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'The Vanishing Half' author Brit Bennett shares 6 books you should read now

The New York Times bestselling author recommends a "dystopian yet romantic" novel, a book adapted for the screen with a star-studded cast and more.

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If you're looking for a new read to add to your nightstand this spring, you can find inspiration in Women's History Month, upcoming releases, emerging authors and forthcoming screen adaptations.

But if you're overwhelmed by options — and to be fair, there are a lot — the 3rd Hour of TODAY had some help narrowing down books. Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of "The Vanishing Half" and "The Mothers," joined the show to share five recommendations.

From untold history to a collection of short stories, there's a range of worlds to dive into.

Women's history for adults

"The Three Mothers," by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin and Malcolm X are three widely discussed historical figures, but behind each man is a woman who influenced them with hope and knowledge. Anna Malaika Tubbs gives voice to their mothers — Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King and Louise Little — and tells the story of how they instilled in their children ideas of humanity and social justice.

"By tracing the intellectual, political, and emotional strands of each woman’s life, Anna Malaika Tubbs uncovers hidden complexities within black motherhood that illuminate our understanding of the past while also shedding light on the overlooked contributions of black women today," Bennett said.

Best fiction read

"Dreamland," by Rosa Rankin-Gee

Editor's note: This book will be released in the UK on April 15 and is currently available for pre-order. It is tentatively slated to publish in the US in late spring.

Bennett calls this novel "dystopian yet romantic" and "a searing examination of class and climate injustice." In "Dreamland," Chance and her struggling family are offered a cash grant to move out of London, so they relocate to a ramshackle seaside town. "As she grows up and falls in love with a mysterious visitor, she begins to realize that the town where she calls home has a more sinister intent," Bennett said.

Best story to screen

"Passing," by Nella Larsen

Inspiring a film of the same name — starring Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and Alexander Skarsgård — this Harlem Renaissance novel follows the relationship of two childhood friends, one who passes for white and one who chooses not to. For those who might be skeptical of movie adaptations, Bennett said this one "is a faithful and gorgeous reimagining of the novel. Shot beautifully in black and white, it movingly captures the tense friendship at the heart of the book."

Wishlist read

"Detransition, Baby," by Torrey Peters

Reese was living a life in New York City that was close to perfect — a loving relationship, a job she didn't hate, modern comforts. What she wanted was a child. But her girlfriend, Amy, had detransitioned and became Ames, and everything changed. Reese copes by getting involved with married men, and Ames's boss and lover is pregnant with his baby. As their story unfolds in Torrey Peters's debut novel, all three grapple with womanhood, motherhood and relationships.

Women's history for children

"Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History," by Vashti Harrison

From Sojourner Truth and Shirley Chisholm to Maya Angelou and Julie Dash, there is a long list of Black women who have pioneered major contributions in American history. Young readers can get to know 18 of these women whose accomplishments encompass fields including politics, film, science, literature and more.

Best author to watch

"Afterparties: Stories," by Anthony Veasna So

Editor's note: This book will be released on Aug. 3 but is currently available for pre-order.

This collection will be the posthumous debut publication of Cambodian-American writer Anthony Veasna So, who died at the age of 28 in December 2020. The stories reveal the lives of Cambodian Americans in California who are navigating life as children of refugees from the Khmer Rouge genocide. "A beautiful and blisteringly funny story collection from a young writer we lost far too soon," Bennett said. "Anthony Veasna So explores the lives of these unforgettable characters with bracing humor and startling tenderness."

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