"Most Ardently: A Pride & Prejudice Remix" by Gabe Cole Novoa; "So Let Them Burn" by Kamilah Cole; and "The Bullet Swallower" by Elizabeth Gonzalez James.

The Mary Sue Book Club, January 2024: New Books We Can’t Wait To Start the Year With

Even while curating the lists to just a handful of titles, we recommended over 80 books (including non-fiction and comics) through last year in The Mary Sue Book Club alone. This month kicks off our 2024 edition with picks that are sure to make some of your start-of-the-year reads memorable as hell.

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In non-fiction, we’ve got a rare memoir from an entrepreneur. However, this one that doesn’t sell the fantasy of bootstrappin’ your way to success and is instead incredibly critical of capitalism. In fiction, we’ve got Kiley Reid’s sophomore book that looks just as (good-yet-reflective) messy as her first. Additionally, there’s a queer Pride & Prejudice retelling that centers gender, finance, and social expectations like the Austen classic through a new lens.

Finally, in YA, we’ve got two debuts. One is a coming-of-age story about a girl yearning to have sex while helping her very religious best friend through an unexpected pregnancy. The other is an epic story of diplomacy and dragons through two sisters pitted against one another.

While the list is devoid of graphic novels this month, I insist you check out contributing writer Samantha Puc’s excellent round up of the best comics/graphic novels of last year. Now, without further adieu, here’s some books worth pre-ordering and reading this month!

Shut Up, This Is Serious by Carolina Ixta

"Shut Up, This Is Serious" by Carolina Ixta. (Quill Tree Books)
(Quill Tree Books)

Belén Dolores Itzel del Toro wants the normal stuff: to experience love or maybe have a boyfriend or at least just lose her virginity. But nothing is normal in East Oakland. Her father left her family. She’s at risk of not graduating. And Leti, her super-Catholic, nerdy-ass best friend, is pregnant–by the boyfriend she hasn’t told her parents about, because he’s Black, and her parents are racist.

Things are hella complicated.

Weighed by a depression she can’t seem to shake, Belén helps Leti, hangs out with an older guy, and cuts a lot of class. She soon realizes, though, that distractions are only temporary. Leti is becoming a mother. Classmates are getting ready for college. But what about Belén? What future is there for girls like her?

Release date: January 9.

So Let Them Burn by Kamilah Cole

"So Let Them Burn" by Kamilah Cole. 
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Faron Vincent can channel the power of the gods. Five years ago, she used her divine magic to liberate her island from its enemies, the dragon-riding Langley Empire. But now, at seventeen, Faron is all powered up with no wars to fight. She’s a legend to her people and a nuisance to her neighbors.

When she’s forced to attend an international peace summit, Faron expects that she will perform tricks like a trained pet and then go home. She doesn’t expect her older sister, Elara, forming an unprecedented bond with an enemy dragon–or the gods claiming the only way to break that bond is to kill her sister.

As Faron’s desperation to find another solution takes her down a dark path, and Elara discovers the shocking secrets at the heart of the Langley Empire, both must make difficult choices that will shape each other’s lives, as well as the fate of their world.

Release date: January 16.

I Survived Capitalism and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt: Everything I Wish I Never Had to Learn about Money by Madeline Pendleton

"I Survived Capitalism and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt: Everything I Wish I Never Had to Learn about Money" by Madeline Pendleton.
(Doubleday Books)

Imagine a job where you work four days a week and earn as much as the CEO. You also get full benefits, a gym membership, free lunch, and unlimited time off, no questions asked. Hard-won profits don’t just end up in the CEO’s pocket–they’re distributed equally among all employees. The company even buys you your very own car. It sounds too good to be true, but this is the reality at Tunnel Vision, the clothing company that Madeline Pendleton built from the ground up.

Like so many Americans, Madeline used to struggle to make ends meet. Raised by a punk dad and a goth mom in Fresno, California, she spent her teens intermittently homeless, relying on the kindness and spare couches of the local punk community to get by. By her twenties, she was drowning in student loans and credit card debt, working long hours and sick of her bosses treating her as disposable. Then her boyfriend, struggling with financial stress, died by suicide. Capitalism was literally killing her loved ones–she knew there must be a better way.

Madeline decided to study the rules of capitalism, the game everyone is forced to play. She used what she learned to build a new kind of business, one rooted in an ethos of community care.

Release date: January 16.

