42 Great Books To Read This Spring, Recommended By Our Favorite Indie Booksellers

Featuring unputdownable thrillers, heartfelt poetry, groundbreaking memoirs, magical fiction, and more, this list really does have something for everyone.

Trafik by Rikki Ducornet

In a far future, a mostly human astronaut and her opinionated robot friend travel through the cosmos, battling isolation and the trials of cohabitation and sifting through pop culture fragments of the long-obliterated Earth. When they mess up an asteroid mining assignment, they decide to go rogue and take off on a zany quest to find the planet Trafik, an idyllic place of myth.

I loved this mind-bending little trek across the universe. Thoroughly delightful, poignant, funny, and sweet, like if Italo Calvino wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in a series of pointed vignettes, it’s the perfect amount of quarantine-relatable loneliness and existential spiraling, combined with escapism and optimism. It’s like watching a dream come true. —Rachel S., Harvard Book Store (Get your copy)

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

Ring Shout is dark fantasy historical novella that resonates in our current political climate, exposing our deep roots of evil. Drawing from the 1915 The Birth of a Nation film that mesmerized and cast a spell across America, the author draws you into the dark world of white hoods and resistance fighters. This books snatched me from the start: “In America, demons wear white hoods.” Upon finishing, watching current events play out chilled me to the core. —Melinda, It’s a Mystery Bookstore (Get your copy)

Mazie by Melanie Crowder

This is a fantastic book for theater lovers! Especially during the pandemic, Mazie helped satisfy my musical theater craving. Readers will relate to Mazie in her small town ways and big dreams, heart torn between where she comes from and who she wants to be. With references to the golden age of Broadway and insights into the fascinating world of musicals, this book is sure to be a hit. —Mikaley Osley, Tattered Cover Book Store (Get your copy)

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

“It was her idea to tie up the nun” might be the best opening line of the year, and the story that follows lives up to the promise of this charged image. Infinite Country is a story of immigration, family, heartbreak, and hope, starting with Talia as she breaks out of a prison for youth offenders in the mountains of Colombia and fights her way back to her mother and siblings in the US. From there we follow the love story of her parents and the repercussions of her father’s deportation. While slim in size, Patricia Engel’s powerful new book manages to say all that needs to be said about the trials people are willing to put themselves through for those they love. —Luisa Smith, Book Passage (Get your copy)

A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib

Poet, critic, and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib’s 2019 book Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest has become a deeply cherished and often recommended favorite. Abdurraqib’s writing is breathtakingly beautiful, and his blend of the personal, the political, and the pop cultural is staggeringly powerful. We are eagerly anticipating his A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, an examination of the inextricable relationship between American culture and Black art. Early reviews are saying things like “rapturous,” “brilliant,” “provocative,” and “staggeringly intimate.” We believe it, and we can’t wait. —Mark Trecka, Binnacle Books (Get your copy)

Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama

This beautifully illustrated manga is one that immediately transports you into its lush world of magic. It follows a girl named Coco, who is in love with magic but can’t use it. One day, she discovers that witches use magic through intricate drawings, and not through inherent abilities. This takes her on a journey of discovering self-worth, friendship, and the joys of learning. This is the series that you should read instead of a certain boy wizard’s adventures. —Christian Vega, Astoria Bookshop (Get your copy)

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

Deathless Divide is the thrilling sequel to Dread Nation. The duology is a stunning addition to the zombie lore canon, in which Ireland reimagines the outcome of the Civil War if dead Confederate and Union soldiers were reanimated on the battlefield as mindless monsters with a hunger for human flesh. Jane McKeen is a brave and fearless protagonist, and offers superb representation of mixed raced and queer identity. —Isis Asare, Sistah Scifi (Get your copy)

A Shot in the Moonlight: How a Freed Slave and a Confederate Soldier Fought for Justice in the Jim Crow South by Ben Montgomery

