Spring Book Picks | From the LJ Reviews Editors

This season the LJ Reviews editors are looking forward to books that delve into history and current events. We are awaiting books that offer respite from hardship and those that provide a new lens to understand and reflect. In the mix too are horror, romances, historical fiction, SFF, and short stories.

This season the LJ Reviews editors are looking forward to books that delve into history and current events. We are awaiting books that offer respite from hardship and those that provide a new lens to understand and reflect. In the mix too are horror, romances, historical fiction, SFF, and short stories.

Jill Cox-Cordova l Associate Editor, LJ Reviews

In this era of hardships—personal and professional—many spring titles take unflinching looks at the biggest societal issues, advance the conversations about them, and offer readers feasible solutions. For example, Matthew Desmond’s Poverty, by America (Crown, Mar.) dives deep into why poverty still exists in the United States. The answer is disturbing, but the author proposes several fixes, seemingly quick and easy, that could be executed individually and collectively. In Birdgirl: Looking to the Skies in Search of a Better Future (Celadon, Mar.), young environmentalist Mya-Rose Craig movingly combines the themes of nature, social justice, and mental health to find comfort and meaning. Physician Anthony Chin-Quee, who describes himself as “not white, mostly Black, and questionably Asian” reflects on what labels and not fitting in mean for him today in I Can’t Save You (Riverhead, Apr.). An Amerikan Family: The Shakurs and the Nation They Created (Mariner: HarperCollins, May) by Santi Elijah Holley enlightens readers about the freedom fighting efforts made by the Shakur family—beyond Tupac and Assata—to educate about the historical impact of Black liberation groups in the United States. Amelia Possanza’s Lesbian Love Story (Catapult, May) offers lessons about love. By sorting through 20th-century archives, the author finds stories and histories from lesbians that will help readers reimagine what “care” and “community” can really be.

Melissa DeWild | Associate Editor, LJ Reviews

If you enjoy reading about bookstores as much as visiting them, check out this romance and memoir. In Zora Books Her Happy Ever After (Mira, Apr.) by Taj McCoy, indie bookstore owner Zora finds herself in a love triangle when her author crush agrees to an event at her store—and brings his intriguing best friend. Those who’ve followed Oliver Darkshire’s hilarious Twitter posts about the antiquarian bookstore Sotheran’s in London have his memoir Once Upon a Tome: The Misadventures of a Rare Bookseller (Norton) to look forward to this March. Another memoir on the horizon is You Could Make This Place Beautiful (Atria/One Signal, Apr.) from poet Maggie Smith, whose writing is exquisite. For those who dream of dragons, there are three new fantasy series out in May: To Shape a Dragon’s Breath (Del Rey) by Moniquill Blackgoose, Dragonfall (DAW) by L.R. Lam, and Fourth Wing (Entangled: Red Tower) by Rebecca Yarros. On the science-fiction front, Emily Tesh makes her full-length novel debut with Some Desperate Glory (Tor.com, Apr.), a thrilling space opera, and Malka Older writes a sci-fi mystery set on Jupiter in The Mimicking of Known Successes (Tor.com, Mar.). T. Kingfisher writes across multiple genres, but her spring title A House With Good Bones (Tor Nightfire, Mar.) is a Southern gothic horror novel that is sure to terrify and satisfy. Lastly, there’s the highly anticipated Love and Lemons Simple Feel Good Food: 125 Plant-Focused Meals To Enjoy Now or Make Ahead (Avery, Apr.) from Jeanine Donofrio.

Liz French | Senior Editor, LJ Reviews

Spring 2023 books on my TBD (to be devoured) list will transport readers to World War II London, the wardrobe worlds of Wakanda and beyond, the glittering streets of Lagos, Nigeria, and the highways and byways of Florida. Longbourn author Jo Baker’s The Midnight News (Knopf, May) is the story of a young typist for the Ministry of Information who’s living through the daily horrors of the London Blitz and slowly unraveling. I know Baker will bring her immense talents for deep characterization and exquisite sense of place to her latest offering. Oscar-winning designer (for Black Panther) Ruth E. Carter has designed costumes for more than 40 films and countless TV shows. I especially enjoyed her decades-spanning designs for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and the over-the-top looks for the 2019 comedy biopic Dolomite Is My Name. Carter shares her oeuvre and her inspiring success story in The Art of Ruth E. Carter: Costuming Black History and the Afrofuture, from Do the Right Thing to Black Panther (Chronicle, May). Debuter Vanessa Walters bursts on the scene with a thriller in which a woman travels from London to Lagos when her niece disappears without a trace. Claudine will find out more than she’s ready to know about her niece’s not-so-perfect life as The Nigerwife (Atria, May). Finally, there’s another trope I like very much: a plucky senior citizen who’s not ready to shuffle off just yet. Key West retiree Herb and a young manicurist who brightened his wife’s twilight years take one last road trip, setting off a Silver Alert (Algonquin, Apr.) by Dimestore author Lee Smith. 

