Critical Bethanne Patrick recommends 10 promising titles, fiction and non-fiction, to consider for your March list.
From Bob Odenkirk’s fiercely honest memoir to Megan Mayhew Bergman’s climate-themed short stories, March’s best books will come in like lions and keep roaring. Marking the start of spring, novels about subterranean Nigeria, otherworldly dinosaurs, climate and California, as well as non-fiction involving a family account, a native punk memoir and more.
By Bob Odenkirk
Random House: 304 pages, $28
(1st of March)
At 60, Bob Odenkirk is a TV and movie star, acclaimed for his serious turns in the “Breaking Bad” universe and 2021 action hero vehicle “Nobody.” But until the age of nearly 50, Odenkirk worked mostly off-screen writing comedies — “Saturday Night Live” and then, with David Cross, the brilliantly semi-absurd “Mr. Show.” He explains how he transitioned to acting and drama in a terrific memoir, his first book but hopefully not his last.
“Red paint: The ancestral autobiography of a Coast Salish punk”
By Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe
Counterpoint: 240 pages, $25
Raised in a family that moved often and had little to lean on, LaPointe found refuge in the Northwest punk scene. But it wasn’t until she connected her need for self-expression to her grandmother’s efforts to preserve their ancestral language, Lushootseed, as well as their tribe’s stories of survival, that she began to understand what what it might mean to heal – and to imagine a future.
By Lea Thomas
Ravenous: 208 pages, $25
Thomas coined the term in the title of his book through his work as an activist for the planet and the humans who inhabit it. His book, as much a manifesto as a guide, argues that we cannot fight for the Earth without advancing civil rights for all, dismantling the systems of privilege that threaten us on all fronts.
“In the margins: On the pleasures of reading and writing”
By Elena Ferrante
Translated by Ann Goldstein
Europe: 176 pages, $20
If you recently raved about adapting ‘The Lost Daughter’, these four new essays from the Neapolitan author will keep the thrill going, with insights into Ferrante’s favorite literature, his writing process and even some of his scarecrows. The collection’s greatest appeal, however, lies not in its glimpses into the reclusive writer’s life, but rather in the power of his writing.
“ancestor problem: A settling of accounts and reconciliation”
By Maud Newton
Random house: 400 pages, $29
If she doesn’t have you as “grandfather who married 13 times” and “accused 17th-century witch,” Newton will grab you with smooth, thoughtful prose about family and lies. Estranged from her racist father and sometimes fundamentalist mother, the lifelong book reviewer and journalist overlooks no gravestone in her investigation of what makes genealogy so compelling — even when living family is something more complicated.
By NoViolet Bulawayo
Viking: 418 pages, $27
In 2013, “We Need New Names” established the Zimbabwean novelist as an urgent new voice. In his new novel, ‘Glory’, Bulawayo uses allegory to explain the 2017 coup that removed Robert Mugabe from his nearly 40-year dictatorship over Zimbabwe. Animals replace people – Mugabe, for example, is “Old Horse” – allowing the author to emphasize just how bestial the politics of violence can be.
By Eloghosa Osunde
Riverhead: 320 pages, $28
If you’re reading a first novel in 2022, this should be the one. With care, compassion and a gimlet eye for hypocrisy, Osunde builds a universe out of Lagos, Nigeria’s little-seen citizens: gays, trans, abused and others. The magical realism works wonderfully to tie these stories together, especially when the Tatafo and Èkó spirits are involved, and readers will be left thrilled until the end.
By John Scalzi
Tor: 272 pages, $27
Jamie, who works as a delivery driver, jumps at the idea of a new job offered by his friend Tom. But Tom’s “animal rights organization” isn’t PETA; it’s a group that fosters dinosaur-adjacent panda-like creatures in an Earth-like environment adjacent to the universe – and you can guess how it goes. It’s a great Scalzian mix of outrage, desperation, and wit, with the added ingredient of Japanese “kaiju,” a movie genre meaning “strange beast.”
By Susan Straight
FSG: 384 pages, $28
The fiercely local novelist (“In the Land of Women,” “Highwire Moon”) does a mighty job of penning a new novel that will be savored not just by Californians, but by every American who’s been around in recent years. His inland characters, many Latinx and all affected by COVID-19, also have to deal with earthquakes, fires, droughts and police brutality. “Mecca” is a hymn of love and lamentation.
By Megan Mayhew Bergman
Scribner: 304 pages, $27
In this new collection from a professor of environmental literature and writing at Vermont’s Middlebury College, most female storytellers tackle the environment in every way – whether their part involves a ranch, a peach farm or a pool. They also grapple with the control and dimensions of a human life, in stories so beautifully crafted they feel like tiny worlds unto themselves.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.