14 Books You Should Read This March
Recommended Reading from Lit Hub Contributors
Carolyn Forché, What You Have Heard Is True
What You Have Heard Is True, the memoir of human rights activist and Poet of Witness Carolyn Forché is coming out this month, an account of her visit to El Salvador on the brink of civil war. Recruited out of the blue by a relative of her friend’s mother, the poet Claribel Alegría, to accompany him on a survey of the political turmoil under the US-backed Salvadoran military, 27-year-old Forché seeks truth amidst the chaos, omitting no detail and sparing no one from their culpability. In bearing witness to the injustice and suffering of the moment, she looks for ways to relieve it, and decades later she asks us to do the same.
–Kevin Chau, Lit Hub editorial fellow
Evan James, Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe
I wrote about my excitement for Evan James’ debut novel Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe in our 2019 preview, and here is an update on that excitement: holding steady! I love familial neurosis, comedies of manners, and books that unfold over a summer (summer: the season voted most likely to Change Everything), so this book promises to be one I will read straight through with no regard for relationships or responsibilities.
–Jessie Gaynor, Lit Hub social media editor
William Bryant Logan, Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees
(W. W. Norton & Company)
Arborist and historian William Bryant Logan, whose book Oak: The Frame of Civilization provided an inspiration for 2018’s big tree book, Richard Powers’ The Overstory, returns with Sprout Lands, a book of craft and wisdom that traces the long reciprocal relationship between humans and trees. As much a reminder of the vanishing arts of tending to the wild as a call toward a new (or rather, ancient) ethic of ecology, Sprout Lands is a vital contribution to the literature of the Anthropocene.
–Stephen Sparks, Lit Hub contributing editor
Helen Oyeyemi, Gingerbread
I’m a Helen Oyeyemi completist—I love her sly sense of humor, her candy-coated sentences, and her warped fabulist sensibility—so this one’s a no-brainer. She’s always writing about fairy tales; she’s always writing about families. Which, you know, same (and really, who isn’t?). Her latest novel, a loose retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story that incorporates talking plants, grudges, and exceptional gingerbread, looks like yet another stunner. I can’t wait to eat it up.
–Emily Temple, Lit Hub senior editor
Molly Gloss, The Dazzle of Day
Originally published in 1997, Molly Gloss’s The Dazzle of Day opens with a woman in her sixties pondering the next stage of her life as a voyager on The Dusty Miller, an enormous space ship populated primarily by Quakers headed toward another Earth-like planet. Flash forward to more than 100 years later, and the ship has reached its new home. The planet is almost entirely uninhabitable, so the crew is forced to make a difficult decision: land and begin the difficult and possibly fatal task of settling a harsh new world, or keep on sailing despite the breakdown of the ship’s infrastructure and the fatigue of the crew. Saga Press republishes this moving ode to environmentalism and compassionate, collective living this March.
–Amy Brady, Lit Hub contributor
Amy Hempel, Sing to It: New Stories
I’ve loved Amy Hempel ever since I read Reasons To Live in college. Her writing has such a unique precision, a wry sense of humor, and her sentences always seem to turn in a way that surprises me. (The first story in Reasons To Live starts: “My heart—I thought it stopped. So I got in my car and headed for God.”) In Sing to It, we’ll be introduced to a scorned wife examining her husband’s affair, a woman reconciling with a choice she made when she was young, and a volunteer at an animal shelter who feels more connected to dogs than people (relatable!). Sing to It is her first collection to come out in over a decade, and I’m eager to crack open this gift.
–Katie Yee, Book Marks assistant editor
Anne Griffin, When All Is Said
(Thomas Dunne Books)
Anne Griffin’s beautifully realized, sweetly sorrowful debut novel is the story of an 84-year-old widower named Maurice Hannigan who one night takes a seat at the bar of local pub to lay bare the intimate details of his life, toasting the five people who influenced it in the most significant ways. In Maurice, Griffin has created a wonderfully engaging and deeply compassionate storyteller who, though a series of increasingly candid monologues (aided by each successive drink), explores with humor and heart the accumulated weight of grief, regret, and loss on a man at the close of his life.
–Dan Sheehan, Book Marks editor
T Kira Madden, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
An upcoming release that EVERYONE has been talking about for months now is T Kira Madden’s Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, and for very good reason: it’s easily one of the best memoirs of the last decade. There’s queerness! Florida! Love and heartbreak and family! It is gorgeous on the sentence level and flat out breathtaking as a whole. It feels like a very close friend is sharing important parts of her life with you; it feels like real conversation. It is a read-it-all-the-way-though-in-a-single-night kinda memoir. You will love this book.
