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What to Read in March and Other Book News

A brilliant new take on a Mark Twain classic, Neil Gaiman sells his stuff, and Gabriel García Márquez resurfaces


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Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Doubleday; Knopf; Bloomsbury Publishing; Getty Images)

Picks of the month

Among the notable new releases are two of my favorite novels of the year so far, and a book inspiring older women to embrace adventure.  

James by Percival Everett

Everett’s brilliant story revisits Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the perspective of the enslaved Jim (James, actually), who flees town when he hears he’s set to be sold and sent to New Orleans. Joined by Huck, also on the run and presumed dead, he begins a wild journey down the Mississippi in a story full of wry social critique (Jim hides his fierce intelligence and eloquence when in the presence of white people), humor and suspense. Everett’s 2001 novel, Erasure, was the basis for the recent film American Fiction. (March 19) 

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Wandering Stars by Tommy Orange

The acclaimed Native American author of the 2019 Pulitzer finalist There There offers another engrossing story, this one following a survivor of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado (where American troops killed some 230 unsuspecting Cheyenne and Arapaho people) and his descendants through modern times, with the trauma of violent displacement and addiction haunting successive generations. (Feb. 27) 

Tough Broad: From Boogie Boarding to Wing Walking—How Outdoor Adventure Improves Our Lives as We Age by Caroline Paul

Paul is also the author of The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure, so it’s not a stretch to say this “tough broad,” who’s 60, is out there. Out there paragliding, surfing, skateboarding and, in this inspiring book, encouraging women to embrace the exhilaration and vitality that come with an adventurous life. “At some age … many women start believing they can’t, or shouldn’t be out there,” she writes, but “the real peril for us as we age is a sedentary life that lacks pizzazz and challenge.” (March 5) 

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Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Erin Scott/Workman Publishing; JOSH TELLES/Blackstone Publishing)

Tasty veggies and Robert Downey Jr.’s take on cool foods

If meatless dining appeals to you — whether it’s for every meal or a few nights a week — check out Cara Mangini’s new cookbook, The Vegetable Eater: The New Playbook for Cooking Vegetarian (March 19). Mangini, author of the James Beard Award finalist The Vegetable Butcher, offers seasonal variations on the 100 recipes in her new collection. I’ve already tried a few, and they’re winners, including Butternut and Kale Coconut-Curry Soup. Sesame-Peanut Noodles with Crunchy Vegetables and Garlic-Scallion Chili Oil is next.

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And environmentally conscious diners (and fans of Iron Man) may already be perusing actor Robert Downey Jr.’s New York Times bestseller Cool Food: Erasing Your Carbon Footprint One Bite at a Time, coauthored with climate-writer Thomas Kostigen. A passion project for the pair, the book offers advice on choosing sustainable foods that are good for the climate and the Earth. That includes cutting out animal products as much as possible, consuming less food in general and avoiding food waste, says Downey, 58, who writes that he’s a pescatarian. Although there are also some two dozen recipes, such as an “avocado and refried bean burrito-style wrap,” the meat of the book is in the message. 

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Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Knopf; Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)

A legend’s “lost novel”

Turns out that when Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author of the 1967 classic One Hundred Years of Solitude, passed away 10 years ago, he left behind a novel, which will be published in English by Knopf on March 12. Titled Until August, its release is a bit controversial: Márquez, who wrote it while living with dementia, didn’t want it made public. But his sons, Rodrigo García and Gonzalo García Barcha, have decided it should be shared with the world, according to Viking, which describes it as “constantly surprising, joyously sensual,” and “a profound meditation on freedom, regret, self-transformation, and the mysteries of love.” Its focus is a woman who spends one night on a Caribbean island every year, taking a new lover each time.

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Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Weston Wells/Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images; Heritage Auctions / HA.com)

Another legend auctions off his treasures

English author Neil Gaiman, 63, famous for his often dark and wildly imaginative fantasy/sci-fi/horror stories (Coraline, the Sandman comic book series, American Gods and more) is auctioning off a trove of 126 personal treasures this month. They include a puppet of Coraline wearing orange polka-dot pajamas that was used in the beloved stop-motion 2009 film of the same name; a painting by French illustrator Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius) of Gaiman’s iconic Sandman character, Death of the Endless; and original art from DC’s Swamp Thing comics (he’s a fan). 

The Coraline puppet was one of the harder pieces to relinquish, Gaiman says in the promotional materials for highlights from The Neil Gaiman Collection Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction: “I’ve had her now for 15 years, and I look at her every day and go, ‘I love you. You’re beautiful,’” he notes. “But I also am so aware that Coraline, the movie, has become this huge cultural phenomenon that has nothing to do with me in its own magical way. … And I’m like, OK, you should go out and make these people incredibly happy.”

The auction takes place live in Dallas on March 14, with Gaiman in attendance; you can bid either in person or online (it’ll be livestreamed at HA.com). A portion of the proceeds will go to charities that support writers and artists in need.

More for Gaiman fans: If you happen to live in the Washington, D.C., region, tickets have gone on sale for an evening with Gaiman at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, on July 20 at 8 p.m.: “a literary journey,” where he shares stories from his remarkable career.

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More book news, in brief

  • On March 4 drag icon RuPaul kicks off a tour to promote his new memoir and fourth book, The House of Hidden Meanings (March 5), in New York, with stops including Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and across the pond in Manchester and London. He’s said the book is deeply personal; in an Instagram post announcing the memoir, he wrote, “Writing this book left me gooped, gagged and stripped raw. I’ve learned that vulnerability is strength, but so far, all I feel is nervous as hell, yet super excited to share it with y’all.” 
  • AARP members can read a free novella by the absurdly prolific and wildly best-selling James Patterson on AARP’s Members Only Access. Called Chase and written with Michael Ledwidge, the story is a fast-paced offshoot of the pair’s Detective Michael Bennett series. Bennett’s on the case of what appears to be a suicide but may actually be murder. Read it now here.  
  • On March 19 join Shelley Emling, editor of AARP’s The Girlfriend, on Facebook as she talks to author Amanda Peters about her widely praised 2023 novel, The Berry Pickers. Described by People as “a stunning debut about love, race, brutality and the balm of forgiveness,” it’s centered around a little girl who goes missing in Maine while picking blueberries with her migrant-worker family and the repercussions. The live event at 7:30 p.m. ET is free, but you need to be a member of The Girlfriend Book Club, a lively and friendly private Facebook group, to watch. It’s easy to join

Editor's note: This article was originally published in August 2023. It has been updated to reflect new information.

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