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The Best New Book Releases Out January 9, 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_.

I’ve noticed a bit of a mini book trend for 2024 already. Or, maybe it’s not quite particular to this year, but it is something that is having a moment. Within the last couple of months, I’ve seen a few books on rethinking our relationship to creativity. For starters, there’s the writer’s guide to staying creative by Jami Attenberg titled 1000 Words, out today, which is perhaps not that surprising a topic for writers, but there’s also The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin coming January 17th, and Imagination: A Manifesto by Ruha Benjamin coming February 6th. And, just before the end of last year, Scott Shigeoka released Seek: How Curiosity Can Transform Your Life and Change the World, which, though it focuses on curiosity, I think this is an obvious lead-in to creativity.

It’s interesting to see these books on the importance of creativity for the self and community coming out around the same time, especially now that we live in the age of AI, and I plan for all four of these books to kick off my 2024 nonfiction reading.

In the fiction realm, among today’s new releases are a couple of fiction titles that focus on friendship — No Reservations by Sheryl Lister follows four friends struggling through adulthood, and My Friends by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Hisham Matar follows a young man who befriends an author whose work greatly him as a child.

And fantasy friends, I’ve also got something for you! The hardcover release of Sons of Darkness by Gourav Mohanty, which is described as “The House of the Dragon meets Succession in an epic reimagining of the Mahabharata,” is also out today.

Below, I’ve got healer Women of the Waters, gothic tales of djinn, sapphic Victorian debutantes, and more.

cover of The Waters by Bonnie Jo Campbell

The Waters by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell comes highly recommended by our Chief of Staff — and Book Riot podcast co-host — Rebecca Joines Schinsky. Plus, her latest has been selected as Jenna Bush Hager’s January book club pick. Here, we watch as the descendants of local Michigan swamp healer Hermine “Herself” Zook spend their days. One of Hermine’s grandchildren, Dorothy (also known as Donkey, naturally), is left by her mother, Rose, to grow up wild and so spends her days in nature and in math books, hoping for her parents to return. Soon, change comes to the women and girl children of the swamp in the form of family secrets and violence.

To whet your appetite even more, you can read an excerpt of The Waters here.

cover of The Fetishist by Katherine Min

The Fetishist by Katherine Min

In this posthumously released novel that channels Nabokov, shy 23-year-old punk singer Kyoko plots a murder. Her target is the philandering Daniel, a white man with a fetish for Asian women who has left a trail of destruction in his wake. Among those he’s damaged is Emi, Kyoko’s mother, who Kyoko believes died because of Daniel. Then there’s Alma, another Asian woman musician. In her final days of battling multiple sclerosis, she looks back on her relationship with Daniel and wonders about its sincerity. No matter, Daniel has been kidnapped by Kyoko and is going to have to cop to a few things if he wants to live.

cover of Sugar, Baby by Celine Saintclare

Sugar, Baby by Celine Saintclare

Hot Mess Heroine is one of my favorite sub-genres, and this debut promises all the deliciously trifling and raggedy antics that protagonists in books like The Guest, Luster, and Queenie deliver. Mixed-race British girl Agnes is the one who puts the sugar in Sugar, Baby. At 21, she’s a little listless and without direction — she works as a cleaner, still lives at home, and blows all her money during weekend club visits. But then she meets the daughter of a wealthy client, and she’s suddenly thrust into the world of being a sugar baby. Though the lifestyle comes with “champagne on tap,” there’s a huge downside to it. Her super-religious mother has kicked her out, and there’s more danger and emptiness than Agnes first realized.

cover of The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years by Shubnum Khan

The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years by Shubnum Khan

Apart from being a great book out this week, this is one I’m looking forward to for the entire year. It’s giving Rebecca meets the movie Three Thousand Years of Longing (starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, if you’re unfamiliar). It centers around Sana, who, along with her father, is one of the latest inhabitants of the once-grand Akbar Manzil, an estate off the coast of South Africa. Usually, the estate is a place where people go to forget themselves, even going so far as to ignore the estate’s uncanny qualities — like bones in the garden and mysterious moving figures — but Sana becomes obsessed with the contents of a forgotten room. The room’s pictures, diary, and other artifacts tell Sana of Akbar Manzil’s original owner’s second wife, who died a hundred years ago. She compulsively dives deeper into the woman’s life, but little does she know of the djinn that watches her from the shadows.

cover of You Dreamed of Empires by Álvaro Enrigue, translated by Natasha Wimmer

You Dreamed of Empires by Álvaro Enrigue, translated by Natasha Wimmer

In 1519, conquistador Hernán Cortés and his cadre of captains, troops, and enslaved people enter Tenochtitlan (what is now Mexico City) and are met with a ceremonial welcome put on by Atotoxli, emperor Moctezuma’s sister. The Spaniards have conquering on their minds, but they also can’t help but feel intimidated by the grandeur of the city and people. Here, that fateful meeting — and the fate of Tenochtitlan — is reimagined, breathing fresh life into the splendor of the city at the height of the Aztec empire.

cover of Don't Want You Like a Best Friend  Emma R. Alban

Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend by Emma R. Alban

In 1857, debutantes Beth and Gwen must both suffer through useless seasons. Gwen is a bit of a rake, like her father, and has no intention of ever getting married, but Beth is in the trenches trying to find a husband before she and her mother become houseless. So the two hatch a plan: if they set their parents up, Beth won’t have to marry, and she and her mother will be saved. But Gwen’s father and Beth’s mother low-key hate each other, and when a wealthy viscount starts sniffing around Beth, Gwen realizes she’s not ready to surrender the other woman to anyone else.

cover of River East, River West by Aube Rey Lescure

River East, River West by Aube Rey Lescure

Here’s another stunning debut. This time set in a developing China. In Shanghai in 2007, 14-year-old Alva, daughter of an American expat mother and a Chinese father, is hoping to move to the U.S. with her mother for a new life. But then her mother becomes engaged to their current landlord, and so she settles for an American school in Shanghai where she learns of the privileges afforded foreigners. Back in 1985, Lu Fang was a young married man working in a shipping yard in Qingdao when he met an American woman who turned his life upside down.

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!