18 Great Books That Are Out In Paperback This Month

Michelle Obama’s memoir, Andrea Bartz’s boss-babe thriller, Cathy Park Hong’s essay collection, and more.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn (Picador; March 2)

“The Flores family — ex-footballer father Augie, hustling mother Malia, kids Dean, Noa, and Kaui — are native Hawaiians constantly struggling to make ends meet in the state with the highest cost of living. When middle child Noa appears to acquire some mystical healing powers, the family takes advantage of it to eventual devastating effect. Alternating perspectives among the family members over the course of a decade, Washburn has written a vivid, heartbreaking portrait of a family rocked by economic precarity.” —Tomi Obaro (24 Books We Loved In Spring 2020)

Becoming by Michelle Obama (Crown; March 2)

Obama’s memoir chronicles her childhood on Chicago’s South Side, her years as a working mother, and her time spent as the first lady — and the life-changing work she’s done along the way.

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore (Harper Perennial; March 2)

Elizabeth Wetmore’s weighty, affecting debut takes place in 1970s Odessa, Texas, a beautiful but dismal oil town plagued by racism and misogyny that’s only heightened by the roughnecks passing through. At the center is Glory, a 14-year-old Mexican girl who survives a brutal rape by Dale, a roughneck who leaves her for dead. The impact of this horrific event radiates through the community as it gears up for a trial against Dale, in a town dead set on privileging a white rapist over a Mexican child. Wetmore’s characters are so rich, her prose so masterful, that it’s hard to believe Valentine is a debut.

Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong (One World; March 2)

“In a series of roving pieces ranging from her experiences growing up in LA in the aftermath of the 1992 riots to an obituary of sorts for the late poet Theresa Hak Kyung Cha — raped and murdered at just 31— Hong writes with great nuance about what it means to be ‘Asian American,’ while acknowledging the inherent vagueness of such a broad term. Minor Feelings immediately feels in conversation with other works by poets–turned–breakout prose writers like Maggie Nelson and Claudia Rankine. And judging by their enthusiastic blurbs, these writers agree.” —Tomi Obaro (29 Books We Couldn’t Put Down In 2020)

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker (Anchor Books; March 2)

From 1945 to 1965, Don and Mimi Galvin welcomed 12 children into their family. Despite their picture-perfect appearance of a happy and healthy American family, they were hiding overwhelming psychological issues and domestic violence. After six of their sons were diagnosed with schizophrenia, the family became one of the first to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Through their story, Kolker chronicles the fascinating and disturbing history of schizophrenia and its treatments.

Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North America’s Stolen Land by Noé Álvarez (Catapult; March 2)

“This memoir tells the incredible story of a young working-class man in agricultural Washington State who achieves a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious private school and gives it up to join Indigenous runners on a trek from Alaska to Argentina. Noé Álvarez joins the group for his part of the run in British Columbia, and it’s a hard journey. The crew and the other runners are not always welcoming, and each participant logs marathon distances daily on little food and sleep. Álvarez’s writing is vibrant and immediate.” —Wendy J. Fox (21 Great Books From Small Presses To Read Now)

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle (Atria; March 2)

Dannie Cohan is on track to create the future she’s been dreaming of — she’s a successful lawyer in a loving relationship — but the night after her boyfriend proposes, she wakes up five years in the future, in a different apartment, next to a different man. An hour later, she wakes again, back in 2020, convinced it was a dream — until four years later, when she meets the man she saw in her dream.

Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit (Penguin Books; March 9)

Rebecca Solnit recounts her journey toward becoming a writer in this memoir. She describes her formative years in 1980s San Francisco — living in a small apartment with little money, ambitious and hopeful, developing her feminism — and explores the many influences that led to her personal and professional liberation.

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams (Anchor Books; March 9)

In 19th-century New England, Caroline Hood is grappling with the effects of her unconventional education as she and her father, Samuel, welcome students into their just-opened school for young women. When a flock of birds shows up in town — followed by the sudden onset of maladies like rashes, seizures, and verbal tics in the students — Caroline is certain the birds are connected and urges her father to tell the students and their parents. But he refuses — and he’s just one of many men who will deny the truth of the women’s experiences and their right to bodily autonomy.

