The 7 New Books You Should Be Reading This May

Bill Buford, Curtis Sittenfeld and the other titles that will help you pass the time

The best books of May
The best books of May

Hey. It’s another month and we’re still stuck inside. Hopefully that will ease up in a timely and appropriate manner, but if not, at least we’ve got books. That, and it’s May. It’s true spring. It’s warm and getting warmer. So pick up one of these titles, go find a sunny spot that is safe and socially distant from other people, and do some reading.

13th Floor Elevators: A Visual History by Paul Drummond (Out now)

The world lost a true visionary when Roky Erickson passed away last year. Thankfully, there was more celebration is his work during the later years of his life, when his solo work and his ’60s psych band, 13th Floor Elevators, were rediscovered by a new generation. Here, Paul Drummond dutifully pieces together the band’s short but vital career with plenty of photos and artwork from the era that you’ve probably never seen before.

Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking by Bill Buford (May 5)

Bill Buford takes his dream of being a chef to new and even more obsessive heights than he did in his previous book, Heat. Uprooting his family in America, Buford moves to Lyon to try and learn all the secrets of the French culinary world, paying attention to every detail in a manner that’s nearly as obsessive as the chefs training him.

The Resolutions by Brady Hames (May 5)

I haven’t read this one yet, but two people whose opinions I value have suggested it to me, so I, in turn, suggest it to you. Let’s just go on the publisher’s copy to see why this one is next up on my TBR pile: “Three siblings, an actor, a ballerina and a grad student all watch their lives fall apart, then reunite at their parents’ house before embarking on a trip to West Africa as they attempt to put things right.”

So, a gritty, decades-spanning melodrama about a bourgeois family in crisis. Put it in my veins, please.

Men on Horseback: The Power of Charisma In the Age of Revolution by David A. Bell (May 19)

What, exactly, is charisma? What draws us to people on a mass scale? From Napoleon to Washington to so-called “influencers,” David A. Bell explores that certain something that some have and others don’t.

The Index of Self-Destructive Acts by Christopher Beha (May 5)

Christopher Beha’s Arts & Entertainments was one of my favorite novels of 2014, and one of the more humorous books to come out of the last decade. I’d say his latest can coast on that book’s merits alone, but the premise that “Over the course of a single baseball season, Christopher Beha traces the passing of the torch from the old establishment to the new meritocracy, exploring how each generation’s failure helped land us where we are today” would have me interested regardless.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld (May 19)

Curtis Sittenfeld has proven time and time again she’s one of America’s most interesting novelists. Here, in what will probably end up being one of the most talked-about novels of 2020, she plays a little bit of historical fiction, asking: What if Hillary and Bill didn’t get married? I’m sure discourse around this one will be super fun. Hopefully it doesn’t overshadow the fact that Sittenfeld has written another modern classic.

One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965 by Jia Lynn Yang

A stunning historical investigation that begins with congress putting a quota on how many people from certain ethnicities could come to America, and runs through the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. What happened between that? In a time when immigration is once again a hot topic in American discourse, Jia Lynn Yang’s book is vital.

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