Stacked Up

6 Books To Read This Month, From Cli-Fi Fiction To NYC Misadventures

Bustle’s columnist recommends a selection of old and new books that’ll get you in the mood for spring.

Three books Bustle's columnist recommends for March 2024.
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Happy soon-to-be Spring! March jumpstarted a new publishing season, and based on this month’s crop of new books, there’s a wealth of exciting reads to look forward to. This month is unusually packed with amazing books — Lit Hub’s columnist Maris Kreizman calls it the best month for books in years — so you’ll have more than enough to choose from. Below are some of my favorites, and you can find even more standouts on Bustle’s spring preview list, but I’ve also included some oldies that, for one reason or another, seem to embody the energy of spring. This doesn’t necessarily have to do with a book’s timeline, but more so with the feelings it evokes — a sense of rebirth, optimism, vitality, and even a bit of whimsy. (Bonus points if you’re an audiobook fan and take these in on a brisk, sunny walk; I specifically recommend listening to Loot!)

Something Old

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

Peace Adzo Medie’s debut novel was one of my favorites of 2020; a vibrant, transportive story that allowed an escape from the many devastations of that year. It follows Afi, a Ghanaian seamstress who agrees to marry a very wealthy man she’s never met. The marriage is a favor for his mother, who’d cared for Afi and her own mother after her father’s death, and who is desperate to get her son to leave the woman he’s already living with. Unsurprisingly, it isn’t an ideal match — though Afi is set up in a swanky new apartment and given access to Accra’s most elite corners, her husband largely ignores her — but Afi quickly realizes this is a gift: She has the freedom (and money) to indulge in herself, and we’re along for the exciting ride.

Loot by Tania James

Bear with me here, but Loot is the kind of book I always think I won’t enjoy. I see an abundance of proper nouns in the description — the many countries the story spans, important people the protagonist meets, key dates in history that I should probably recognize but don’t — and it all becomes a blur. But it is also the kind of book that reminds me I’m playing myself if I don’t push past this first impression. Loot centers on Abbas, a precocious 17-year-old woodworker in 18th-century India who is recruited by the capricious Tipu Sultan to craft a giant tiger automaton. (This is an actual, unbelievable work of art, which I didn’t put together until finishing the book.) Over decades, James describes his miraculous coming-of-age through political upheaval, nautical scandal, minor acts of fraud, and, of course, enriching friendships. I devoured this poignant, endearing, and surprisingly funny book, and was enveloped so easily in its world that I barely had to backtrack to brush up on the details.

Neon in Daylight by Hermione Hoby

Literary fiction has no shortage of stories about fumbling 20-somethings arriving in New York with lofty goals and dubious means, so it takes a lot for one of those novels to stand out the test of time. When I think about Londoner-turned-New Yorker Hermione Hoby’s 2018 debut, I can immediately remember the feeling of it — the city heat, the spontaneity, the thrill of never knowing where the day will take you. It follows British grad school student Kate, who’s thrust into New York City’s chaos after relocating stateside — especially when she inadvertently starts dating her new friend’s father. It’s immersive, insightful, and told with perfectly drawn-out tension.

Something New

The Morningside by Téa Obreht

I’m a sucker for possible-future climate fiction, and Obreht’s latest immediately hooked me. In the world of The Morningside, 11-year-old Silvia and her mother have been forced out of their war-torn homeland and placed in a once-grand city (strongly hinted at being New York) that is now mostly underwater. They land in The Morningside, an apartment building clinging desperately to the luxury it once held, where they live with her aunt who works as superintendent. Silvia is desperate to understand her family’s history, and though her mother has been tight-lipped about it, her aunt is more than happy to share the mythology of their people and ancestral land. It’s a beautiful examination of displacement, identity, and the effects of unchecked political power, enriched with touches of magical realism and dystopia.

James by Percival Everett

Percival Everett is wildly prolific, both in terms of his output and the amount of genres he’s able to master. (FYI: American Fiction, the film adaptation of his 2001 satirical novel Erasure, just won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.) In James, he takes on literary canon revision, reimagining Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with Jim — the enslaved Black man who escapes down the Mississippi River with Huck — at the center. Everett’s version allows us to see a more realistic, often brutal version of the pair’s journey — all through the eyes of a fully realized Jim, a learned discerning man with agency and ambition.

Something Out of the Blue

Caps Lock: How Capitalism Took Hold of Graphic Design, and How to Escape From It by Ruben Pater

I am not even remotely a graphic designer — the extent of my artistic abilities involve experimenting with Canva templates for former jobs — but as someone generally interested in the entwining of money and art, this hefty tome caught my attention at my local bookstore a few months back. Technically Caps Lock is a reference text, so I’ve been consuming it in bits here and there, but its comprehensive look at the evolution of design alongside politics is told with accessible, compelling analysis, making it far from dry. Featuring work from modern radical design groups, Caps Lock probes the less obvious effects of capitalism: How does design serve the economy, and how does it uphold its institutions? Can design be divorced from political forces? What would that look like?