Blog Book Marks

March 2024 Book Marks

In like a lion and out like a lamb.  That’s always been the saying about the month of March.  And while I’m dredging up quaint sayings, how about a riddle? 

What’s the only day of the year that is also a command?  Cue the drumroll….“March Fourth.” 

Enough with the cheesy one-liners, let’s turn our attention to some great reads for March, and its one heck of a bonanza time of year for storytellers.  There’s something for everyone on the shelves of the libraries and bookstores waiting for you right now.


After Annie by Anna Quindlen

Annie Brown is making dinner in the kitchen when she asks her husband to fetch her an aspirin for a headache.  A few minutes later, she’d dead of an aneurism, leaving four young children and a grieving husband who’s still madly in love with her.  Everyone is lost without Annie, including her oldest friend, whose demons and addictions reappear without her anchor.  Annie’s daughter Ali moves into the void, forced to grow up by her mother’s loss as she confronts the truths involved in adulthood.  And yet in the first year of sorrow and tiny triumphs, each of them begins to understand that the legacy their mother left is the knowledge of how to move forward into the “after” part of life.   One of my favorite writers of all time, Quindlen’s story gives us hope, even in the face of the most unimaginable loss.

Historical Fiction: 

Finding Margaret Fuller by Allison Pataki

Pataki has a knack for unearthing incredibly influential but overlooked historical female characters and breathing life into them.  In her newest book, she tackles one of the “great figures in literary and social history whom we never study.”  As one of the “Transcendalists,” a group of artists, writers and thinkers centered around Concord and Cambridge, Massachusetts, Margaret Fuller was one of the few women able (as in allowed) to intellectually hang with the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, and other thinkers of her time.  When she moves to New York City to hang out with Poe, Greeley and Hawthorne, she enters another elite world.  It’s believed that character Hester Prynne, in the “The Scarlett Letter,” is based on Fuller’s modern, unconventional personality, as she chose to have a child out of wedlock and routinely travelled abroad unaccompanied and unafraid.  Fuller embodies the early incarnation of what would later grow into the woman’s movement, although most aspects of her life have since been forgotten.  While she died tragically in a shipwreck, the legacy she left is brilliantly brought to life by Pataki, who places you inside Fuller’s head and heart. 


Combat Love by Alisyn Camerota

If you didn’t catch CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota’s novel “Amanda Wakes Up,” there’s still time.  And while that novel was based on aspects of her experience in morning TV, this book is a deep, funny, poignant and hugely self-aware coming of age memoir about family, heartbreak, and what happens when the ones you love aren’t always there for you.  Growing up on the Jersey Shore in the years where punk rock was hot and Springsteen was “the other choice,” Camerota chronicles her attraction to the crazy, nihilistic and hard-driving world around a local band called “Shrapnel.”  As a diehard groupie, she relays her near misses with sex, violence, drugs and serious rock and roll at some of NY’s most infamous clubs.  But at its heart, it’s the story of a single mother and daughter, who love, fight, feign indifference and end up with their own shrapnel in a family where the foundations have crumbled with her father’s departure.  A writer with a bold yet self-deprecating voice, she chronicles what it means to search for home and happiness.


Blank by Zibby Owens

Zibby Owens is everywhere and readers are better for it. Her podcast, publishing imprint, and bookstore highlight the work of both debut and NYT Bestselling icons. She has published a memoir and children’s book, and this month she debuts her first novel, which has been her dream for a long time. With her bird’s eye view, she takes a look inside the publishing industry and behind the curtain of the machine to illuminate the challenges that both authors and the industry face in the world of everything, all at once.  Pippa Jones turned in her second book after a successful first novel, but she’s told she needs to scrap it because it’s too similar to a book coming out by a blockbuster writer.  Now her confidence and creativity are frozen and she’s staring at a blank page.  And she’s already spent the advance!  The solution to a new book lies in an idea from her son, which sends her on a wild writing adventure that will teach her more about career, marriage, family and friends than sitting around and writing in a quiet room ever could.  Publisher Zibby Owens has entered the book world with a splash and this debut novel follows suit. 


A Great Country by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

This engrossing novel takes you deep in the heart of the American immigrant experience, looking at how we define belonging with a tale about race, class, wealth, caste and family dynamics.  Twenty years ago, the Shah parents immigrated to America and climbed their way up the ladder to a respectable and prosperous life in Irvine, CA.  When they decide to move to the tony gated community of Pacific Hills, with its ocean views and landscaped lawns, things begin to go sideways.  Their 12-year-old son is arrested for a harmless mistake, and everything that unwinds from that one pivotal moment will change how they see themselves, how they look at their dreams and what the cost of ambition can be.  This book entertains as well as makes you think about the myths around “model minorities,” and the price of the American dream for all of us.