Docile by K.M. Szpara (Tordotcom; March 16)

Docile is compulsively readable book about sex, power, and love. In a world where children inherit their parents’ debt, they can choose to become ‘Dociles’ to the rich and powerful to work it off. When Elisha becomes Alex’s Docile, neither of them expects to fall for the other. From their first lines, Elisha’s and Alex’s voices are immediately captivating. Szpara has crafted a tale that’s scorching both in its smut and its critique of capitalist structures. I spent every spare moment I had devouring this book, as I was pulled further into the troubling — but disturbingly believable —world Szpara created. A must-read for socialists with a penchant for smutty fanfic.” —Read D., Harvard Book Store (38 Great Books To Read This Summer, Recommended By Our Favorite Indie Booksellers)

The Herd by Andrea Bartz (Ballantine Books; March 16)

The exclusive women-only coworking space “The Herd” is the place to be for young women looking to connect with the right people and make their way up in the world. Katie Bradley is being considered for membership, leaning on her sister — best friend of Eleanor Walsh, the Herd’s founder — for acceptance. But when Eleanor goes missing, the police suspect foul play — and everyone is a suspect.

The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai (Algonquin; March 16)

As the communist government rises in Vietnam, Trần Diệu Lan is forced to flee her family farm with her six children. Years later, her granddaughter, living in Hanoi, has to watch her parents and uncles leave to fight in a war threatening to tear her life apart.

This Is Chance!: The Great Alaska Earthquake, Genie Chance, and the Shattered City She Held Together by Jon Mooallem (Random House; March 16)

On March 27, 1964, the very young state of Alaska was struck by what is still the most powerful earthquake in American history, and Anchorage — a city that had been a beacon of progress in this new frontier, a manifestation of its residents’ optimism — was literally torn apart. This Is Chance! is the riveting account of the following three days: the resilience and resourcefulness of a town that hadn’t yet established a system or infrastructure to handle such an emergency, and the bravery of Genie Chance, an ambitious and underestimated radio reporter whose impromptu three-day broadcast became the beating heart of a community struggling to survive. It’s a beautifully wrought and profoundly joyful story of compassion and perseverance.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd (Penguin Books; March 23)

In first-century Galilee, a curious, ambitious, rebellious young woman named Ana is raised by a wealthy family but defies their expectations. When she meets an 18-year-old Jesus, both are drawn to each other’s ideas and spirits, and they eventually marry. The book tracks the trials of their imagined life together.

The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey (Mariner Books; March 23)

“OK, THIS IS SO FUN! In this neo-gothic, deliciously creepy, female-centric, fresh spin on the classic World War II novel (about time!), Hettie is in charge of the taxidermy mammal collection stored at the British Museum of Natural History. Upon transporting the exhibit to a country manor to protect it from the impending Blitz, the stuffed animals seem to move around of their own accord... And what of the lovely yet nervy Lucy Lockwood? Is Hettie falling for her charms?” —Anna Garceau, Savoy Bookshop & Cafe (38 Great Books To Read This Summer, Recommended By Our Favorite Indie Booksellers)

Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss by Margaret Renkl (Milkweed Editions; March 30)

This memoir-in-essays is as much about Renkl’s upbringing and family as it is about the natural world surrounding her. Through her personal narrative and poignant observations, she explores themes of love, loss, meaning, and mindfulness.

Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight (Penguin Books; March 30)

After an accidental poisoning in her lab, biological scientist Nell Barber is booted from her PhD program, where she was studying toxins and antidotes. Reeling from this blow, and looking for ways to continue her research on her own, Nell finds herself yearning for her beloved, enchanting mentor, botanist Dr. Joan Kallas. She begins journaling in notebooks dedicated to Joan, where she tracks not only her work but also her deepening insights into beauty, desire, knowledge, and love — all of which is complicated by her ex, her best friend, and Joan’s husband.

Godshot by Chelsea Bieker (Catapult; March 30)

Fourteen-year-old Lacey May lives in Peaches, California — formerly an idyllic paradise, now a drought-stricken town whose residents live under the spell of a cult leader who claims to be God, with a grandmother too enthralled by Pastor Vern to see how dangerous he is. When Lacey realizes Pastor Vern’s plan to bring rain back to the valley involves impregnating local teens, she runs away in search of her mother — confronting cruelty, but also discovering unexpected friendships and personal resilience along the way. It’s a harrowing but elegantly wrought exploration of trauma and autonomy.

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