February might be the shortest month, but there are still a lot of opportunities to get some quality reading in over the next few weeks — during the dependably bad halftime show at the Super Bowl, for example, or after your partner has locked you out of your apartment because you forgot Valentine's Day. This month, you can choose from new releases including a sprawling historical novel set in Paris, a science fiction thriller that deals with government and the weather, a book about how we listen to music in a new era, and a novel about five friends in Manhattan who have to come to terms with an unspeakable tragedy.
The Black Calhouns: From Civil War to Civil Rights with One African American Family, Gail Lumet Buckley (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Covering six generations, journalist Buckley tells the story of her family, starting with her enslaved great-great-grandfather, and their interactions with major events in 19th- and 20th-century America. Buckley, whose work has appeared in several major publications, is the daughter of actress Lena Horne and the ex-wife of filmmaker Sidney Lumet.
The Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
One of the most anticipated books of the year, Chee's first novel in 14 years follows an American orphan turned Paris soprano named Lilliet Berne who's offered a major role in an opera that appears to be based on her past. Years in the making, Chee's follow-up to his critically beloved novel Edinburgh is part historical drama and part suspense novel.
Square Wave, Mark de Silva (Two Dollar Radio)
In this debut novel, journalist de Silva takes aim at politics, technology, and climate in a dystopian version of America. The book’s protagonist, Carl Stagg, is a researcher and night watchman who begins to suspect that the government is trying to weaponize the weather using advanced physics.
Why We Came to the City, Kristopher Jansma (Viking)
Set in Manhattan in the early years of the Obama administration, Jansma's second novel tells the story of five college friends in their late twenties who are forced to reckon with their increasingly complex lives after one of them is diagnosed with cancer. Both joyful and tragic, Jansma's book will appeal to readers who loved Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.
Cities I've Never Lived In: Stories, Sara Majka (Graywolf)
New York author Majka has garnered critical acclaim for her short fiction. In this story collection, she follows a young woman who has just gone through a divorce, and begins to reflect on what relationships, love, and distance mean to her. These wry, sad stories are set in Majka’s native New England.
Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty, Ben Ratliff (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
With streaming services and satellite radio, it’s easier than ever to explore music we wouldn't have encountered before. New York Times critic Ratliff takes a look at how we experience music in a new era, and how technology can help us appreciate the surprising things that all kinds of music — from jazz and classical to pop and punk — have in common.
West of Eden: An American Place, Jean Stein (Random House)
With the exception of New York, no city has had as strong a hold on the American imagination as Los Angeles. In her new book, Stein (Edie: American Girl) looks at five people who came to the City of Angels in search of a new life, including actress Jennifer Jones, movie studio founder Jack Warner, and her father, Jules Stein, the doctor who founded MCA.