–Kristen Arnett, Lit Hub contributor
Kathryn Davis, The Silk Road
From the author of 2013’s marvelous Duplex comes an allegorical novel about eight people who must undertake a journey together—but fear not, this isn’t a version of the TV show Sense8 in a binding. The Astronomer, the Archivist, the Botanist, the Keeper, the Topologist, the Geographer, the Iceman, and the Cook are siblings, but also archetypes, and from the moment you meet them on their yoga mats in a class to the path you must follow them on you’ll be spellbound. Best to stay alert, though, as Davis works with language in ways that few of her contemporaries do, with every word and sentence feeling immediate but also necessary to what comes later. Or is it something that came before? Chronology becomes a sort of character in The Silk Road, shifting and changing abruptly, sometimes meaningfully, sometimes mysteriously. Think of Eden, think of Bardo, think of Purgatory, think of childhood as a fugue state in which you need to learn everything for the rest of eternity, and you’ll have some idea of where this book will take you.
–Bethanne Patrick, Lit Hub contributing editor
Niklas Natt och Dag, The Wolf and the Watchman
This incredibly disturbing trip into the grotesqueries of history is as well-written as it is well-researched, true to not only the detail of the time period but also true to its mores and atmosphere. At the start of Niklas Natt och Dag’s incredibly self-assured debut, a watchman in late 18th-century Sweden discovers a mutilated corpse floating in the local cesspool, and things only get darker from there. Written by a member of Sweden’s oldest living aristocratic family, and infused with a tear-it-all-down mentality, this one is not to be missed.
–Molly Odintz, CrimeReads associate editor
K. Chess, Famous Men Who Never Lived
(Tin House Books)
Contained within K. Chess’s Famous Men Who Never Lived are a host of elements that feel extremely in my wheelhouse, from parallel Earths to a cult novel that, among a refugee community, has achieved a kind of samizdat status. The central conceit, about refugees from an alternate Earth now residing in our world, feels both archetypal and urgently contemporary—not a bad feat to pull off.
–Tobias Carroll, Lit Hub contributor
Marcus Malte, translated by Emma Ramadan and Tom Roberge, The Boy
This is an epic novel crafted with the detail of a dollhouse—but the doll is an illiterate wild child and the house is the sprawling bleak earth. The Boy is built of crystalline vignettes that channel the visceral experience of joining civilization late. It’s a carnal and human story and also an immersive dive into the tumultuous history of France in the early 20th century.
–Nate McNamara, Lit Hub contributor
Tim Dee, Landfill: Notes on Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene
(Chelsea Green Publishing)
Buffalo has Lake Erie and the Niagara River as well as mountainous landfills in the outlying areas: Gulls are no strangers here. However, Landfill both astonished and surprised me. Initially addressing the anthropocentric nature of gulls and human waste disposal, it becomes much more than the subtitle promises. Dee writes like a charismatic literature professor lecturing in front of a room of environmentalists and birders auditing a class. Culling from the works of Beckett, Borges, Chekhov, Larkin, and so many others, he explains and illuminates both purposeful and forced adaptation. There is much to be learned about planetary destruction from studying birds.
–Lucy Kogler, Lit Hub contributor
Barry Lopez, Horizon
I think in the future two human habits will baffle those who occupy earth after us: what we eat, as in how much meat and how we factory farmed it; and how we traveled. As in how little we thought of journeying thousands of miles across the globe for small purposes. Major breakthroughs must happen in both aspects of 21st century life if we’re still going to have a future, so a book like Horizon–Barry Lopez’s thirty years in the making autobiography–has many layers of mourning built into it. This is, without a doubt, a traveler’s memoir, a West with the Night of a North American seeker. From Australia to Japan, to parts of Africa and the remote Arctic, this book follows the contrails of memory back to journeys Lopez took and describes what he saw and why he went. In this way, Horizon is also a chilling but somehow comforting psalm for the anthropocene: time and again he intersects with animal life, and their mysterious and numerous ways of knowing. Tries to divine them, or at least pay tribute on the hope that some day maybe we will. It turns out we need a horizon of human knowledge just as much as we need a record of who and what was here: beautifully, elegantly, this book manages to provide us with both things.
–John Freeman, Lit Hub executive editor