What to Read in March

What to Read in March

It is the month for St. Patty’s Day and it is the month for the Oscars. It’s also just another month, the third month of 2024, and a time when we’ll still be book-clubbing and TBR reading and noticing a few of the new books.

As for Irish literature in honor of St. Patty’s Day (notice my last name is Flaherty and that my Flaherty father-in-law’s birthday is on St. Patty’s Day), I’m going to make a few recommendations considering not just that the books were written by Irish authors, but also that featured Ireland significantly (even, in one case, as an alternate, dystopic Ireland). Actually, though Irish literature had been prolific, important, and popular for centuries (though it wasn’t called Ireland originally), Irish literature is having yet another renaissance, lately, taking home the Booker Prize and many best-ofs last year, my book clubs have been so riddled with Irish titles that people are starting to ask they they pick anything besides Irish lit, needing a little variety. The Irish just have a way with words.

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch is my favorite title so far this year. It is a little artsy: stream of consciousness and sans punctuation, which is appropriately Irish in style and tradition for a St. Patty’s read. Also, it’s bleak. (Still, so Irish.) But it’s also just an amazing book and I was entranced by both the writing and the depth of the story.

I read Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt for the second time in 2020. I actually wasn’t as impressed with it as I remembered being the first time around, but it certainly is interesting, full of eye-opening moments. And it’s a classic of Irish literature, by now. And it won the Pulitzer in 1996. The memoir begins with Irish immigrants in New York and then follows them back to Limerick Ireland, all during McCourt’s tumultuous childhood. There is also a movie to watch after you read it.

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy was not really my favorite read of the year to date, but it is very Irish and worth the read, I think. I am about to review it for you (just give me a few days, as I am behind four books). Again, lacking traditional punctuation, mostly quotation marks, and fairly bleak. This affair-centered book is about the Troubles and mostly deals with interaction between the Protestants and Catholics, which is, yes, super interesting, especially for those who like historical fiction (but also literary fiction).

As for St. Patty’s Day reads, I looked at some of the most famous (across various genres) Irish authors and then for one of their books that featured Ireland and was one of their top books. You’ll have to tell me how I did, but here are the options I came up with:

  • Maeve Binchy, Circle of Friends
  • Sally Rooney, Normal People
  • Maggie O’Farrell, This Must Be the Place (which seems to be her one book that takes place, at least some, in Ireland. I loved Hamnet (takes place in England) and am really looking forward to The Marriage Portrait (Italy), but at this point I would probably follow her anywhere.
  • James Joyce, Ulysses or The Dubliners
  • Tana French, In the Woods (which is the first book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, though not her highest ranked. I always like to start at the beginning, though. She also has a new book out this month, The Hunter.)
  • Colum McCann, Everything in This Country Must (Again, not is most lauded (which would be Let the Great World Spin), but about the Troubles. (I swear, even if you’re from a different country, everyone writes about London and/or New York!) He also has a nonfiction, writing book that I would like to read, Letters to a Young Writer.)
  • Roddy Doyle, The Commitments (The Barrytown Trilogy #1)

And here are some of the not, new books, highly anticipated March releases:

A debut novel, How to Solve Your Own Murder by Kristin Perrin is being called “an enormously fun mystery” (GoodReads). The review I heard of it on a podcast (could it have been The New York Times Book Review?) had be convinced this would be a great one to read.

If there’s one book that I have heard on more lists of what to read in 2024, it is the memoir, House of Hidden Meanings by RuPaul. As with many biographies, the author may not be someone you usually pay attention to, but little birdies keep saying this is a well-written and poignant not-to-miss.

We’ll get to some Oscars reads in a second, but I’m going to throw James by Percival Everett out there as a highly anticipated book. He is the author of a book I’m going to recommend for Oscars reading, but he also has a novel coming out this month (publicity, anyone?). Just like any other hyped book, it’s supposed to be good. And it’s a retelling of Huck Finn, from Jim’s (the slave’s) POV.

The Great Divide by Christina Henriquez is a novel about the building of the Panama Canal in the tradition of Latin American literature like Isabel Allende (so I’ve heard). I would also be curious to check out her debut novel, which won about 1,000 awards and is about the American immigrant experience, The Book of Unknown Americans.

