Best Books of January 2017: Barack Obama to Trayvon Martin

Detail from cover of Rest in Power

Every month, Signature combs through the upcoming releases across nonfiction and literary fiction to provide a look at the most exciting titles rounding the bend.

As we finally bid a grueling 2016 adieu and find ourselves in a new year, new reads are just the thing we’ll need to keep ourselves going. The holidays are behind us, and if adhering to tradition is your thing, you’ll have already drafted yourself a nice list of shiny new (or recycled, reused, and battered) resolutions. And what better to give you the will to hold yourself to them than great writing? Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael D’Antonio is taking a look at Barack Obama’s 8 years in office (A Consequential President), Simon Tolkien (yes, that Tolkien) imagines life in turn-of-the-century London (No Man’s Land), and Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin bravely and eloquently tell the story of the life and death of their son, Trayvon Martin (Rest in Power).

It’s a new year: get reading.

  • The cover of the book A Consequential President

    A Consequential President

    As Barack Obama exits office to make way for a new administration, Michael D’Antonio reflects on his legacy and examines Obama’s journey from a truly unlikely candidate to President of the United States. D’Antonio lauds Obama for the many successes of his eight years in office and credits him with returning ethics and dignity to the White House. For Democrats, it will be a bittersweet read during a time of turmoil.

    Out Jan. 3, 2017

  • The cover of the book A House Full of Females

    A House Full of Females

    Plural Marriage and Women's Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870

    At a time when feminism is, arguably, more important than ever, it’s interesting to look back at the idea of polygamy and its roots in Mormonism. That’s exactly what Cambridge-based Harvard University professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich does in her new book, A House Full of Females, uncovering the facts surrounding the circumstances that led to Mormon women winning the right to vote.

    Out Jan. 10, 2017

  • The cover of the book Lucky Boy

    Lucky Boy

    The Mexican-American experience is one we could all stand to learn more about, and while nonfiction is a good direction in which to go, it’s no surprise that fiction can also lend an extraordinary amount of insight. In her new novel, Lucky Boy, Shanthis Sekaran addresses this experience through the tale of two women and the son they share.

    Out Jan. 10, 2017

  • The cover of the book Ring of Fire

    Ring of Fire

    Brad Taylor’s latest installment to his Pike Logan series, while sure to be a delight for Pike Logan readers, can also be read as a standalone. In Ring of Fire, we follow Taskforce operators Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill into the chaos left in the wake of the Panama Papers. Logan and Cahill, desperate to combat another leak, intercept the highly confidential intel before it can reach the public. What they find there is much bigger than their own agenda, however, and leads them on the trail of a terrorist kingpin who has something great and terrible planned for the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

    Out Jan. 10, 2017

  • The cover of the book The Sleepwalker

    The Sleepwalker

    A Novel

    Fans of and new comers to Chris Bohjalian’s writing will delight in his latest mystery/thriller that centers on the disappearance of a mother from her bed in the middle of the night. Analee has a history of sleepwalking, and previous episodes (once, her daughter had to pull her from the precipice of the Gale River bridge) cause her family to fear that the worst has happened. Gruesome clues—a torn piece of her nightgown hanging from the branch of a tree—are found, but the detective won’t declare the case closed. And his fervent interest in the case, paired with all the details he seems to already know about Analee, become a horror story all their own.

    Out Jan. 10, 2017

  • The cover of the book The Unsettlers

    The Unsettlers

    In Search of the Good Life in Today's America

    In order to live in today’s America, it can sometimes feel like you must be an accomplice to two facts of life: 1) You must fall on one side of our yawning divide, be it political, cultural, or otherwise; and 2) You must partake, passively or actively, in the free-falling commercialization of our society. That’s why Mark Sundeen’s book is one of the more refreshing reads to hit shelves in 2017. His profiles of three couples cozying up to the good graces of Mother Nature, from small-town Missouri to the city of Detroit, is a call for simpler living, alternative lifestyles, and the need to question our blind obedience to mainstream materialism.

    Out Jan. 10, 2017

  • The cover of the book Quicksand


    What It Means to Be a Human Being

    Swedish novelist Henning Mankell for years gave readers the stories of Kurt Wallander, keeping us all up late at night hungrily flipping pages, devouring his carefully and thrillingly wrought books. When he announced that he had throat and lung cancer in 2014, he turned his pen to his own story. The result, the memoir Quicksand, is the culmination of his life both as a man and as a novelist.

