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8 books to add to your January reading list

Some cracking books you might have missed in 2018.

1. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite 

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 Released in November, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel is about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends. While it’s fairly disturbing, critics and acclaimed authors have been singing this book’s praises for the last few months. The New York times called it Lagos noir, and NYLON labelled it as a “riveting, brutally hilarious, ultra-dark novel”, which “heralds a new literary voice.” 

One sister, Korede, finds that loyalty and love are leaving her with no choice but to enable her murderous sister Ayoola, who can’t stop killing the men she dates. But when Ayoola ends up dating a doctor that Korede has secretly been in love with for some time, Korede thinks it might be time to call it a day with this serial killer carry-on. Naturally, things aren’t this simple. 

2. Crimson by Niviaq Korneliussen 

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Another debut novel released in November, Crimson tells the stories of four queer characters living in the capital of Greenland (a city with a population of just 18,000). Over the course of 200 pages, we learn about the intimate parts of life for four young adults called Fia, her brother Inuk, Sara (with whom Fia has fallen in love with) and Ivik (Sara’s girlfriend). 

At the start of the novel, Fia has fallen out of love with her boyfriend Peter, and is becoming more and more revolted by him as each day passes. By the end of the first chapter, Fia has decided to break up with him altogether and has fallen for Sara, as the Guardian put it, “with all the understatement of an avalanche.” 

Through monologue, exchanges of emails and text messages, it tells the story of growing up and growing into yourself. It’s no wonder it has been compared to the work of Irish author Sally Rooney. 

3. Kudos by Rachel Cusk

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The conclusion to Cusk’s groundbreaking trilogy (which opens with the novel Outline, and is followed by another called Transit – but don’t worry, you can read each of these novels as standalone books, without feeling confused or like you’re missing any essential info) sees a female writer paying a visit to Europe. 

On her flight to Europe to promote a book she has just published, she listens to a stranger in the seat next to her telling his life story and talking about his work, his marriage and the harrowing night he has just spent burying the family dog. When she reaches her destination, the conversations she has with the people she meets – about art, about family, about politics, about love, about sorrow and joy, about justice and injustice – are the most far-reaching questions humans ask.

These conversations, the last of them with her son, rise dramatically and majestically to a beautiful conclusion. 

4. Severance by Ling Ma 

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Ling Ma’s debut novel won the title of Best Book of 2018 at a host of well known publications, including Refinery29, Bustle, Buzzfeed, Jezebel, Vulture and HuffPost. 

It tells the story of Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, who is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she’s had her fill of uncertainty. She’s content to just carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible and watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend, like nothing ever happened.

So, Candace, who is going through the motions, barely even notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York City. It’s called Shen Fever, and it spreads so rampantly that companies are forced to cease operations, subways screech to a halt and families flee the state. It’s only a matter of time before New York becomes a ghost-town, and Candace hasn’t been touched by the disease which has destroyed basically everything else. Entirely alone, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost. 

However, when she does encounter other survivors it becomes clear that they are intent on exploiting those who remain immune to Shen Fever, and she faces a serious moral dilemma. 

5. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh 

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Released in June 2018, this book has been on the bestseller list for some time now and was voted as Entertainment Weekly’s #1 Book of 2018. If you’re unfamiliar with this book, it’s a novel about a young woman’s efforts to duck the ills of the world by embarking on an extended hibernation with the help of one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature and the battery of medicines she prescribes. 

Young, thin, pretty and a recent Columbia grad, the narrator feels as though she should be very happy. She has an easy job in a hip art gallery, lives in a pricey apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan which she doesn’t have to worry about paying for, and has all of her needs covered by a large inheritance that she received. Yet, there’s a dark hole in her heart and it’s not just caused by the loss of her parents, the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her or her deeply unhealthy relationship with her best pal. What could possibly be wrong? 

She turns to a combination of drugs to try and heal her growing feeling of alienation, and her year of taking time out for herself is detailed in this comic but dark showcase of Moshfegh’s talents as a writer. 

6. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez 

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When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building.

While others worry that grief has made her a victim of magical thinking, the woman refuses to be separated from the dog except for brief periods of time. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog’s care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprised rewards lie in store for both of them. 

A mediation on loss and a celebration of human-canine devotion, this book will definitely strike a chord with anybody who has ever loved an animal or experienced grief. 

7. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata 

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Sayaka Murata is one of Japan’s most talented contemporary writers, with over 650,000 copies of this novel sold in her home country. Last summer, Convenience Store Woman became her English-language debut and has been met with similar appreciation in Europe and America. 

Convenience Store Woman is the heartwarming and surprising story of a 36-year-old Tokyo woman named Keiko Furukura. Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when she begins working at the Smile Mart at age eighteen, she finds peace and purpose in her life. In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction (thanks to the fact many of these rules are laid out line by line in the store’s manual). She does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently. 

Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. She’s very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband and to look for a “proper” career, prompting her to take desperate action. 

8. Educated by Tara Westover 

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In this memoir, Tara Westover recounts her Mormon upbringing and how she spent most of her childhood preparing for the End of Days, while the government had no record of her existence due to the fact that she was never registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in hospitals. 

As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At the age of sixteen, she realised she had no choice but to leave home. In doing so, she discovered both the transformative power for education, and the price she had to pay for it. This compelling memoir was up for loads of awards from The Times, the Guardian, The New York Times, Vogue and Amazon, to name a few, and was recommended by Barack Obama and Bill Gates. If you’re not into any of the fiction titles we’ve recommended, this one is worth a read. 

Don’t see anything you fancy? Check out our previous recommendations > 

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About the author:

Kelly Earley

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