Deacon King Kong
The year: 1969. The setting: South Brooklyn, the Cause Houses projects. The shooter: unlikely. The victim: unlikelier. In James McBride’s newest novel, it’s elderly church deacon Cuffy Jasper “Sportcoat” Lambkin, who also happens to be extremely off the wagon, who pulls out a gun in broad daylight and shoots Deems Clemens, a 19-year-old drug dealer. Well—Sportcoat shoots Deems’s ear off, anyway, and that’s only the beginning of this comic romp, where everyone’s connected: those who witnessed the shooting, those investigating it, and even those mysterious, shadowy power figures whose business it is to always know what’s going on.
Wow, No Thank You.
You’ll want to be careful with your liquid intake when reading author Samantha Irby’s newest essay collection (spit-takes are a distinct possibility; peeing your pants laughing is another danger). Irby, living with her wife in the coveted Blue spot surrounded by Red in a Midwestern state, is no longer a scrappy young’un, but old habits die hard, and somehow the bills she forgets to pay keep finding their way under her pillow, even as she flies back and forth to LA to meet with TV People (and Their People). At 40, Irby’s wit is as sharp as her neck pain.
Glennon Doyle has oft written about how we can dig deeper and discover the various ways societal training has primed us for the ways we end up hurting one another. And that work is important. But things changed for Doyle when she fell in love with a woman—she wasn’t expecting it—and the following process that encouraged her to live fearlessly, unbounded, and untamed. In her newest book, Doyle moves away from the hard work she and her unfaithful husband did together to heal, and instead digs into herself to discover what she wants and deserves on her own.
Recollections of My Nonexistence
Months away from the next elections, only men remain in the presidential race; regardless of our individual politics, we can’t get around the fact that women of all socioeconomic classes, races, and positions of power in American society are valued less than men. Rebecca Solnit—feminist, activist, and author—recounts in her new memoir how, as a young woman living in San Francisco, she began to realize just how much this reality permeated her life and those of women around her. Her vocal cords worked fine, and yet she couldn’t seem to be heard—except by others silenced by mainstream culture.
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird
Lydia and Freddie have been together for so long, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without each other. When Freddie dies in a car accident on Lydia’s 28th birthday, it seems impossible—how can he just be gone? Thankfully, he isn’t, or not entirely. By day, Lydia grieves him along with his best friend Jonah, whom she’s known just as long; her sister and mother; and her supportive community of coworkers. But by night, Freddie appears in dreams so lifelike that it’s like Lydia is living in two timelines. Can she possibly go on this way?
The Glass Hotel
Emily St. John Mandel
When a woman disappears from a container ship, seemingly into the murky ocean, an investigation is called for. It’s not even that big of a coincidence, really, that the investigator is connected to the woman, even if neither of them knows it. After all, Vincent Smith, the woman who disappeared, once posed as the wife of Jonathan Alkaitis, whose international Ponzi scheme fell apart some years ago, making fortunes collapse and affecting all the people tied, however unintentionally, to those fortunes. As the past and present intertwine, questions of actions and consequence, morality and judgment, even of reality itself, arise.
Amanda Eyre Ward
When Charlotte Perkins’s best friend dies, loneliness sets in, and she’s forced to take stock of her life: she’s 71, widowed, and her three children (two of whom don’t speak to one another) feel impossibly far away. So she does what any vivacious, ambitious, romance novel–reading woman in her prime would do. She submits an essay to a contest that wins her and her grown kids a trip on a gaudy Mediterranean cruise, where truths emerge: Lee isn’t almost-famous but barely scarping by, Cord is gay, and Regan hates her husband. Can Charlotte come to terms with who her kids really are?
Under the Rainbow
When small-town Big Burr, Kansas, gets labeled the most homophobic place in the United States, the nonprofit Acceptance Across America decides to see what a boots-on-the-ground approach to changing minds might look like, and dispatches a group of volunteers with various identities across the LGBTQ+ spectrum to move there for two years. Not everyone in Big Burr is a bigot, of course, just like some of the new arrivals were dragged there against their wills. As tensions rise in both the political and personal landscapes of these characters, it’s their shared humanity that keeps startling them all.
In present-day New York City, co-working spaces are in, and none is quite as buzzy as The Herd, a space exclusively for women and other marginalized genders. With its trademark purple H-E-R in the name, a waiting list as long as a Manhattan block to get in, and the charismatic founder Eleanor, The Herd is the place to be for someone seeking mentorship, a creative boost, and empowerment. Which is just what journalist Katie needs after her last book fell through. When Eleanor goes missing, Katie and her adopted sister, Hana, head of The Herd’s PR, find themselves unexpectedly involved.
In an age of social media, racking up views and likes and followers can certainly make us feel important and noticed. But is it the same as being seen? Lulu Shapiro is already a known quantity on Flash, with thousands of followers, and that number only grows when a titillating video of her and another girl goes public. Now boyfriendless, Lulu finds solace in a new friend, Cass, and Cass’s bestie Ryan, whose older brother is the founder of Flash. The trio spend time at The Hotel, a building Ryan’s family owns, but all is not as it seems.
This Is Chance!
