The 10 Best Books of March 2019

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The 10 Best Books of March 2019

Our picks for the best books of March include everything from Helen Oyeyemi’s fairy tale-inspired novel to Mitchell S. Jackson’s powerful essay collection. Exploring everything from Islamophobia to climbing to the history of high heels, these 10 books (listed in order of release date) deliver stunning reads you won’t want to miss.

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Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

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Release Date: March 5th from Riverhead Books

Why You’ll Love It: Helen Oyeyemi’s latest novel proves that her writing still remains an unpredictable delight, whisking readers through a fantastical tale with contemporary relevance. —Bridey Heing

(Read Paste’s review of the novel here.)

Description: Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, there’s the gingerbread they make. The world’s truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread is Harriet’s charismatic childhood friend Gretel Kercheval—a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.

Decades later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother’s long-lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet’s mesmerizing story.

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The Impossible Climb by Mark Synnott

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Release Date: March 5th from Dutton

Why You’ll Love It: If you were captivated by the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo, you’ll enjoy this deep dive into the history of climbing centered on Alex Honnold’s trailblazing ascent.

(Read Paste’s essay on the book here.)

Description: In Mark Synnott’s unique window on the ethos of climbing, his friend Alex Honnold’s astonishing “free solo” ascent of El Capitan’s 3,000 feet of sheer granite is the central act. Synnott also delves into a raggedy culture that emerged decades earlier during Yosemite’s Golden Age, when pioneering climbers like Royal Robbins and Warren Harding invented the sport that Honnold would turn on its ear. Painting an authentic, wry portrait of climbing history and profiling Yosemite heroes and the harlequin tribes of climbers known as the Stonemasters and the Stone Monkeys, Synnott weaves in his own experiences with poignant insight and wit. Synnott’s personal history of his own obsession with climbing since he was a teenager—through professional climbing triumphs and defeats, and the dilemmas they render—makes this a deeply reported, enchanting revelation about living life to the fullest.

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Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden

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Release Date: March 5th from Bloomsbury Publishing

Why You’ll Love It: T Kira Madden’s memoir pairs gorgeous writing with honest emotion, exploring identity and family in her must-read book.

Description: Acclaimed literary essayist T Kira Madden’s raw and redemptive debut memoir is about coming of age and reckoning with desire as a queer, biracial teenager amidst the fierce contradictions of Boca Raton, Florida, a place where she found cult-like privilege, shocking racial disparities, rampant white-collar crime and powerfully destructive standards of beauty hiding in plain sight.

As a child, Madden lived a life of extravagance, from her exclusive private school to her equestrian trophies and designer shoe-brand name. But under the surface was a wild instability. The only child of parents continually battling drug and alcohol addictions, Madden confronted her environment alone. Facing a culture of assault and objectification, she found lifelines in the desperately loving friendships of fatherless girls.

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Survival Math by Mitchell S. Jackson

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Release Date: March 5th from Scribner

Why You’ll Love It: Because Mitchell S. Jackson’s book tackling race, class and culture is one of the best essay collections of 2019.

(Read Paste’s essay on the book here.)

Description: This dynamic book explores gangs and guns, near-death experiences, sex work, masculinity, composite fathers, the concept of “hustle” and the destructive power of addiction—all framed within the story of Jackson, his family and his community. The primary narrative, focused on understanding the antecedents of Jackson’s family’s experience, is complemented by poems composed from historical American documents as well as survivor files, which feature photographs and riveting short narratives of several of Jackson’s male relatives. The sum of Survival Math’s parts is a highly original whole, one that reflects on the exigencies—over generations—that have shaped the lives of so many disenfranchised Americans.

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Internment by Samira Ahmed

Release Date: March 19th from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Why You’ll Love It: Samira Ahmed’s timely Young Adult novel tackles Islamophobia in a United States that has turned against Muslims—one that proves too close to our own reality in this sobering, necessary read.

