11 books you have to read in January | EW.com
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11 books you have to read in January

You made it all the way through your 2015 to-read pile over the holiday break (great job!) — but now your fingers are left itching for pages to turn. Fear not, dear readers: We’re here with 11 effusive recommendations for your next book, whether you love getting lost in a memoir, piecing together the clues in a thriller, or just basking in some beautiful literary prose.

RELATED: The 10 Best (And 5 Worst!) Books of 2015

Ruth Wariner, The Sound of Gravel

As we wrote in our review, you’ll lose sleep over Wariner’s heart-stopping memoir of her childhood growing up in a polygamous cult. Certain sections are just as terrible as you think (and others are even worse), but Wariner’s strength and determination to take care of her siblings is stunning. (Jan. 5)

Elizabeth Strout, My Name is Lucy Barton

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge turns her lovely prose to a new lady: The bedridden Lucy Barton, who converses with her quiet mother, visiting as Barton recovers from a hospital stay. (Jan. 5)

Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

A brilliant neurosurgeon (and philosopher with an M.A. in literature), Kalanithi had his life flipped upside-down at age 36, when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer; in fact, you might have read his widely-shared New York Times essay, “How Long Have I Got Left,” published in 2014. This gorgeous posthumous memoir (Kalanithi died at 37 in March 2015) explores Kalanithi’s transition from doctor to patient as he meditates on life and death. (Jan. 12)

Sunil Yapa, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

Taking place over just one volatile day, Yapa’s explosive debut is set during Seattle’s World Trade Organization protests in November 1999. It explores the relationships between and among its seven main characters, which include 19-year-old Victor, his estranged police chief father, Sri Lanka’s finance minister, and a pair of nonviolent protestors. (Jan. 12)

Benjamin Black, Even the Dead

EW’s books editor Tina Jordan is a major fan of Benjamin Black’s (author John Banville’s pen name) Quirke series — and his seventh, Even the Dead, is as great as ever. If you haven’t yet met Quirke, an alcoholic pathologist, prepare to binge read the first six books in a fever so you can get to this one. (Jan. 12)

Abby Geni, The Lightkeepers

Geni’s haunting debut takes place on an island just 30 miles from San Francisco, but it might as well be another planet — killer sharks circle the water, violent birds rip the skin off of seals and peck humans in the head, and the waters are so rough, there isn’t even a dock for boats. Miranda, a nature photographer, applies for short-term residence on the island, living in a cabin with a few quirky biologists. But things change when she suffers a violent attack — and then her attacker is mysteriously killed the next day. Geni’s writing about the natural world is marvelous and her atmospheric novel is not to be missed. (Jan. 12)

Tom Hart, Rosalie Lightning

Don’t even think about cracking the spine on this graphic memoir without a box of tissues (or two) by your side: Cartoonist Hart writes about losing his young daughter, Rosalie, wading through the grief with his wife, and the couple’s endless search for meaning after such an awful tragedy. (Jan. 12)

Christobel Kent, The Crooked House

Alison, once named Esme, survived a brutal and bloody slaying when she was young, which took the lives of nearly everyone in her family. Now an adult, Alison is settled into a new life, but when a new boyfriend brings her back to the town where it happened, she learns that the events of that dark night may not have played out like she thought they did — and the residents of the town know more than they let on. You’ll turn the pages of this twisting thriller faster than you race up the stairs from a dark basement. (Jan. 12)

Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen

You’ll come for the cover — a fuzzy squirrel against a pleasing background of pastels — and stay for the laughs, as Veblen, engaged to brainy neurologist Paul, tries to get her life together as outside forces threaten to pull it apart. (Jan. 19)

Joyce Carol Oates, The Man Without A Shadow

From the National Book Award-winner (and frequent tweeter) comes a novel you might think is about Peter Pan — but is actually a 1950s medical drama about Elihu Hoopes, the most famous amnesiac in history (the “shadow” is his memory), and Margot Sharpe, the neuroscientist who studies him for 30 years and, against her better judgment, falls in love with him. As Sharpe wrestles with her work and her emotions (can you really fall in love with someone who can never remember you, a la 50 First Dates?), Oates explores other mysteries, both in the human brain and in Hoopes’ past. (Jan. 19)

Melanie Benjamin, The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Not to be confused with last year’s Primates of Park Avenue, Benjamin’s novel centers on New York’s society stars in the 1950s, and the glamorous friendship between socialite Babe Paley and eccentric author Truman Capote, who is invited into Paley’s elite world with disastrous consequences. Other Swans swimming through these pages include C.Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Churchill. (Jan. 26)