The Best New Books of March 2020Header image from the cover of Samantha Irby's WOW, NO THANK YOU. Books Lists best books
Our favorite books of March include everything from Samantha Irby’s hilarious essay collection to N.K. Jemisin’s latest fantasy novel. Exploring diverse topics ranging from British history to magic to heists gone wrong, these books—listed in order of release date—deliver captivating fiction and nonfiction reads.
Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth
Release Date: March 3rd from Graywolf Press
Why You’ll Love It: A delightfully quirky novel, Deb Olin Unferth’s Barn 8 follows the events surrounding a heist that simultaneously make you want to laugh and ponder existential questions.
Publisher’s Description: Two auditors for the U.S. egg industry go rogue and conceive a plot to steal a million chickens in the middle of the night—an entire egg farm’s worth of animals. Janey and Cleveland—a spirited former runaway and the officious head of audits—assemble a precarious, quarrelsome team and descend on the farm on a dark spring evening. A series of catastrophes ensues.
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
Release Date: March 3rd from Riverhead Books
Why You’ll Love It: National Book Award-winner James McBride uses one event—a church deacon shooting a drug dealer—to catalyze a powerful novel highlighting all members of a fascinating Brooklyn community.
Publisher’s Description: In September 1969, a cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket and, in front of everybody, shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range. James McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters and Sportcoat himself.
Docile by K.M. Szpara
Release Date: March 3rd from Tor.com
Why You’ll Love It: Marketed as a “queer Handmaid’s Tale meets Gossip Girl,” K.M. Szpara’s debut novel explores a fascinating, chilling world in which people are sold to pay off their debts.
Publisher’s Description: Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile (a person kept, body and soul, for the uses of their owner’s contract), so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains and money behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
Release Date: March 3rd from Bloomsbury Publishing
Why You’ll Love It: Fantasy titan Sarah J. Maas kicks off her new Crescent City series with her latest enthralling novel, which follows a half-Fae and half-human woman seeking revenge—and finding romance.
Publisher’s Description: Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life-working hard all day and partying all night-until a demon murdered her closest friends. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach. As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear.
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
Release Date: March 3rd from MCD
Why You’ll Love It: Kawai Strong Washburn’s debut novel draws from legends of Hawaiian gods, introducing a protagonist who’s rescued by a shark as a child and weaving family drama from there.
Publisher’s Description: In 1995, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends. Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods—a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart. When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawai’i—with tragic consequences—they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage and the cost of survival.
The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel
Release Date: March 10th from Henry Holt and Co.
Why You’ll Love It: Hilary Mantel’s beloved trilogy following Thomas Cromwell, which began with Wolf Hall and continued with Bring Up the Bodies, comes to a rewarding conclusion in The Mirror & the Light.
Publisher’s Description: England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry VIII’s regime to the breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?
New Waves by Kevin Nguyen
Release Date: March 10th from One World
Why You’ll Love It: Kevin Nguyen’s debut novel follows a heist gone wrong, exploring the dark side of the tech industry in a mesmerizing saga from a talented new voice.
Publisher’s Description: Lucas and Margo are fed up. Margo is a brilliant programmer tired of being talked over as the company’s sole black employee, and while Lucas is one of many Asians at the firm, he’s nearly invisible as a low-paid customer service rep. Together, they decide to steal their tech startup’s user database in an attempt at revenge. The heist takes a sudden turn when Margo dies in a car accident, and Lucas is left reeling, wondering what to do with their secret—and wondering whether her death really was an accident. When Lucas hacks into Margo’s computer looking for answers, he is drawn into her private online life and realizes just how little he knew about his best friend.
Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit
Release Date: March 10th from Viking
Why You’ll Love It: Writer, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit’s highly anticipated memoir reveals how she found her “voice in a society that prefers women to be silent.”
Publisher’s Description: In Recollections of My Nonexistence, Rebecca Solnit describes her formation as a writer and as a feminist in 1980s San Francisco. Solnit recounts how she came to recognize the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, the trauma that changed her and the authority figures who routinely disdained and disbelieved girls and women, including her. She explores the forces that liberated her as a person and as a writer—books themselves, the gay men around her who offered other visions of what gender, family and joy could be, and her eventual arrival in the spacious landscapes and overlooked conflicts of the American West. These influences taught her how to write in the way she has ever since and gave her a voice that has resonated with and empowered many others.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Release Date: March 24th from Orbit
Why You’ll Love It: After her historic three Hugo Award wins for her Broken Earth series, N.K. Jemisin is back with a captivating urban fantasy novel set in New York City.
Publisher’s Description: Every great city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got six. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
Release Date: March 24th from Tor.com
Why You’ll Love It: Nghi Vo’s gorgeous debut novella, marketed as an Asian period drama-meets-Margaret Atwood tale, follows two women defying traditional gender roles with striking results.
Publisher’s Description: A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead; her armies and their war mammoths are long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully. Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for. At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Release Date: March 24th from Knopf
Why You’ll Love It: In her first novel since the award-winning Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel interweaves a Ponzi scheme’s collapse and a woman’s disappearance to stunning effect.
Publisher’s Description: On the night Vincent, a hotel bartender, meets Jonathan Alkaitis, someone scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall. Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for Neptune-Avradimis, reads the words and orders a drink to calm down. Alkaitis, the owner of the hotel and a wealthy investment manager, arrives too late to read the threat, never knowing it was intended for him. He leaves Vincent a $100 tip along with his business card, and a year later they are living together as husband and wife. But Alkaitis is running an international Ponzi scheme, and he controls countless retirement funds, including Leon’s. The collapse of the financial empire is as swift as it is devastating, obliterating fortunes and lives, while Vincent walks away into the night. Until, years later, she steps aboard a Neptune-Avramidis vessel and disappears.
House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family by Hadley Freeman
Release Date: March 24th from Simon & Schuster
Why You’ll Love It: Written after investigating her family’s secret history, Hadley Freeman’s utterly enthralling book explores the “broad range of experiences of Eastern European Jews during Holocaust.”
Publisher’s Description: Hadley Freeman knew her grandmother Sara lived in France just as Hitler started to gain power, but rarely did anyone in her family talk about it. Long after her grandmother’s death, she found a shoebox tucked in the closet containing photographs of her grandmother with a mysterious stranger, a cryptic telegram from the Red Cross and a drawing signed by Picasso. This discovery sent Freeman on a decade-long quest to uncover the significance of these keepsakes and piece together the puzzle of her family’s past, discovering more about the lives of her grandmother and her three brothers. This thrilling family saga is filled with extraordinary twists, vivid characters and famous cameos, illuminating the Jewish and immigrant experience in the World War II era.
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
Release Date: March 31st from Vintage Books
Why You’ll Love It: Samantha Irby is known for her entertaining essay collections, and her latest promises more laughs and wild anecdotes drawn from her new stage in life.
Publisher’s Description: Samantha Irby is 40 and increasingly uncomfortable in her own skin despite what Inspirational Instagram Infographics have promised her. She has left her job as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic, has published successful books and has been friendzoned by Hollywood. She’s left Chicago and moved into a house with a garden with her wife in a Blue town in the middle of a Red state where she now hosts book clubs and makes mason jar salads. This is the bourgeois life of a Hallmark Channel dream. She goes on bad dates with new friends, spends weeks in Los Angeles taking meetings with “tv executives slash amateur astrologers” while being a “cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person” who still hides past due bills under her pillow. The essays in this collection draw on the raw, hilarious particulars of Irby’s new life.