Features

The Best New Books of March 2019

There are . . . many.

Here’s the thing: March is stacked. This list is one of the longest we’ve compiled in a while. We’re sorry. Honestly, we try to keep these things to 10 books, 12 tops, but there are just so many fantastic releases this month that we couldn’t narrow them down any further. See below for plenty of great fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Gingerbread
By Helen Oyeyemi
Riverhead Books, March 5

“Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children’s stories—equal parts wholesome and uncanny, from the tantalizing witch’s house in “Hansel and Gretel” to the man-shaped confection who one day decides to run as fast as he can—beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.”

Infinite Detail
By Tim Maughan
MCD x FSG, March 5

“The world of Infinite Detail is a small step shy of our own: utterly dependent on technology, constantly brokering autonomy and privacy for comfort and convenience. With Infinite Detail, Tim Maughan makes the hitherto-unimaginable come true: the End of the Internet, the End of the World as We Know It.”

A Woman Is No Man
By Etaf Rum
Harper, March 5

“Set in an America at once foreign to many and staggeringly close at hand, A Woman Is No Man is a story of culture and honor, secrets and betrayals, love and violence. It is an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world, and a universal tale about family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sworn to protect.”

The Age of Disenchantments
By Aaron Shulman
Ecco, March 5

“A gripping narrative history of Spain’s most brilliant and troubled literary family—a tale about the making of art, myth, and legacy—set against the upheaval of the Spanish Civil War and beyond In this absorbing and atmospheric historical narrative, journalist Aaron Shulman takes us deeply into the circumstances surrounding the Spanish Civil War through the lives, loves, and poetry of the Paneros, Spain’s most compelling and eccentric family, whose lives intersected memorably with many of the most storied figures in the art, literature, and politics of the time—from Neruda to Salvador Dalí, from Ava Gardner to Pablo Picasso to Roberto Bolaño.”

Mitochondrial Night
By Ed Bok Lee
Coffee House Press, March 5

“Taking mitochondrial DNA as his guide, Lee explores familial and national legacies, and their persistence across shifting boundaries and the erosions of time. In these poems, the trait of an ancestor appears in the face of a newborn, and in her cry generations of women’s voices echo. Stories, both benign and traumatic, travel as lore and DNA. Using lush, exact imagery, whether about the corner bar or a hilltop in Korea, Lee is a careful observer, tracking and documenting the way that seemingly small moments can lead to larger insights.”

The Reign of the Kingfisher
By T.J. Martinson
Flatiron Books, March 5

“Thirty years ago a superhero tried to save Chicago. Now the city is again under siege, in this gritty, suspenseful, and beautifully written novel from award-winning debut author T.J. Martinson.”

The Silk Road
By Kathryn Davis
Graywolf Press, March 5

“The Silk Road begins on a mat in yoga class, deep within a labyrinth on a settlement somewhere in the icy north, under the canny guidance of Jee Moon. When someone fails to rise from corpse pose, the Astronomer, the Archivist, the Botanist, the Keeper, the Topologist, the Geographer, the Iceman, and the Cook remember the paths that brought them there—paths on which they still seem to be traveling. The Silk Road also begins in rivalrous skirmishing for favor, in the protected Eden of childhood, and it ends in the harrowing democracy of mortality, in sickness and loss and death.”

Famous Men Who Never Lived
By K. Chess
Tin House Books, March 5

“For readers of Station Eleven and Exit West, Famous Men Who Never Lived explores the effects of displacement on our identities, the communities that come together through circumstance, and the power of art to save us. Wherever Hel looks, New York City is both reassuringly familiar and terribly wrong. As one of the thousands who fled the outbreak of nuclear war in an alternate United States—an alternate timeline—she finds herself living as a refugee in our own not-so-parallel New York.”

