr!  Kaveh Akbar

Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar

The grief from losing his parents drives Iranian American poet Cyrus Shams to alcoholism and an obsession with martyrdom. This obsession leads him to find out about certain mysteries surrounding his own family, starting with an Angel of Death uncle and his mother, who may not have been who she seemed.

cover of Dead in Long Beach, California  Venita Blackburn

Dead in Long Beach, California by Venita Blackburn

Here’s another one that looks at how we process grief, and heads up, Blackburn’s protagonist Coral’s methods aren’t the healthiest. When she discovers her brother in his apartment dead from suicide, instead of telling his daughter Khadija the news, she decides to masquerade as him — using his phone, she texts people back in his voice. Soon, though, her surrounding reality starts to crumble and blend with the world of her bestselling dystopian novel Wildfire.

cover of Kindling: Stories by Kathleen Jennings

Kindling: Stories by Kathleen Jennings

I really liked Jennings’ debut, Flyaway, an unsettling novella set largely in the Australian outback. In this collection of stories, she continues with her penchant for folklore and dark fantasy. There are journeys taken and lessons to be learned by the cryptozoologists, knights, and boggarts of Jennings’ stories. Question is if they’ll take the lessons to heart.

cover of Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum by Antonia Hylton

Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum by Antonia Hylton

In 1911, 12 Black men were made to construct a building from scratch in a cold forest in Maryland. Once they were finished, they became its first patients. The hospital was a state-owned one meant for the “Negro Insane,” and here, multi-award-winning Hylton documents this hospital’s — named Crownsville Hospital — 93-year history. Crownsville went from an antebellum-style work camp, to a hospital with more than 2,000 patients, to virtually fading from view once prisons and jails took over as America’s primary way to house poor people needing mental health care. This is the kind of book that sounds so interesting and necessary for me to read, but also one I know will make me feel a type of way.

For similar, I know I should read itm but I don’t want to get mad vibes, there’s also Disillusioned: Five Families and the Unraveling of America’s Suburbs by Benjamin Herold coming out today. It looks at five real American families of different ethnic and racial backgrounds to show how suburbia has allowed some to achieve the American Dream TM, while others paid the price.

cover of Into the Sunken City  Dinesh Thiru

Into the Sunken City by Dinesh Thiru

Five hundred years from now, climate change results in a drowning world. In this dystopian future, even in places like Arizona, the rain never stops. It’s in this moist, hellish landscape that 18-year-old Jin Haldar is trying her best to keep her and her sister Thara afloat without their parents. Desperation leads to Thara accepting a job offered by an eccentric stranger, and even though Jin swore off diving since their father’s death, she agrees too. And, as with any good heist, a spicy crew is assembled. As the group tries to get the gold score of a lifetime from a submerged Las Vegas, they’ll encounter sea beasts, pirates, and mysterious figures.

The [Fake] Dating Game by Timothy Janovsky

The [Fake] Dating Game by Timothy Janovsky

Holden is in his sad-boy era. He should be living it up after having gotten the chance to audition for his favorite game show, Madcap Market. Instead, he’s in a hotel room, grieving his mother’s death and a recent breakup. But then, a potential savior enters his life in the form of concierge Leo Min. If the two can convince the show’s casting directors that they’re a real couple, they may have a chance at winning, and Holden’s holdups may be fixed. But we know things rarely ever work out so neatly.

cover of You're Breaking My Heart  Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

You’re Breaking My Heart by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

One more on grief! Fourteen-year-old Harriet is struggling after her brother Tunde was killed in a shooting at their old school. Though she has some support, it’s not enough to stop her from feeling guilt over the last thing she said to Tunde the day he died. Then, a new classmate shows up. Alisia is a bit odd like Harriet, but more interestingly, she offers up knowledge of a fantastical world that exists beneath New York City’s subways — a world where Harriet may find the cure to her grief.

Other Book Riot New Releases Resources:

  • All the Books, our weekly new book releases podcast, where Liberty and a cast of co-hosts talk about eight books out that week that we’ve read and loved.
  • The New Books Newsletter, where we send you an email of the books out this week that are getting buzz.
  • Finally, if you want the real inside scoop on new releases, you have to check out Book Riot’s New Release Index! That’s where I find 90% of new releases, and you can filter by trending books, Rioters’ picks, and even LGBTQ new releases!