The best books you need to know about this month.
Spring is on the horizon and with it are some of 2022’s biggest books. Julia Armfield’s essential and haunting Our Wives Under The Sea (£16.99, Picador), Lizzie Pook’s addictive storytelling in Moonlight And The Pearler’s Daughter (£14.99, Mantle), the beautiful Here Again Now by Okechukwu Nzelu and Holding Tight, Letting Go by Sarah Hughes are all out this month and should be at the top of your to-read lists (see Stylist’s guide to them here).
Looking beyond these titles, there’s also a rush on non-fiction feminist titles (historically, the publishing world always gets a bit excited around International Women’s Day on 8 March as it’s also when the Women’s Prize For Fiction longlist is announced), breakout brilliant debuts, standout thrillers from Sarah Vaughan, Sarah Pinborough, Ellery Lloyd and Lucy Foley and a rash of brilliant non-fiction from Nikesh Shukla, Angel Y Davis (whose memoir is reissued) and Elena Ferrante. Plus, there’s must-read poetry from the superstar Somali-British writer Warsan Shire plus exciting new short fiction from BookTok favourite Madeline Miller.
Scroll on to discover the best reads you’ll be adding to your bedside table in March.
Ever fallen in love with messy, confusing consequences for everyone involved? Then Good Intentions by Kasim Ali (£14.99, 4th Estate) is for you. A brilliantly readable exploration of the love between Nur, whose Pakistani parents don’t know anything about his Black girlfriend, Yasmina, this is both captivating and heartbreaking. Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn (out 31 March, £14.99, Penguin) is a pure comic delight as Yinka tries to find a partner to take to her cousin’s wedding. Order it and book out your weekend.
The highly anticipated The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley (£14.99, HarperCollins) is out this month. Following up her incredible success with The Guest List and The Hunting Party, it’s set in an old apartment block with an agreeably shifty line-up of characters. Also for fans of Foley is The Club by Ellery Lloyd (out 31 March, £14.99, Pan Macmillan), a fun insider whodunnit that skews celebrity culture, the cult of high-end members’ clubs and is packed with characters who seem all-too-closely inspired by real-life counterparts.
Sarah Vaughan’s new novel Reputation (£14.99, Simon & Schuster) is a prescient take on women in the public eye as MP Emma Webster finds her public and private standing dragged through both legal courts and public opinion. Finally, Behind Her Eyes author Sarah Pinborough has a new book, Insomnia (out 31 March, £14.99, HarperCollins), which is another mind-bending read that’s perfect for fans of Stephen King.
Unmissable fiction about women
Are you ready for the story of a mixed-race millennial vampire? Yes, yes you are, especially as Claire Kohda’s debut – Woman, Eating (out 24 March, £14.99, Virago) – is both witty and thought-provoking as Lydia tries to source pigs’ blood in London and not eat the fascinating humans who surround her.
The School For Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan (£12.99, Hutchinson Heinemann) has become all too resonant given the rumblings behind Texas’ anti-trans directive and it explores just how far the state could go when it comes to deciding what makes ‘a good mother’.
The Wonders by Elena Medel (out 3 March, £14.99, Pushkin, and translated by Lizzie Davis and Thomas Bunstead) is a beautifully written novel that examines the lives of three generations of working-class women living precariously in Madrid. It’s the perfect partner for Little Boxes by Cecilia Knapp (out 17 March, £14.99, Borough Press), which also weaves together snapshots of different lives as four friends struggle to find who they are during a hot Brighton summer.
Finally, Booth by Karen Joy Fowler (out 15 March, £18.98, Serpent’s Tail) is her long-awaited follow-up to We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves – a historical epic that’s like Succession set against the backdrop of the looming Civil War in 1830s America. Explaining so much of the country’s history while telling a deeply immersive story, it’s an unforgettable read.
Essays and memoirs
First published in 1974, An Autobiography by Angela Y Davis (£20, Hamish Hamilton) was edited by Toni Morrison and has now been reissued with a new introduction by Davis. Taking us from her childhood in Alabama to her connections to the US Communist Party, the Black Panther Party and the Soledad Brothers, it’s a fascinating insight into this incredible women’s life. You Don’t Know Us Negroes And Other Essays by Zora Neale Hurston (£20, HQ) has also been reissued and features essays from the legendary Black author on America’s Jim Crow laws, education and feminism.