Sarah Hashimoto l Editor, LJ Reviews

This spring, Asian American authors offer works that illuminate a multiplicity of experiences, cultures, and histories. In Karin Lin-Greenberg’s short story collection You Are Here (Counterpoint, May), a floundering small-town mall reveals the intersecting lives of the town’s inhabitants—Sunshine Clips’s only hair stylist, who secretly watches YouTube art tutorials; her son, who fends off uncomfortable advances from a classmate; and the bookstore manager, a failed academic who lives in a tiny house in his mother’s backyard. With Biting the Hand: Growing Up Asian in Black and White America (Holt, Apr.), Julia Lee, the daughter of Korean immigrant store owners in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Los Angeles, navigates the complexities of race. Describing the ways in which she was galvanized by writers like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, Lee argues for a unified fight against oppressive systems of power. In Mott Street: A Chinese American Family’s Story of Exclusion and Homecoming (Penguin Pr., Apr.), Ava Chin reconstructs her family history, telling of family members who emigrated from China’s Pearl River delta and endured years of racism, finally arriving in New York’s Chinatown. There, on Mott Street, Chin discovers a building where her family—merchants, activists, refugees, and more—lived under the severe restrictions of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. With Yellowface (Morrow, May), R.F. Kuang, award-winning author of the “Poppy War” trilogy, follows June Hayward, who steals Athena Liu’s novel and publishes it as her own. This unsettling and electrifying book piercingly addresses issues of cultural appropriation and racial identity.

Sarah Wolberg l Associate Editor, LJ Reviews

I’m always looking for novels that are social satires along the lines of A Confederacy of Dunces or P.G. Wodehouse, and Tom Piazza’s The Auburn Conference (Univ. of Iowa, May) seems to fit the bill; a comic novel set at a small college in 1883 where an idealistic professor has invited the likes of Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe to participate in an academic conference about the future of the United States. For those whose taste runs to old New Yorker cartoons, The Ruling Clawss: The Socialist Cartoons of Syd Hoff (New York Review Comics, May) should be amusing. The cartoons Hoff contributed to The Daily Worker in the 1930s skewered the rich and powerful classes who were both the subjects and the viewers of New Yorker cartoons of the same era. Where New Yorker cartoonists like Peter Arno might only have lightly ribbed their upper-class readers, Hoff revealed the selfishness and hilarious ineptitude at the heart of these dandies. The anarchic underground counterculture of 1980s Los Angeles is at the heart of Jack Skelley’s The Complete Fear of Kathy Acker (Semiotext(e): MIT, Jun.), a novel published in excerpts over four decades, which is now being released in full for the first time. Finally, Henry Grabar’s Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World (Penguin Pr., May) investigates something many people in the U.S. take for granted: the vast amount of public space we’ve devoted to automobile parking. An enlightening, valuable read for people in cities big and small.

Neal Wyatt | Reviews Editor, LJ

Gardening is a 12-month activity, but there is no doubt that spring is its loveliest season. Getting ready for it makes late winter one of the best reading times for gardening books, and three this season are on the top of my list. Gardeners’ World fans will delight that Rekha Mistry, who runs her allotment garden in London like an experimental lab, is out with her debut, Rekha’s Kitchen Garden: Seasonal Produce and Homegrown Wisdom from a Year in One Gardener’s Plot (DK, Feb.). How To Grow the Flowers: A Sustainable Approach to Enjoying Flowers Through the Seasons (Pavilion, Feb.) showcases the work of Camila Romain and Marianne Mogendorff, who gave up corporate jobs to become grower-florists. Lastly, longtime Sarah Raven fans will be pleased to know that she returns in March with A Year in the Edible Garden: A Month-by-Month Guide to Growing and Harvesting Vegetables, Herbs, and Edible Flowers (Rizzoli), following on the heels of her 2021 gem, A Year Full of Flowers: Gardening for All Seasons. Tea is next on my list. Anyone who has ever thought about the best blend to go with a cookie can expand far beyond that simple equation, and appreciate so very much more, with The Tea Sommelier: The Art of Selecting, Pairing and Appreciating the World’s Finest Teas (Marshall Cavendish, Jun.) by Chih Jung-sien. Lastly, a romance novel. Minerva Spencer returns with the second book in her “Wicked Women of Whitechapel” series, The Dueling Duchess (Kensington, May). The first, The Boxing Baroness, was a 2022 LJ Best Book and introduced the intriguing characters who square off here.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing