After her wife, X — a controversial interdisciplinary artist — dies, a former reporter sets out to write her biography. X was always circumspect about the details of her life and she harmed even those closest to her. As she writes, her widow encounters information that turns everything she knew about the woman she loved on its head. The resulting book is a novel masquerading as a fictionalized biography and painful emotional inquiry.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 21
Catton returns with her first novel in 10 years, after her debut, “The Luminaries,” won the Booker Prize. In New Zealand, Mira runs Birnam Wood, a “guerrilla gardening group” that plants food and flowers on land where they think no one will notice — their way of cultivating sustenance outside a capitalist system. When Mira makes a pact with a tech billionaire to secure the group’s future, it sets the groundwork for a collision of values.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 7
Flux, by Jinwoo Chong
The lives of three characters converge in this time-traveling debut novel. They’re all grieving in some fashion — Bo’s mother died when he was a child, Brandon lost his job and Blue is struggling to reconnect with his family. Along the way, the novel brings in the story of a famous detective show, giving it a noirish, and speculative, bent.
Melville House, March 21
There are some subtle parallels with “Little Women” in Napolitano’s latest novel, which follows the relationship between William, who grew up in an emotionally chilly home, and Julia. Julia’s family — particularly her three sisters — is warm, mildly chaotic and creative, with each sister playing a specific role (the dreamer, the caregiver). After William and Julia’s marriage unravels, the family confronts an existential crisis as their loyalty and love are tested.
Dial Press, March 14
In her earlier books, “At the Existentialist Café” and “How to Live,” Bakewell introduced readers to the major questions facing the existentialist philosophers. Now, she looks at the long tradition of humanism — which poses the deceptively simple question of what it means to be human — weighing the importance of moral versus cultural output, and putting a wide array of thinkers across time and place in dialogue.
Penguin Press, March 28
This new book from the author of “The Changeling” reads like a Western horror story. It’s 1915 California, and Adelaide, a young Black woman, flees for Montana after her parents die, hoping to become a homesteader. At first, she is welcomed there, but the unbearable secrets of her past — symbolized by the mysterious steamer trunk she lugs with her — threaten her new life.
One World, March 28
In this new novel, a white, Jewish Manhattan family is rocked by the revelation that its matriarch is half-Black. Soon after, one of the children, working as an activist in the West Bank, is killed by an Israeli soldier. A wedding forces the remaining family members to confront these wounds and decide whether they can rebuild, playing with themes that Row has raised in his earlier writing; his essay collection, “White Flights,” looked at what American literature could — and couldn’t — tell readers about race in the United States.
Ecco, March 28
Wheatley was a young child when she arrived in the United States from West Africa and was sold to a Boston family. Within years, she became the most prominent African American poet of the 18th century. Other studies of her life have focused on her role in trans-Atlantic literature, but Waldstreicher makes the point that beyond that, she was a brilliant writer who was, as Waldstreicher puts it, an “organic intellectual of the enslaved.”
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 7
In her debut novel, a book editor follows a stratospherically wealthy Brooklyn Heights family as they navigate questions of privilege, love and belonging. (A representative piece of dialogue: “Oh no! I left my Cartier bracelet in Lena’s BMW and she’s leaving soon for her grandmother’s house in Southampton!”)
Pamela Dorman Books, March 7
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Evicted,” Desmond, a sociologist, looked how the wave of evictions after the 2008 financial crash helped engender cycles of poverty. Now, he investigates income inequality in the United States, arguing that the behavior and decisions of wealthy Americans has caused the poverty crisis to endure. He puts it bluntly: “Tens of millions of Americans do not end up poor by a mistake of history or personal conduct. Poverty persists because some wish and will it to.”
Crown, March 21
Odell’s previous book, “How to Do Nothing,” set off a cultural reckoning: She argued that attention is our most precious resource — and that to honor its importance, we should invest it in solitude and contemplation. Now, she looks at our understanding of time itself, examining its links to modern ideas around productivity and even climate change.
Random House, March 7
In 1970s New Jersey, Guterl’s parents adopted children from Korea, Vietnam and the South Bronx, dreaming of raising a family that, including their two white biological children, was a sort of Noah’s ark, with “two of every race.” Guterl, now a historian of race at Brown University, writes poignantly about his upbringing, particularly as the family and his siblings battled xenophobia and racism.
Liveright, March 28
Sharlet has written extensively about religion, fundamentalism and American politics. In a new book, he explores the various forces at play on the far right — including the rage and paranoia that fuels the movement — at a time when many in it are preparing for a civil war.
Norton, March 21
War Diary, by Yevgenia Belorusets. Translated by Greg Nissan.
Belorusets, an artist and writer from Kyiv, was in Ukraine when Russia invaded her country, and immediately felt the need to document the effects of the war on ordinary citizens. The book’s entries touch on the newfound danger in what used to be commonplace activities and even the dissonance of enjoying a beautiful spring day as war rages on.
New Directions, March 7