31 Brilliant Books That You Really Need To Read This Spring
Required reading from April to June. UK release dates.
1. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson – out now
At the centre of The Argonauts is the love story between Maggie Nelson and the artist Harry Dodge, who is fluidly gendered. As Nelson undergoes the transformations of pregnancy, she explores the challenges and complexities of mothering and queer family making.
2. Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika – out now
Dr Morayo Da Silva is a cosmopolitan Nigerian woman, living in San Francisco. On the cusp of 75, she makes the most of life, taking road trips in her vintage Porsche, chatting to strangers, and reminiscing about characters from her favourite novels. When an accident crushes her independence, Morayo is forced to rely on friends and chance encounters to help keep her sanity.
3. Relativity by Antonia Hayes – out now
As a baby, Ethan was rushed to hospital and his father to prison, charged and convicted of shaking his son. Twelve years later, Ethan is a singular young boy. Gifted in physics and astronomy, he sees the world in ways others simply can't. When a letter pulls both parents back together again, the years seem to warp and bend, and the past is relived and revealed anew for each of them.
4. Schtum by Jem Lester – out now
When Ben and 10-year-old son Jonah, who has never spoken, are forced to move in with Ben's elderly father, three generations of men – one who can't talk; two who won't – are thrown together. As Ben battles single fatherhood, social workers, and his own demons, Jonah, blissful in his ignorance, becomes the prism through which all the complicated strands of identity and history are finally untangled.
5. Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves – Out Now
When his wife, Marie, inherits her father's failing farm, Roscoe uses his skills as an electrician to siphon energy from the state, ushering in a period of bounty and happiness. When a young man is electrocuted on their land, Roscoe is arrested for manslaughter and – no longer an electrician or even a farmer – he must now carve out a place in a violent new world.
6. Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John – out now
In Bayan Layi, Nigeria, Dantala rejects the fluid rules and casual violence of his school life and runs away. He ends up living in a Salafi mosque, embracing the teachings of Sheikh Jamal. As Dantala begins to fall in love with Sheikh’s daughter, Aisha, Sheikh is struggling to deal with the growing jihadi extremism in his own ranks.
7. The Bricks That Built Houses by Kate Tempest – out now
Young Londoners Becky, Harry, and Leon are leaving town in a fourth-hand Ford Cortina with a suitcase full of money. They are running from jealous boyfriends, dead-end jobs, violent maniacs, and the restless tedium of southeast London, torn between desperate ambition and the terrifying prospect of getting nothing done.
8. What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell – out now
On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher walks down a staircase beneath Sofia's National Palace of Culture, looking for sex. Among the stalls of a public bathroom he encounters Mitko, a charismatic young hustler. As he returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, their trysts grow increasingly intimate and unnerving.
9. Not Working by Lisa Owens – 21 April
Claire Flannery has quit her job in order to discover her true vocation – only to realise she has no idea how to go about finding it. While everyone around her seems to have their lives entirely under control, Claire finds herself sinking under pressure and wondering where her own fell apart.
10. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison – 21 April
Sweetness wants to love her child, Bride, but she struggles to love her as a mother should. Bride, now glamorous, grown up, wants to love her man, Booker, but she finds herself betrayed by a moment in her past. And Booker's own lovelorn past is bending him out of shape. Can they find a way through childhood damage to light and happiness?
11. The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee – 21 April
Paris, 1882. Lilliet Berne is a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role. When one is finally offered to her, she realises the libretto is based on her hidden past. As Lilliet mines her memories for clues to who might have betrayed her, she recalls her life, from orphanhood to stage ingénue. Will the truth secure Lilliet's fate – or destroy her with the secrets it reveals?
12. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – 21 April
The Bennet sisters, Liz and Jane, have been summoned home to suburban Cincinnati to get their mother to stop feeding their father steak as he recovers from heart surgery, and to wrench their three sisters from their various states of arrested development. Soon enough they are being berated for their single status, and for two successful women in their late thirties, it really is too much to bear. That is, until the Lucas family’s BBQ throws them in the way of some eligible single men.
13. Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris – 21 April
One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash. At that moment, five lives collide – a flower seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a security guard, and a widower, all facing their own personal disasters. As one of those lives hangs in the balance, the stories of all five unwind, drawn into a web of love, grief, disenchantment, and hope that perfectly represents the joys and tragedies of small town life.
14. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman – 28 April
A strange new advert for an irresistible chocolate snack is all over the TV, and up and down the country people have started to disappear – some of them wearing ghost costumes. Hungry for definition and meaning, and just plain hungry, a young woman leaves her life behind to go in search for the truth.
15. Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman – 5 May
Hannah Dexter is a nobody, ridiculed at school by golden girl Nikki Drummond, until Nikki's boyfriend walks into the woods and shoots himself. Hannah finds herself befriending new girl Lacey and soon the pair are inseparable, bonded by their shared hatred of Nikki. But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it's a secret that will change everything.
