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43 of Spring’s Top Books

This season is blooming with fun fiction, chilling thrillers, celebrity memoirs and more great reads

spinner image a woman laying in the flowers reading
Getty Images

Book lovers have so much to look forward to this season, with some fantastic new releases coming out from now through Memorial Day. Tired of winter and in the mood for sunnier fare, I’ve gravitated toward the first category on our list (fun fiction) as the early editions have landed on my desk. I loved Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld, the best-selling author of Rodham and American Wife, as well as Tom Hanks’ first novel, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece — really!

But there are so many others you should add to your “to read” list.

Fun fiction

spinner image from left to right book covers late bloomers by deepa varadarajan then the making of another major motion picture masterpiece by tom hanks then romanticy comedy by curtis sittenfeld
Random House Trade Paperbacks / Knopf / Random House / Getty

As noted above, Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld (April 4) is a super-entertaining, yes, rom-com about a smart, wry and rather cynical writer for an SNL-style show who falls for a handsome pop-star guest host. Another favorite: Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club by J. Ryan Stradal (April 18), author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest and The Lager Queen of Minnesota, whose latest is a warmhearted multigenerational novel, focused on a young couple from two Minnesota restaurant families — one running an old-school supper club — who feel the weight of their legacies. Then a tragic accident leads them in new directions.

Late Bloomers by Deepa Varadarajan (May 2) is a charming debut about an Indian American family shaken up when the parents divorce 36 years into their arranged marriage and enter the wild world of dating — surprising their two adult children, who have their own share of problems in the love department.

Turns out Tom Hanks isn’t just a stellar actor. He’s also a darn-good writer. His first novel, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece (May 9), is a wonderful, often humorous story that jumps from 1947 to 1970 and on to the present-day creation of a splashy superhero movie based on an old comic book. Witty and loaded with colorful characters, it’s a winner.

Also of note: This Bird Has Flown by Susanna Hoffs (April 4), the first novel by the ’80s musician (“Manic Monday”), billed as a “delicious, funny, very sexy debut”; and Swamp Story by Dave Barry (May 2), with a new comic tale about a Florida man.

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Literary fiction

spinner image from left to right book covers the covenant of water by abraham verghese then the trackers by charles frazier then loyalty by lisa scottoline
Grove Press / Ecco / Publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons / Getty

So many of this spring’s big literary releases are historical, including Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash (March 21). It’s a moving debut about a young English girl, Beatrix, who is sent by her working-class London parents across the Atlantic to live with the Gregorys, a wealthy family in New England to keep her safe during World War II. Beatrix grows up between these two worlds, her relationships — including with her surrogate brothers — and identity evolving through the years.  

And The House Is on Fire by Rachel Beanland (April 4), begins with the 1911 burning of a Richmond, Virginia, theater (which actually occurred; 72 people died), and tracks the drama that follows different characters in attendance.

In Homecoming by Kate Morton (April 4), a reporter in Sydney explores a decades-old cold-case murder — based on a real-life 1959 killing of an Australian family, the Turners — and uncovers some shocking truths.

The Trackers by Charles Frazier (April 11), author of Cold Mountain, is about a New Deal-funded painter, Val Welch, hired to paint a mural in rural Wyoming, where he’s hosted by a wealthy couple, Eve and John Long. He ends up on a cross-country hunt for the enigmatic Eve, who’s stolen a Renoir painting and is on the run.

Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati has had a dramatic beginning: It was meant to be published in March, but its release was pushed to May 2 because the initial truckload of books was burned in a fire. The “blazing novel,” as the publisher had billed it, offers a feminist spin on the story of Ancient Greece’s legendary Queen of Sparta: the matriarch of an epically dysfunctional (and cursed) family who murdered her husband Agamemnon, and later was killed herself, by her children Electra and Orestes.

If you’ve got ample reading time, you won’t regret diving into the weighty The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (May 2), known for his 2009 bestseller Cutting for Stone. I’m only halfway through its 715 pages after many, many hours of reading, but it’s absolutely absorbing, with multiple storylines woven throughout — including that of a family in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, with what appears to be a kind of curse: Someone from every generation dies by drowning.

