18 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: March 2019

Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books we've read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

The Emperor of Ice-Cream by Gary Almeter

Daniel Ford: Gary Almeter's soulful debut The Emperor of Ice-Cream (out March 26 from Unsolicited Press) is full of wisdom and effervescence. Stemming from his remembrances of his late grandfather, the author deftly and, at times, hilariously examines all the lives he's lived since his quaint American upbringing pushed him out into the world. Oh, and there's plenty of ice cream. Grab a spoon and dig into one of the best books you'll read all year.

Freefall by Jessica Barry

Daniel: Jessica Barry’s debut thriller Freefall would still be good if it was a simple adventure tale featuring a woman on the run following a plane crash. However, Barry ups the ante by giving readers a character study into a mother and daughter (Maggie and Allison, respectively) who have been estranged for a number of years. Their backstories are set against Allison’s fight for her life, which had been spiraling out of control even before her father’s death after a fight with cancer. Maggie’s tenacious hold on her daughter’s spirit anchors the novel, and every mother should be able to relate to her belief in the face of overwhelming evidence and odds. I couldn’t put this book down and I suspect many readers will feel the same way.

David Joy: William Boyle’s A Friend Is A Gift You Give Yourself definitely needs to be on any March reading list.

Daniel: Debut author K Chess shared the premise of her debut novel Famous Men Who Never Lived with Dave Pezza and I during NovelClass’ Season 3 premiere (episode embedded below), and we were instantly hooked. A group of trans-dimensional refugees arrive in a parallel New York City and struggle to adapt to their new reality. Judging by our current times, I’m sure their treated humanely and welcomed with open arms… Chess explores all of the real-life themes were grappling with—identity, displacement—against a science-fiction backdrop that feels only too real. Put K Chess on your radar for years to come!

Rebecca Weston: When Sadness Is at Your Door, written and illustrated by Eva Eland, is a book to treasure. On its pages, Eland uses a mindfulness approach for dealing with Sadness. We are encouraged, not to shut Sadness out, but to listen to it, ask it what it wants, and sit with it. My favorite lines read: “Go for a walk through the trees. You can listen to their sounds together.” The lovely text is accompanied by spare, comfort-food illustrations made up of brown line drawings with select areas colored in a soft shade of green or red. In the end, we are told that one day Sadness might be gone, but that’s okay—“today is a new day.” I can’t recommend this picture book enough. Follow my lead and pick up a copy for a child you know, and one for yourself as well.

The Grenling Abduction by Richard Dalglish

Daniel: I’m sure I’ve mentioned this on a past “Books That Should Be On Your Radar” or podcast episode, but I’ve known Richard Dalglish since my days as a cub Web editor at JCK Magazine. I knew he was a smart and enlightened fellow (despite being a Philadelphia Phillies fan), but I had no idea he’d be such an exceptional world builder. He showed off his skills again in his latest novel The Grenling Abduction. The book features crisp, clean dialogue, great characters, and a fun twist on the mystery/sci-fi genres.

Never Tell by Lisa Gardner

Daniel: When Lisa Gardner’s Never Tell landed in Writer’s Bone HQ, I could feel my anxiety level rise and I already calculated the amount of sleep I’d be losing thanks to one of the current masters of mystery and suspense. I have a feeling readers will be telling plenty about this book (see what I did there?).

Daniel: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls has one of my favorite opening lines of 2019:

“You do a lot of thinking in jail.”

Journalist-turned-author Anissa Gray keeps readers hooked from there with this tough, tender, and heartwarming family tale. I could have spent several hundred more pages with the three sisters Gray follows as a family calamity (and past sins and transgressions) is examined from all sides. Bonus points for one of the best covers of the year to date as well.

Otherwise Engaged by Lindsey J. Palmer

Daniel: Lindsey J. Palmer has been one of our favorites since we started Writer’s Bone, and it’s crazy to think she’s already on her third book. Otherwise Engaged features a female lead character who is concerned her fiancé’s novel about a torrid love affair skews too close to real life. Certainly, no one around Writer’s Bone can relate to someone questioning the blurry line between reality and fiction… Be sure to check out Stephanie Ford’s interview with the author!

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Daniel: Since Alex Michaelides crafted such a winning suspense debut, we’ll forgive him his enviable origin story: "I grew up in Cyprus in the Mediterranean in a house full of books." The Silent Patient begins with Chekhov’s Gun already having been fired. We find Alicia, one of the main characters, holding a smoking gun and her husband shot to death in the chair in front of her. She then goes completely silent. Enter Michaelides’ second character, Theo, who talks his way into the care team at the mental health facility Alicia is sentenced to following her trial. Theo’s a mess who thinks he’s the one who can break through Alicia’s silent defenses. You can feel all of Michaelides’ passion for the writing craft and the genre on every page, and it’s easy to root for an author who worked as ass off for many years get rewarded with an instant hit (and a movie deal with Brad Pitt’s Plan B). Tune into Friday Morning Coffee this week to hear my interview with Alex!

Staff Picks by George Singleton

David: The South's undisputed king of the short story, George Singleton, returns with his long-awaited eighth collection, Staff Picks, and it is absolutely masterful.

The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman

Daniel: Yes, these stories are remarkable. Yes, they are absolutely necessary in today’s global political climate. Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman have assembled an impressive collection of literary talent—including some of our favorites such as Fatima Farheen Mirza, Alexander Chee, Jenny Zhang, and Jade Chang—each who bring a poignant, affecting, and, so often, a dark humorous take on issues like immigration, race, and identity.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Rebecca: It is easy to take for granted the legacy left to us by Virginia Woolf. We have come to expect to be lost in streams of consciousness. And yet, when I returned to Woolf’s writing recently via To the Lighthouse, I was surprised by the degree to which her prose still stands apart from the rest. It is so personal, so intimate, so full of the different facets of life. The sentences and the images are at once vivid and dreamlike. But if you haven’t read Woolf in a while, I warn you: the way in which you will witness the thoughts of others will feel so uncannily familiar that you might find yourself wondering if, instead of getting a peek inside someone else’s brain, Woolf is looking into yours.

Author’s Corner

Lisa Gardner, author of Never Tell and Right Behind Me, returned to the podcast recently and recommended Joseph Finder’s Judgment, Gregg Hurwitz’s Hellbent: An Orphan X Novel, and Riley Sager’s Final Girls.


Live from What Cheer Writers Club in Providence, R.I., host Dave Pezza is joined by authors K Chess (Famous Men Who Never Lived) and Daniel Ford (Sid Sanford Lives!) to discuss Haruki Murakami's mind-bending epic Kafka on the Shore.

In Season 3, Episode 2, Dave Pezza and guest host author Erica Wright (The Blue Kingfisher, All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned) discuss Lyndsay Faye's The Paragon Hotel.