The first spring book

The first day of spring is technically a date on the calendar. But your first day of spring is subjective.

It might be the first time you realize you’re sweating in long sleeves, or stepping out of your office into warmer air, or having dinner while it’s miraculously, unbelievably, still light.

On my first day of spring, I reach for a book to accompany me on a triumphant outing outdoors, my accomplice in an annual coup against winter.

The next equinox is approaching, but I’m still waiting for the sun. (As I write this, it’s snowing where I am.) In hopeful anticipation, I asked editors at The Times Book Division what they would pick from their spring lists of fiction and nonfiction for their first beautiful day outside.

If you found a pair of sunglasses on the first chilly Saturday of spring and checked the expiration date on your sunscreen, do you recommend taking Jenny Jackson’s Pineapple Street to the park?

The characters you’ll read about would prefer the combination of a striped cabana chair and a sleek picnic, but any old bench and an apple will do. Prepare to lose an afternoon with the season’s first beach read, a delicious romp of a debut with family crises galore. The title of our review (“Big Money, Big Houses and Big Problems in Brooklyn Heights”) pretty much says it all. — Elisabeth Egan, Preview Editor

By Eleanor Catton

I’ve been burned in by the spring adage “in like a lion, out like a lamb” so many times that I’m always skeptical that the nice weather is here to stay. But once the sun comes out, I can’t think of a better springtime companion than Eleanor Catton’s new eco-thriller, Birnam Wood.

It follows a New Zealand guerrilla gardening collective taking on an American billionaire: both have their sights set on an abandoned farmland isolated after a landslide, although they have very different goals in mind. It’s captivating enough that I could sit through a rain shower, a cold snap, or even a heat wave and not miss a page. — Joumana Khatib, Editor-in-Chief

By Claire Dederer

If you’re like me, when spring comes and the earth gets warmer, your appetite for culture grows too. But these days, the impulse to watch, say, Woody Allen movies or indulge in an obsession with Rosemary’s Baby can be particularly distressing — part of the roiling debate about what to do with the art you love, the art made by people was that may have done bad things.

That’s why I’m looking forward to “Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma” by Claire Dederer. Rather than trying to solve the problem, Dederer analyzes it from every possible angle, suggesting with her characteristic shrewdness and self-deprecating wit that we cannot contemplate the monstrous in the artist unless we simultaneously reckon with what is monstrous within ourselves is. — Emily Eakin, preview editor

By Sarah Bakewell

If you have read Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Café (2016) – a delightful account of the beginnings of the movement and its early philosophers – you will understand why I ordered a copy of her next book ASAP.

Humanly Possible: Seven Hundred Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry, and Hope bites a lot, no question, with subjects as diverse as Boccaccio, Frederick Douglass and Bertrand Russell. Sometimes the project of cataloging or even defining the threads of centuries of free thought can become overly ambitious. Yet Bakewell is so skilled, so engaging, and has such an eye for vivid detail that the process of reading is ultimately a pleasure. — Sadie Stein, preview editor

  • Investors, including oil companies, are spending hundreds of billions of dollars trying to turn water into fuel.

  • The Biden administration plans to give the green light to an $8 billion oil drilling project in Alaska, in the largest single expanse of untouched US wilderness.

Three years after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, the world remains unprepared for the next. Tom Inglesby argued.

Female political candidates win elections and raise money just like male ones. But too few walk Jessica Grose writes.

Truly fixing Social Security and Medicare means balancing respect for the retiree generation with devotion to the rising generation, he says Yuval Levin.

The Sunday Question: Do we still need the Oscars?

Apart from their many scandals, the awards honoring rarely inventive films and are often out of touch, writes Dana Stevens in The Atlantic. But this year’s nominees span genrestells different stories that the public — not just critics — actually saw, says Danny Leigh of the Financial Times.

Poem: Ryan Eckes writes: “The day is long, the pain is old.”

Diagnosis: He had uncontrollable sweating. Was it the male menopause?

Read the full issue.

  • The 95th Academy Awards is tonight, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” leads the nominations with 11.

  • President Biden will be received Monday by Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese, the Prime Ministers of Britain and Australia, to discuss the three nations’ security pact, known as AUKUS.

  • New CPI data, which will assess inflation, will be released on Tuesday.

  • President Biden will visit Monterey Park, California, on Tuesday to call for stronger gun control amid a surge in mass shootings across the United States, including one in Monterey Park in January.

  • The first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, also known as March Madness, begins Thursday. The women’s tournament starts on Friday.

  • Friday is St. Patrick’s Day. The first spring book

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