And there’s lots of buzz for Yellowface by R.F. Kuang (May 16), a darkly comic tale about a young writer so desperate for attention she steals a manuscript written by a more successful literary darling, and Asian woman, and submits it as her own, using the ethnically ambiguous pseudonym Juniper Song.  

Other notable novels: Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls (March 28), a Prohibition-era story by the author of the blockbuster memoir The Glass CastleLoyalty by Lisa Scottoline (March 28), an epic set in Sicily in the 1800s, during the rise of the mafia; and Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner (April 18), about two very different women during World War II.

Mystery/thriller/crime

spinner image from left to right book covers the white lady by jaqueline winspear then how ill kill you by ren destefano then symphony of secrets by brendan slocumb
Harper / Berkley / Anchor / Getty

How I’ll Kill You by Ren DeStefano (March 21) has a disturbing premise: Three identical triplet sisters decide to prove their devotion to each other by each luring a man into a romance, then murdering him. (The plan: “Make him want you. Make him love you. Make him dead.”) Not surprisingly, emotional (and other) complications arise. Critics and readers are giving it the thumbs up: Publisher’s Weekly calls it a “devilishly clever textbook of malicious mayhem.”

On April 18, check out City of Dreams by Don Winslow, the second book in Winslow’s epic crime trilogy featuring mobster Danny Ryan that began with 2021’s gritty City on Fire, and Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb, another mystery set in the world of classical music (following last year’s The Violin Conspiracy).

In Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane (April 25) — author of, among other hits, Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone — a teenage girl goes missing and a young Black man is killed by a subway train on one hot night during the summer of 1974, when Bostonians are already steamed up over plans to desegregate the schools.

Blockbuster author Linwood Barclay’s The Lie Maker (May 16) offers a standalone thriller about a struggling writer hired to write fictional backstories for people in the Witness Security Program. While doing so he decides to look for his father, who was taken into witness protection long ago, his whereabouts unknown.

Also notable: The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear (March 21), a historical thriller set in Britain about a World War II-era spy named Elinor White; Simply Lies by David Baldacci (April 18), whose latest thriller features two female characters, a detective and a con-artist, facing off; and Identity by Nora Roberts (May 23), where a woman finds herself the victim of a murderous con artist and identity thief.

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Memoir

spinner image from left to right book covers dont tell anybody the secrets i told you by lucinda williams then chita a memoir by chita rivera then honey baby mine by laura dern and diane ladd
CROWN / HARPERONE / GRAND CENTRAL PUBLISHING / GETTY

In Why Should Guys Have All the Fun? An Asian American Story of Love, Marriage, Motherhood, and Running a Billion Dollar Empire by Loida Lewis (March 28), the attorney, activist and philanthropist, 80, details her upbringing in the Philippines, her marriage to attorney Reginald Lewis, his death from brain cancer at 50 and faith.  

This spring also brings more celebrity memoirs, including three arriving on April 25:

In Honey, Baby, Mine: A Mother and Daughter Talk Life, Death, Love (and Banana Pudding) by Diane Ladd and Laura Dern, the two actresses (ages 87 and 56) offer up a series of conversations about big topics, plus anecdotes from their lives, family photos and recipes

Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You by Lucinda Williams, 70, is the three-time Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and musician’s story about her unstable upbringing in the Deep South, and the stories (or, rather, the men) that inspired her wonderfully evocative songs. 

And Chita by Chita Rivera (with writer Patrick Pacheco), features the Broadway legend, 90, recalling her famous role as Anita in the first production of West Side Story — where she met and married a fellow dancer (a Jet!) Tony Mordente — and more from her remarkable career.

There’s also Walking With Sam: A Father, a Son and Five Hundred Miles Across Spain by Andrew McCarthy (May 9), where the Brat Pack actor (Pretty in Pink), now 60, describes an epic bonding adventure with his son along the famed Camino de Santiago.

