9 Books We’re Reading Right Now

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January’s installment of the Cut Book Club ranges from a popular Italian author’s series to a young-adult novel that’s — gasp — not about star-crossed love. Scroll down for the best books we’re reading this month, and if you have other recommendations, let us know in the comments. 

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1. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante 
Over the summer it seemed like all anybody could talk about was how great this random Italian author was and how her books were magnificent pillars of literary accomplishment. Sure, whatever, I thought, and turned back to my YA novel. But guess what: They were right! My Brilliant Friend is the first of four books in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels series, which sheds light on the intimacies of adolescence, womanhood, and female friendship. I just finished the last book in the series, and now I’m even kind of dreading going back to my light YA fare.” —Jessica Roy, Senior Writer

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2. Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth
I picked up this British novel about two hard-partying friends after the Cut interviewed the author. Most of the press (including ours) focused on the truly heroic amount of drugs and booze consumed by the main characters, but what I found most powerful about this book was the portrait of a passionate, albeit totally unhealthy, friendship between two women. Laura and Tyler have a relationship that’s both empowering and enabling, and Emma Jane Unwsorth writes about it in a way that feels real, honest, and not at all judgmental.” —Izzy Grinspan, Senior Editor 

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3. Dorothy Iannone: You Who Read Me With Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends by Trinie Dalton 
Low-resolution printouts of Dorothy Iannone’s artwork are hanging all over my apartment thanks to a recommendation from a late-night Instagram binge, and since looking at her depictions of empowered sexuality every day, I decided to get into her writing as well. This book was a gift from my mother for Christmas and I’ve loved reading her autobiographical work on her broken-up marriage and her trip to Iceland, all alongside proud images of the female body.” —Dayna Evans, Writer 

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4. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Most YA centers around a wildly unrealistic romance and while I usually find that entertaining, this book is not that kind of YA novel. V.E. Schwab focuses on parallel Londons and one magician, Kell, who travels between them. There’s Red London, which is a vivid and thriving place with magic, while Grey London is dreary and a close facsimile of the one in our world. White London is cold and vicious, and no one speaks of Black London. Kell meets Lila, a thief who has aspirations of being a pirate. The two deal with power-crazed rulers and other nefarious plots. It’s an easy, fun read without all the tired young-love angst.” —Diana Tsui, Senior Market Editor 

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5. Stoner by John Williams
Admittedly, I was initially drawn to this because the title is Stoner and I’m immature, but it’s actually a wonderful little book about a simple little life. William Stoner is a stoic, simple farmboy who goes to college, discovers his love of English literature, gives up the farm, gets a master’s degree, a teaching gig, a wife, then a lover. Stoner tries to achieve greatness — a pursuit that ends, not in catastrophe, just in disappointment, which is maybe even more crushing. Not exactly the most uplifting read for the first month of the New Year, but The New Yorker once called it ‘the greatest American novel you’ve never heard of,’ so at least the despair comes with bragging rights.” —Allison P. Davis, Senior Writer

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6. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
“This book is Jeff Hobbs’s unforgettable account of his best friend and Yale roommate, Robert Peace, who struggles to leave behind his poverty-stricken past in Newark. Peace’s father was in jail for life, and his mother sacrificed to ensure that her son would get a full scholarship. Reading about the challenges he faced as an inner-city black man in the Ivy League, and his choice between becoming a drug dealer or a brilliant scientist, is heartbreaking.” —Lindsay Peoples, Associate Market Editor

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7. Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick
I currently (and happily) reside in a women’s boardinghouse, a.k.a. ‘the virgin vault,’ and Kate Bolick’s memoir made me relish my solitude for the first time. I love this book, partly for Bolick’s vivid prose but mostly for her masterful portraits of five pioneering women I didn’t know much about, including Maeve Brennan, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edith Wharton. They all chose female solitude over centering their lives on men (even when some of them were with men), and their fascinating lives echo Bolick’s most compelling point: Single, married, or otherwise, we should all reflect on how to truly exist on our own.” —Catie L’Heureux, Assistant Editor 

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8. The First Bad Man by Miranda July
Me and You and Everyone We Know is a movie I love, but this is the first of Miranda July’s writing I’ve read, and her first novel. Cheryl works at a women’s self-defense studio and lives alone in Los Angeles. While dealing with unrequited love and the maternal instincts creeping up on her, she finds herself blindsided by a lecherous romance. In true July fashion, it’s just neurotic enough, self-aware, and hilarious.” —Leah Rodriguez, Producer

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9. Dryland by Sara Jaffe
A perfect little gem of a novel about coming of age and coming out in early ‘90s Portland, Dryland is the logical next step for anyone who liked Carrie Brownstein’s memoir. The heroine joins the swim team, befriends the popular kids, and meets a cool older guy, but the novel subverts all the usual high-school clichés (and, somewhat amazingly, avoids all the expected grunge clichés, too).” —Izzy Grinspan, Senior Editor