The 10 Books You Should Be Reading This May
From a deep dive into Steely Dan to a journey into the ocean depths
What do you have planned for this May? As the weather heats up and the outdoors beckon, it’s never been a better time to lose yourself in a good book. Our recommendations for this month cover a lot of ground; whether you’re looking for an in-depth biography of someone who changed a nation or would prefer a thrilling exploration of the Grand Canyon’s history, there’s probably something on this list for you. Read on for our May picks.
Katherine C. Mooney, Isaac Murphy: The Rise and Fall of a Black Jockey (May 2)
May marks the beginning of this year’s Triple Crown, and if you find yourself with horse racing on the brain, you might want to explore the sport’s history with this biography of Isaac Murphy, one of the sport’s greatest jockeys. Murphy would go on to win three Kentucky Derbies over the course of his career, even as he faced racial prejudice and a changing nation.
Michio Kaku, Quantum Supremacy: How the Quantum Computer Revolution Will Change Everything (May 2)
If your interests fall onto the scientific side of the spectrum, you may well have heard the term “quantum computer” used with increasing frequency in recent years. (Science fiction readers might have experienced the same thing.) In this new book, physicist and occasional television correspondent Michio Kaku offers a detailed look at precisely what quantum computers are — and explores the different avenues of life that they might expand.
Jonathan Eig, King: A Life (May 16)
There are some historical figures for whom a massive, thoroughly-researched biography seems eminently appropriate; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is certainly one of them. Jonathan Eig’s new book King: A Life, is precisely that — an expansive look at the life of one man who had a substantial effect on the nation (and the world). And the advance word on it is encouraging; Publishers Weekly’s review states that “Eig’s evocative prose ably conveys [King’s] bravery, charisma, and spell-binding oratory.”
Alex Pappademas and Joan LeMay, Quantum Criminals: Ramblers, Wild Gamblers, and Other Sole Survivors from the Songs of Steely Dan (May 9)
Quantum Criminals has a fascinating idea at its core: it’s a look at all of the characters who appear in Steely Dan’s discography. There are few other musicians for whom this approach might work (The Mountain Goats come to mind), and Steely Dan have both the cult following and the mass appeal to make this fascinating. Combining words by Alex Pappademas and art by Joan LeMay, Quantum Criminals looks to be a new angle on an iconic band’s catalog.
John Wray, Gone to the Wolves (May 2)
In 2006, novelist John Wray wrote about Sunn 0))) for The New York Times Magazine. And while his fiction has covered other subjects — from a mentally ill teen to the ominous landscape of pre-World War II Austria — metal has never seemed far from his mind. With his latest novel, Gone to the Wolves, Wray reckons directly with it, tracing the story of a group of metalhead friends from coming of age in 1980s Florida to a bizarre event years later that shatters their comfortable dynamic.
Jeff Biggers, In Sardinia: An Unexpected Journey in Italy (May 23)
Travel southwest from Rome and you’ll find yourself in Sardinia, an island in the Mediterranean with a long history and an abundance of scenic landscapes. It’s through these landscapes that Jeff Biggers travels in his new book, the aptly titled In Sardinia. Biggers argues here that Sardinia is key to a complete understanding of Italy; perhaps reading this will inspire your next international trip.
Sebastiano Brandolini, The House at Capo d’Orso (May 2)
What happens when an architect turns his eye for design and history to the home in which he grew up? That question is at the heart of Sebastiano Brandolini’s new book, The House at Capo d’Orso — a book that’s both about the house where he grew up in Sardinia and the ways that the right space can spark creativity. Can you go home again? Maybe not — but you sure can write about it.
Katsushika Hokusai, Mad About Painting (May 9)
If you’re familiar with the print Under the Wave off Kanagawa, then you know the work of Katsushika Hokusai. In this volume, Hokusai shares what he learned about art, composition, color and the act of painting itself. This new edition of Mad About Painting also features an introduction by Ryoko Matsuba, an expert in Japan’s Edo period, who helps quantify why Hokusi’s writings still resonate today.
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Melissa L. Sevigny, Brave the Wild River: The Untold Story of Two Women Who Mapped the Botany of the Grand Canyon (May 23)
In 1938, a pair of scientists traveled to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with a singular mission in mind: to fully document the plants that called that ecosystem home. This was not considered to be an easy task, given the unpredictability of the Colorado River; many observers believed that the scientists in question, Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter, would not survive. And yet they pulled it off — and now, 85 years later, a new book records their adventures along the way.
Brad Fox, The Bathysphere Book: Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths (May 16)
Life gets strange in the depths of the ocean. The creatures that live there look like little else on the planet, and the technology used to explore it requires its own branches of expertise. In his new book, Brad Fox chronicles the history of these explorations while expanding his focus to find other applications for the discoveries that they have made. It’s a fascinating and enlightening journey into the deepest of waters.
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