And here we are at the other Percival Everett recommendation, which I am making as an Oscars season recommendation. I did see a lot of movies this part year, at the theater, but somehow missed a number of the ones that are nominated. However, American Fiction was one of my favorites of the year, and I am totally pulling for it. It is based on the early-2000s novel by Percival Everett, Erasure, which I am curious to read mostly because I appreciated the movie so much. I am also really interested in reading the graphic novel, Nimona (N. D. Stevenson), which quite frankly looks amazing (and I really liked the movie). The other two books that Oscar-nom movies were based on and that look to be worth the read are Killers of the Flower Moon (David Grann) and The Color Purple (Alice Walker), the first of which is nonfiction with great ratings and a super-interesting topic, and the second of which is a classic.

I have less book club reads this month because two of the clubs had to move their meetings and double-up in April. So in April, I’ll have more than normal. At any rate, here are the books I’ll be reading for book clubs in March:

  • White Noise, Don Delillo (literary book club)
  • Firekeeper’s Daughter, Angelline Bouley (YA for adults book club)
  • The Astronomer, Brian Biswas (Okay, so this is not even a book club I usually got to, but after seeing Biswas read over the summer of 2023 and buying the book, I think I’m gonna’ tag along with this group for one meeting.)
  • Stay with Me, Ayobami Adebayo (contemporary books book club)
  • The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, H. G. Parry (which is for a speculative fiction book club, but I would like to precede it with a reading of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield and follow it with Barbara Kingsolver’s super hot Demon Copperhead.)

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen. This is fantasy/fairy tale for YA, so no, it’s not going to be for everyone. It is also lighter reading, as much genre reading is. For what it was, I found it fun to read and I am going to eventually read the second and third books in the trilogy, though it would possible top stop at the end of this one and be fine.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende. A lot of us know that Allende can write, right? And despite having a thing for Latin American literature and magic realism (which this one is actually not), I had only preciously read The Stories of Eva Luna, years and years ago. So I was happy to get around to another one. This novel is beautifully written and neck-deep in interesting history. It has hard to deal with topics and sometimes a loopy plotline, but it is amazing.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. Okay, so I’m not even done reading this one yet, but it is very safe for me to put it here as a favorite read of the month: I’m almost done and I know how I feel about it. I was reading it in preparation for a Rebecca Makkai event for the paperback version of her newest novel, I Have Some Questions for You. I mean, ya’ll, The Great Believers is incredible. It just is. A handful of people don’t agree with me or talk about voyeurism (about the Boystown gay community in Chicago during the AIDs Crisis of the 1980s), but I felt drawn in, happy with the writing, and sympathetic to the characters as well as informed historically.

I mean, it’s the month of the 2024 Oscars, so of course I have some movie recommendations (though it’s pretty late in the game to try to watch them before the 10th). Here are a number of the nominees, the ones I am interested in and/or think you might be able to actually find somewhere, as well as some of my favorite movies of the years which did not get a nomination, either unfairly or because they’re not the right type of movie for that sort of thing.

Your first move is to watch American Fiction, which I should be reviewing this weekend with a couple other movies. As I already said, I loved this movie and am thrilled it’s been nominated.

  • The Holdovers (haven’t seen, just missed it, without a Peacock subscription, you can pay $6 to watch it elsewhere)
  • Oppenheimer (haven’t seen, just missed it, without a Peacock subscription, you can pay $6 to watch it elsewhere)
  • Barbie (saw it, enjoyed it, not sure it struck me as an Oscar kind of movie, though I kinda get why we’re going there, you can watch it with Max, Hulu, YouTube or Amazon prime memberships)
  • Poor Things (saw it, had mixed feelings about it after really looking forward to it, you can watch it for like $20 on some streaming services, or find it at some movie theaters still)
  • Killers of the Flower Moon (haven’t seen it, just missed it, without Apple TV you’re going to pay $20 to watch it)
  • The Color Purple (haven’t seen it, got outvoted, you can watch it with Max, Hulu, YouTube or Amazon prime memberships)
  • Anatomy of a Fall (haven’t seen it, was concerned about triggers, you can pay $6 to watch it on Apple TV or Amazon)
  • The Zone of Interest (haven’t seen it, totally missed it, you’re going to pay $20 to stream it)
  • Maestro (haven’t seen it, really really missed it, you can catch it on Netflix)
  • Past Lives (saw it, really liked it (I think, it’s been awhile),you can watch it on like eight different, premium, streaming memberships)

My personal faves of the year (besides American Fiction, Barbie, and Past Lives):

And a shoutout to The Marvels and Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and Wonka and Wish and Anyone but You and even The Little Mermaid for a good time, even if it’s not an Oscar-worthy kind of thing. That’s not what all entertainment aims to be, so…