    Out Jan. 10, 2017

  • The cover of the book Homesick for Another World

    Homesick for Another World


    Ottessa Moshfegh’s debut short story collection is electrifying. She already won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction (and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize) for her debut novel Eileen, but her greatest gift lies in short story writing. Her short stories are delightfully dangerous and laugh-out-loud funny, which is a line many writers try to toe and often trip on. Moshfegh’s writing is brutally, irresistibly human: she forces readers to stare at the facts of life they try hardest to avoid, and she rewards them for it. You won’t be sorry you picked up this book.

    Out Jan. 17, 2017

  • The cover of the book The Way of the Strangers

    The Way of the Strangers

    Encounters with the Islamic State

    The Islamic State was born in the ashes of Al-Qaeda, whose genes were passed down and mutated into something more volatile and violent than the world could ever have imagined. Beyond some basic facts, however, the cloistered nature of ISIS’s rise has resulted in a paucity of information for us to use against them: What do they value? What do they want? Even governments are stumped by the extremists’ motives and appeal. All that might change with the release of what’s primed to be the most comprehensive psychological evaluation of ISIS to date, courtesy of Graeme Wood’s The Way of Strangers, based in part on his riveting Atlantic article What ISIS Really Wants.

    Out Jan. 20, 2017

  • The cover of the book Food Fight

    Food Fight

    GMOs and the Future of the American Diet

    The word GMO sticks in most people’s mouths as if it, too, has been unnaturally modified and forced upon the public. But where do we draw the line between what we consider natural and unnatural? And to what extent are we driven to answer that question with visceral reactions versus an informed scientific perspective? Environmental journalist McKay Jenkins takes a level-headed, measured approach to understanding the GMO debate by interviewing dozens of people across the United States, and elevates the conversation in the process.

    Out Jan. 24, 2017

  • The cover of the book Reality Is Not What It Seems

    Reality Is Not What It Seems

    The Journey to Quantum Gravity

    Carlo Rovelli, New York Times bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, is back with a deep dive into the nature of the universe. He examines the evolution of the idea of reality from the time of Aristotle to today, asking questions like: What are time and space made of? And where does matter come from? He does so in accessible but compulsively readable prose that will appeal to even the most exclusively left-brained of us all.

    Out Jan. 24, 2017

  • The cover of the book A Very Expensive Poison

    A Very Expensive Poison

    The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenkoand Putin's War with the West

    Russia is at the forefront of many Americans’ minds right now, as allegations of Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election permeate headlines. At the forefront of Russia stands Vladimir Putin. In his new book, A Very Expensive Poison, Luke Harding digs deep into the scandal surrounding the poisoning and death of journalist and Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko – a death with ties directly to Putin.

    Out Jan. 24, 2017

  • The cover of the book Why Time Flies

    Why Time Flies

    We all say it, right? “Time flies.” “Where did the day/month/year go?” “It seems like yesterday.” Indeed, we all share this concept as it flits in and out of our minds. In his new book, Why Time Flies, New Yorker writer Alan Burdick addresses this very idea, addressing its notion, its mystery, and its science.

    Out Jan. 24, 2017

  • The cover of the book Pill City

    Pill City

    Pill City is the story of two honor students—“Brick” and “Wax”—living in the midst of 2015 Baltimore (AKA riot central). Brick and Wax, using their Silicon Valley-worthy computer smarts and gang connections, cut through the chaos of their home to revamp the drug world of Baltimore and make it their own. They took $100 million worth of stolen narcotics and turned it into their very own drug empire by selling not on street corners, but via an Uber-like service that they controlled with their own encrypted messaging software. Kevin Deutsch puts their story into the context of the drug-ravaged neighborhoods that he reports on for Newsday for a compelling and well-documented portrait of the inner cities of America.

    Out Jan. 31, 2017

  • The cover of the book Rest in Power

    Rest in Power

    The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin

    If any good can be drawn from the tragic, premature death of Trayvon Martin, it’s that his name now stands as a symbol for social justice reform and has finally given voice to a decades-long problem once treated with silent indifference. Rest in Power is told in alternative narratives between Trayvon’s parents, and it’s an emotionally-charged account of the boy’s life, the media maelstrom that ensued, the hurdles they faced from a challenging legal system, and ultimately their transformation of grief into a tool for activism and communal strength.

    Out Jan. 31, 2017