16 January reads for the new year

Immerse yourself in these new books debuting in January 2021.

ByZibby Owens via logo
January 7, 2021, 4:00 AM
16 books to ready in January for the New Year.
16 books to ready in January for the New Year.
ABC News Photo Illustration, 'The Prophets' by Robert Jones JR, 'Let Me Tell You What I Mean' by Joan Didion, 'The Push' by Ashley Audrain, 'Of Women and Salt' by Gabriela Garcia

Zibby Owens is the host of award-winning podcast "Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books" and author of the upcoming anthology, "Moms Don't Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology."

This year has a lot to live up to. We've collectively spent so long wishing for 2020 to end, that we blindly assume 2021 will be better.

Well, if these books are any indication, it's looking to be a banner new year! At least we can lose ourselves in stunning works of fiction, immersive memoirs, thrillers and more … no matter what this year has in store.

Let's start this next chapter of our lives off on the right foot with these stellar works of literature. Happy New Year!

Jan. 5

'The Push' by Ashley Audrain

This hauntingly-written, captivating novel immerses the reader into the inner psyche and inherited trauma of one woman, Blythe, and how that affects her parenting. When she suspects her own daughter, Violet, isn't quite "normal," her fears are dismissed -- but they prove to be justified much too late. "The Push" is also Good Morning America's book club pick for January.

'A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself' by Peter Ho Davies

Short, concisely and poetically written by award-winning author Peter Ho Davies, a mixed-race immigrant author, this reflection of parenthood and unpredictable pregnancy was derived from his short story and focuses on the uncertainty of life.

'The Prophets' by Robert Jones, Jr.

"The Prophets" tackles a deep, unsanctioned love between two slave men on a Deep South plantation and how conflict and corruption conspire to tear them apart.

'The Beauty of What Remains' by Steve Leder

A mix of memoir, quotes, advice and empathy, this fantastic book about grief as written by a well-known rabbi (the senior rabbi at one of the largest synagogues in the world based in LA) is a must-read for anyone who has ever struggled with loss and illness. These days, who hasn't!? Jokes mix with practical advice and personal reflections in what would be the best (perhaps longest) sermon ever.

'Influence' by Sara Shepard and Lilia Buckingham

This book is a new teen drama co-authored by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of "Pretty Little Liars" and 17-year-old well-known actress, influencer and TikTok sensation. "Influence" is about -- fittingly -- four teen influencers: a girl whose video goes viral, a child media sensation who is hiding shameful baggage, a picture perfect Instagram couple and a girl who seems funny but hides the worst. These tales intersect for an engrossing yet cautionary tale that seems destined for the screen.


'Find Me in Havana' by Serena Burdick

An alternating narrative based on true events, "Find Me in Havana" includes music, family, Cuba, Hollywood stardom, secrets and lies -- all bound by a mother-daughter bond that transcends death.

'Walking with Ghosts: A Memoir' by Gabriel Byrne

A true literary masterpiece, actor Gabriel Byrne's memoir is a lyrical tour through his childhood in Ireland, his sexual abuse during his aborted quest to become a priest, his alcoholism, joblessness, desperation and, finally, redemption. He mentions his films in passing, but his acting career is eclipsed by the losses in his life: the death of his sister to mental illness, the time his childhood best friend who drowned in front of him, and more. The opposite of a tell-all, "Walking with Ghosts" is a work of art, a showcase to the resilience of the human spirit, the role of luck in changing a life and a reminder that celebrities should never be underestimated as true writers.

'The Forgiveness Tour: How to Find the Perfect Apology' by Susan Shapiro

Beloved Manhattan writing teacher and bestselling author Susan Shapiro has written another captivating memoir to accompany fan favorites, "Five Men Who Broke My Heart" and "Lighting Up." When she realizes her trusted advisor has lied to her for years, Sue is consumed by the betrayal which threatens to overturn her sobriety -- and sanity. She delves into what she dubs "The Forgiveness Industry" and consults religious leaders, a Holocaust survivor, a man whose wife and children were killed by a drunk driver and others who wrestle with forgiveness.

'American Daughter: A Memoir' by Stephanie Thorton Plymale with Elissa Wald

Stephanie hid the traumas of her past for decades, including her sexual abuse, poverty, and a mentally ill mother who went in and out of jail. One phone call brought her past to the present and forced her to face the past she'd long-ignored. An inspiring story of perseverance, grit, survival and humanity, "American Daughter" is a powerful, compelling memoir.

Jan. 19

'The Rib King' by Ladee Hubbard

In this thought-provoking, disturbing, captivating novel, August Sitwell works along with an all-black staff for a wealthy white family that falls from grace. To recoup their lost fortune, the Barclays decide to hawk the cook's famous rib sauce with a picture of August on the bottle: think Uncle Ben's and Aunt Jemima. What follows is a rage that simmers like the sauce itself.

'Good Apple: Tales of a Southern Evangelical in New York' by Elizabeth Passarella

After reading "Good Apple," you'll want to meet Elizabeth for coffee and a walk in Central Park. This New York coming-of-age story mixes religion with parenthood, political beliefs and closet space, elevator scares and workplace drama. And if anyone asks what it's like to raise kids in New York City, just hand them this book and say, "Here. See?"

'Before She Disappeared' by Lisa Gardner

A new thriller by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, "Before She Disappeared" tracks a middle-aged, recovering alcoholic who will stop at nothing in her Boston-area search for a missing person the police have given up searching for, despite the cost to her.

'Ambitious Girl' by Meena Harris

The second picture book by activist and Vice-President-to-be Kamala Harris's niece, Meena Harris, "Ambitious Girl," will simply be the girl power read for the kids ahead of Inauguration Day.

Jan. 26

'Everybody (Else) is Perfect: How I Survived Hypocrisy, Beauty, Clicks and Likes' by Gabrielle Korn

The former editor-in-chief of Nylon magazine reveals her innermost identity struggles and glossy experiences as a lesbian woman plagued by anorexia, adrift in the world of high fashion, parties and glamour.

'Let Me Tell You What I Mean' by Joan Didion

In these twelve pieces pulled from her prolific volume of work, legend Joan Didion struts her literary stuff, using her unique voice and style to explore themes like writing, politics and more.

'Faye, Faraway' by Helen Fisher

The twist of an ending of "Faye, Faraway" makes you keep thinking about this book long after you've put it down. An easy-to-read, hard-to-put-down debut novel by a woman who started writing in her forties is an ode to longing, healing, fate and motherhood. It also has a "Sliding Doors" element to it that makes it unique and unforgettable.