Must-Read Books for Your Spring Reading List

Reading refresh.

We the Parasites by A.V. Marraccini

How do art, criticism, and desire feed on each other? In We the Parasites, art historian and essayist A.V. Marraccini celebrates the critic as parasite. Fig wasp, tapeworm, and mosquito become guiding images as Marraccini considers her own critical interests, including John Updike’s The Centaur, Cy Twombly, and Homer. She explores how these works shaped her and how she, parasite that she is, creates from them. Filled with gorgeous prose and heady ideas, Parasites is at its best when it indulges in potent imagery of glut and decay.

For all its strengths, there are times We the Parasites unexpectedly leaves food on the table. Parasites positions Greco-Roman history and poetry as the creative genesis for Marraccini and her influences. While she speaks with nuance and adoration, one feels there is more room to interrogate why Updike, Twombly, Marraccini, et al. find this material such a willing host. The text does engage with this: Marracini names her own whiteness; there are fleeting ruminations on barbarism and fascism. One feels Marraccini has the skills and insight to burrow deeper, but the reader avidly consumes what is offered and is left, wonderfully, desiring more.

Into Shadow by multiple authors

Leveraging its considerable influence over contemporary publishing, Amazon brings seven venerated authors together for its new short story collection Into Shadow. While a handful of stories play directly with imagery of light and darkness, the seven stories are primarily connected by genre: fantastical romps that encompass silent-film sets, hostile high schools, and gory underworld gangs. Whether one leans toward horror, historical fiction, or more traditional fantasy, all genre enthusiasts are likely to find something they enjoy from these well-decorated authors—and plenty of surprises too.

Into Shadow is uneven yet has genuine treasures. Featuring two sham spiritualists who drift toward an encounter that feels undeniably true, Nghi Vo’s historical piece, “What the Dead Know,” animates its girls school in rich, haunting detail. Garth Nix stirs up a glamorous supernatural mystery that warrants its own series. But the two standouts are Alix E. Harrow’s “The Six Deaths of the Saint,” a lush and temporally gripping riff on a Joan of Arc archetype, and Tamsyn Muir’s “Undercover,” a clever Western-inspired zombie mystery with a startling number of twists.