Woman 99
By Greer Macallister
Sourcebooks Landmark, March 5

“Charlotte Smith’s future is planned to the last detail, but so was her sister’s—that is, until Phoebe became a disruption. When their parents commit Phoebe to a notorious asylum, Charlotte knows there’s more to the story than madness. Shedding her true identity to become an anonymous inmate, “Woman Ninety-Nine,” Charlotte uncovers dangerous secrets that haunt the asylum. Insanity isn’t the only reason her fellow inmates were put away—and those in power will do anything to keep the truth, and Charlotte, from getting out.”

Deaf Republic
By Ilya Kaminsky
Graywolf Press, March 5

Deaf Republic opens in an occupied country in a time of political unrest. When soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, Petya, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear—they all have gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. The story follows the private lives of townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting a child; the brash Momma Galya, instigating the insurgency from her puppet theater; and Galya’s girls, heroically teaching signing by day and by night luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the curtain. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea, Ilya Kaminsky’s long-awaited Deaf Republic confronts our time’s vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them.”

The New Me
By Halle Butler
Penguin Press, March 5

“Thirty-year-old Millie just can’t pull it together. Misanthropic and morose, she spends her days killing time at a thankless temp job until she can return home to her empty apartment, where she oscillates wildly between self-recrimination and mild delusion, fixating on all the little ways she might change her life. Then she watches TV until she drops off to sleep, and the cycle begins again. When the possibility of a full-time job offer arises, it seems to bring the better life she’s envisioning – one that involves nicer clothes, fresh produce, maybe even financial independence – within reach. But with it also comes the paralyzing realization, lurking just beneath the surface, of just how hollow that vision has become. Darkly hilarious and devastating, The New Me is a dizzying descent into the mind of a young woman trapped in the funhouse of American consumer culture.”

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
By T Kira Madden
Bloomsbury, March 5

“Acclaimed literary essayist T Kira Madden’s raw and redemptive debut memoir is about coming of age and reckoning with desire as a queer, biracial teenager amidst the fierce contradictions of Boca Raton, Florida, a place where cult-like privilege, shocking racial disparities, rampant white-collar crime, and powerfully destructive standards of beauty hide in plain sight.”

Another Kind of Madness
By Ed Pavlić
Milkweed Editions, March 12

“Ndiya Grayson returns to her childhood home of Chicago as a young professional, but even her high-end job in a law office can’t protect her from half-repressed memories of childhood trauma. One evening, vulnerable and emotionally disarrayed, she goes out and meets her equal and opposite: Shame Luther, a no-nonsense construction worker by day and a self-taught piano player by night. The love story that ensues propels them on an unforgettable journey from Chicago’s South Side to the coast of Kenya as they navigate the turbulence of long-buried pasts and an uncertain future. A stirring novel tuned to the clash between soul music’s vision of our essential responsibility to each other and a world that breaks us down and tears us apart, Another Kind of Madness is an indelible tale of human connection.”

Dragonfly Sea
By Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
Knopf, March 12

“On the island of Pate, off the coast of Kenya, lives solitary, stubborn Ayaana and her mother, Munira. When a sailor named Muhidin, also an outsider, enters their lives, Ayaana finds something she has never had before: a father. But as Ayaana grows into adulthood, forces of nature and history begin to reshape her life and the island itself—from a taciturn visitor with a murky past to a sanctuary-seeking religious extremist, from dragonflies to a tsunami, from black-clad kidnappers to cultural emissaries from China. Ayaana ends up embarking on a dramatic ship’s journey to the Far East, where she will discover friends and enemies; be seduced by the charming but unreliable scion of a powerful Turkish business family; reclaim her devotion to the sea; and come to find her own tenuous place amid a landscape of beauty and violence and surprising joy.”

