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What are the best books to read in February 2023? Here’s our take on the best novels, poetry collections and nonfiction books to read that capture the feel of the sweet snowy winter joy of the month of February. And not just this February – any February.

recommended reads for the month of February

So many books, so little time! Reading can be one of life’s sweetest luxuries. But how to quickly find the next great volume to dive into? To lend a hand, every month we share our Dandelion Chandelier Recommended Reads: books that we’ve personally read and loved – some brand new, and some published long ago. Selected to suit the season, we think they deserve a place on your nightstand. Or your e-reader. In your backpack. Or your carry-on bag. You get the idea.

what is the essential spirit of February?

For some people, February is like the state of nature: nasty, brutish and short. Too far from Christmas, and too distant from spring.

For others, it’s a month of romance – of declarations and promises, hearts and flowers.

Twelve of the best books to read to get into the mood, feel and vibe of the month of February.

Twelve of the best books to read to capture the feel of the month of February.

For those who love winter, it’s the best possible moment: right in the middle of the snow season, with fresh powder and fresh air on the menu. Others have flown south for the winter, and are happily basking like snowbirds in the sun.

It’s the start of a new year on the lunar calendar, and also the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. In short, it’s a time of high emotion – anguish, euphoria, passion, repentance, despair, bliss.

It can be a lot to take, this February thing.

what makes for the best February reading list?

So what’s the perfect read in February? Here at Dandelion Chandelier, we’re all in with matters of the heart this month.

We think the situation demands tales of those who have been fools for love – who’ve crossed deserts, or toiled in an orchard; who’ve waiting patiently (or impatiently) for years on end, or who’ve taken crazy personal risks. Stories of those who have thrown caution completely to the wind, all in the name of love.

Twelve of the best books to read to get into the mood, feel and vibe of the month of February.

The best books to read to capture the feel of the month of February.

Of course, somewhere in this mix there has to be at least one smart sexy romance, because of Valentine’s Day and all. There should also be love letters. That feels important.

But we’re not just talking about romantic love. A great February reading list should encompass as many types of love as there are in the world: platonic, familial, parental, sensual, patriotic, and even cerebral (after all, a meeting of the minds can sometimes be more difficult to find in life than a meeting of two hearts).

perfect books to read in the month of February

Here are the books that we feel pair perfectly with February.

Twelve of the best books to read to get into the mood, feel and vibe of the month of February.

The best books to read to get into the feel of the month of February.

You can dip into these after finishing off a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates; or on your way to a date; or après-ski. They’d be good company on a grey winter day curled up on the sofa – or on a lounge chair at the beach.

You could even read one instead of watching the Super Bowl – we won’t tell if you won’t.

1. Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker.

If you ask us, the whimsical and delightful book Dear Mr. You  wins the prize for “most February of all.” It’s a series of letters that actress Mary-Louise Parker composes to the men, real and hypothetical, who have informed the person she is today.

Some are love letters. Some are cries from the heart. It’s her first book, and it has the exuberance and freshness of an author finding her voice. It’s a fantastic read: funny, sobering, tender and warm — almost every kind of love is here, along with some resentment, disappointment and hard-earned confidence. What could be more February than that?


2. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

American Marriage is a wrenching love story that feels ripped from today’s headlines. Although that would have been true a year ago. And 10 years ago. And 100 years ago. Young Black newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist. Both seem to have unlimited career potential. Until Roy is wrongly accused of a crime and imprisoned.

While Roy is incarcerated, Celestial struggles to hold onto the love she once felt. She finds some solace with her childhood friend, Andre – who was the best man at her wedding to Roy. When suddenly, after 5 years, Roy’s conviction is overturned, he returns home expecting to pick up where they left off. But time, distance, hurt and damage are not easily undone. It’s a heartbreaking and believable story about how systemic racism can invade even the most intimate spaces. And also how somehow, there are still some bonds that are truly impermeable.


3. Everything’s Fine by Cecilia Rabess.

Here’s a thorny question: is interracial love between a Black liberal and a white conservative actually possible in this politically divided and racially charged moment in America? In her debut novel, Everything’s Fine, the author takes on this pressing question, fearlessly and knowledgeably. And she totally nails it.

Jess is a young Black woman, newly graduated from an elite college and starting work as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York. Josh is her former college classmate, a Greenwich, Connecticut-born white Choate graduate, who’s on the same desk at work. Their views on politics and society are almost always different – and their experiences as employees at two different elite financial firms are sharply divergent. Yet somehow they can’t stay away from each other.

The whole meet-cute, opposites-attract thing can get old really fast, especially in these troubled times. And when the opposing sides involve race and politics, the potential for cheesiness or cliché rise exponentially. Which makes it all the more impressive that in this case, the heated arguments and their passionate aftermath feel urgent and fresh and new. As a Black woman with a degree from an elite college who has worked at Goldman Sachs, even the most minute workplace details here ring true to me – as does the urgent matter of love across the lines of class, race and ideology. It’s a great read, and a thoughtful one.


4. Come with Me by Helen Schulman.

With a premise similar to the film Sliding Doors, Come With Me explores the life of a middle-aged wife and mother in Palo Alto who is struggling with a nagging sense of regret about a long-ago relationship and a lost child.

Her husband, unemployed, has deep frustrations of his own. And their three sons face pressures and traumas all too familiar from today’s headlines. What would change if any one of them could go back in time and make different choices? Atmospheric, sexy, twisty and deeply moving, this tale is equal parts cerebral and emotional, and hugely enjoyable.


5. Euphoria by Lily King.

A cold month calls for a hot climate and a steamy love story. Euphoria delivers both, plus an erudite examination of the early days of anthropology and its techniques.

