The following books (all released Jan. 6-25) include novels about sisters and lost girls, and nonfiction about disease, physics, auto manufacturing, women in Afghanistan and celebrity couples.
The Killer Within: In the Company of Monsters, by Philip Carlo (Overlook, 250 pages, Jan. 6)
Carlo's books since 2006 have been about serial killers and Mafia bosses. Now he applies his detective skills as "the dean of true-crime horror writers" to something very different: the affliction, inside his own body, known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease.
The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race To Discover the Rest of Reality, by Richard Panek (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 320 pages, Jan. 10)
Everything we can perceive — planets, galaxies, outer space — is only 1/25th of what's actually out there. "Dark matter" and "dark energy" may be the equivalent of "Here there be monsters," but it's an exciting time for astronomers and physicists. As Panek says, "Not only are we not at the center of the universe, we’re not even made of the same stuff as the vast majority of the universe."
Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant, by Paul Clemens (Doubleday, 280 pages, Jan. 18)
What symbolizes America's de-industrialization — the gradual decline of our manufacturing sector — better than the decline of a Detroit auto plant? A report from the assembly-line trenches.
The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 320 pages, Jan. 20)
A debut novel tackles the themes of sisterhood, books and home. Dad's a Shakespeare professor, and his three adult daughters resemble Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia. (They spent more time reading books than relating to each other — or, really, anyone.) Now Mom's dying of cancer, and the three sisters have to work out all their conflicts.
A Cup of Friendship, by Deborah Rodriguez (Ballantine, 300 pages, Jan. 25)
Rodriguez had a bestseller with her memoir, Kabul Beauty School, in 2007. She once operated a coffee shop in the Afghan capital, and in this, her first novel, Sunny is an American woman who operates a coffee shop in, you guessed it, Kabul. We meet a variety of women: the one who got away from the Taliban, the one who hides trendy clothes under her burqa, the British journalist who finds out about Afghan women who are addicted to the very opium that they’re harvesting, and several others.
And the Rest Is History: Famous (and Infamous) First Meetings of the World's Most Famous Couples, by Marlene Wagman-Geller (Perigee/Penguin, 250 pages, Jan. 25)
What happened when Cleopatra, Kahlo, Toklas, Bacall, Monroe, Ono and others met their significant others.
The Fates Will Find Their Way, by Hannah Pittard (Ecco/HarperCollins, 250 pages, Jan. 25)
Thirty years ago, a 16-year-old girl disappeared. We never find out what happened to her. What we do find out about, from a variety of first-person points of view, is the richly elaborate theorizing of the now-middle-aged boys she left behind: What the men imagine about the rest of Nora's life tells us much more about their own anxieties and beliefs than it does about her. If you liked Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides (1993), this debut novel might be roughly comparable.