Brand new book releases from Yaa Gyasi, Amanda Gorman and Megan Nolan plus new memoirs, poetry, activism and more.
From International Women’s Day to Mother’s Day, March is a celebration of women and this month’s new releases really are reflecting where our heads are at right now: tackling some very difficult moments but also hopeful about the future.
Searing and genre-building new fiction arrives from Yaa Gyasi, Megan Nolan and Lisa Harding plus there’s poetry from Amanda Gorman and a lovely anthology of motherhood edited by Ana Sampson. Short stories about love featuring Sara Collins, Kuchenga and more will leave you with hearts in your eyes while Lisa Congdon’s You Will Leave A Trail Of Stars is a bright and beautiful book of illustrations that soothes and calms.
Activism books are also tackling everything from diversity in boardrooms to the abolition of prison incarceration to maternity prejudice and Laura Whitmore’s brilliant and uplifting No One Can Change Your Life Except For You is an essential buy. So read on to discover 22 new titles to bring hope, insight, intelligence and joy to your bookshelf.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
“Whenever I think of my mother, I picture a queen-sized bed with her lying in it, a practiced stillness filling the room. For months on end, she colonized that bed like a virus…” Yaa Gyasi is back with the much-anticipated Transcendent Kingdom (out 4 March) – the follow-up to her breakout debut Homegoing. Instantly captivating, it’s about a girl called Gifty whose Ghanaian family uproot for a better life in Alabama only to become enveloped by tragedy and grief. But that’s not all – it’s about evolving, trusting and finding a form of faith too.
The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman
“We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.” On 20 January 2021 at Joe Biden’s swearing in, the talent that is Amanda Gorman stole the show with a fierce and uplifting rendition of her poem The Hill We Climb. Published with a foreword by Oprah Winfrey, this is a moment of history in book form (out 30 March).
No One Can Change Your Life Except For You by Laura Whitmore
Inspired by the Wilson Phillips lyric “no one can change your life except for you”, this funny and uplifting book by presenter Laura Whitmore is a frank look at understanding people’s all-too-familiar insecurities and worries and how to build up your own sense of self-confidence and belief. As we all slowly begin to take baby steps back to the real world this year, this is a go-to book for putting your foundations back together (out 4 March).
Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs
Three Mothers is the story of the women who gave birth to and shaped three of most influential men of the 20th century: Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X and James Baldwin. From their own activism and encouragement in the face of vicious oppression and racism, they raised men who would lead and mould the Civil Rights movement. Fascinating and beautifully written, do not miss (out now).
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
Chosen as one of the Reese Witherspoon reads for 2021 and championed by The New York Times and Time, Peace Adzo Medie’s His Only Wife is the readable tale of Afi who accepts an offer to marry the rich and distant Eli and escape her life in rural Ghana. The only problem is Eli’s heart belongs to another and his family isn’t happy about it. With characters making questionable decisions and a rather brilliant ending, this is a good old-fashion book club read that’ll leave you arguing about character motivations and morals (out now).
Night Feeds And Morning Songs by Ana Sampson
Celebrating the sisterhood of motherhood in all its many varied, tired and exultant forms, this beautifully curated collection of poems is an inspired buy for Mother’s Day. From Sylvia Plath’s Morning Song (“Love set you going like a fat gold watch”) to Imtiaz Dharker’s resonating First Words (For Ava) “She know the moon even when it is nothing more than a curl on blue, or half an ear listening for the next star. Even the disc of milk in a bowl is moon”, it’s a collection to buy and treasure for the generations (out 4 March).
Pregnant Then Screwed by Joeli Brearley
Joeli Brearley is an activist and mother who founded Pregnant Then Screwed after being sacked when she was four months pregnant. With 54,000 women forced out of their jobs by pregnancy (and this was before the pandemic led to twice as many mothers taking time off with no pay due to school closures or a sick child), this is a call to arms for a fairer and more equal society (out 4 March)
The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning
Rereleased with glorious new covers, Olivia Manning’s The Balkan Trilogy is the story of newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle, who arrive in Bucharest – “the Paris of the East” – in the autumn of 1939, just weeks after the German invasion of Poland. Sweeping across countries and time scales as the war takes off, it’s an ambitious and classic series that’ll utterly absorb you (out now).
Acts Of Desperation by Megan Nolan
From the recent essay by actress Tavi Gevinson to the Britney Spears documentary that inspired it, there is a much-needed and difficult conversation happening around young women’s sexuality and how it can be co-opted by abusers to exploit and oppress. Tapping into this zeitgeist comes one of the books of 2021: Megan Nolan’s Acts Of Desperation. Exploring the life of her unnamed narrator, it’s a heartbreaking-but-resonating portrait of one woman’s savage mistreatment of herself in the name of love (out 4 March).
Common Ground by Naomi Ishiguro
Stan and Charlie meet in their teens, both battling against a world of bullies, distant parents and prejudice. Forming a friendship, the novel explores how those perceived as “other” are treated in Britain through slurs and violence before reuniting the pair many years later as adults at a party in London. Beautifully written, this is a book of real hope and connection (out 25 March).
