5 enchanting books to read this December

These books are some of the most anticipated releases for the end of the year

White cup and book against defocused lights on Christmas tree
Holiday breaks are a perfect time to catch up on your reading
(Image credit: Elena Zaretskaya / Getty Images)

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The holiday season tends to be slow for publishing, but there's still a crop of books being released in December to look forward to. Whether you're hunting for a title to read over the holidays or a stocking stuffer for a bookish friend, these five books will round out your 2023 TBR pile nicely.

'Dazzling,' by Chikodili Emelumadu (Dec. 5)

A debut novel from British-Nigerian author Chikodili Emelumadu is set to make its way to this side of the pond in December. Emelumadu's "Dazzling" is a "clever feminist rethinking of Nigerian folklore" that "explores themes of legacy and obligation," The Washington Post described. After her father died, Treasure and her mother were thrust into poverty and are struggling to stay afloat. Then, she meets a spirit that offers to bring her dad back if she does something in exchange. Elsewhere, Ozoemena feels uneasy about the responsibilities that come with an inherited ability to transform into a leopard to keep her homeland safe. In this "story imbued with magic," the lives of these two girls "run on a collision course," Kirkus Reviews noted.  "Dazzling" is a "densely detailed tale of tradition and girl power," the review concluded.  Pre-order here. 

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'The Frozen River' by Ariel Lawhon  (Dec. 5)

New York Times bestselling author Ariel Lawhon has proved she has a deft hand with historical fiction, thanks to her previous books "I Was Anastasia" and "Code Name Hélène." Her latest, the forthcoming "The Frozen River," promises to deliver "a gripping historical mystery," per the book's blurb. The novel is inspired by the life and diary of Martha Ballard, a real-life 18th-century midwife who "defied the legal system and wrote herself into American history." When a body is found suspended in ice, Martha is called to identify it. She is shocked to discover the deceased is a man accused of rape. When the town declares his death an accident, Ballard suspects foul play and is forced to solve the murder herself. Like her previous portraits of real-life heroines, Lawhon includes an endnote with background information. "Lawhon hews closely to the historical record, and her detailed author's note is as impressive as her storytelling," Becky Meloan wrote for the Washington Post. Pre-order here. 

'All the Little Bird-Hearts' by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow (Dec.5)

Another debut creating a buzz, Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow's "All the Little Bird-Hearts," was longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize. The judges called the novel a "poetic debut which masterfully intertwines themes of familial love, friendship, class, prejudice, and trauma with psychological acuity and wit." Lloyd-Barlow tells a tender story of motherhood from the point of view of an autistic mother, Sunday, as she and her stubborn teenage daughter, Dolly, meet a glamorous couple who seem to have shifty ulterior motives. In terms of how her work might change people's perceptions of autism, Lloyd-Barlow hopes that "some of the joys of the condition, as well as the challenges, are evident to readers of my book," she said in an interview with the Booker Prizes. "And I hope, too, that other autistic writers might read my work and find it authentic, even if it does not directly reflect their own experiences." Pre-order now.

'The Other Mothers' by Katherine Faulkner (Dec. 5)

The author of "Greenwich Park," Katherine Faulkner, returns with what Barnes and Noble called a"perfectly paced thriller that keeps the pages turning and speaks to class divides and motherhood in a fresh and engaging way." Set in an exclusive London community, the story follows freelance investigative journalist Natasha Carpenter as she balances chasing a story about a missing nanny and caring for her two-year-old son. While investigating, she starts hanging out with the other mothers in her son's playgroup, an elusive group of affluent women with secrets of their own. In her latest, Faulkner "pulls out all the psychological-thriller stops—and then some," said Kirkus Reviews. Pre-order here. 

'Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel' by Shahnaz Habib (Dec. 5)

A travelogue with open eyes, writer and translator Shahnaz Habib intertwines memoir with cultural history to discuss traveling from the point of view of  "a Third World-raised woman of color" in her new book "Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel." Habib does not shy away from colonialism, capitalism and climate change as she details how she fell in love with travel writing growing up in South India. Her book "highlights the inherent inequities in privileges between those who can easily globetrot versus others who frequently encounter difficulties while traveling," Holly Hebert wrote for the Library Journal. Pre-order here.

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