The most powerful earthquake to ever hit North America is one you’ve probably never heard of: it occurred in 1964 in Anchorage, Alaska, and registered as a 9.2 (!) on the Richter Scale. In this moving account of the aftermath, we learn that contrary to what you’d expect, mass panic did not ensue from this devastating event that some believed at the time was a nuclear bomb. Instead, led by communal care and the voice of a part-time radio reporter named Genie Chance, the people of Anchorage came together and figured out how to move forward and survive.
We Ride Upon Sticks
It’s the summer of 1989, and for the Falcons—the Danvers High School girls’ field hockey team—that means summer training camp, where they’re actually paying for the pleasure of getting whooped over and over again. And you know what? They’re tired of it. So goalie Mel makes a pact with… well, some dark force or other, and her teammates join in, signing their names in Mel’s Emilio Estevez notebook and wearing armbands to symbolize their shared dedication. It works! They start winning games at training camp, and then during the official season, too, kicking ass and bolstering each other.
Last Couple Standing
Jessica and Mitch Butler are doing well for themselves: they’ve been married for 15 years, have two children and jobs they like. Everything’s going swimmingly! The problem is that their three closest couple friends all got married around the same time, had kids around the same time, and now they’re all getting divorced around the same time, sending Jessica and Mitch into an anxious tailspin. Worried about making their marriage last, they decide to try opening it up, since sex seems to have broken up their friends’ unions—but they’ve forgotten just how exhausting dating can be.
August is on the cusp of adolescence at the start of this novel, a 12-year-old boy trying to handle his parents’ divorce, his mother’s resentment, and his father’s new romance with a recent high school graduate. Growing up on a dairy farm, August’s world changes when his mother whisks him away to Bozeman, Montana, where he tries to blend into the city life of high school football and trying to date, while still spending summers with his father on the farm. After high school, he finds a new landscape to immerse himself in, this time a cattle ranch. August’s life is never still.
The XX Brain
Lisa Mosconi PhD
Women’s health has historically been woefully under-researched, as science has tended to take men’s bodies (white men’s bodies, at that) as the normative and default human specimen, and extrapolate from there onto everyone else. Dr. Lisa Mosconi, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic and director of the Women’s Brain Initiative at Weill Cornell Medical College, examines how the XX chromosomes that exist for many women plus the hormone estrogen come with their own unique risks for the brain, and what women can do in order to protect that vital organ through diet, sleep, and stress reduction.
Annie Hebley is a maid on board the Titanic on its final voyage in 1912, and though of course no one knows it when they set off, Annie and others are quite aware that something is amiss, what with people disappearing, being lured away by voices, and other strange goings-on. Four years later, Annie—one of the lucky survivors of the infamous disaster—faces her demons again by taking a place as a nurse on board the Titanic‘s sister ship, the Britannic, during World War I. There, she meets another survivor, Mark, whose presence brings back memories and horrors.
The Kingdom of Back
Maria Anna Mozart, nicknamed Nannerl, is the older sister of the boy who will become famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, nicknamed Woferl. But Nannerl was a musician and composer first, constrained by her gender and a domineering father in 18th-century Europe. As it becomes clear that Woferl is a child prodigy on the path to greatness, Nannerl is approached by Hyacinth, a beautiful, strange boy from a land that she and Woferl thought they’d only made up: the Kingdom of Back. Hyacinth offers Nannerl everything she wants: fame, notoriety, music—if she’ll help him. But are such exchanges ever innocent?
Thinking Inside the Box
In 1913, an editor at the New York World needed to fill empty column space and found a new kind of puzzle to place there. A series of grids made up of empty squares with numbers in each and clues corresponding to them, the crossword puzzle became an almost instant hit, and now, more than a century later, it still persists, even in an age of increasingly digital news media. Why do people from all walks of life love this strange daily challenge? How do its creators come up with them? Here, Adrienne Raphel explores contemporary crosswording and its history.
Darling Rose Gold
Rose Gold spent most of her life believing she was terminally ill until, in her late teens, she discovered that her mother, Patty, was poisoning her in order to draw sympathetic attention from others. For the past five years, Patty has been in jail, ever since Rose Gold testified against her and helped send her there, which is why everyone in town is surprised when, upon Patty’s release, Rose Gold agrees to take Patty in. But they each have their reasons for finding their way back to one another—and try as you might, you won’t guess what those are.
Lucas and Margo work at the same startup run by white men whose lofty ideals barely cover the naked greed that lies beneath. Lucas, one of many Asian men working there, feels utterly replaceable, which is somewhat true since he works as a customer service rep; Margo, the only Black employee, is a programmer, and though her position should garner her some respect, her race and gender means her voice is still silenced. Equally angry, they heist the startup’s user data before Margo is killed in a car accident. Fleeing and bereft, Lucas needs to figure out how to proceed.
March is upon us, having marched its way into our lives like a marching band with trumpets a-blare and batons a-twirl. “Take some more tea,” the March Hare of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland might say, when we’ve had none yet, or “Have some wine,” when there isn’t any, and that’s just what this month is like: fickle, confused—wintry one day and sunny the next, as ever-changing as our endless news cycle. If you, like us, need to slow down and unwind, take a peek at our favorite reads of the month and escape temporarily from the world.
Featured Image by Kevon Nicholas