If, Then
By Kate Hope Day
Random House, March 19

“In the quiet haven of Clearing, Oregon, four neighbors find their lives upended when they begin to see themselves in parallel realities. Ginny, a devoted surgeon whose work often takes precedence over her family, has a baffling vision of a beautiful co-worker in Ginny’s own bed and begins to doubt the solidity of her marriage. Ginny’s husband, Mark, a wildlife scientist, sees a vision that suggests impending devastation and grows increasingly paranoid, threatening the safety of his wife and son. Samara, a young woman desperately mourning the recent death of her mother and questioning why her father seems to be coping with such ease, witnesses an apparition of her mother healthy and vibrant and wonders about the secrets her parents may have kept from her. Cass, a brilliant scholar struggling with the demands of new motherhood, catches a glimpse of herself pregnant again, just as she’s on the brink of returning to the project that could define her career.”

Make Me a City
By Johnathan Carr
Henry Holt, March 19

“A propulsive debut of visionary scale, Make Me a City embroiders fact with fiction to tell the story of Chicago’s 19th century, tracing its rise from frontier settlement to industrial colossus.”

The Invisible Killer: The Rising Global Threat of Air Pollution- and How We Can Fight Back
By Gary Fuller
Melville House, March 19

“Gary Fuller’s global story examines devastating incidents from London’s Great Smog to Norway’s acid rain; Los Angeles’s traffic problem to wood burning damage in New Zealand. Fuller argues that the only way to alter the future course of our planet and improve collective global health is for city and national governments to stop ignoring evidence and take action, persuading the public and making polluters bear the full cost of the harm that they do. The decisions that we make today will impact on our health for decades to come.”

A People’s History of Heaven
By Mathangi Subramanian
Algonquin Books, March 19

People’s History of Heaven centers on five best friends, girls who go to school together, a diverse group who love and accept one another unconditionally, pulling one another through crises and providing emotional, physical, and financial support. Together they wage war on the bulldozers that would bury their homes, and, ultimately, on the city that does not care what happens to them.”

Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea
By Sarah Pinsker
Small Beer Press, March 19

“The baker’s dozen stories gathered here (including a new, previously unpublished story) turn readers into travelers to the past, the future, and explorers of the weirder points of the present. The journey is the thing as Pinsker weaves music, memory, technology, history, mystery, love, loss, and even multiple selves on generation ships and cruise ships, on highways and high seas, in murder houses and treehouses. They feature runaways, fiddle-playing astronauts, and retired time travelers; they are weird, wired, hopeful, haunting, and deeply human. They are often described as beautiful but Pinsker also knows that the heart wants what the heart wants and that is not always right, or easy.”

Lot
By Bryan Washington
Riverhead Books, March 19

“In the city of Houston – a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America – the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys. Around him, others live and thrive and die in Houston’s myriad neighborhoods: a young woman whose affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, a reluctant chupacabra. Bryan Washington’s brilliant, viscerally drawn world vibrates with energy, wit, and the infinite longing of people searching for home. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life, Lot explores trust and love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms.”

Scared Violent Like Horses
By John McCarthy
Milkweed Edition, March 19

“McCarthy’s flyover country is populated by a family strangled by silence: a father drunk and mute in the passenger seat, a mother sinking into bed like a dish at the bottom of a sink, and a boy whose friends play punch-for-punch for fun. He shows us a boy struggling to understand pain carried down through generations and how quickly abandonment becomes a silent kind of violence; “how we deny each other, daily, so many chances to care,” and how “we didn’t know how to talk about loss, / so we made each other lose.” Constant throughout is the brutality of the Midwestern landscape that, like the people who inhabit it, turns out to be beautiful in its vulnerability: sedgegrass littered with plastic bags floating like ghosts, dilapidated houses with abandoned Fisher Price toys in the yard, and silos of dirt and rust under a sky that struggles to remember the ground below.”

The Old Drift
By Namwali Serpell
Hogarth, March 26

“Three families intersect over three generations, traveling from India, Italy, England, and ultimately Zambia: a country that becomes a character in itself, from Livingstone’s “discovery” of Victoria Falls in 1855 to a brilliantly imagined Southern Africa of 2050. Split into three Books—the Grandmothers, the Mothers, and the Children—the story follows these families with beautifully human detail, all framed within an interstitial Greek chorus: the voice of a swarm of mosquitoes.”

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