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The old adage goes that March comes “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” Many of the new books coming this month tend toward the lion side of the equation: fierce, incisive, or tinged with danger. Matthew Desmond’s Poverty, By America poses a pointed question—why does the U.S. have more poverty than any other advanced democracy?—with a powerful answer: because Americans let it happen. Victor Lavalle’s Lone Women follows early 20th century settler Adelaide Henry and her terrible, mysterious, locked steamer trunk as they move out to Montana. And Kelly Link’s short story collection White Cat, Black Dog upends the traditional fairy tale, replacing princes and princesses with vampires and things that go bump in the night. Here, the best new books to read this March.
Old Babes in the Wood, Margaret Atwood (March 7)
Margaret Atwood, best known for her 1985 dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale (and its subsequent TV adaptation on Hulu) is back with a new collection of short stories, her first since Stone Mattress in 2014. Old Babes in the Wood features 15 stories, including seven about a married couple, Tig and Nell, through the years. After a reflection on the illusion of safety, a tale of friendship in France, and an elegy for a beloved cat, Atwood offers four moving pieces in which Nell learns what it means to be a widow—an experience close to Atwood’s own story, as she lost her partner Graeme Gibson in 2019. Other works in the collection are less realistic, dipping their pages into the fantastical, from reincarnation to an imaginary interview with George Orwell.
Confidence, Rafael Frumkin (March 7)
Rafael Frumkin’s second novel centers on the fallout of a health technology scam called Nulife, a corporation that promises its consumers a lifetime of bliss via magnetic accessories. Its masterminds are Ezra Green and Orson Ortman—teenagers who meet at a camp for those en route to juvenile detention. There, they become partners in con art and sex, a relationship that proves complicated as their scheme spirals out of control. Frumkin follows their fraught partnership and raises the questions: what’s the difference between the American dream and a Ponzi scheme? And is love just another form of fraud?
Pineapple Street, Jenny Jackson (March 7)
Jenny Jackson has a slew of successful books under her belt as an editor at Knopf, where she’s worked with buzzy authors like Kevin Kwan, Gabrielle Zevin, and Chris Bohjalian. Now comes her first foray into writing fiction: Pineapple Street, which chronicles the lives of three women in one wealthy Brooklyn family. Georgiana, the younger daughter, parties hard and works at a nonprofit, where a relationship with her married boss grows tempting. Darley, the older daughter, deals with her mixed feelings about being a stay-at-home mom. And Sasha, who recently married into the family, swims against the twin currents of class and coldness.
What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez, Claire Jiménez (March 7)
In her debut novel, Claire Jiménez traces how a family copes years after a devastating tragedy. Twelve years ago, 13-year-old Ruthy Ramirez mysteriously disappeared, and her now adult sisters are still reeling in the aftermath. As youngest sister Nina returns home from college, she feels Ruthy’s absence everywhere she goes. And then, suddenly, she’s jolted by Ruthy’s presence: as Nina is watching a reality TV show with her oldest sister Jessica, there is Ruthy on their screen. Or so they believe. Jessica, Nina, and their mother hit the road to find this woman who looks uncannily like the girl they lost years ago. The result is a moving portrait of a fractured family—and the thrilling journey they take to find out what happened to Ruthy Ramirez.
Who Gets Believed? When the Truth Isn’t Enough, Dina Nayeri (March 7)
Dina Nayeri’s fifth book echoes themes of her fourth, The Waiting Place: When Home Is Lost and a New One Not Yet Found, and third, The Ungrateful Refugee. All three innovate creative nonfiction through the lens of Nayeri’s own experiences as a former refugee. The author was born in Iran during the revolution, fled to Italy at 8 years old, and arrived in the U.S. when she was 10. Who Gets Believed? When the Truth Isn’t Enough fuses Nayeri’s own experiences with the stories of others—like a tortured Sri Lankan political prisoner—to ask why honest asylum seekers are dismissed as liars.
Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock, Jenny Odell (March 7)
Jenny Odell’s 2019 debut book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy dissected attention as a commodity and examined the importance of slowing down. Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock continues that conversation, as Odell deconstructs the idea that “time is money.” The author and multidisciplinary artist comes to the conclusion that time, as most of us see it, was built for profit, not people. In doing so, she unveils another radical exploration of communication and connection to reshape how we understand life and its priorities.