Description: Set in a horrifying near-future United States, 17-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

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A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian

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Release Date: March 19th from Algonquin Books

Why You’ll Love It: Mathangi Subramanian tackles everything from friendship to religion to sexuality to identity in this striking contemporary novel set in Bangalore’s slums.

(Read Paste’s interview with Subramanian here.)

Description: Welcome to Heaven, a 30-year-old slum hidden between brand-new high-rise apartment buildings and technology incubators in contemporary Bangalore, one of India’s fastest-growing cities. In Heaven, you will come to know a community of people living hand-to-mouth and constantly struggling against the city government who wants to bulldoze their homes and build yet more glass high-rises. The novel centers on five best friends, girls who go to school together, a diverse group who love and accept one another unconditionally, pulling one another through crises and providing emotional, physical and financial support. Together they wage war on the bulldozers that would bury their homes, and, ultimately, on the city that does not care what happens to them.

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What You Have Heard Is True by Carolyn Forché

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Release Date: March 19th from Penguin Press

Why You’ll Love It: Carolyn Forché proves she’s just as talented a memoirist as she is a poet in this enthralling read demonstrating the visceral power of empathy.

(Read Paste’s essay on the book here.)

Description: Carolyn Forché is 27 when the mysterious stranger appears on her doorstep. The relative of a friend, he is a charming polymath with a mind as seemingly disordered as it is brilliant. She’s heard rumors from her friend about who he might be: a lone wolf, a communist, a CIA operative, a sharpshooter, a revolutionary, a small coffee farmer, but according to her, no one seemed to know for certain. He has driven from El Salvador to invite Forché to visit and learn about his country. Captivated for reasons she doesn’t fully understand, she accepts and becomes enmeshed in something beyond her comprehension.

As priests and farm-workers are murdered and protest marches attacked, he is determined to save his country, and Forché is swept up in his work and in the lives of his friends. Pursued by death squads and sheltering in safe houses, the two forge a rich friendship, as she attempts to make sense of what she’s experiencing and establish a moral foothold amidst profound suffering.

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High Heel by Summer Brennan

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Release Date: March 21st from Bloomsbury Academic

Why You’ll Love It: Combining brilliant writing with extensive research, Summer Brennan delivers an entertaining read highlighting the cultural impact of the high heel.

(Read Paste’s essay on the book here.)

Description: Fetishized, demonized, celebrated and outlawed, the high heel is central to the iconography of modern womanhood. But are high heels good? Are they feminist? What does it mean for a woman (or, for that matter, a man) to choose to wear them?

Meditating on the labyrinthine nature of sexual identity and the performance of gender, High Heel moves from film to fairytale, from foot binding to feminism and from the golden ratio to glam rock. Summer Brennan considers this most provocative of fashion accessories as a nexus of desire and struggle, setting out to understand what it means to be a woman by walking a few hundred years in her shoes.

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A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

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Release Date: March 26th from Tor Books

Why You’ll Love It: Arkady Martine’s debut novel introduces a dazzling space opera from science fiction’s newest author to watch.

Description: Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own and hiding a deadly technological secret that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life.

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The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

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Release Date: March 26th from Pantheon

Why You’ll Love It: Laila Lalami’s powerful novel crystallizes the all-consuming purpose of racism: the projection and protection of power. —Matt Brennan

(Read Paste’s essay on the novel here.)

Description: Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant in California, is walking across a darkened intersection when he is killed by a speeding car. The repercussions of his death bring together a diverse cast of characters: Guerraoui’s daughter Nora, a jazz composer who returns to the small town in the Mojave she thought she’d left for good; his widow Maryam, who still pines after her life in the old country; Efrain, an undocumented witness whose fear of deportation prevents him from coming forward; Jeremy, a former classmate of Nora’s and a veteran of the Iraq war; Coleman, a detective who is slowly discovering her son’s secrets; Anderson, a neighbor trying to reconnect with his family; and the murdered man himself. As the characters tell their stories, the invisible connections that tie them together—even while they remain deeply divided by race, religion, or class—are slowly revealed.

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For more reading recommendations, check out our lists of the best books of January and February.