14 New Books for January

This month, we’ve got our eyes on Burn Coast, Shit Cassandra Saw, Mouth to Mouth, and 11 other titles of the West.

january book picks
Alta
1
BURN COAST, BY DALE MAHARIDGE
burn coast, dale maharidge
Unnamed Press

In this first novel by journalist Maharidge, former Los Angeles Times war correspondent Will Spector builds a cabin in McGee Ridge, a secluded corner of Northern California, in an effort to live off the grid. Spector is hardly alone, however, as an entire community of outlaws uses the redwood forests to grow marijuana. When the group’s matriarch, a woman named Zoë Vanderlip, goes missing, Spector teams up with one of the growers to find her, hurling himself into a web of intrigue. Unnamed Press, January 17

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2
DEVIL HOUSE, BY JOHN DARNIELLE
devil house, john darnielle
MCD X FSG Originals

Acclaimed author and indie-music songwriter Darnielle writes a murder mystery with a twist. After a lull in his professional life, Gage Chandler, a true-crime author, moves into a Milpitas house haunted by Satanic Panic–era murders. Darnielle splices the narrative with excerpts from his fictional narrator’s book, blurring the lines between fictional reality and fictional fiction. MCD, January 25

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3
DISASTER MON AMOUR, BY DAVID THOMSON
disaster mon amour, david thomson
Yale University Press

Why do we love watching disasters? Acclaimed film historian Thomson probes the human fascination with chaos by investigating real and fictional disasters. Moving from the slapstick classics of Laurel and Hardy to modern blockbusters with computer-generated imagery, Thomson excavates our love for cinematic mayhem. Yale University Press, January 25

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4
FIONA AND JANE, BY JEAN CHEN HO
fiona and jane
Viking

Fiona Lin and Jane Shen, childhood friends in Los Angeles, career through their teenage years and into adulthood, navigating together the difficulties of family and growing up. When fate and grief separate the two on opposite coasts, however, their relationship fragments and they grow apart. Ho’s novel is a story of youth, Asian American womanhood, and the closeness and distance between two lifelong friends. Viking, January 4

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5
HOW HIGH WE GO IN THE DARK, BY SEQUOIA NAGAMATSU
how high we go in the dark, sequoia nagamatsu
William Morrow & Company

Nagamatsu imbues this science-fiction novel with empathy, humanity, and love. As an Arctic plague is unleashed, we travel the globe alongside a myriad of characters, from a talking pig to an employee of a theme park for terminally ill children. William Morrow & Company, January 18

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6
HOW TO BE PERFECT: THE CORRECT ANSWER TO EVERY MORAL QUESTION, BY MICHAEL SCHUR
how to be perfect, michael schur
Simon & Schuster

In this aptly named book, Schur—creator of The Good Place—provides readers with a how-to guide on being a moral person. Relying on a healthy dose of comedy, How to Be Perfect addresses a wide array of life’s most perplexing questions, putting forth ideas and answers garnered from millennia of philosophical discourse. Simon & Schuster, January 25

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7
MOUTH TO MOUTH, BY ANTOINE WILSON
mouth to mouth, antoine wilson
Avid Reader Press

This roller-coaster ride of a novel offers an inside look at the elite art world through the filter of renowned art dealer Francis Arsenault and Jeff Cook, the man who once saved his life. Wilson adds further intrigue to the novel by making the narrator someone removed from the central action: an old friend listening to Jeff’s story in an airport lounge. Avid Reader Press, January 11

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8
A PEOPLE’S GUIDE TO ORANGE COUNTY, BY ELAINE LEWINNEK, GUSTAVO ARELLANO, AND THUY VO DANG
a people's guide to orange county, elaine lewinnek, gustavo arellano
University of California Press

Orange County is famous for its shopping centers, pristine beaches, and world-class amusement parks, but this guide presents an alternate point of view. The authors, who include Alta Journal contributing editor Arellano, point out the ways the county is complex: heterogeneous and teeming with history. University of California Press, January 25

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9
REMINDERS OF HIM, BY COLLEEN HOOVER
reminders of him, colleen hoover
Montlake

The author of It Ends with Us and Ugly Love returns with another tale of forbidden love. When young mother Kenna is released from prison after an accident that killed her daughter’s father, she is exiled by her friends and family. Bar owner Ledger Ward becomes her lone link to her daughter, but as their relationship heats up, so too does the likelihood that Kenna will lose her child forever. Montlake, January 18

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10
SAVAGE JOURNEY: HUNTER S. THOMPSON AND THE WEIRD ROAD TO GONZO, BY PETER RICHARDSON
savage journey, peter richardson
University of California Press

Thompson once rode with the Hells Angels and wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but in this biography, Richardson looks past the late writer’s celebrity status to map his development as an artist. University of California Press, January 25

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11
SHIT CASSANDRA SAW: STORIES, BY GWEN E. KIRBY
shit cassandra saw, gwen e kirby
Penguin Books

The award-winning author of “Midwestern Girl Is Tired of Appearing in Your Short Stories” returns with a full collection about women, spanning time and a variety of forms. In the title story, Cassandra, given visions by Apollo that she cannot share, finds retributive justice in watching the future fall of Troy. Elsewhere, women transform into monsters to protect themselves from violence but long for their vulnerable selves. Penguin Books, January 11

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12
THE TORQUED MAN, BY PETER MANN
torqued man, peter mann
Harper

As World War II ends, two journals are found in the rubble of Berlin. Both focus on a spy named Frank Pike, yet they offer strikingly different accounts of his wartime activities. In one version, Pike is the ultimate Allied secret agent. In the other, he is an operative aiding the Nazis. What we choose to believe determines our reading of Mann’s book. Harper, January 11

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13
THE UNFAMILIAR GARDEN, BY BENJAMIN PERCY
unfamiliar garden, benjamin percy
Mariner Books

Five years after their daughter went missing and a meteor caused a multiyear drought, Jack and Nora Abernathy reconnect to fight a deadly global pathogen and figure out what the government knows about their daughter’s fate. Percy’s riveting mystery is also an ecologically minded science-fiction thriller. Mariner Books, January 4

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14
VIOLETA, BY ISABEL ALLENDE
violeta, isabel allende
Ballantine Books

Nearing the end of her life, 100-year-old Violeta writes a series of letters to her grandson, Camilo, that recount her most significant memories. Framed by two pandemics—the 1918–19 flu and COVID-19—Violeta’s life spans the major events of the 20th century, many of which she participates in, such as the fight for women’s rights. Ballantine Books, January 25

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