This tale of two married social scientists and the man who encounters them in a remote Amazon village is a romantic triangle, a meditation on culture, and a deeply moving account of the ways in which love can wreck us, transform us, and demand that we change course.


6. Eucalyptus by Murray Bail.

Eucalyptus is a fable, a love story, a twisty mystery, and an overall splendid read. Once upon a time, on a property in western New South Wales, a man named Holland plants hundreds of varieties of eucalyptus trees, then decrees that only the suitor who can name each and every one of them will be worthy to marry his beautiful daughter, Ellen.

So begins a tale that poses several interesting questions, not the least of which is: how far would you go to win the love of your life? Atmospheric and evocative of Australia, you’ll learn a great deal about native plants — and even more about the inner workings of the heart.


7. Mating by Norman Rush.

Here’s the setup for Mating. A woman, a vast desert, and the man she thinks she desires more than anything in life on the other side of it. What’s a girl to do? She starts walking.

The narrator of this heroine’s journey is an American anthropologist at loose ends in the South African republic of Botswana. Her PhD thesis has gone off the rails, and she’s become enamored of a charismatic intellectual who is rumored to have founded a secretive and unorthodox Utopian society in a remote corner of the Kalahari—one in which he is virtually the only man. So she sets out to find him. Smart, sharp and funny, this is a love story for those who generally don’t like love stories. And for those who generally do.


8. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

Bel Canto is, quite simply, one of the best novels we’ve ever read. The book jacket copy pretty well says it all: “Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxanne Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening — until a band of gun-wielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage.

But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends, and lovers.” Patchett has gone on to write other brilliant novels — but this was the one that deservedly first put her on the map.


9. The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger.

The Newlyweds is a deeply felt and brilliantly crafted novel of cross-cultural love. It’s the tale of Amina Mazid, a 24-year old woman from Bangladesh who agrees to migrate to Rochester, New York, to marry George Stillman – a man who met and wooed her online. She does it to help her elderly parents, and believes that she is leaving behind any residual feelings for a charismatic and unmarried friend of her family who remains in her homeland but stays in contact with her.

The precise descriptions of upstate New York in winter, and Bangladesh in summer – the delicate rendering of the dilemmas of a young woman trying to please both her parents and herself – make this a must-read for any romantic at heart.


10. The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild.

Twelve of the best books to read to capture the feel of the month of February.

We read The Improbability of Love on a rainy afternoon one February, and we think it easily earns its place on this list. It’s a hysterically funny and insightful look into the art world and the passions that fuel it. Narrated by . . . a painting.

A young woman is working as an assistant to two somewhat sinister art dealers when she purchases a painting in a dusty antique shop that turns out to be lost masterpiece. The painting chimes in regularly to recount its history, taking us from the glamour of a London auction house to a flamboyant eighteenth-century-style dinner party, and a modest home in Berlin. Food, art, romance and mystery — what more could one want in February?


11. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

A hopeless burning passion is the perfect basis for a February read. Which is why Daisy Jones and the Six is on our must-read list. The author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo returns with an “oral history” of a fictional 1970’s rock band, Daisy Jones and the Six. Daisy is beautiful, strong-willed and wildly talented as a singer and songwriter. Billy Dunne is the lead guitarist in a band that seems to going sideways. Until his producer realizes that putting the two together will spark an irresistible fire.

He’s right, and the on-stage sparks are not for show. There’s an intense creative kinship between the two, who together write several songs in rapid succession that top the pop charts. There’s also an undeniable sexual attraction. The only problem? Billy’s married, and trying to stay sober. Daisy’s single, and deep into drugs. Suffice it to say, it becomes a bit difficult for them to work together. To be clear: we’re not aficionados of 1970’s rock and roll. But that didn’t turn out to matter. The romance and the tales of the road – the joy and agony of the art of song-writing – are riveting. And now whenever we hear Fleetwood Mac, we get it.


12. the fire next time by James Baldwin.

the books to read that best capture the mood and vibe of February, making them perfect books to read to feel

Twelve of the best books to read to capture the feel of the month of February.

The Fire Next Time is an incredible cri de coeur from a brilliant man – and it may actually be the most powerful love letter ever written to or about one’s native land. First published in 1963, this iconic work consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation.

It’s an exhortation to Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism – and Baldwin’s clarion call still rings true today. Consider this required annual reading, especially during Black History Month.


13. Owls of the Eastern Ice by by Jonathan C. Slaght.

the books to read that best capture the mood and vibe of February, making them perfect books to read to feel

Twelve of the best books to read to capture the feel of the month of February.

Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl is a true love story of a very different kind. The author is a conservationist who becomes obsessed after sighting a Blakiston’s fish owl in the Russian province of Primorye for the first time. The species is one of the most mysterious birds on the planet – so large that “it resembles a small bear with feathers.” The encounter convinces him that science is his life’s calling. What follows is a 5-year odyssey through the forests of Eastern Russia in search of this elusive, magnificent creature.

His quest to help ensure the survival of this rare avian species comes to resemble a kind of mad, devoted pursuit of one’s beloved. He reports climbing “rotting trees to check nests for precious eggs,” and “mad dashes across thawing rivers.” The things we do for love.


books to read that capture feel the month of February

That’s our take on the best novels, poetry collections and nonfiction books to fuel your February adventures. Pascal wrote: The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of. You might want to keep that in mind this month, dear reader.

Pamela Thomas-Graham

Pamela Thomas-Graham is the Founder & CEO of Dandelion Chandelier. She serves on the boards of several tech companies, and was previously a senior executive in finance, media and fashion, and a partner at McKinsey & Co.