Poverty, By America, Matthew Desmond (March 21)
In 2017, Matthew Desmond won a Pulitzer Prize for his book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, which followed the lives of eight struggling families in Milwaukee, Wis. Desmond’s new book, Poverty, By America, revisits that familiar territory, this time examining the prevalence of poverty in a country that is not lacking in resources to help those who need it. He argues that poverty is a solvable problem, but the comfortable lives of privileged people are enabled by the exploitation of the poor. Writing with urgency, Desmond makes a case for reform, and calls on all Americans to lead with empathy in this growing crisis.
Biography of X, Catherine Lacey (March 21)
Set in an alternate late 20th century America, Catherine Lacey’s fourth novel Biography of X starts with an ending: the death of a prolific writer and artist called X. In the wake of X’s death, her wife, the journalist C.M. Lucca, sets out to write the conclusive biography of the radical icon she idolized and the woman she so loved. But as C.M. digs into X’s mysterious past—a background that had long been concealed—secrets arise that call into question everything she thought she knew about her partner.
Wandering Souls, Cecile Pin (March 21)
In Cecile Pin’s debut novel, 16-year-old Anh and her siblings Thanh and Minh are trying to adjust to their new lives in Hong Kong. Their parents and four younger siblings are supposed to join them—traveling from their native Vietnam—but they never make it. Suddenly, Anh must look after Thanh and Minh while navigating a new country, refugee status, cramped camps, resettlement centers, and London’s anti-immigrant bent. The glimmering tale—told through a host of perspectives, including Anh’s and later her daughter’s—illustrates the importance of telling one’s own story.
Y/N, Esther Yi (March 21)
The unnamed narrator of Esther Yi’s debut novel Y/N is obsessed with a wildly popular K-pop idol named Moon. She’s so obsessed, in fact, that she starts writing fanfiction about Moon in the Y/N style—as in, insert your name to become part of the story. But when Moon abruptly retires IRL, Yi’s protagonist blows up her own life in Berlin to fly to Seoul and try to find him. As she makes the journey, the Y/N of her fanfiction does the same, and their narratives become intertwined. What ensues is a riveting and innovative tale about identity, fandom, and art.
The Great Reclamation, Rachel Heng (March 28)
The first line of Rachel Heng’s The Great Reclamation epitomizes the book’s effortless blending of sense of place and lyricism: “Decades later, the kampong would trace it all back to this very hour, waves draining the light from this slim, hungry moon.” The kampong, or Singaporean village, is forever changed by Ah Boon, a young boy with the ability to locate shifting islands, plentiful in fish. Over the years, Ah Boon’s unique skill continues to literally shape his home—especially in the postwar period after World War II. From childhood onward, Ah Boon’s story is inextricably linked to that of a neighbor girl, Siok Mei. The Great Reclamation is a love story about both heart and home.
Lone Women, Victor LaValle (March 28)
In his new novel, Victor LaValle introduces the “lone women.” These are American women living in the early 20th century who have taken up the government on a tantalizing offer: there’s free land, most of it out west, for those who are prepared to tame its wilderness. Adelaide Henry is one of those women and she’s a special kind of “lone”—she’s the only Black woman she knows in Montana, far from her California hometown. But she had to flee California. Something terrible happened there—something that involved the death of her parents and a mysterious, locked steamer trunk she carries with her everywhere. What is inside of that trunk? LaValle weaves the Western genre together with the supernatural and horror to uncover the answer.
White Cat, Black Dog, Kelly Link (March 28)
The Brothers Grimm meet Black Mirror meets Alice in Wonderland in White Cat, Black Dog. Kelly Link, a MacArthur Grant recipient and Pulitzer Prize finalist, is an expert in the art of darker, sci-fi-infused magical realism and shows off her skills in her new short story collection. In seven remixed fairy tales, Link delivers wit and dreamlike intrigue. One story follows a cat who runs a weed dispensary and enchants the three sons of an aging billionaire. In another, a reimagined version of “Hansel and Gretel,” a brother and sister wait for their parents to return to an alien planet where vampires and handmaidens run amok. And even “Snow-White and Rose-Red” gets an update in which a grad student housesits a cabin—and is visited by beguiling guests.
Above Ground, Clint Smith (March 28)
The only constant in life—and especially in parenthood—poet Clint Smith seems to tell us, is change. Above Ground, his second collection, follows 2021’s How the Word Is Passed, a narrative nonfiction book that topped the New York Times best-seller list. Above Ground moves in a different direction, toward quiet contemplation of the contradictions inherent to life—and toward welcoming change. The author sees the world anew through the eyes of a father, full of terror and delight. “There is a funeral procession in the morning and a wedding in the afternoon,” Smith writes in the poem “All at Once.” “The river that gives us water to drink is the same one that might wash us away.”
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