You may be just finishing up your Thanksgiving leftovers, but the New Year is just around the corner. Don’t miss these top picks for January!

West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan

Plenty has been written about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dizzying life of Jazz Age glamour and gutting fall from fame and fortune. Both his and Zelda’s life have been fictionalized before (I enjoyed last year’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald from Therese Anne Fowler), but the focus is usually on the Fitzgeralds’ heady days in Paris and Great Neck, with Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Sara and Gerald Murphy rounding out the cast of characters at their endless parties. In West of Sunset, O’Nan focuses on Fitzgerald’s last three years, after Zelda was institutionalized and Scott had been discarded by the reading public and rejected by publishers, and determined instead to earn a living writing screenplays. In his latest novel, O’Nan brings Hollywood’s Golden Age to life, along with flashbacks to key moments in Fitzgerald’s past. Despite the many vivid characters Fitzgerald brought us, his own story may be not only the most interesting, but the most iconic of Jazz Age America. I’m eager to get my hands on this version of his last years, in what Booklist calls “a moving testament to grace under pressure and an intimate look at legend.”

Audio published by Blackstone Audio. Available 1/13/2015.

 

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

What’s not to love about a middle-grade novel that brings us rival pranksters joining forces to pull off the biggest prank ever seen in the history of Yawnee Valley? From bestselling authors Mac Barnett and Jory John, this first book in a new series is poised to fill the bookshelves of fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants. With a first print run of 500,000 copies, expectations are high but early blurbs from Jon Sciezska, Jeff Kinney, Dav Pilkey, and Sara Pennypacker indicate they won’t go unfulfilled.

Audio published by Blackstone Audio. Available 1/13/2015.

 

The Revenant by Michael Punke

Every now and then in publisher pitch meetings, a publisher tells me about a book in such vivid detail it makes my stomach churn. The Revenant is one of those books. Based on a true story, it’s a novel depicting the brutal frontier life of the men in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in 1823. After one scout is viciously mauled by a grizzly bear, two men are ordered to stay behind with him until he dies to give him a proper burial, but when then abandon him—taking his weapons and leaving him defenseless—the dying man is driven to revenge. He then crawls across more than three thousand miles of uncharted frontier, warding off predators, Indian tribes, starvation, and, oh yeah, the agony of those how-are-you-still-alive grizzly bear wounds in a time when people could barely keep their water clean, let alone their gaping wounds, all so he can extract his revenge on the cowards who left him to die. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t make this guy angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Listen to the book in January and then watch the movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and sure to be cringe-worthy in the very best way, slated for release in 2016.

Audio published by Macmillan Audio. Available 1/6/2015.


Hunter Killer by T. Mark McCurley and Kevin Maurer

My husband is the military historian in the family and usually my eyes glaze over when he starts talking about this weapon or that type of tank, but I think Air Force Lt. Col. T. Mark McCurley’s account of drone warfare has appeal beyond the typical military history buff. McCurley, an experienced Air Force pilot and intelligence operator, wrote the manual on drone warfare (no, literally, he wrote the first tactical manual on how to fly the Predator). Here, he gives the rest of us an insider’s look into the controversial program. With both commercial and military drones ever more in the headlines—from what they mean for the future of warfare, to civilian privacy and safety concerns, to the humanistic repercussions of being able to take a life without necessarily having to risk one’s own—McCurley’s account will no doubt find a wide audience interested in the numerous implications for the expansion of the military’s use of drones. Expect controversy and the usual talk-show interviews to boost interest. The attachment of Kevin Maurer, who also co-wrote the hugely controversial No Easy Day, doesn’t hurt, either.

Audio published by Penguin Audiobooks. Available 1/13/2015.

 

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Of course, I’m sure you know about Marissa Meyer’s hugely popular Lunar Chronicles series, of which Fairest is the newest installment. Part of the ongoing trend of re-framing classic fairy tales, the series gives us a whole new futuristic, sci-fi, dystopian take on characters like Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella. Here, we get the back story on Levana, or as you probably know her, Snow White’s evil step-mother. Based solely on the cover (see image above), I suspect this is an even darker tale than the others in the series. (I routinely judge books by their covers, a practice that—as a former book designer for however brief a time—I find to be wholly acceptable. Covers should reflect a book’s contents, else what’s the point?) I’m looking forward to learning Levana’s story from before her time with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, and I’m hopeful it will give added depth to the events that unfold later.

Audio published by Macmillan Audio. Available 1/27/2015.