Who knows what is going on with the weather these days? (Well, climate scientists.) Whether you’re lounging outside or stuck indoors, it’s a season best experienced with a book. This spring readers are faced yet again with an embarrassment of riches—so many books!—of which this is just a sampler platter. A little of this, a little of that: there’s something here for everyone.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
A dreamy, fable-like romance broken open by global forces, this novel—by bestselling and multiple award winning author Mohsin Hamid—follows a couple from an unnamed and war-wracked city as they pass through a series of metaphorical, magical doors to named places—Mykonos, London, San Francisco—where they encounter the just as bewildering but very real experience of being a refugee.
Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston Story by Peter Bagge
Following his New York Times bestselling graphic biography of Margaret Sanger, cartoonist Peter Bagge turns to the life of Zora Neale Hurston: novelist, short story writer, folklorist, anthropologist, fire brand, icon. Impressionistic rather than strictly linear, this retelling captures Hurston’s energy and brilliance in all its complexity.
The Gift by Barbara Browning
The third collaboration between indie publishers Coffee House Press and Emily Gould and Ruth Curry’s feminist publishing project Emily Books, Barbara Browning’s latest novel is full of characters that look not unlike herself, her friends, and her loved ones. Both IRL writer Barbara and fictional protagonist Barbara are professors and ukulele enthusiasts, members of a larger New York City community of scholars, artists, and activists pushing at the boundaries of art, gender, and performance. At the novel’s center, the identity of a Berlin musician, Barbara’s online ukulele friend, prompts the protagonist to go on quest for the truth.
Incendiary Art by Patricia Smith
A new book of poems from National Book Award finalist Patricia Smith, this collection of elegies to murdered men and their mourning mothers is as brutal and bewildering as the real-life tragedies of black life it depicts. A devastating series, “Emmett Till: Choose Your Own Adventure” is threaded throughout the book, each opening with commands: “Turn to page 14 if Emmett travels to Nebraska instead of Mississippi;” “Turn to page 48 if Emmett Till’s body is never found;” “Turn to page 27 if Emmett’s casket was closed instead.”
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman, Jr.
Yale professor and former DC public defender James Forman, Jr. uses the nation’s capital as a lens with which to examine the role some black Americans have had in supporting a deeply unjust criminal justice system. It’s a heartbreaking story—written as tragedy rather than simple indictment—and an important addition to the ever-more insistent chorus of books calling for reform, for abolition, for hope in the face of incredible despair.
Ties by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri
Let’s get it out of the way quick: Italian novelist Domenico Starnone for many years was suspected by misogynist dummies of being Elena Ferrante. He’s also the husband of the woman (I won’t name her!) fingered by last fall as Ferrante. So this book, regardless of what’s inside it, is a part of growing body of works related to Ferrante Identity Studies. You may want to read Ties for that reason, and it’s a fine one. But imagine a world without our obsession over Ferrante’s “true identity” (I don’t want to imagine a world without Ferrante), and imagine reading this novel then, what do you have? A short, fluid novel of a family breaking, mending, and breaking again, one whose perspective moves from aggrieved wife, to wandering husband, to prying children.
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter: Essays by Scaachi Koul
A first book from BuzzFeed culture writer Scaachi Koul, this collection of personal essays is funny and sad and searching. Koul tells stories of her early days online, of her complicated relationship with Indian weddings, of growing up the daughter of Kashmiri immigrants in Alberta, of hair, of shopping, of alcohol, of love, of sexual assault. It’s smart, honest book by a writer on the rise.