I think we can all agree it’s been a long and hard winter season. In addition to the continued isolation of the pandemic, much of the country has been grappling with freezing temperatures and unexpected power losses, laying many of us low. Even as we reach the grim one-year anniversary since lockdowns began, there is light at the end of the tunnel as we turn to a new month. It may not feel like it yet, but spring is on its way and the days are starting to last a little longer. And it’s another great month for books! Below you’ll find twelve new titles handpicked by our editors to see you through to the equinox and beyond.
By Viet Thanh Nguyen
Viet Thanh Nguyen became a sensation with his debut novel The Sympathizer, which won a truckload of prizes including the 2016 Pulitzer and sold over a million copies worldwide. Now comes his highly anticipated sequel, The Committed, which sees the unnamed lead character arrive in early 1980’s Paris where he promptly gets embroiled in the criminal underworld. The literary event of the season.
Written After a Massacre in the Year 2018
By Daniel Borzutzky
Coffee House Press
National Book Award winner and Chicago resident Daniel Borzutzky returns with a searing indictment of America’s moral failings. Sprawling in its rage, from the concentration camps at the border to police violence to the scourge of mass shootings, this collection uses language to identify the unspeakable. As Tracy K. Smith says, “These are the songs we must learn to sing.”
By S.B. Divya
As her bio states, S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She’s also a Hugo and Nebula Award finalist and Machinehood, her debut novel, seems poised to introduce her to a whole new legion of fans. Set in a near future dominated by the gig economy, it’s both a thrilling and timely read.
By Sam Cohen
Grand Central Publishing
There are three Sara(h)s currently on staff at the CHIRB, which means we’re predisposed to pay attention to a book bearing that name. Luckily Sam Cohen’s debut collection has much to offer readers no matter their matronymic. “Queer, dirty, insightful, and so funny” in the words of Andrea Lawlor, the stories here collectively explore the possibility of building new worlds when the old one fails us.
By Jackie Polzin
Jackie Polzin understands the brutality of a long winter firsthand as a Minnesotan and she brings some of that hardscrabble ethos to bear in her debut novel Brood. Perfect for fans of Jenny Offill’s wry observational style, Polzin’s book may be slender in size but it is big on impact as her unnamed narrator struggles to keep four chickens alive during a difficult year.
Creatures of Passage
By Morowa Yejidé
Comparisons to Toni Morrison’s masterpiece Beloved always perk up our ears, but in the case of Morowa Yejidé’s Creatures of Passage the hype is warranted. Set in 1970’s D.C., the novel follows taxi driver Nephthys Kinwell, who has a ghost in her trunk and her own family demons to contend with. History-haunted in the best sense, readers shouldn’t miss this mythic thriller.
The Twilight Zone
By Nona Fernández; Translated by Natasha Wimmer
Borrowing the title from one of the world’s most famous television shows is a big gambit, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Chilean writer Nona Fernández, whose work has always stretched the boundaries of space and time. Set during Pinochet’s dictatorship, this engrossing novel invites readers into the dark portals of history where the people and stories erased by repressive regimes are finally illuminated.
By Jo Ann Beard
Little, Brown and Company
A new collection from the masterful storyteller Jo Ann Beard is always reason to celebrate, and Festival Days marks her long-anticipated return to the essay. Written with clear-eyed empathy, these nine pieces have the luminous glow of fireflies caught in a child’s hand. As Publishers Weekly noted in its starred review, “These sharp essays cement Beard’s reputation as a master of the form.”
On Time and Water
By Andri Snær Magnason; Translated by Lytton Smith
Already a massive bestseller in his native Iceland, Andri Snær Magnason’s vital work of narrative nonfiction finally arrives on American shores this month. Both deeply investigative and intimately personal, it’s an appeal to change that draws as much on the mythological traditions of his homeland as scientific research. A climate book unlike any before it.
By Juan Villoro; Translated by Alfred MacAdam
One of Mexico’s preeminent novelists, Juan Villoro presents this sprawling and vivid nonfiction portrait of the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world. Like the title, which refers to the fear of imminent earthquakes that led to the vertical construction of Mexico City, Villoro disarms and seduces the reader with his idiosyncratic tour of an immensely special place. Armchair travelers, take note!
By Kaitlyn Greenidge
Whiting Award-winner Kaitlyn Greenidge brings the same audacious sense of history that made her debut We Love You, Charlie Freeman a must-read to this new novel about a freeborn Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn. The starred review from Publishers Weekly proclaims it “so immaculately orchestrated that each character, each setting, and each sentence sings”
A Little Devil in America
By Hanif Abdurraqib
Hanif Abdurraqib has written with verve and passion about Black performance before in his essential Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest. Taking its title from a quote by legendary performer Josephine Baker, his latest is an expansive and profound exploration of Black artistry through a personal and cultural lens. Kirkus Reviews calls it “another winner from Abdurraqib,” and we agree.