The First Book of Spring
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 step out of your office into warmer air, or eat dinner while it’s miraculously, implausibly still light out.
On my first day of spring, I reach for a book to join me on a triumphant trip outside, my accomplice in an annual coup against winter.
The next equinox is approaching, but I am still waiting for the sun. (It’s snowing where I am as I write this.) In hopeful anticipation, I asked editors from The Times’s Books section what they’d pick from their spring fiction and nonfiction lists for their first nice day outside.
On the first semi-warm Saturday of spring, once you’ve located a pair of sunglasses and checked the expiration date on your sunscreen, may I recommend heading to the park with “Pineapple Street” by Jenny Jackson?
The characters you’ll be reading about would prefer the combination of a striped cabana chair and an elegant picnic, but any old bench and an apple will do. Prepare to lose an afternoon to the season’s first beach read, a delicious romp of a debut featuring family crises galore. The headline on 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 by the spring idiom “in like a lion, out like a lamb,” enough times that I’m always skeptical that fairer weather is here to stay. But once the sun starts peeking out, I can’t think of a better spring companion than “Birnam Wood,” Eleanor Catton’s new ecological thriller.
It follows a guerrilla gardening collective in New Zealand that tangles with an American billionaire: Both have their sights on an abandoned plot of farmland that’s been isolated after a landslide, though they have very different goals in mind. It’s absorbing enough that I could sit though a rain shower, a cold snap or even a heat wave and not miss a page. — Joumana Khatib, senior staff editor
By Claire Dederer
If you’re like me, as spring arrives and the earth warms up, so does your appetite for culture. But these days the impulse to, say, binge-watch Woody Allen movies or indulge an obsession with “Rosemary’s Baby” can feel particularly fraught — part of the roiling debate over what to do about art you love made by people who may have done bad things.
That’s why I’m looking forward to “Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma” by Claire Dederer. Instead of trying to resolve the issue, Dederer dissects it from every possible angle, suggesting, with her signature smarts and self-deprecating wit, that we cannot consider what’s monstrous in the artist unless we reckon simultaneously with what’s monstrous in ourselves. — Emily Eakin, preview editor
By Sarah Bakewell
If you’ve read Sarah Bakewell’s “At the Existentialist Café” (2016) — a delicious account of the beginnings of the movement and its early philosophers — you’ll understand why I ordered a copy of her next book as soon as I could.
“Humanly Possible: Seven Hundred Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry, and Hope” bites off a lot, no question, with subjects as varied as Boccaccio, Frederick Douglass and Bertrand Russell. At times the project of cataloging, or indeed defining, the threads of centuries of free thinking can verge on overly ambitious. Yet Bakewell is so deft, so engaging, and has such an eye for vivid detail that the process of reading it is, ultimately, a pleasure. — Sadie Stein, preview editor
Investors, including oil companies, are spending hundreds of billions of dollars to try to turn water into fuel.
The Biden administration is planning to greenlight an $8 billion oil drilling project in Alaska, in the largest single expanse of pristine U.S. wilderness.
Other Big Stories
Three years after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, the world remains unprepared for the next one, Tom Inglesby argues.
Female political candidates win elections and raise money as well as male ones. But too few run, Jessica Grose writes.
Truly fixing Social Security and Medicare means balancing respect for the retiring generation with devotion to the rising one, says Yuval Levin.
The Sunday question: Do we still need the Oscars?
Beyond their many scandals, the awards rarely honor inventive movies and are often out of touch, Dana Stevens writes in The Atlantic. But this year’s nominees span genres, telling diverse stories that the public — not just critics — actually saw, says The Financial Times’s Danny Leigh.
Poem: Ryan Eckes writes “the day is long, the pain is old.”
Diagnosis: He had uncontrollable sweating. Was it male menopause?
Read the full issue.
THE WEEK AHEAD
What to Watch For
The 95th Academy Awards are tonight, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” leads the nominations with 11.
President Biden will host Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese, the prime ministers of Britain and Australia, on Monday to discuss the three nations’ security pact, known as AUKUS.
New Consumer Price Index data will be released on Tuesday, assessing inflation.
President Biden will visit Monterey Park, Calif., on Tuesday to call for stronger gun control amid a rise in mass shootings in the U.S., including one in Monterey Park in January.
The first round of the men’s N.C.A.A. basketball tournament, also known as March Madness, begins on Thursday. The women’s tournament begins on Friday.
Friday is St. Patrick’s Day.