16. Journeyman by Marc Bojanowski – 5 May
Nolan Jackson is a journeyman carpenter by trade and an itinerant by nature. While fellow Americans fight in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, he builds tract homes across the west of America, travelling between jobs. On his way he passes through his brother's town and is forced to stay put after an unexpected accident. Bereft of his car and his tools, with only the little-used and much-neglected mechanisms of his heart, Nolan turns to the task of building the foundations of a meaningful life.
17. So Sad Today by Melissa Broder – 12 May
In the fall of 2012, Melissa Broder went through a harrowing cycle of panic attacks and dread that wouldn't abate for months. So she began @SoSadToday, an anonymous Twitter feed that allowed her to express her darkest feelings. In these essays, Broder delves deeper into the existential themes she explores on Twitter, from eating disorders, drug addiction, and an unusual sex fetish to love, death, and the drama of waiting for the universe to text you back.
18. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell – 17 May
Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex-film star given to shooting at anyone who ventures up their driveway. He is also about to find out something about a woman he lost touch with 20 years ago and this discovery will send him off course, far away from wife and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?
19. Sockpuppet by Matthew Blakstad – 19 May
Twitter. Facebook. WhatsApp. Google Maps. Every day you share everything about yourself – everything from your shoe size to your credit limit is out there. If someone wants to know everything about you, all they have to do is look. When an online celebrity called sic_girl starts telling the world too much about politician Bethany Leherer and programmer Danielle Farr, they must race against the clock to find out who's behind sic_girl and why – before she destroys the privacy of everyone in the UK.
20. The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain – 19 May
Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in Switzerland where the horrors of the second world war seem distant. His mother disapproves of his intense friendship with Anton, the Jewish boy at school. A gifted pianist, Anton is tortured by stage fright; only in secret games with Gustav does his imagination thrive. But Gustav is taught that he must develop a hard shell, "like a coconut", to protect the softness inside – just like the hard shell perfected by his country to protect its neutrality.
21. Zero K by Don DeLillo – 19 May
Jeffrey Lockhart's father, Ross, is a billionaire in his sixties, with a younger wife, Artis Martineau, whose health is failing. Ross is the primary investor in a remote and secret compound where death is exquisitely controlled and bodies preserved until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return them to a life of transcendent promise. Jeff joins Ross and Artis at the compound to say "an uncertain farewell" to her as she surrenders her body.
22. Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss – 26 May
On the eve of 1980, downtown New York is the centre of the universe. Raul Engales, fresh on the downtown scene and posing as an art student, has just caught the eye of New York's most infamous art critic, James Bennett. James has synaesthesia; he sees pictures as starbursts and fireworks. His name is a byword for good taste – until the day his gift deserts him. And then there's Lucy, Raul's eager blonde muse, who's impossibly young and still untouched by urban ennui. Over the course of one year, these three lives collide and are transformed.
23. My Name Is Leon by Kit de Waal – 2 June
Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers, since Jake is white and Leon is not. As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.
24. Everything I Don't Remember by Jonas Hassen Khemiri – 2 June
A young man called Samuel dies, but was it an accident or suicide? An unnamed writer with an agenda of his own sets out to piece together Samuel's story. Through conversations with friends, relatives and neighbours, a portrait emerges: the young man who would do anything for his girlfriend Laide and share everything with his friend Vandad. Until Vandad, marginalised, desperate, drives a wedge between the friends, and Samuel loses them both.
25. The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah – 2 June
Memory is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life.
26. The Girls by Emma Cline – 16 June
Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. Until she sees them. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. The girls. And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways. Was there a warning? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?
27. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler – 16 June
In Anne Tyler's retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, Kate Battista is feeling stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father? Dr Battista has other problems. On the verge of a breakthrough, his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. When Dr Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him.
28. Barkskins by Annie Proulx – 16 June
In the late 17th century, two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France and become woodcutters – barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, but Duquet, crafty and ruthless, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Over 300 years Sel and Duquet's descendents seize what they can of a presumed-infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters to face possible ecological collapse.
29. The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson – 23 June
In New Bohemia, America, a black man finds a white baby abandoned in the night. He gathers her up and decides to take her home. In London, England, Leo Kaiser knows how to make money but he doesn’t know how to manage the jealousy he feels towards his best friend and his wife. Is the newborn baby even his? Seventeen years later. A boy and a girl are falling in love but there’s a lot they don’t know about who they are and where they come from. Winterson's retelling of A Winter's Tale.
30. The Return by Hisham Matar – 30 June
Hisham Matar was 19 when his father was kidnapped and taken to prison in Libya. He never saw him again. Twenty-two years later, after the fall of Qaddafi, Hisham was finally able to return to his homeland for the first time. In this heartbreaking, illuminating memoir he describes his return to a country and a family he thought he would never see again.
31. The Muse by Jessie Burton – 30 June
In 1967, Odelle Bastien has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous Marjorie Quick. But though Quick unlocks a potential Odelle didn't know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery. The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and the home of Olive Schloss in rural Spain, where artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa arrive with explosive and devastating consequences.