Two memoirs arrive this spring from hosts of NPR’s All Things Considered. In The Best Strangers in the World: Stories From a Life Spent Listening by Ari Shapiro (March 21), the journalist relates tales from his reporting adventures — and singing with the orchestra band Pink Martini — always “seeking out ways to help people listen to one another,” as he puts it.

In It. Goes. So. Fast.: The Year of No Do-Overs by Shapiro’s colleague Mary Louise Kelly (April 11), Kelly writes about the emotional, pivotal year before her oldest son James left for college, after years of missing his soccer games and other events because of her demanding radio job. It was a time to soak up the months she had left with James at home, while contemplating, “What now?”  

 

Biography

spinner image from left to right george v i and elizabeth by sally bedell smith then benjamin banneker and us by rachel jamison webster then camera girl by carl sferrazza anthony
Random House / Henry Holt and Co. / Gallery Books / Getty

In Benjamin Banneker and Us: Eleven Generations of an American Family by Rachel Jamison Webster (March 21), Webster, who is white and works as a creative writing professor at Northwestern University, describes how she discovered at a family reunion in 2016 that she’s related to Benjamin Banneker, the famous African American mathematician, almanac author and astronomer who was hired by Thomas Jefferson to survey Washington, D.C. The book explores that ancestral story — including the fascinating role of Banneker, whose interracial grandparents broke the law to marry each other in the 18th century.  

Royal-watchers may be intrigued by George VI and Elizabeth: The Marriage That Saved the Monarchy by Sally Bedell Smith (April 4), noted royal expert (she’s the author of biographies such as Elizabeth the Queen and Prince Charles). Here she tells the story of how the couple’s love helped them carry their country through World War II. They were the parents of the late Queen Elizabeth II, who gave the author access to her parents’ letters and diaries and other documents for her research.

In King: A Life by Jonathan Eig (May 16), the author of 2017’s Ali: A Life, about Muhammad Ali, dives into Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s family history, childhood, accomplishments, private life and more — hoping to create “a more intimate kind of biography,” Eig told Library Journal.

Also of note are Camera Girl: The Coming of Age of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy by Carl Sferrazza Anthony (May 2), who describes the icon’s life in Paris and other adventures from her formative years; and Orwell: The New Life  by D. J. Taylor (May 25), an Orwellian (literally!) biographer and scholar, who explores the man behind, among other works, the classic dystopian novel 1984.

More nonfiction

spinner image from left to right book covers a fever in the heartland by timothy egan then life in five senses by gretchen rubin then you and your adult child by laurence steinberg
Viking / Crown / Simon & Schuster / Getty

In Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond (March 21), the Pulitzer Prize winner — for 2016’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City — writes about why the poor stay poor in this country, including almost 20 percent of U.S. children. He offers ways other Americans can help alleviate the problem.

A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them by Timothy Egan (April 4), also a Pulitzer Prize-winner (for his reporting at The New York Times), focuses on KKK supporters, including top politicians and officials, and corruption galore in the early 20th century. He singles out one particularly evil character, Sen. David Curtis ‘‘D.C.” Stephenson, who was eventually convicted of murder and other crimes.

In Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World by Gretchen Rubin (April 18), the author of The Happiness Project explores touching, tasting and other sensory pleasures as a way to engage with the world and live more fully.

Your kids may be grown, but your job is far from over. You and Your Adult Child: How to Grow Together in Challenging Times (April 18, in collaboration with AARP) offers a guide to help parents of adults in their 20s and 30s navigate difficult situations, by Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., a psychologist specializing in parent-child relationships. The goal: a thriving relationship, even during tough times.  

Also of note: The Angel Makers: Arsenic, a Midwife and Modern History’s Most Astonishing Murder Ring by Patti McCracken (March 14); The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann (April 18); and Pathogenesis: A History of the World in Eight Plagues by Jonathan Kennedy (April 18), who argues that onslaughts of disease-bearing microbes have shaped human culture.​​

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