Mary Anning by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Popy Matigot
The latest release in the Little People, Big Dreams series, Mary Anning is a beautifully illustrated tale of the woman who (along with her dog, Tray) became one of the world’s leading fossil hunters and Mother of Palaeontology despite the underhand male scientists who failed to herald her discoveries at the time. (Even older readers will find themselves googling the lightning strike that her local neighbours claimed would be the source of her genius…) (out now)
The Manningtree Witches by AK Blakemore
Set in 1643, the village of Manningtree has been left unmanned by the Civil War and women are left to their own devices. Then Matthew Hopkins, the infamous Witchfinder General arrives, and fear starts rising. Exploring male oppression and misogyny trussed up as religious fervour, Blakemore’s brilliant written story is both fascinating and compelling – her character of Rebecca West is particularly enduring (out 4 March).
Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding
Like Shuggie Bain, Lisa Harding’s Bright Burning Things is an unflinching story of motherhood and alcoholism. Former actor Sonya returns home to Ireland from London with her four-year-old son Tommy and their rescue dog Herbie. But past trauma and her own upbringing cause her to spiral into self-abuse and chaos. A deeply insightful and moving tale told from Sonya’s perspective and one that makes you care and root for all involved (out 4 March).
The Pioneering Life Of Mary Wortley Montagu by Jo Willett
The incredible life story of Lady Mary Wortley, this is a woman who battled doctors, politicians and clerics 300 years ago to give her three-year-old daughter an inoculation against smallpox (after seeing it first-hand in Turkey). She also wrote poetry with Alexander Pope and avoided an unwanted marriage by eloping, only to enter into a disastrous affair with a much younger man before escaping back to England. If you love history and biographies, you’ll have a lovely time with this (out 30 March).
Who’s Loving You edited by Sareeta Domingo
In need of some romance and a sweeping celebration of love? Well, this glorious anthology edited by The Nearness Of You author Sareeta Domingo is just the thing. Kuchenga conjures up love, regret and hope in the letter of a boy to his deceased mum; Sara Collins reimagines the 1945 film Brief Encounter for the present day and Varaidzo gives us the mind-bending tale of June who falls for May – the voice behind a social media account that seems to be transmitting four years ahead of its time (out 4 March).
The Barbizon by Paulina Bren
Optioned by HBO and Emilia Clarke, The Barbizon is a social history of New York’s “home for the Modern Woman seeking a career in the arts”. Sylvia Plath (who fictionalised her time there in The Bell Jar), Grace Kelly, Joan Didion, Meg Wolitzer, Liza Minnelli, Elaine Stritch, Phylicia Rashad and Rita Hayworth all stayed there between 1927 and the 80s and this history is the perfect escape for those who consider Rona Jaffe’s The Best Of Everything to be one of the greatest books ever written (which it is).
Belonging by Kathryn Jacob, Sue Unerman and Mark Edwards
How’s this for some damning facts? There are only eight female CEOs of FTSE 100 boards and only 10 BAME people working in leadership roles across companies in the FTSE 100. Despite studies showing that the more diverse a board, the more successful it is (companies with more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to see better-than-average profits). In Belonging by Kathryn Jacob, CEO of cinema ad company Pearl & Dean, and Sue Unerman, chief transformation officer at MediaCom, along with writer Mark Edwards, argue the case that men need to transform themselves into active allies in changing this limiting and oppressive status quo (out now).
The Mirror And The Palette by Jennifer Higgie
An uplifting and dazzling tour through history, this is an exploration of women artists from the past 500 years celebrating the names who lived and created entirely on their own terms. From two the ground-breaking self-portraits of Caterina van Hemessen in 1548 to New Zealand’s modernist Rita Angus, this is a breakout book that shifts the spotlight onto the names that the art world has painted over. It’s illuminating and essential reading (out 18 March).
We Do This ‘Til We Free Us by Mariame Kaba
Mariame Kaba is the founder and director of Project NIA, a grassroots organisation with a vision to end youth incarceration. In this book of essays and interviews, Kaba explores the history of the abolitionist movement and suggests a roadmap for how the world could do things differently while creating a more successful outcome than “the punishment system” is currently (out 9 March).
For When I’m Gone by Rebecca Ley
For fans of Maggie O’Farrell and Jojo Moyes, this is a sweeping book of love, motherhood, death and hope. Mother-of-two Sylvia is dying of breast cancer and leaves her husband Paul a manual to navigate family life. Funny and straight-talking (“Watch out for Eliza Jenkins… Eliza is not who we want Megan to drink her first alcohol with. Eliza won’t hold back her hair”) at points, quietly devastating at others, it’s a beautiful story that will leave you weeping but is also strangely cathartic after the events of the last 12 months (out now).
Fears To Fierce by Brita Fernandez Schmidt
Brita Fernandez Schmidt is the executive director for Women For Women International, a charity which helps the women survivors of war rebuild their lives and in this book she makes a moving and uplifting argument for finding inspiration in ourselves and the women around us. That by looking to other women and connecting with them, we can find the courage and the ability to become powerful and, in turn, help others to make real change across the globe. A timely read for International Women’s Day and beyond (out now).
You Will Leave A Trail Of Stars by Lisa Congdon
Last but not least… one of the paradoxes of anxiety is that when you’re feeling anxious, you can actually forget how to self-soothe. So with this in mind, Lisa Congdon’s You Will Leave A Trail Of Stars is the perfect book to keep on hand for when life throws unexpected stress your way. Filled beautiful, bright illustrations, it’s also a treasure trove of soothing advice and words. The perfect gift to yourself or someone you know who’s having a hard time (out 18 March).
Images: courtesy of publishers
Francesca Brown is books editor for Stylist magazine and Stylist Loves; she also compiles the Style List on a weekly basis. She is a self-confessed HBO abuser and has a wide selection of grey sweatshirts. Honestly, you just can’t have enough. @franabouttown