Tampa Bay author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Ben Montgomery brings to life the incredible story of George Dinning, a farmer and formerly enslaved man who, after killing, in self-defense, one of the 25 white men who arrived at his home in an attempted lynching, began an unprecedented legal battle that led him to be the first Black man to win damages after a wrongful murder conviction. Montgomery turns his compelling writing style and journalistic research to this little known but amazing moment in history, and the result is a timely tale of justice and determination prevailing over bigotry, prejudice, and the violence that was so prevalent (and so often unpunished) in the Jim Crow South. —Amanda, Tombolo Books (Get your copy)

Brood by Jackie Polzin

Nothing says spring to this country gal (raised in the big city) like chickens. So I approached this novel with an excitement that brood caretakers will appreciate! I completed the book, however, blown away by how much heart and soul it offered. Filled with joy, loss, and a delightful cast of characters, Brood delivers a rich and satisfying read. Go ahead — put all your eggs in this basket. —Kristin Hildum, Read Books (Get your copy)

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

A book like Unsettled Ground is why we read. Claire Fuller has crafted two unforgettable characters in twins Julius and Jeanie. After their mother passes away, the 51-year-old siblings are left on their own for the first time in their lives, and they are not prepared for the challenge. As the siblings move forward, secrets of their family history are uncovered; maybe their mother wasn’t the person they thought she was. Written with tenderness and beauty, Unsettled Ground is not to be missed. —Sherri Gallentine, Vroman’s Bookstore (Get your copy)

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Grace Porter has always been the best and has always had a plan, working five times as hard as everyone else. After getting her PhD in astronomy, she’s supposed to go on to work at the most prestigious company there is — but a disastrous interview and a drunken Vegas wedding to a girl she doesn’t know snaps the tension in her life and causes everything to come tumbling down. This book is by turns fiercely funny, cathartic, and heartbreaking, with the poetic lyricism of This Is How You Lose the Time War and the witty banter of Red, White, and Royal Blue. Honey Girl tore me to pieces and then put me back together again — I laughed, I cried, I said “This is so sweet” out loud multiple times. —Katherine Nazzaro, Porter Square Books (Get your copy)

Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad

A breathtakingly beautiful memoir about illness, healing, grief, and embracing the unexpected turns one’s life takes. Suleika Jaouad’s Between Two Kingdoms speaks frankly, without wallowing, about incredibly difficult experiences. Jaouad also owns up to her own shortcomings in a way that is so refreshing. This is truly a book that I will be thinking about for years to come. —Melissa Taylor, E. Shaver Booksellers (Get your copy)

The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren

A mind-opening read for me. Why was it that famous women – writers, artists, and actresses – took refuge at NYC’s star-studded Barbizon Hotel during the 20th century? Whose idea was this 700-room, plushy, women-only hotel? Were Barbizon residents being protected from the ills of city life, or being held in a fashionable life to perpetuate the male-dominated corporate world? — Faith, Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore (Get your copy)

People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd

This thriller is written alternately from the points of view of popular social media influencer Emmy Jackson, her stressed out husband Dan, and the obsessive follower who is plotting to kill Emmy. It is dramatic and suspenseful, with a touch of humor to lighten the tension. I’ll never look at social media the same way again. —Laura B., RJ Julia Bookstore (Get your copy)

White Feminism: From the Suffragettes to Influencers and Who They Leave Behind by Koa Beck

As someone who’s worked at a feminist bookstore for over five years, I found Koa Beck’s book White Feminism informative and essential. Beck traces the long and violent history of white feminism from the suffragettes to the modern day. This book melds research, personal narrative, and insightful critique to demonstrate white feminism’s deep ties to capitalism, racism, ableism, homophobia, and more. Beck is a skilled journalist who articulates the inclusive feminist future that we all deserve — one in which we work toward collective liberation rather than individual gain. —H. Melt, Women & Children First (Get your copy)

