If it’s anything, March is a month of transition — that liminal space between February’s harsh cold shoulder and April’s underhanded promise of spring. So why not weather the awkward weeks reading? We know, we know, every month we have a vaguely metaphorical reason why it’s the perfect time to read, but we sincerely believe in all of them — plus, we can assure you that this March boasts a spectacular spate of new books, from essential reissues of forgotten classics to sparkling debut novels to new forms from modern masters. After the jump, check out our ten must-reads for the month ahead, and let us know what’s on your wish list in the comments.
The Fun Parts , Sam Lipsyte (March 5)
Sam Lipsyte’s books keep getting darker and darker — and perhaps it’s no coincidence that they keep getting better and better, too. The newest collection includes a host of brutal stunners that unpack all the grimy weirdness of the world we know, and imagine the banal eccentricities of worlds we might not. For those of you who fell in love with George Saunders in January and don’t know where to go, consider this a neon signpost.
Donnybrook , Frank Bill (March 5)
There’s a stereotype that dudes don’t read books, but every dude we know has fallen in love with Frank Bill at first, er, knuckle brush. Bill’s debut collection, Crimes in Southern Indiana, has been sawing at our minds since 2011, and his first novel is, if possible, even more raw — in the best way of course. Considering that the novel’s eponymous event is a three-day bare-knuckle tournament and the book is littered with bodies, we hope you’ll forgive us for saying that Frank Bill doesn’t pull any punches.
Red Doc> , Anne Carson (March 5)
Likely to be one of the biggest poetry books of the year, not to mention the month, we’re thrilled about this continuation of/sequel to Carson’s legendary 1999 verse-novel Autobiography of Red — “in a very different style and with changed names,” of course. Geryon is now simply “G,” and our little boy-demon is forced to navigate the modern world with Sad,” his lover. We’re willing to leave all our myths in Carson’s hands.
Middle C , William H. Gass (March 12)
Nearly 20 years after the release of his celebrated novel The Tunnel, William H. Gass is back with a dense, cerebral, and symphonic book about that smallest and largest of themes: identity, both public and private. A new masterpiece from an established great.
Crapalachia: A Biography of Place , Scott McClanahan (March 19)
McClanahan’s frenetic account of life growing up in rural West Virginia practically seethes with place, with empathy, with humor and violence and the boringness/incredibleness of being young. Split into very short stories populated by characters you won’t soon forget, this is redneck poetry that’s not redneck at all.
Speedboat , Renata Adler (March 19)
Speedboat is one of those poorly kept secrets, a favorite of writers’ writers and devotees of experimental prose that gets whispered about and pressed palm to palm. This month, it’s returning to print via the New York Review of Books, so an entire new generation of readers will be able to mop up all its alinear, lyrical glory. You should probably be one of them.
The Book of My Lives , Aleksander Hemon (March 19)
The venerable Aleksander Hemon’s first published book of nonfiction is an incredible memoir-in-essays that starts in Sarajevo and goes just about everywhere. For fans of soccer, chess, ill-advised parties, humanity.
The Tragedy of Mister Morn , Vladimir Nabokov (March 19)
Yes, it’s another reissue of an obscure work. But it’s Nabokov — and not only this, but the writer’s first major literary undertaking, published when he was only 24. It may not be Lolita, but it still has that spark of genius.
The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards , Kristopher Jansma (March 21)
If his debut novel is any indication, Kristopher Jansma is like a baby Calvino for the modern age, all secret drawers and tall towers and stories within stories within stories. We read this one in nearly one sitting — we imagine you will too.
A Map of Tulsa , Benjamin Lytal (March 26)
Publisher’s Weekly recently dubbed this elegiac love letter — to Tulsa, to a girl, to the late-’90s art scene — as the coming-of-age novel to replace Catcher in the Rye for “recent generations of Internet-suckled American youth.” And it’s never too late to come of age again.