March books: The best-reviewed titles of last month

Last month, our reviewers were particularly impressed with emotional memoirs, deeply researched historical fiction and a new Maisie Dobbs installment.

“The Beauty of Dusk: On Vision Lost and Found,” by Frank Bruni

Bruni’s inspiring memoir recounts his experience of suddenly losing sight in his right eye – and then realizing that his attitude would come to be as important as his treatment options.

One morning he awoke blind in one eye – but he ended up seeing the world more clearly

“Booth,” by Karen Joy Fowler

In her exquisite new historical novel, Fowler raises the curtain on a cast of ego-driven family members, including future assassin John Wilkes Booth, as they jostle for a spotlight while carelessly shoving into the shadows the more timid among them.

‘Booth’ imagines the dysfunctional family that created President Lincoln’s assassin

“The Cartographers,” by Peng Shepherd

After her father is found dead, a once promising mapmaker discovers a 90-year-old road map with fantastic properties that sets her on a dangerous hunt for answers.

‘The Cartographers’ is one of those brilliant books you have to read twice

“Disorientation,” by Elaine Hsieh Chou

In this satire, a hapless PhD candidate roils her campus community after she discovers that the university’s most famous professor – supposedly a Chinese poet – is actually a White man.

In ‘Disorientation,’ a college campus is fertile ground for absurdist comedy

“Fencing With the King,” by Diana Abu-Jaber

Abu-Jaber’s eighth book concerns a poet in Upstate New York whose desire to understand her ancestry sends her on a trip with her father to Jordan, where she winds up at odds with her uncle, the king’s right-hand man.

In ‘Fencing With the King,’ a search for family truths puts a woman at odds with her powerful uncle

“French Braid,” by Anne Tyler

The Pulitzer Prize winner’s 24th novel may seem familiar to her fans, but that does not make it any less engaging. Tyler begins her story in 1959, exploring the trajectories of a Baltimore family whose choices reverberate over generations.

Anne Tyler’s ‘French Braid’ is entirely familiar, and that’s just perfect

“Glory,” by NoViolet Bulawayo

What Bulawayo thought would be a nonfiction account of the 2017 coup that ended Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s oppressive, 37-year reign transformed into this satire, which re-creates those real-life events using animals as the main characters.

In ‘Glory,’ talking animals bear a striking resemblance to real-life tyrants

“Groundskeeping,” by Lee Cole

Cole’s first novel, a love story about two people from divergent backgrounds, is a wrenching examination of class differences and political polarization, which the narrator addresses with an unusual amount of empathy for the side he opposes.

Lee Cole’s ‘Groundskeeping’ is an empathetic portrait of people across the political spectrum

“Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey,” by Florence Williams

In an attempt to cope with the wreckage following her divorce, Williams, a science writer, penned this raw and exhaustively reported exploration of her emotional and physical suffering.

Her heart was broken, so she turned to science

“In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss,” by Amy Bloom

Bloom’s stirring memoir recounts the emotional journey she took with her husband, who chose to end his life after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Amy Bloom documents her heart-wrenching journey to help her husband end his life

“Julia Morgan: An Intimate Biography of the Trailblazing Architect,” by Victoria Kastner

Morgan, whose many designs included Hearst Castle, is the subject of this book – part biography, part coffee table decor – that walks us briskly through her extraordinary life and career.

Julia Morgan is best known for designing Hearst Castle. But her achievements reach further.

“The Last Confessions of Sylvia P.,” by Lee Kravetz

Sylvia Plath continues to fascinate us nearly 60 years after her death. Add this debut novel to the many books she has inspired. Kravetz weaves together three stories in different timelines that consider Plath’s iconic status.

‘The Last Confessions of Sylvia P.’ turns Sylvia Plath’s life into captivating fiction

“Lessons From the Edge,” by Marie Yovanovitch

Yovanovitch, the ambassador to Ukraine fired by President Donald Trump in 2019, shot to fame during his first impeachment hearings. Here she revisits her life as a diplomat who sought out difficult assignments in countries where corruption was endemic.

The rise and fall of Marie Yovanovitch, ambassador to Ukraine

“The Love of My Life,” by Rosie Walsh

A classic example of the “I married a stranger” domestic suspense plot, Walsh’s follow-up to “Ghosted” revolves around a man who learns that his funny, warm, compassionate wife is also a liar.

‘The Love of My Life’ is a masterful domestic thriller with a doozy of a plot

“Lucky Breaks,” by Yevgenia Belorusets, translated by Eugene Ostashevsky

The Ukrainian author’s slim but meaty set of stories about women displaced by war uses humor and fairy-tale tropes to depict a community traumatized by Russia’s 2014 invasion.

Ukrainian author Yevgenia Belorusets presents a portrait of a traumatized community

“Mecca,” by Susan Straight

The story of a California patrol officer haunted by a murder he committed decades ago is just one strand in this capacious novel about people of color forming the backbones of agriculture, health care and hospitality.

In ‘Mecca,’ Susan Straight unearths the real Southern California

“The Perfect Sound: A Memoir in Stereo,” by Garrett Hongo

Hongo’s roving intellect plants surprises on every page of this memoir, which is ostensibly about his coming of age and love for music but also makes room for meditations on sound waves, poetry and race in America.

A memoir of family, race, poetry and stereo systems

“Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth,” by Elizabeth Williamson

Williamson’s meticulously reported book about a decade-old tragedy is more relevant than ever. She draws a direct line between the “Sandy Hook truthers” – as they called themselves – and subsequent conspiracy theorists whose delusions spilled from the confines of the Internet into real-world violence.

After the horror of Sandy Hook, an assault on truth began

“The Second Half: Forty Women Reveal Life After Fifty,” by Ellen Warner

Women share the hard-won lessons they’ve gleaned. Warner, a photojournalist, accompanies her insightful interviews with stunning photographs.

What are the secrets to a meaningful life? Women over 50 share their insights.

“A Sunlit Weapon,” by Jacqueline Winspear

In Book No. 17 of this best-selling series, Maisie Dobbs is embroiled in a plot that involves attacks on military planes, a missing soldier and a group of men hoping to kill first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Maisie Dobbs is beloved. Jacqueline Winspear’s latest reminds us why.

“Tell Me Everything: The Story of a Private Investigation,” by Erika Krouse

Krouse, a celebrated fiction writer who was struggling financially, recalls how she turned her superpower – a face that immediately elicits confessions from strangers – into a career as a private investigator.

Meet the PI who helped unlock key testimony in a sexual assault case

“The Verifiers,” by Jane Pek

Pek’s thrilling plot centers on the potential for evil in the online dating industry, but it’s the keen, sprightly heroine and her complex Chinese immigrant family you can not get enough of.

4 great new mysteries and thrillers – and one to skip

A note to our readers

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