Sasha Masha by Agnes Borinsky

Sasha Masha is one of the most important YA books to read and should be a standard in trans lit — a novel that is both a coming-of-age story and a narrative of self-discovery and identity. Agnes Borinsky (herself trans) writes a lovely, empathetic queer romance that is universal to all. —Jesse, BookHampton (Get your copy)

Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker

For the life of me, I don’t know why this book isn’t a classic. Originally published in 1962, Cassandra at the Wedding has everything: a deranged family reunion, twin sisters dealing with the trauma of having been child prodigies, a batty grandmother with the best one-liners, and one of the absolute greatest unlikable female narrators I’ve ever come across. Cassandra is a messy, ferociously intelligent queer woman in midcentury California. She travels home to celebrate her sister’s wedding; chaos ensues. Please buy this book and give Dorothy Baker the spot in the literary hall of fame that she so clearly deserves. —Lindsay Lynch, Parnassus Books (Get your copy)

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

I loved this book so much I couldn’t put it down, but I also never wanted it to end. Charlie Jane Anders has created a gorgeous young-adult sci-fi universe. This book was filled with creative world-building, great sayings, and an incredible cast of characters. The explanation and reasoning behind each one, especially with respect to humanoid versus non-humanoid species, is just so well thought-out and intricate. The romance burns slow, and the villain is terrifyingly original. Whew. This book! I can’t wait for the next installment. This is, to date, my favorite book of 2021. I’m in love. Hot damn. —Paul Swydan, the Silver Unicorn Bookstore (Get your copy)

Dignity by Ken Layne

Dignity is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I dare say that it is a masterpiece. Ken Layne masterfully builds characters that exist for the most part off of the page, at the same time showing us a landscape that may be familiar but shines with a new beauty through his intense yet simple language. One could almost look at this novel as a manual for how to live in harmony with the natural world and fellow human beings. The adversity that Layne’s characters face while they have done nothing but try to take care of themselves and neighbors is strikingly accurate, and exposes how fragile the systems that claim to uphold our society truly are. This book is a quiet and peaceful protest against everything we know to be wrong but have come to accept and take for granted. Overall, it’s a beautiful story with lovable characters, and a blueprint for what is possible as we face environmental and societal break down. —Jean-Paul L. Garnier, Space Cowboy Books (Get your copy)

White Shadow by Roy Jacobsen, translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw

The turbulent outside world laps at weathered, ancient shores in Jacobsen’s stunning follow-up to The Unseen (one of the great unsung masterpieces of last year). With her family scattered, Ingrid lives alone on the island of Barrøy, where her kin have farmed and fished for generations. But as World War II rages on, both pain and promise find their way to her. In this elegant, sparse novel, every moment is laden with significance as its denizens teeter between brutal memory and resilient hope. This is a book to be savored. —Sam Kaas, Third Place Books (Get your copy)

Cosmogony by Lucy Ives

I was blown away by Lucy Ives’ last book, Loudermilk, a Charles Portis–like dive into the absurdity of higher education, and I wasn’t let down by her follow-up book, the story collection Cosmogony. Ives’ worldview is a little weird, a little askew, and it’s hard for me to argue with this viewpoint these days. This is a playfully odd collection and a breath of fresh air for short stories in general. —Justin Souther, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe (Get your copy)

Southbound: Essays on Identity, Inheritance, and Social Change by Anjali Enjeti

Anjali Enjeti is known around Georgia as a powerful journalist and dedicated organizer for racial justice, voting rights, and Democratic candidates like Stacey Abrams, so it’s no surprise that her essay collection turns to the questions of what the dream of a just world — a just US, a just Georgia — might feel like. This collection is a balm for anyone who knows a better world is possible but struggles to know the next right step. The answer, time and again in this collection, is community, and beginning, quite simply, by showing up. —Errol Anderson, Charis Books & More (Get your copy)

