Spring is here and that can only mean one thing: time to shake yourself out of hibernation and bust out that spring reading.
But with so many great books coming out in 2018, it can be hard to figure out just which ones you should pick up.
Don’t worry though — The MashReads Podcast has got you covered.
This week on the MashReads Podcast, we are joined by Cristina Arreola, books editor at Bustle, to chat about spring reading. Join us in the episode below as we talk about the books we’ve read recently, the books that’ve been on our spring reading wishlist, the classic books we’ve been revisiting, and the upcoming books you need to know about.
Here’s the podcast — read on for our list of 21 books you should check out this spring further down the page.
As always, we close the show with recommendations:
Martha recommends Kali Uchis’ new album Isolation. “I feel like it got lost in the Cardi B / Drake wave that happened. Her music is just this beautiful fusion of a bunch of different genres like jazz, pop, rock, and her voice is wonderful, and the features that are on the album are fantastic. You have everyone from Jorga Smith to Tyler, the Creator to Steve Lacy. It’s just a perfect album to anticipate spring and summer with.”
Cristina recommends Radiolab’s “Border Trilogy,” a three part series on the border U.S./ Mexico border. “If you’re interested at all in the immigration debate, this series a really good primer and delves deep into it.” She also recommends Francisco Cantú’s The Line Becomes A River, a memoir about Cantú’s experience growing up on the border and working as a border agent. “It’s just really heartbreaking and it’s not polemic and it just humanizes the issue in a way that I think is really necessary.”
MJ recommends the Twitter account Modern Glee (@Glee_2018), which imagines the television show Glee would look like if it still existed in 2018. “It reaches these ridiculous peaks the show actually did when it was airing.”
Cristina also recommends a tweet of a hilarious photo from a maternity photoshoot with Ronnie from Jersey Shore “It’s one of the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Also mentioned on the podcast: ‘The Rosary,’ an essay by Alexander Chee about becoming a rose gardener.
Be sure to check out more of Cristina’s work by checking out Bustle’s books coverage.
21 Books you should be reading this spring
Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere is a study in the beautiful chaos that can be found within even the most controlled communities. The book opens with a house burning down and then flashes back to explore how we got there, revealing the dual plights of the Warren family struggling to fit in the tiny suburb of Shaker Heights and the Richardson family struggling to maintain the illusion of perfection, and just what happens when those two families intersect.
Recommended by: MJ “That book escalates so much and so quickly.”
Empathy Exams writer Leslie Jamison is back with new non-fiction book The Recovering, part memoir about recovery, part deep dive into alcoholism, and part criticism of the way we talk about addiction.
Recommended by: Cristina. “It is probably one of the most comprehensive accounts of alcoholism that has ever been written. But it’s also so human, and her perspective on love and her own insecurities and family are so incisive and so relatable. It’s such a stunning book.”
Sometimes you just gotta go back to the classics. If you’re looking to revisit a book this spring, check out James Baldwin’s portrait of New Yorkers in the ’50s Another Country.
Recommended by: Martha. “My heart aches for all of the characters and all of their struggles and the lives that they lead in New York. James Baldwin is, obviously, one of the greatest writers to have ever walked this planet.”
New People is a 2017 gem that may have slipped through the cracks of your reading list. The novel tells the story of Maria, a biracial woman who has what on the surface seems like a perfect life. But when she becomes obsessed with a young poet, Maria makes a series of choices that could destroy the semblance of happiness that she’s worked to build.
Recommended by: Martha. “That book. I still think about that book. It’s super short, you’ll breeze through it. It’s fucking creepy in the best way. The character is so interesting and creepy, which is the only word that comes to mind. But also there’s so much I relate to.”
Sure, spring is here but Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Winter will make you feel immediately nostalgic for the cold season. The book is a series of meditations about life, written as a tribute to Knausgaard’s unborn daughter.
Recommended by: MJ. “Hearing Knausgard take his signature brooding meditations and apply it to stuff that we can all relate to like “snow” or “winter”… I’ve loved diving into them.”
The Female Persuasion tells the story of Greer Kadetsky, a college student who, after a chance run-in with feminist icon Faith Frank, begins a career at a feminist magazine. But as the book bounces from the perspectives of Greer, her friend Zee, her mentor Faith, and her boyfriend Cory, The Female Persuasion explores what it means to advocate for women and the human struggles behind the fight for gender equality.
Recommended by: MJ. “I keep describing it as a feminist manifesto disguised as a coming-of-age novel. Meg Wolitzer drops gospel truth in this book.”
An American Marriage is an exploration of race, privilege, and love. The book follows newlyweds Celeste and Roy. But when Roy is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit their love is shattered. What follows is a beautiful novel about love and the ways people drift apart.
Recommended by: Cristina. “It is phenomenal. It is wildly good. It’s super painful to read, especially if you love love, but it’s just so beautifully written and I couldn’t stop reading it.”
The Astonishing Color of After is a, well, astonishing juggling act of grief, art, family, history, and mental health. The book tells the story of Leigh Chen Sanders, a young artist who is reeling after her mother dies by suicide. But when Leigh begins seeing a bright red bird that she believes to be her mother, Leigh and her father takes it as a sign to go to her mother’s home in Taiwan. Once there Leigh not only explores her own grief, but also dives into her family’s history, and the ghosts that are still with them all.