Most Ardently: A Pride & Prejudice Remix by Gabe Cole Novoa

"Most Ardently: A Pride & Prejudice Remix" by Gabe Cole Novoa.
(Feiwel & Friends)

London, 1812. Oliver Bennet feels trapped. Not just by the endless corsets, petticoats and skirts he’s forced to wear on a daily basis, but also by society’s expectations. The world—and the vast majority of his family and friends—think Oliver is a girl named Elizabeth. He is therefore expected to mingle at balls wearing a pretty dress, entertain suitors regardless of his interest in them, and ultimately become someone’s wife.

But Oliver can’t bear the thought of such a fate. He finds solace in the few times he can sneak out of his family’s home and explore the city rightfully dressed as a young gentleman. It’s during one such excursion when Oliver becomes acquainted with Darcy, a sulky young man who had been rude to “Elizabeth” at a recent social function. But in the comfort of being out of the public eye, Oliver comes to find that Darcy is actually a sweet, intelligent boy with a warm heart. And not to mention incredibly attractive.

As Oliver is able to spend more time as his true self, often with Darcy, part of him dares begin to hope that his dream of love and life as a man could be possible. But suitors are growing bolder—and even threatening—and his mother is growing more desperate to see him settled into an engagement. Oliver will have to choose: Settle for safety, security, and a life of pretending to be something he’s not, or risk it all for a slim chance at freedom, love, and a life that can be truly, honestly his own.

Release date: January 16.

The Bullet Swallower by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

"The Bullet Swallower" by Elizabeth Gonzalez James.
(Simon & Schuster)

In 1895, Antonio Sonoro is the latest in a long line of ruthless men. He’s good with his gun and is drawn to trouble but he’s also out of money and out of options. A drought has ravaged the town of Dorado, Mexico, where he lives with his wife and children, and so when he hears about a train laden with gold and other treasures, he sets off for Houston to rob it–with his younger brother Hugo in tow. But when the heist goes awry and Hugo is killed by the Texas Rangers, Antonio finds himself launched into a quest for revenge that endangers not only his life and his family, but his eternal soul.

In 1964, Jaime Sonoro is Mexico’s most renowned actor and singer. But his comfortable life is disrupted when he discovers a book that purports to tell the entire history of his family beginning with Cain and Abel. In its ancient pages, Jaime learns about the multitude of horrific crimes committed by his ancestors. And when the same mysterious figure from Antonio’s timeline shows up in Mexico City, Jaime realizes that he may be the one who has to pay for his ancestors’ crimes, unless he can discover the true story of his grandfather Antonio, the legendary bandido El Tragabalas, The Bullet Swallower.

A family saga that’s epic in scope and magical in its blood, and based loosely on the author’s own great-grandfather, The Bullet Swallower tackles border politics, intergenerational trauma, and the legacies of racism and colonialism in a lush setting and stunning prose that asks who pays for the sins of our ancestors, and whether it is possible to be better than our forebears.

Release date: January 23.

Come and Get It by Kiley Reid

"Come and Get It" by Kiley Reid.
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

It’s 2017 at the University of Arkansas. Millie Cousins, a senior resident assistant, wants to graduate, get a job, and buy a house. So when Agatha Paul, a visiting professor and writer, offers Millie an easy yet unusual opportunity, she jumps at the chance. But Millie’s starry-eyed hustle becomes jeopardized by odd new friends, vengeful dorm pranks, and illicit intrigue.

Release date: January 30.

Another on—two

Last month, TMS Book Club featured a rare but honorable mention for the first since the spring. And, I’m back again under a truly puzzling circumstance. This month, two books have U.K. releases that most people can purchase regardless of location. However, I’m not sure if the U.S. release (what I center as a “new publication”) is coming in a more formal way.

The first book is The Principle of Moment by Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson. The space fantasy looks like a fun period—but especially for those the Whovians and those who fawn over regency romances. Also there’s Voyage of the Damned by Frances White. Like a formal entry above, this book crossed my radar because a (former) fellow debut writer decided to review bomb this novel in one of the biggest publishing scandals of 2024. Anyways, I looked up the book and it looks great! It’s a murder mystery in a fantasy setting with high political stakes.

Which of these are you most excited to check out? Let us know in the comments if we missed a (non-sequel) book you’ve been waiting for!

(featured image: Feiwel & Friends; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; and Simon & Schuster)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.