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Infinity Son is a high-stakes, fast-paced adventure about a magical war between those born with magical powers and those who steal them. Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed. Fans of Cassandra Clare will love this one. The sequel just came out, so this is the perfect time to pick it up! —April Poole, Porter Square Books (Get your copy)

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart may be the most brilliant display of Michelle Zauner’s abilities. The Japanese Breakfast singer-songwriter’s elegiac memoir of grief and acceptance in the wake of her mother’s passing hits many a sore spot, sure. But there are also many joyful parts focused on the great catalyst of food — and its ability to bridge psychic and emotional chasms wrought in mourning. It acknowledges how very complicated it is to grieve and celebrates life’s surprises. I love this book for how fearless and vulnerable it is. Thank you, Michelle. —Uriel Perez, BookPeople (Get your copy)

Someone Should Pay for Your Pain by Franz Nicolay

Starting at the midlife crisis of an early-aughts indie rock never-was, Franz Nicolay delivers a tight-fisted gut punch of a novel, weaving a road-weary world with a lyricist’s skill for evocation, emotion, and economy. A requiem for the non-glamour of every minor scene that once, briefly, felt enormous, and an unflinching and finely rendered vision of old anthems clashing with new ideals, Someone Should Pay for Your Pain is a story of an “Xennial” reckoning unto redemption, which fans of Nicolay’s band, the Hold Steady, will appreciate, and which will leave anyone who reads it brimming with ragged hope. A knockout fiction debut from a longtime troubadour. —Alex Houston, the Seminary Co-op (Get your copy)

How to Resist Amazon and Why: The Fight for Local Economics, Data Privacy, Fair Labor, Independent Bookstores, and a People-Powered Future by Danny Caine

How to Resist Amazon and Why offers a succinct argument for shopping local while providing a detailed history of how the retail giant has failed its workers, consumers, and local communities. Buy it for your friends. —Gary Lovely, the Book Loft (Get your copy)

Justine by Forsyth Harmon

For teenagers, it can feel like everything is happening at once — while at the same time, nothing at all is happening. Forsyth Harmon eloquently captures the mixed ennui and loneliness of suburban living in the late ’90s, as well as the adrenaline rush that comes with being chosen by someone decidedly cooler than you. In this slim volume, we are privy to Ali’s brief yet profound relationship with the enigmatic Justine, who pulls her into a new world of drugs, partying, and eating disorders. Accompanied by simple line illustrations, Justine takes the reader through the heightened emotions of adolescence and the messy intensity of female friendships during a decidedly fragile time of life. —Isa, Politics & Prose (Get your copy)

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

I absolutely loved this book! The concept is fascinating, and the prose is gorgeous. I had so much fun going on this adventure through the realms. I love the main character, Claire, and the idea of books coming alive and a library in Hell that holds unwritten works. As this was the first in the series, I can’t wait to spend more time with these characters and learn more about this fascinating universe Hackwith has built. —Candice Huber, Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop (Get your copy)

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

If Joshilyn Jackson has not yet been deemed the Queen of the Twist, I would like to award her that title. I picked up Mother May I before bed, wholly unprepared for how immediately drawn in I would be. I stayed up way too late and then did not put it down the entire next day. Rarely do I say something is “unputdownable,” but I have no reservations about saying so in this case. Such a fantastic psychological mystery — I was enthralled until the very end! —Shane Mullen, Left Bank Books (Get your copy)

Permafrost by Eva Baltasar, translated by Julia Sanches

Women in translation are among the least published voices in the industry, but novels like Permafrost make it easy to add more to our reading lists. Permafrost is a quick, haunting, and sexy read about a lesbian with poignant and funny life observations. She strives to defy family expectations and Barcelona society, and leaves for Scotland. While there, she works as an au pair, living my life dream of ignoring responsibilities and reading all day instead. But Scotland’s rolling hills and greenery get old, and she embarks on new, exciting relationships in a new city: Brussels. If you miss traveling as much as I do, let this novel take you across the pond and country-hop without the cheap RyanAir flights or COVID risks. If you want a bold, witty novel about defying family expectations and society, this is for you. —Heather Halak, Third House Books (Get your copy)

