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.

“Pineapple Street”

By Jenny Jackson

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

“Birnam Wood”

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

“Humanly Possible”

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

More books news

Imani Perry’s “South to America” made its first appearance on The Times’s paperback nonfiction best-seller list this week.

The physicist Alan Lightman craves books on philosophy.

Three libraries have transformed their neighborhoods in New York.



Russian forces now largely control the east of the embattled Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, Western analysts said. Ukraine said its forces were still holding off attacks.

A South African corruption watchdog cleared President Cyril Ramaphosa in the theft of $580,000 stashed in his sofa.

Qatar pressed a U.N. agency not to investigate labor abuses in the run-up to the World Cup.

Diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran could transform the Middle East.

The BBC is in turmoil after a sports host was taken off the air for criticizing a U.K. immigration proposal.


Ron DeSantis’s removal of an elected prosecutor in Florida was politicized, a Times investigation found.

The exposure of Fox News hosts’ private messages has embarrassed the network, but it could still win in court.

The Navy will rename two vessels as part of its effort to strip away Confederate ties.


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

Daylight saving time starts today. Many people want the clocks to stop changing, but scientists have mixed feelings.

Storms slowed in California and residents surveyed the damage.

Mikaela Shiffrin has become the most successful ski racer in Alpine World Cup history, with 87 victories.

“Saturday Night Live” imagined scenes from the Oscars tonight.


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.


Remarkable feat: Black soldiers cycled nearly 2,000 miles across the country in the 19th century. Erick Cedeño retraced their journey.

Ted Lasso star: The actor who plays Roy will soon be a Marvel god.

March Madness: The odds of nailing your N.C.A.A. tournament predictions are roughly one in 9.2 quintillion.

Vows: They met on Instagram. Their TikTok account now has 1.3 million followers.

Sunday routine: A fashion editor eats an Ethiopian lunch.

Advice from Wirecutter: The best dish soap.

Lives lived: Bud Grant was a strait-laced Hall of Fame football coach who led the Minnesota Vikings for 18 years and took the team to four Super Bowls. He died at 95.


On the cover: The astonishing reach of Chinese espionage.

Persistent poverty: Why can’t the U.S. lift up its poorest citizens?

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.


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.

What to Cook This Week

The recipes in Emily Weinstein’s Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter this week are aimed at making you a better cook. Glazed tofu with chile and star anise calls for searing a block of tofu then tearing it apart, to better soak up sauce. Ritzy Cheddar chicken breasts use crushed crackers for an amazing crunch. And for velvety scrambled eggs, J. Kenji López-Alt calls for poaching beaten eggs in cream — it’s not as fussy as it sounds.


The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were deathly and heatedly. Here is today’s puzzle.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Small act of kindness (five letters).

Take the news quiz to see how well you followed the week’s headlines.

Here’s today’s Wordle.

Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times.

Read today’s front page.

Lauren Hard, Lauren Jackson, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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