North Woods by Daniel Mason

Imagine a house as the primary character in a novel that goes from Colonial times to the present day.  This brilliant, award-winning novel traces the life of a house in the Berkshires and the humans who inhabit it.  It’s hard to describe the beauty and complexity of the writing, one story folds into the next over the generations, with the filament of a throughline that makes you smile at the cleverness.  Even the language changes and becomes more modern as the decades roll past.  The natural world; apple trees and wildcats, beetles and mold (the blight that killed the elm and chestnut trees in days of yore) are also characters in the story.  There’s murder and madness, suicide, sex, lust, love and so much more.  It’s one of those special books that tells a story in a slow cooker kind of way that still makes you wish you could sit and read all day to see what happens next.  This book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and it is easy to see why.


Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

Literary darling Athena Liu has finished the first draft of her novel about a little-known part of Asian American history during World War II.  When she invites her (white and very envious) college friend, June Hayward, out for a celebratory drink, they decide to continue the night at Athena’s gorgeous D.C condo.  June is a literary nobody, an aspiring writer who put out one mediocre book next to the stylish and successful Athena, who is making a good living as a writer.  In fact, June doesn’t really even like her friend.  When Athena tragically dies in the apartment (I won’t tell you how) June finds the unfinished manuscript and publishes it under the name Juniper Song, to incredible critical and commercial praise.  What happens next is a rollicking journey between maintaining a lie, basking in literary success and living under constant threat of being discovered.  In a wonderfully immersive voice we get the full gamut of elements, grappling with questions around diversity, cultural appropriation, racism, art and how social media impacts so many elements of life today. 


What Happened to Nina? By Dervla McTiernan

Ready for a good, taut murder mystery?  Nina and Simon are a young, golden couple in their Vermont town, admired by all.  Simon’s family is wealthy and privileged, and Nina’s family owns a B&B and landscaping business.  When the couple goes to Simon’s family cabin, only he returns, with a story that they’ve broken up and Nina has left for Boston.  But the facts don’t add up for Nina’s parents and this type of behavior is unlike their daughter.  Yet before they can process what’s happening, Simon’s parents have lawyered up and begun a vicious social media campaign that is changing the facts.  Soon, everyone is under siege.  The story is cleverly written from multiple perspectives, giving the reader an inside look at the truth as the reader slowly peels the lies away.  If you’re looking for a well-written thriller to escape, this is it. 


The Women by Kristin Hannah

So much has been written about men at war, but in her newest book, Hannah looks through the lesser known lens of the female nurses who deployed to the Vietnam War.  The women experienced the same horror and trauma of “all the boys they couldn’t save,” plus the added sexism and harassment.  It’s that largely unrecognized PTSD which lies at the heart of this novel which begins when 24-year-old Frankie McGrath impulsively signs up to go to war after losing her brother there.  She’s privileged, and it’s certainly not the life her parents planned for her.  She moves from the country club life in Southern California to the blood, gore and spilling entrails of a mobile hospital unit and the reality of war.  Each day is a gamble to stay alive, with death and loss all around her.  But the real battle begins when she returns to the home front, fighting demons and struggling to reintegrate and make sense of the rest of her life.  It’s a compelling and in your face look at war, that gives the women who served their rightful place in history.

*These are books I genuinely love and am thrilled to recommend to my friends. These are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I get a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Alternately, if you prefer to check books out of your local library or buy from your local bookstore, I very much support that!


Lee Woodruff     Speaker-Author-Executive Media Trainer 

  1. Brooks Wallace

    March 21, 2024 at 2:33 pm

    Hello Lee,
    I hope you and Bob and the kids are doing well.
    Tell him I look forward to seeing him at this years Cranbrook/Kingswood reunion. Hopefully I will see some of my “old “ classmates since I missed our 40th due to the passing of my Dad. I’m hoping I can make it back this June.
    A book I recently read which was a good read if you like history was “The Wager” by David Grann, who was a classmate of my stepsister Hillary at Taft. It had a bit of a dull ending though. It’s also positioned to be the next major motion picture film by Martin Skorsase . Grann also wrote Killers of the Flower Moon, but you probably already know that.
    Sincerely ,
    Brooks Wallace

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