Recommended by MJ and Cristina. Cristina says: “It is unbelievable. It’s unfair. You read it and you’re like this shouldn’t be able to come out of your head.”
Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater follows Ada, a Nigerian woman who hears voices because she has been born “with one foot on the other side.” The novel is narrated by a collection of those voices as each of Ada’s fractured selves fight for control over Ada, resulting in a powerful and surreal look into the human mind and the way we grapple with our identities.
Recommended by: Martha
The Parking Lot Attendant is a coming-of-age story about a girl in Boston who falls in love with Ayale, an Ethiopian parking lot attendant who is “the unofficial king of Boston’s Ethiopian community.” The book starts out at the end, showing our unnamed narrator as an outcast on an undisclosed island with her father. But after this brief glimpse into the future, the book flashes back to the past, exploring the narrator’s teenage years, her complicated relationship with her parents, her love for Ayale, and the way that she gets wrapped up into Ayale’s increasingly complicated schemes.
Recommended by: Martha
Sing, Unburied, Sing is a moving portrait of family and history. The book follows Jojo and his mother Leonie as they road trip to pick up Jojo’s father from prison is Mississippi. But as they journey, they are haunted by the ghosts who have stories to tell about the South, race, growing up, and the history that shapes us all.
Recommend by: Martha
If you’re looking for a deep dive into love this spring, make sure to revisit Maggie Nelson’s 2015 book, The Argonauts. The book is a memoir about Nelson falling in love with her partner Harry Dodge, a gender-fluid artist. Told with Nelson’s signature poeticism, the book is an expansive look at the experience of falling in love and starting a family, as well as an exploration of how we talk about sexuality, gender, marriage, and more.
Recommended by: Martha
Heart Berries is a coming-of-age memoir about working through trauma. Through the book Mailhot explains her experience being hospitalized and diagnosed with PTSD and bipolar II disorder, and confronting the family and relationships that shaped her. Speaking to Bustle, Mailhot explained, “I think Heart Berries is a conjuring. It is some type of incantation where my mother becomes a god and the men who hurt me falls away.”
Recommended by: Cristina.
Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry tells two stories side-by-side: the tale of Alice, a young editor who begins a relationship with older and famous writer Ezra Blazer as well as the plight of Amar, an Iraqi-American man who is detained by immigration offers as he tries to visit his brother. “Asymmetry poses questions about the limits of imagination and empathy—can we understand each other across lines of race, gender, nationality, and power?” the New Yorker asks.
Recommended by: MJ
From literary force Alexander Chee comes a new essay collection about art, sexuality, activism, love, and more. Part memoir detailing Chee’s own past (relationships, experiments in rose gardening, etc) and part collection of writing advice, How To Write An Autobiographical Novel is an unforgettable book about how love and writing shape us.
Recommended by: MJ. “He has an essay called ‘After Peter,’ and it is easily one of the most affecting essays I’ve ever read in my life. I read this book a little while ago and I’ve just been waiting for it to come out so I can talk to people about it. It’s so good.”
Sam Graham-Felsen’s novel Green turns to the past to explore the present. The book explores race and privilege as we follow David Greenfield, one of the few white kids at Martin Luther King, Jr, Middle School in Boston in 1992. After David meets Marlon Wellings, a black kid who lives in a public housing project near Dave’s own gentrifying neighborhood, the two strike up an unlikely friendship. But as they begin spending more time with each other, they begin to interrogate the difference between the privileges each is afforded.
Recommended by: MJ
In his debut novel Anger Is A Gift, Mark Oshiro shines a light onto police brutality, community, and the way we stand up to systemic oppression. The book follows Moss Jeffries, a teenager in Oakland reeling from the death of his father who is killed by a police officer and then vilified by the media. Six years later, during his junior year of high school, Moss and his friends begin protesting the Oakland police after facing constant intimidation in their school. But after a protest that goes awry and tragedy strikes, Moss must learn what to do with the anger that has been building up inside him.
Recommended by: MJ
Joseph Cassara’s The House of Impossible Beauties is a novel so beautiful it’s hard to believe it’s a debut. The book follows a cast of characters who are all navigating New York City’s LGBTQ and drag culture of the ’80s and 90s. But, as you meet each narrator, the book reveals the raw, heartbreaking stories behind the glamor we associate with the ballroom scene.
Recommended by: MJ
If you loved The Shape of Water, be sure to check out Melissa Broder’s The Pisces. The book follows Lucy, a PhD student who has been writing her dissertation for nine years. When Lucy and her boyfriend break up, she visits her sister in Los Angeles for the summer — where she falls in love with a merman.
Recommended by: Cristina. “It’s fucking great. If you love love, you’ll love it.”
Aja Gabel’s The Ensemble is a deep dive into the inner lives of musicians. The book follows four friends and examines their relationship to each other, as each tries to navigate the world of music as they grow up. The result is a beautiful novel about friendship, art, and the way we pursue our passions.
Recommended by: Cristina.
If there is a novel that goes to unexpected places, it’s The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon. The book tells the story of Phoebe Lin, a Korean American student who is grieving the death of her mother and becomes increasingly drawn to an extremist cult, and her fellow student Will Kendall, who is confronting his fundamentalist upbringing. After the cult bombs several buildings, Phoebe goes missing and Will begins a search to find her and to get some answers.
Recommended by: Cristina. “Phenomenal. Very quick read.”