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is one of my most recent favorites about a hilarious and charming fat brown girl trying to survive high school. I’ve never read a YA book that talks about fatness and body image in such a real, perfect way. It’s a book that I wish I had when I was 16, but it’s equally as validating reading it at 26. —Angie Sanchez, Old Town Books (Get your copy)

Pop Song: Adventures in Art and Intimacy by Larissa Pham

The essays in this tender book balance artistic, academic engagement with personal narrative. The subtitle, “Adventures in Art and Intimacy,” is exactly right: Larissa Pham has created a remarkably self-conscious, nearly uncanny self-portrait of her gendered, raced body. She writes of visual art and artists with the same tenderness as the romantic and sexual intimacies of her own life. This book offers a warm and expansive portrait of a woman’s mind that feels at once singular and universal. —Annie Diamond, the Seminary Co-op (Get your copy)

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water is a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of read, a truly remarkable debut from a gifted young wordsmith. The novel is at once a celebration of Black love and Black art and expression; its words vibrate and resonate at a steady, rhythmic cadence throughout the text. The love and care with which each sentence seems to have been crafted shines through the page. The usage of second person narration serves only to further the intimacy already articulated through the story, an intimacy that extends between the characters as well as between the reader and the work. Throughout, Nelson pays tribute to Black artists across mediums who have similarly spoken or written about the lived experience of Blackness, who have laid their souls bare for the avid reader or listener. Open Water echoes and honors this, effortlessly blending moments of love with those of loss, pain and grief with joy, vulnerability with strength. By the end, its protagonist has learned to embrace vulnerability, particularly with those he loves, and sees it as one with his sense of self as a Black man. A thoroughly unforgettable, searing read. —Meghana Kandlur, the Seminary Co-op (Get your copy)

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Happily Ever Afters introduces us to Tessa Johnson, a talented young writer who is afflicted with a crippling case of writer’s block just as she’s been accepted to the extremely exclusive creative writing program that could be the key to her future. The more she tries to find the words, the more she loses herself in the process. This YA debut from Elise Bryant is a charming look at the twists and turns of adolescence, of family and first love, with characters that leap off the page and — much like a first love — lodge themselves into your heart and never let go. A tender tale of growing up and finding your voice that tackles complex issues such as race, romance, and familial responsibility with dexterity and compassion, you won’t want this story to end. The perfect book to pick up this spring! —Mwahaki King, Papercuts J.P. (Get your copy)

Wound From the Mouth of a Wound by torrin a. greathouse

torrin a. greathouse is “a transgender cripple-punk” and my new favorite poet! Sometimes, if I’m lucky, every year or so, there is a poetry collection that completely floors me, unnerves me, and opens my eyes by sheer force of words. May I introduce you to Wound From the Mouth of a Wound? There is so much power in these pages. If you’ve ever had complicated feelings toward the body (pretty sure that’s all of us), you’ve got to pick this one up. After reading the poem “That’s so lame,” you’ll think twice about using the phrase:

“I want to ask Did you know how this slur / feathered its way into language? By way of lame/duck, whose own wings sever it from the flock/ & make it perfect prey.”

