The 10 Books You Should Be Reading This May
From Antarctic exploration to Gothic fiction to the bathroom books to end all bathroom books
As spring warms into summer, it’s likely that you’re spending more time outside — either embracing outdoor activities or finding new ways to savor the natural world. Some of May’s most exciting new books offer singular perspectives on warm-weather activities; another group offer fascinating, gripping narratives in a fictional vein. In other words, this selection of 10 books covers a wide range of titles and topics, and we’re confident each and every one of you will find something that suits your taste.
Don’t Applaud. Either Laugh or Don’t. (at the Comedy Cellar.) by Andrew Hankinson (May 4)
What can comedy tell us about the ways the world is changing? This history of storied New York stand-up club The Comedy Cellar offers an in-depth look at the space that helped many a famous comedian break out. But, as befits a venue frequently associated with Louis CK, it also explores the comedy scene’s part in larger cultural controversies, and the Comedy Cellar’s penchant for stoking them.
The Rock Eaters by Brenda Peynado (May 11)
The last decade in pop culture has helped reinforce something that’s been true for decades: sometimes the best way to ponder a social concern is to put a speculative spin on it. From The Twilight Zone to Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s collection Friday Black, some of the most resonant explorations of societal dilemmas comes from this approach. It’s in this tradition that you’ll find Brenda Peynado’s new collection, which grapples with a host of issues familiar to many readers in 2021.
Seed to Dust: Life, Nature, and a Country Garden by Marc Hamer (May 4)
The title of Marc Hamer’s first memoir, How to Catch a Mole: Wisdom from a Life Lived in Nature, was not a metaphor — Hamer spent decades working as a molecatcher in England. But his book also explored broader questions about humanity’s connection to nature, and with his new book Seed to Dust, he continues his foray into mortality, gardening and cycles of rebirth.
Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry by Jason Schreier (May 11)
If you pay attention at all to the world of high-profile video games, you’ve probably heard accounts of employees working harrowing hours to meet deadlines and unsettling stories of burnout and workplace collapse. It’s into this realm that journalist Jason Schreier comes with his new book Press Reset, an inside look at the creative and economic conflicts that lurk beneath the surface of a prominent industry.
Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger (May 1)
The East Village art scene of the 1980s and 1990s is currently having a cultural resurgence, with painter and activist David Wojnarowicz the subject of a high-profile retrospective and a documentary in recent years. Lilly Dancyger’s memoir Negative Space offers a unique perspective on this world — her father, Joe Schactman, was part of the scene. Dancyger’s book memorably explores questions of creativity, addiction and familial legacies.
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon (May 4)
To date, Rivers Solomon’s bibliography has offered an array of memorable experiences, encompassing everything from a surreal take on a science fiction staple to a short novel inspired by the music of Clipping. With Sorrowland, Solomon offers their own distinct take on Gothic fiction, touching on everything from violent histories to body horror.
A Bathroom Book for People Not Pooping or Peeing But Using the Bathroom as an Escape by Joe Pera and Joe Bennett (May 25)
Last year, comedian Joe Pera turned a collection of found footage into one of the most genuinely life-affirming projects you’re likely to watch. What happens when Pera ventures into the realm of bathroom humor? In this case, Pera and illustrator Joe Bennett offer a philosophical take on time spent in the bathroom. It’s not what you might expect — but then, with Pera, few things are.
The Optimist: A Case for the Fly Fishing Life by David Coggins (May 4)
Is 2021 your year to embrace fly fishing? It is, after all, both outdoors and inherently socially distanced. With his new book The Optimist, David Coggins makes a convincing argument in favor of the benefits of fly fishing, and recounts the places around the country (and the world) where fly fishing has taken him.
Pop Song: Adventures in Art & Intimacy by Larissa Pham (May 4)
If you’re seeking insightful, incisive commentary on artists ranging from Frank Ocean to James Turrell, it’s very likely that Larissa Pham’s new book — Pham’s first book-length work of nonfiction — will be very much of interest to you. Pham juxtaposes her thoughts on art with scenes from her own life, making for a singular look at the how the two converge.
Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey Into the Dark Antarctic Night by Julian Sancton (May 4)
Antarctica can be a brutal landmass to attempt to traverse; if you’ve read, say, David Grann’s The White Darkness, you know that all too well. Julian Sancton’s Madhouse at the End of the Earth looks back over a century to an ill-fated expedition to Antarctica in 1897, and tells a story of a small group of people struggling for survival in a hostile environment.
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