8 new books coming out in February 2021


A coming-of-age story about racial identity in America today; a highly anticipated cathartic novel about a life-changing weekend shared between strangers; and an authoritative new work from a tech industry titan with a plan for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Here are eight new books to consider reading in February.

“The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation”
Courtesy of Flatiron Books

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Available Feb. 2

Scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of the three women who raised and shaped some of America’s most pivotal heroes: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. These deeply researched portraits of Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin offer a new understanding of a century of American history.

February 2021 Books-This Close To Okay
“This Close to Okay: A Novel”
Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith

Available Feb. 2

On a rainy October night in Kentucky, a recently divorced therapist is on her way home when she spots a man standing precariously on the edge of a bridge. Without a second thought, she pulls over, jumps out of the car into the rain, and persuades the man to join her for a cup of coffee. He eventually agrees to go back to her house, where he finally, reluctantly, shares his first name. However, he is not the only one who needs help. Alternating between their perspectives as they inch closer to the truth of what brought the man to the bridge, This Close to Okay is a powerful story of two strangers brought together by chance at the moment they need it the most.

February 2021 Books-My Year Abroad
“My Year Abroad: A Novel”
Courtesy of Riverhead Books

My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee

Available Feb. 2

Tinged with dark humor and rich with commentary on Western attitudes, Eastern stereotypes, capitalism, global trade, mental health, parenthood, mentorship, and more, My Year Abroad is an exploration of the surprising effects of cultural immersion, as seen through an American college student in Asia, a Chinese entrepreneur in America, and an unlikely couple hiding out in the suburbs.

February 2021 Books-Surviving the White Gaze
“Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir”
Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Surviving the White Gaze by Rebecca Carroll

Available Feb. 2

Cultural critic Rebecca Carroll grew up as the only Black person in her rural New Hampshire town. Everything changed when she met her birth mother, a young white woman, who went on to repeatedly undermine Carroll’s identity and self-esteem. As an adult, Carroll struggled with difficult boyfriends, depression, eating disorders, and excessive drinking. Ultimately, through the support of her chosen Black family, she was able to heal and forge her identity as a Black woman in America. Surviving the White Gaze explores the tension between the author’s aching desire for her birth mother’s acceptance and the loyalty she feels toward her adoptive family, and details Carroll’s search for her racial identity.

February 2021 Books-Animal Vegetable Junk
“Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, From Sustainable to Suicidal”
Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal by Mark Bittman

Available Feb. 2

Food scribe Mark Bittman is back with a deep dive into the history of food, starting with hunting and gathering to the 20th-century emergence of GMOs and ultra-processed foods. But this isn’t just a history of what or how we eat, but how food has been an economic and technological driver for change and evolution. As Bittman suggests, the quest for food for growing populations drove exploration, colonialism, slavery, and capitalism. Within the past century, food was industrialized, and since then, new styles of agriculture and food production have contributed to climate change and global health crises. But hope is not off the menu, as Bittman offers changes we can make in our everyday lives now.

February 2021 Books-The Kindest Lie
“The Kindest Lie: A Novel”
Courtesy of William Morrow

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson

Available Feb. 9

On the heels of President Barack Obama’s first inauguration and in the wake of the Great Recession, an Ivy League–educated Black engineer returns home and discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as she is about to uncover a burning secret her family wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions. The Kindest Lie captures the divide between Black and white communities, offering an unflinching view of Black motherhood in contemporary America.

February 2021 Books-Bill Gates
“How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need”
Courtesy of Knopf

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

Available Feb. 16

In this urgent book, Microsoft cofounder and philanthropist Bill Gates sets out a wide-ranging, practical—and accessible—plan for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe. Drawing on his understanding of innovation and what it takes to get new ideas into the market, the tech industry titan describes the areas in which technology is already helping reduce emissions; where and how the current technology can be made to function more effectively; where breakthrough technologies are needed; and who is working on these essential innovations.

February 2021 Books-Speak Okinawa
“Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir”
Courtesy of Knopf

Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir by Elizabeth Miki Brina

Available Feb. 23

Elizabeth Miki Brina’s mother was working as a nightclub hostess on U.S.-occupied Okinawa when she met the American soldier who would become her husband. The language barrier and power imbalance that defined their early relationship followed them to the predominantly white, upstate New York suburb where they moved to raise their only daughter. Decades later, the author comes to recognize the shame and self-loathing that haunt both herself and her mother, and she attempts a form of reconciliation, not only to come to terms with the embattled dynamics of her family but also to reckon with the injustices that reverberate throughout the history of Okinawa and its people.

More must-read lifestyle and entertainment coverage from Fortune:

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  • “The Mozart of fungi”: For ages, truffle hunting has been one of the most challenging pursuits on earth. Then the pandemic hit
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