Winter Reads ‘21–22

Looking for that perfect book to cozy up to on the couch? Whether you’re craving some darkly funny spec fic, or a suspenseful office drama, our winter reading list has got your perfect match!
Follow us on Tiktok and IG @thenewschool (or just check back here) as we add book recs from our current Creative Writing students!

Something New Under the Sun by Alexandra Kleeman (Faculty, Creative Writing MFA)

East Coast novelist Patrick Hamlin has come to Hollywood with simple goals in mind: overseeing the production of a film adaptation of one of his books, preventing starlet Cassidy Carter’s disruptive behavior from derailing said production, and turning this last-ditch effort at career resuscitation into the sort of success that will dazzle his wife and daughter back home. But California is not as he imagined: Drought, wildfire, and corporate corruption are omnipresent, and the company behind a mysterious new brand of synthetic water seems to be at the root of it all. Patrick partners with Cassidy — after having been her reluctant chauffeur for weeks — and the two of them investigate the sun-scorched city’s darker crevices, where they discover that catastrophe resembles order until the last possible second.

In this often-witty and all-too-timely story, Alexandra Kleeman grapples with the corruption of our environment in the age of alternative facts. Something New Under the Sun is a meticulous and deeply felt accounting of our very human anxieties, liabilities, dependencies, and, ultimately, responsibility to truth. (Synopsis from penguinerandomhouse.com)

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (MFA Creative Writing ‘16)

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist. (Synopsis from simonandschuster.com)

No Heaven For Good Boys by Keisha Bush (MFA Creative Writing ‘15)

Six-year-old Ibrahimah loves snatching pastries from his mother’s kitchen, harvesting string beans with his father, and searching for sea glass with his sisters. But when he is approached in his rural village one day by Marabout Ahmed, a seemingly kind stranger and highly regarded teacher, the tides of his life turn forever. Ibrahimah is sent to the capital city of Dakar to join his cousin Étienne in studying the Koran under Marabout Ahmed for a year, but instead of the days of learning that Ibrahimah’s parents imagine, the young boys, called Talibé, are forced to beg in the streets in order to line their teacher’s pockets.

To make it back home, Étienne and Ibrahimah must help each other survive both the dangers posed by their Marabout, and the darker sides of Dakar: threats of black-market organ traders, rival packs of Talibé, and mounting student protest on the streets.

Drawn from real incidents and transporting readers between rural and urban Senegal, No Heaven for Good Boys is a tale of hope, resilience, and the affirming power of love. (Synopsis from penguinerandomhouse.com)

The Shimmering State — Meredith Westgate (MFA Creative Writing ‘15)

Lucien moves to Los Angeles to be with his grandmother as she undergoes an experimental treatment for Alzheimer’s using the new drug, Memoroxin. An emerging photographer, he’s also running from the sudden death of his mother, a well-known artist whose legacy haunts him.

Sophie has just landed the lead in the upcoming performance of La Sylphide with the Los Angeles Ballet Company. She still waitresses at the Chateau Marmont during her off hours, witnessing the recreational use of Memoroxin — or Mem — among the Hollywood elite.

When Lucien and Sophie meet at The Center, founded by an ambitious yet conflicted doctor to treat patients who’ve abused Mem, they have no memory of how they got there — or why they feel so inexplicably drawn to each other. Is it attraction, or something they cannot remember from “before”? (Synopsis from simonandschuster.com)

We Are Watching Eliza Bright by A.E. Osworth (MFA Creative Writing ’16)

Eliza Bright is living the dream as an elite video game coder at Fancy Dog Games, the first woman to ascend that high in the ranks — and some people want to make sure she’s the last. To her friends, Eliza Bright is a brilliant, self-taught coder bravely calling out the misogyny that pervades her workplace and industry. To the men who see her very presence as a threat, Eliza Bright is a woman who needs to be destroyed to protect the game they love.

