“The Opium Prince: A Novel,” by Jasmine Aimaq (Dec. 1)
The story begins in 1970, when an American diplomat, posted to Afghanistan, accidentally hits a young girl with his car. The girl’s death becomes blackmail leverage for a local kingpin, and as the drug lord and diplomat tangle, Aimaq — who, like her protagonist, grew up in Afghanistan — shows that country’s complicated history in a pulse-pounding thriller.
“Admission: A Novel,” by Julie Buxbaum (Dec. 1)
“Admission” examines the recent scandal of Hollywood parents bribing officials to secure competitive placement for their kids. Buxbaum’s latest smart, funny book is from the perspective of high-schooler Chloe Wynn Berringer, whose life is practically perfect — until her mother is arrested, and Chloe has to question more than just her choice of college.
“Long Time Coming: Reckoning With Race in America,” by Michael Eric Dyson (Dec. 1)
In his new book, the author of “Tears We Cannot Stop” addresses each of five chapters to a Black martyr, including Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Clementa Pinckney. Taken together, it’s a plea for our country to finally address the societal forces causing systemic racism.
“Rest and Be Thankful: A Novel” by Emma Glass (Dec. 1)
The “Peach” author re-creates the hallucinatory inner life of a hospital nurse who works long hours in the NICU. Her psyche splinters while her professional self remains intact, and the tension between her two realities gives Glass’s second novel the feel of a thriller.
“Perestroika in Paris: A Novel,” by Jane Smiley (Dec. 1)
Fans of the Pulitzer winner know she can handle Shakespeare (“A Thousand Acres”), satire (“Moo”) and even sagas (the Icelandic kind); why not a fable? As a young Parisian boy and his centenarian great-grandmother help a thoroughbred with a knack for making friends across the animal kingdom, the story considers the nature of freedom — and the freedom of the natural world.
“Survival of the Thickest: Essays,” by Michelle Buteau (Dec. 8)
If you think actress Buteau (“Russian Doll,” “Tales of the City”) is funny on-screen, wait until you see her on the page. Buteau describes her Caribbean Catholic upbringing in Jersey, marrying a Dutchman and her professional ascendancy with “a full heart, tight jeans, and stardom finally in [my] grasp.”
“The Particulars of Peter: Dance Lessons, DNA Tests, and Other Excuses to Hang Out with My Perfect Dog,” by Kelly Conaboy (Dec. 8)
This might be one of the month’s, if not the year’s, sweetest books — zaniest, too, as Conaboy indulges her love for her rescue mutt with a visit to “Woofstock” (“the largest outdoor festival for dogs in North America”), among other adventures. Conaboy, a New York magazine editor at large, brings voice and verve to this examination of why our pets make us swoon.
“The Book of Moods: How I Turned My Worst Emotions into My Best Life,” by Lauren Martin (Dec. 8)
Five years ago, Martin decided to ask other women whether they experienced the same negative feelings — irritability, inferiority and more — that she did. The group she founded, Words of Women (now a burgeoning community online and IRL), became the place where Martin and others learned how to understand moods and find the peace and stability they craved.
“The Mystery of Mrs. Christie: A Novel,” by Marie Benedict (Dec. 29)
Benedict takes on Agatha Christie’s most personal mystery: The 11 days in 1926 when she vanished, inciting a countrywide search and sheer panic for her family, friends and fans. When she reappeared, claiming amnesia, many hypothesized about her lost days. Benedict takes a stab at filling in the gaps.
“This One Wild and Precious Life: The Path Back to Connection in a Fractured World,” by Sarah Wilson (Dec. 29)
If you can get past the cheesy title and, okay, the cheesy cover, you may find that the author’s Nutribullet amalgamation of wisdom can help you in the here and now: hike; practice mindful shopping; read poetry and listen to meaningful music; practice “full-fat activism,” meaning wholeheartedly embracing a cause. Blend, sip, repeat. Why not? Smoothies of all kinds can be refreshing.
Bethanne Patrick is the editor, most recently, of “The Books That Changed My Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians and Other Remarkable People.”