Each page, each sentence, surprises and cuts deep and will keep you reading, unable to turn away. —Kate Layte, Papercuts J.P. (Get your copy)

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Nearing the end of her life, legendary actress Evelyn Hugo finds herself as a Hollywood icon with a personal life shrouded in mystery. Hugo has always used men to get what she wants: a successful career. Now, she taps Monique Grant, an unknown reporter, to write her tell-all and spill the secrets behind those seven illusive marriages. Pick up this book, and time-travel through decades of sizzling gossip and old-school glamour. Full of twists and turns, each page of this story is more exciting and heart-wrenching than the last. I can’t wait to read it again! —Sarah Gemmell, Oblong Books & Music (Get your copy)

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

The gold rush, the fountain of youth, folklore, and magical realism combine in a refreshingly modern and original novel that gifts its readers with an incredibly relatable portrayal of American teen life in Georgia suburbs in the George W. Bush era, before plunging us into Silicon Valley 10 years later for a subtle but powerful exploration of what the American dream is to children of immigrants. Neil is a second-generation desi teenager in an Atlanta suburb, having grown up constantly surrounded by other desi kids and parents with exceptionally high expectations for their American sons and daughters. Neil isn’t as driven as his older sister or his friends and classmates, but that all changes when he stumbles upon the major secret his neighbor and crush Anita and her mother have been hiding from the world. Gold Diggers is a feast of a story that swings from teen angst and laugh-out-loud humor to tragedy, from folklore to hard reality, and finally culminates in a heist that would make the Rat Pack proud. It breaks apart the mythology of monolithic culture with the perfect alchemy of humor, magic, and irresistible albeit flawed people. Let it sweep you off your feet. —Karen Valenzeula, Cellar Door Bookstore (Get your copy)

Indelicacy by Amina Cain

Indelicacy has a quiet maturity, of a different time and place but none in particular — no trace of the commonplace American contemporary sensibility found in many novels these days. To me, the main character epitomizes feminism, but there are other women in the book who reveal completely different life views and decisions that the main character respects as well. Cain hits the nail on the head when it comes to women who, with all their self-doubt and an even stronger inner will, refuse to be defined. Cain navigates some big questions: Can you ever really transcend the class you are born into? Who owns you? What makes someone weird? The protagonist loathes society’s small-mindedness but forges ahead. I loved this book. —Gena Brady, Subterranean Books (Get your copy)

The Rope: A True Story of Murder, Heroism, and the Dawn of the NAACP by Alex Tresniowski

In The Rope, a chilling true crime story dovetails with the saga of efforts by Ida B. Wells and her allies to end the barbaric practice of lynching in America. When 11-year-old Marie Smith is sexually assaulted and murdered in the woods on the outskirts of Asbury Park, New Jersey, local authorities rely on only the thinnest of hearsay to pin the crime on a Black man, Tom Williams — while the real killer, German immigrant Frank Heidemann, carries on with his daily life. While investigating this little-known crime, Tresniowski uncovers the near-successful efforts of vigilantes to lynch Williams as similar mobs had other innocent Black Americans in the decades after the failure of Reconstruction. Were it not for the dogged efforts of an investigator determined to pursue Heidemann and the efforts of Wells and others who would go on to found the NAACP, Williams and many others like him would have continued to suffer from such miscarriages of justice. —Kelly L. Barth, Raven Book Store (Get your copy)

Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson

In Just As I Am, Cicely Tyson tells the story of her personal life and 60-plus-year career in show business as a Black women in America. It’s packed with details from the abuse her father inflicted on her mother to birthing a child at 18 and getting divorced. She shares the behind-the-scene particulars of her legendary, poorly compensated roles in the movies and her tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship with Miles Davis. What shines most is her frankly written style of her life as a model and actress against a backdrop of white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and sexism that many are just now recognizing still exists today. —Janeice R. Haynes, Detroit Book City (Get your copy)

Best. Movie. Year. Ever.: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery

After our pandemic year upended an already disrupted movie business, it’s particularly astounding to reflect upon the richness and density of consequential cinema from 1999. We met Tracy Flick, the Blair Witch, and Quiz Kid Donnie Smith. This book of essays is essential reading for movie buffs, capturing a pivotal moment in American cultural history. It will most certainly add films to your “must watch” (and “must rewatch”) list. —Alex W. Meriwether, Harvard Book Store (Get your copy)

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