When Eliza’s report of workplace harassment is quickly dismissed, she’s forced to take her frustrations to a journalist who blasts her story across the internet. She’s fired and doxxed, and becomes a rallying figure for women everywhere. But she’s also enraged the beast comprised of online male gamers — their unreliable chorus narrates our story. Soon, Eliza is in the cross-hairs of the gaming community, threatened and stalked as they monitor her every move online and across New York City.

As the violent power of the angry male collective descends upon everyone in Eliza’s life, it becomes increasingly difficult to know who to trust, even when she’s eventually taken in and protected by an under-the-radar Collective known as the Sixsterhood. The violence moves from cyberspace to the real world, thanks to a vicious male super-fan known only as The Inspectre, determined to exact his revenge on behalf of men everywhere. We watch alongside the Sixsterhood and subreddit keyboard warriors as this dramatic cat-and-mouse game plays out to its violent and inevitable conclusion in this thrilling story of resilience and survival.
Synopsis from GrandCentralPublishing.com)

Girlhood by Melissa Febos (BA Liberal Arts ’03)

In her powerful new book, critically acclaimed author Melissa Febos examines the narratives women are told about what it means to be female and what it takes to free oneself from them.

When her body began to change at eleven years old, Febos understood immediately that her meaning to other people had changed with it. By her teens, she defined herself based on these perceptions and by the romantic relationships she threw herself into headlong. Over time, Febos increasingly questioned the stories she’d been told about herself and the habits and defenses she’d developed over years of trying to meet others’ expectations. The values she and so many other women had learned in girlhood did not prioritize their personal safety, happiness, or freedom, and she set out to reframe those values and beliefs.

Blending investigative reporting, memoir, and scholarship, Febos charts how she and others like her have reimagined relationships and made room for the anger, grief, power, and pleasure women have long been taught to deny.
Written with Febos’ characteristic precision, lyricism, and insight, Girlhood is a philosophical treatise, an anthem for women, and a searing study of the transitions into and away from girlhood, toward a chosen self.
(Synopsis from bloomsbury.com)

An Ordinary Age — Finding Your Way in a World That Expects Exceptional by Rainsford Stauffer (BA Liberal Arts ’17)

Young adulthood: the time of our lives when, theoretically, anything can happen, and the pressure is on to make sure everything does. Social media has long been the scapegoat for a generation of unhappy young people, but perhaps the forces working beneath us — wage stagnation, student debt, perfectionism, and inflated costs of living — have a larger, more detrimental impact on the world we post to our feeds.

An Ordinary Age puts young adults at the center as Rainesford Stauffer examines our obsessive need to live and post our #bestlife, and the culture that has defined that life on narrow, and often unattainable, terms. From the now required slate of (often unpaid) internships, to the loneliness epidemic, to the stress of “finding yourself” through school, work, and hobbies — the world is demanding more of young people these days than ever before. And worse, it’s leaving little room for our generation to ask the big questions about who they want to be, and what makes a life feel meaningful.

Perhaps we’re losing sight of the things that fulfill us: strong relationships, real roots in a community, and the ability to question how we want our lives to look and feel, even when that’s different from what we see on the ‘Gram. Stauffer makes the case that many of our most formative young adult moments are the ordinary ones: finding our people and sticking with them, learning to care for ourselves on our own terms, and figuring out who we are when the other stuff — the GPAs, job titles, the filters — fall away. (Synopsis from Harpercollins.com)

Ghost Hour by Laura Cronk (Faculty, Creative Writing/MFA Creative Writing ’05)

Sometimes compact, sometimes expansive, the poems in Ghost Hour emanate from adolescence and other liminal spaces, considering girlhood and contemporary womanhood — the ways both are fraught with the pleasures and limits of embodiment
Laura Cronk writes personally, intimately, yet never without profound consideration of contemporary violence, which we must love in spite of and rage against. (Synopsis from perseabooks.com)

For even more reads from our talented network of alums, check out our Alumni Bookshelf:

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