Best of the West
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26, out March 3)
By Paul Beatty
The internet has dubbed Paul Beatty the intellectual offspring of Kurt Vonnegut and Dave Chappelle. Thank God those minds mated, because if not, we wouldn’t have The Sellout, a hilariously profane, thought-provoking satire about racism in post-racial America. Set in an agrarian ghetto near South L.A. (Compton meets Bakersfield, I guess), Beatty’s protagonist grows up with a race-conscious sociologist of a father who’s fatally shot by the LAPD. This tragedy, compounded with the fact his hometown is literally off the map, spurs the narrator to make a different kind of blaring change: reinstating slavery, re-segregating the local school, and then taking a trip to Supreme Court with marijuana and baditude.
(Ecco, $27.99, out March 31)
By T.C. Boyle
In Boyle’s 25th book of fiction, a Vietnam veteran, his mentally unstable son, and his son’s protective lover submit themselves to a psychological maelstrom that swirls around shootings and manhunts. If there’s any doubt of you snagging this novel, mosey over to The New Yorker and read Boyle’s “The Relive Box,” a short story about technology addiction, crippling nostalgia, and emotional claustrophobia that he has called a sci-fi reaction to Harder; the former showcases the writer’s trademark flowing rhythms, thoroughly researched grasp of the zeitgeist, and ability to flesh out genuine relationships on the page, not to mention it will put you on the floor. If that’s your thing, you’ll get it in bulk in Boyle’s newest offering.
(W. W. Norton & Company, $26.95, out March 2)
By Tom Little and Katherine Ellison
Northern California-based writer Ellison takes a look at how progressive learning can sculpt students into perennial learners. Penned with Tom Little, a top educator from Oakland, the book examines 43 schools nationwide to show how forward-thinking institutions use their students’ inquisitiveness to craft organic curricula. Within these pages you’ll get a blend of progressive education’s history, a run-down of how schools are using such unique methods (such as the senses and technology) to tweak learning, and, at the center of it all, the story of one man’s life work assessing the state of our education system and how it can be improved.
(The University of Kentucky Press, $45, out March 6)
By Alain Kerzoncuf, Charles Barr
You’ve no doubt heard and read about the filmmaker’s everlasting and ever-reaching filmic influence, thanks to Psycho, Birds, and Vertigo. Now Kerzoncuf and Barr are taking a deeper look at his forgotten projects, going all the way back to his early days in Britain. Not enough Hitchcockian history for you? As it would happen, March is a good month for delving into the man’s legacy: if you’ve ever been curious about how food relates to Hitchcock the man and Hitchcock the oeuvre, Jan Olsson’s Hitchcock à la Carte comes out March 20 and investigates that peculiar synergy.
(University of Wisconsin Press, $17.95, out March 12)
By Matthew Siegel
In Blood Work, California-based poet Siegel explores how the inner self is affected by Crohn’s disease. When Lucia Perillo selected this book as the Felix Pollak Prize winner in poetry, she said, “These poems resist the dualities of lyric versus narrative, confessional versus impersonal, real against surreal, formal/improvisational, comic/sad. Matthew Siegel manages to tick off all the boxes at once, while remaining compulsively readable. The trick that he’s pulled off is to make a book that simultaneously tickles you and shakes you by the scruff of your neck.” Poetry fan or not, this collection is not to be missed.
Best of the Rest
(Viking, $28, out March 10)
By George Hodgman
Former Vanity Fair and book editor Hodgman leaves New York for Paris, Missouri (fake out!) to tend to his aging mother. In his memoir debut, Hodgman paints a witty and poignant portrait of a son and his mother reconciling their differences and learning, among other things, how to cook, come to grips with caretaking, understand unspoken sexuality, and treat each other with patience, love, and self-respect. Surely we all have a beautifully complex and hilarious (if not semi-dysfunctional) relationships with our mothers, but none of us are likely to commemorate it with the skill and humor of Hodgman.
(Viking, $27, out March 17)
By Jacob Rubin
Giovanni Bernini is the human parrot. With the ability to vocally imitate anyone, he undergoes a transformation from a nobody to a star, and quite enjoys the process. Until he doesn’t, that is. “No one’s disguise is perfect. There is in every person, no matter how graceful a seam, a thread curling out of them,” the protagonist says. “When pulled by the right hands, it will unravel the person entire.” Naturally, the only people Giovanni has trouble with are a beautiful stage singer and himself—because after years of remixing the voices of others into his own, self-identification has become a different ballgame. Intrigued? Read a snippet here.
(Random House, $26, out March 17)
By Jill Alexander Essbaum
The constant praise for this poet’s debut novel has been rooted in its precise use of language. Although that might sound like the equivalent of giving an author a weak pat on the back, it’s not; in this case, the compliment is the only way to appropriately convey Essbaum’s mind-blowing exactitude. Hausfrau, a psychological trip about “a good wife, mostly” who enters into a series of messy affairs and impulsive adventures, is brain-surgically constructed to fascinate you, entertain you, and then make you question what a life lived with meaning looks like—all with a sense of poetic discipline and introspection.