Made In China: A Memoir Of Love And Labour by Anna Qu (£14.99, Scribe) is a fascinating memoir of Qu’s difficult teenage experience of being sent to work by her mother in a factory in New York while taking care of younger siblings. Reflecting on her past as an adult, she begins to explore the exploitation of workers, her own mother’s experience and what work means to humans. Burning My Roti by Sharan Dhaliwal (£14.99, Hardie Grant) is part-memoir but also a guide for South Asian women via personal stories.
Essays also form the backbone of Elena Ferrante’s new anthology In the Margins: On The Pleasures Of Reading And Writing (£12.99, Europa) as the author explores the truth behind women’s writing. Two other books that are perfect bedfellows for Ferrante include The Pyjama Myth: The Freelance Writer’s Survival Guide by Sian Meades-Williams (out 17 March, £12.99, Unbound), which has practical advice on independent writing and Your Story Matters: Find Your Voice, Sharpen Your Skills, Tell Your Story by Nikesh Shukla (out 17 March, £16.98, Pan Macmillan), which is a helpful guide to finding your voice as writer – no matter what genre you’d like to try.
Dangerous Women (£12.99, Unbound) includes 50 written contributions from names such as Nicola Sturgeon and novelist Irenosen Okojie centring around the notion that women pose a threat to society or are too-often dismissed as ‘dangerous’. Dr Jessica Taylor also examines the restrictive stereotype levelled at women in Sexy But Psycho (out 10 March, £16.98, Little, Brown) tracing how women’s ‘hysteria’ (read: their sex, race and sexuality) has historically been used against us and how this sinister notion pervades today: in 2019, 67% of people being given electroconvulsive therapy were women.
Also don’t miss these non-fiction titles…
The Anatomy Of Anxiety by Ellen Vora (out 17 March, £14.99, Orion) examines how anxiety affects our bodies and objectively explores the positive steps we can take physically and mentally (alongside other forms of therapy) to understand it, while out in paperback is the book everyone is talking about: Empire Of Pain: The Secret History Of The Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe (£9.99, Picador) unpeels how one family’s pursuit of money and power has fuelled America’s Valium, OxyContin and opioid crisis.
Handmade by Siri Helle, translated by Lucy Moffatt and Kari Dickson, (out 3 March, £12.99, Granta) is a beautifully packaged book about one woman’s plan to build a mini-cabin using a chainsaw. Celebrating the importance and impact of making lasting things with your hands, it’s a delightful read that makes for a perfect present. It pairs with Amy Liptrot’s follow-up to her award-winning book The Outrun (which was about her return to Orkney after being treated for alcoholism and drug use). The Instant (£14.99, Canongate) charts her next chapter as moves to Berlin in a search of new experiences, love and local wildlife.
Poetry and short fiction
As Beyoncé collaborator and the first Young Poet Laureate of London, Warsan Shire is regularly celebrated as the “voice of a generation” and Bless The Daughter Raised By A Voice In Her Head (out 10 March, £12.99, Chatto & Windus) is her first full-length poetry collection. Exploring the tentative steps of a girl embracing womanhood and what it means in all of its highs and lows, these poems reference real lives, refugee stories, popular culture and the women Shire knows. I Am A Spider Mother by Flora Cruft (£10, The Mum Poem Press) is inspired by the work of artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois and examines motherhood, loss and transformation.
Galatea (£6.99, Bloomsbury) is a short story by The Song Of Achilles author Madeline Miller based on the ancient Greek myth of Pygmalion and Galatea; a small-but-perfectly formed story about a beautiful statue brought to life only to find it controlled by her creator, it’s a must for Miller fans. Also out is The Cuckoo Cage: New Origin Stories, edited by Ra Page (£10.99, Comma Press), which has tasked 12 writers with reimagining the British superhero for now. With work by lisa luxx, Irfan Master, Bidisha and Avaes Mohammad, food banks and statue toppling take centre stage as real-life folk heroes are reimagined, celebrated and given historical context. It’s brilliant.
Images: courtesy of publishers