Best books to read in March

MANY people ask how I choose the books for this column. The answer is a combination of industry experience, deep research and … alchemy.

If I knew for sure which superb books would hit it big, I would have selected Valeria Luiselli’s novel The Lost Children Archive last month.

So consider this list a guide, not a prescription. Your local booksellers and librarians will have their own worthy titles to recommend.

The Wall by John Lanchester

Novelist and financial journalist Lanchester (Capital, Fragant Harbor) deeply comprehends how market forces influence daily lives.

His latest centres on an island nation surrounded by a government-sanctioned concrete barrier. Its purpose? To keep “The Others” out. Too soon? Or just in time?

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir by T Kira Madden

What’s stranger? Being a biracial teenager struggling with too much privilege and too little oversight?

Or a town like Boca Raton, Fla, where racism, white-collar crime and unrealistic standards threaten that teenager’s existence?

Madden, “a writer, photographer, and amateur magician,” pulls a rabbit out of her hat and turns her life into art in this gorgeous reckoning.

Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler by Lynne Olson

The audacity of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade (code name ‘Hedgehog’) cannot be exaggerated. Just 31 years old in 1941, she became France’s only female chef de Résistance.

Her network provided more intelligence than any other – and Fourcade escaped twice after capture, once slipping naked through the bars of a cell.

Is the movie underway?

Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter and Organize to Make More Room for Happiness’ by Gretchen Rubin

Move over, Marie Kondo: America’s foremost guru on happiness (The Happiness Project, The Four Tendencies) is coming for your tidy principles. Rubin believes when it comes to organising “for most of us, a rigid, one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.”

Her book may particularly spark joy for you if you’re stuck with necessary items that nevertheless don’t work for you.

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

Debut novelist Rum was born, like her protagonist Deya, in Brooklyn to Palestinian immigrants.

The marriage of Deya’s parents was arranged, and the secrets of their union both constrain and free their daughter who has dreams of an education.

The Bird King by G Willow Wilson

Alif the Unseen (2012) established Wilson as a politically-minded fantasy writer. The Bird King takes place during the reign of the last Iberian sultan, when a concubine and a mapmaker attempt to escape imminent danger from the incoming Christian Spanish rule.

Their journey (accompanied by a fantastical creature) finds beauty amid the backdrop of political upheaval.

26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career by MebKeflezighi and Scott Douglas

Keflezighi is a four-time Olympian who has won the Boston and New York marathons – so it’s fitting that his 2017 New York Marathon was not just his last, but his 26th.

That’s one marathon race per marathon mile for an athlete whose wisdom and lessons aren’t just for runners.

Horizon by Barry Lopez

Lopez (Arctic Dreams) blends literary journalism, memoir and travelogue that’s so compelling it deserves its own genre.

Here, he traverses the globe, from western Oregon to the Galápagos, Antarctica and beyond, and along the way he considers the history of human discovery, the present-day connections he makes and the realities of climate change.

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Pulitzer Prize finalist Lalami (The Moor’s Account) may be our finest contemporary chronicler of immigration and its discontents.

Her new novel spares no one, and it’s the kind of page-turning mystery you crave for a rainy reading weekend. The book uses different perspectives to uncover the real story behind a Moroccan immigrant’s death in a California intersection. – Photo and text by The Washington Post