Our picks for the best books of March include everything from Shobha Rao’s stunning debut novel set in India to Sarah McBride’s gripping memoir about the fight for transgender equality. The 10 books below—including titles from our most anticipated books of 2018 list—will keep you captivated throughout the coming month.
1. Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Release Date: March 6th from Harper Voyager
Why You’ll Love It: A refreshing standalone epic, Blood of the Four builds an enthralling fantasy world brimming with high stakes and political intrigue.
Description: In the great kingdom of Quandis, everyone is a slave. Some are slaves to the gods. Most are slaves to everyone else.
Blessed by the gods with lives of comfort and splendor, the royal elite routinely perform their duties, yet some chafe at their role. A young woman of stunning ambition, Princess Phela refuses to allow a few obstacles—including her mother the queen and her brother, the heir apparent—to stand in the way of claiming ultimate power and glory for herself.
Far below the royals are the Bajuman. Poor and oppressed, members of this wretched caste have but two paths out of servitude: the priesthood . . . or death.
Because magic has been kept at bay in Quandis, royals and Bajuman have lived together in an uneasy peace for centuries. But Princess Phela’s desire for power will disrupt the realm’s order, setting into motion a series of events that will end with her becoming a goddess in her own right . . . or ultimately destroying Quandis and all its inhabitants.
2. Census by Jesse Ball
Release Date: March 6th from Ecco
Why You’ll Love It: Jesse Ball’s novel is a powerful meditation on grief, weaving a father-son tale that proves as captivating as it is haunting.
Description: When a widower receives notice from a doctor that he doesn’t have long left to live, he is struck by the question of who will care for his adult son—a son whom he fiercely loves, a boy with Down syndrome. With no recourse in mind, and with a desire to see the country on one last trip, the man signs up as a census taker for a mysterious governmental bureau and leaves town with his son.
Traveling into the country, through towns named only by ascending letters of the alphabet, the man and his son encounter a wide range of human experience. While some townspeople welcome them into their homes, others who bear the physical brand of past censuses on their ribs are wary of their presence. When they press toward the edges of civilization, the landscape grows wilder, and the towns grow farther apart and more blighted by industrial decay. As they approach “Z,” the man must confront a series of questions: What is the purpose of the census? Is he complicit in its mission? And just how will he learn to say good-bye to his son?
3. Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
Release Date: March 6th from Flatiron Books
Why You’ll Love It:
Girls Burn Brighter is an absolutely stunning debut novel from an author you’ll want to follow for years to come.
Description: Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them: they are poor, they are ambitious and they are girls. After her mother’s death, Poornima has very little kindness in her life. She is left to care for her siblings until her father can find her a suitable match. So when Savitha enters their household, Poornima is intrigued by the joyful, independent-minded girl. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond arranged marriage. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend.
Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India’s underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls’ perspectives as they face ruthless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within.
4. The Gospel of Trees by Apricot Irving
Release Date: March 6th from Simon & Schuster
Why You’ll Love It: Apricot Irving’s honest memoir highlights the good, the bad and the ugly of missionary life, challenging traditional “white savior” narratives.
Description: Apricot Irving grew up as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti—a country easy to sensationalize but difficult to understand. Her father was an agronomist, a man who hiked alone into the hills with a macouti of seeds to preach the gospel of trees in a deforested but resilient country. Her mother and sisters, meanwhile, spent most of their days in the confines of the hospital compound they called home. As a child, this felt like paradise to Irving; as a teenager, the same setting felt like a prison. Outside of the walls of the missionary enclave, Haiti was a tumult of bugle-call bus horns and bicycles that jangled over hard-packed dirt, the clamor of chickens and cicadas, the sudden, insistent clatter of rain as it hammered across tin roofs and the swell of voices running ahead of the storm.
As she emerges into womanhood, an already confusing process made all the more complicated by Christianity’s demands, Irving struggles to understand her father’s choices. His unswerving commitment to his mission, and the anger and despair that followed failed enterprises, threatened to splinter his family.
Told against the backdrop of Haiti’s long history of intervention—often unwelcome—The Gospel of Trees grapples with the complicated legacy of those who wish to improve the world.
5. Gun Love by Jennifer Clement
Release Date: March 6th from Hogarth
Why You’ll Love It: Jennifer Clement gifts Gun Love with a spellbinding narrator, who tackles weighty topics—homelessness, gun violence—with grace and frankness.
Description: Pearl’s mother took her away from her family just weeks after she was born and drove off to central Florida determined to begin a new life for herself and her daughter—in the parking lot next to a trailer park. Pearl grew up in the front seat of their ‘94 Mercury, while her mother lived in the back. Despite their hardships, mother and daughter both adjusted to life, making friends with the residents of the trailers and creating a deep connection to each other. All around them, Florida is populated with gun owners—those hunting alligators for sport, those who want to protect their families and those who create a sense of danger. But when the violence that surrounds Pearl changes her life in one shocking moment, the unlikely bonds she has formed end up sustaining her.
6. Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala
Release Date: March 6th from Harper
Why You’ll Love It: The long-awaited novel from Beasts of No Nation author Uzodinma Iweala, Speak No Evil offers a haunting story about identity and power.
Description: On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.
When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed.
7. The Sandman by Lars Kepler, translated by Neil Smith
Release Date: March 6th from Knopf
Why You’ll Love It: The fourth book in Lars Kepler’s (a.k.a. Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril’s) Joona Linna series, The Sandman is a thrilling crime novel that will keep you awake until you read the final page.
Description: Late one night, outside Stockholm, Mikael Kohler-Frost is found wandering. Thirteen years earlier, he went missing along with his younger sister. They were long thought to have been victims of Sweden’s most notorious serial killer, Jurek Walter, now serving a life sentence in a maximum security psychiatric hospital. Now Mikael tells the police that his sister is still alive and being held by someone he knows only as the Sandman.
Years ago, Detective Inspector Joona Linna made an excruciating personal sacrifice to ensure Jurek’s capture. He is keenly aware of what this killer is capable of, and now he is certain that Jurek has an accomplice. He knows that any chance of rescuing Mikael’s sister depends on getting Jurek to talk, and that the only agent capable of this is Inspector Saga Bauer, a 27-year-old prodigy. She will have to go under deep cover in the psychiatric ward where Jurek is imprisoned, and she will have to find a way to get to the psychopath before it’s too late—and before he gets inside her head.
8. Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride
Release Date: March 6th from Crown Archetype
Why You’ll Love It: Sarah McBride’s memoir is a must-read, offering encouragement while showing that the fight for equality is just getting started.
Description: Before she became the first transgender person to speak at a national political convention in 2016 at the age of 26, Sarah McBride struggled with the decision to come out—not just to her family but to the students of American University, where she was serving as student body president. She’d known she was a girl from her earliest memories, but it wasn’t until the Facebook post announcing her truth went viral that she realized just how much impact her story could have on the country.
Four years later, McBride was one of the nation’s most prominent transgender activists, walking the halls of the White House, advocating the passing of laws and addressing the country in the midst of a heated presidential election. And, she’d found her first love and future husband, Andy, a trans man and fellow activist, who complemented her in every way…until cancer tragically intervened.
Informative, heartbreaking and empowering, Tomorrow Will Be Different is McBride’s story of love and loss, a powerful entry point into the LGBTQ community’s battle for equal rights and what it means to be openly transgender.
9. Fisherman’s Blues: A West African Community at Sea by Anna Badkhen
Release Date: March 13th from Riverhead Books
Why You’ll Love It: In the span of 300 pages, Anna Badkhen will transform you from knowing nothing about this Senegalese community to being completely transfixed by their stories.
The sea is broken, fishermen say. The sea is empty. The genii have taken the fish elsewhere.
For centuries, fishermen have launched their pirogues from the Senegalese port of Joal, where the fish used to be so plentiful a man could dip his hand into the grey-green ocean and pull one out as big as his thigh. But in an Atlantic decimated by overfishing and climate change, the fish are harder and harder to find.
Here, Badkhen discovers, all boundaries are permeable—between land and sea, between myth and truth, even between storyteller and story. Fisherman’s Blues immerses us in a community navigating a time of unprecedented environmental, economic and cultural upheaval with resilience, ingenuity and wonder.
10. The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History by Aida Edemariam
Release Date: March 20th from Harper
Why You’ll Love It:
Guardian journalist Aida Edemariam recounts her grandmother’s extraordinary life in this memoir, chronicling a century of Ethiopian history through one woman’s experiences.
Description: Born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar in about 1916, Yetemegnu was married and had given birth before she turned 15. As the daughter of a socially prominent man, she also offered her husband, a poor yet gifted student, the opportunity to become an important religious leader.
Over the next decades Yetemegnu would endure extraordinary trials: the death of some of her children; her husband’s imprisonment; and the detention of one of her sons. She witnessed the Fascist invasion of Ethiopia and the subsequent resistance, suffered Allied bombardment and exile from her city; lived through a bloody revolution and the nationalization of her land. She gained audiences with Emperor Haile Selassie I to argue for justice for her husband, for revenge and for her children’s security, and fought court battles to defend her assets against powerful men. But sustained, in part, by her fierce belief in the Virgin Mary and in Orthodox Christianity, Yetemegnu survived. She even learned to read, in her sixties, and eventually made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Told in Yetemegnu’s enthralling voice and filled with a vivid cast of characters—emperors and empresses, priests and scholars, monks and nuns, archbishops and slaves, Marxist revolutionaries and wartime double agents—The Wife’s Tale introduces a woman both imperious and vulnerable; a mother, widow and businesswoman whose deep faith and numerous travails never quashed her love of laughter, mischief and dancing; a fighter whose life was shaped by direct contact with the volatile events that transformed her nation.
If you’re looking for more reading recommendations, check out our list of the most anticipated books of 2018.