The 10 Books You Should Be Reading This April

From an ultrarunner's memoir to an unpublished manuscript from one of the 20th century's greatest writers

April 3, 2021 10:52 am
April 2021 Books
Our April book roundup is here.
Hachette/LIbrary of America/Penguin Random House

When you look at new books due out in a given month, sometimes you have a good idea of what to expect. The end of the year is likely to bring a fair share of serious-minded work; the summer months often have a higher-than-usual amount of briskly paced reads. What about April? Much like the weather right now, it’s a little more varied — covering everything from gripping thrillers to deeply researched works of nonfiction. Add a few high-profile reissues to the mix and you have a sense of what this April has to offer, literarily speaking.

Richard Wright cover
“The Man Who Lived Underground”
Library of America

The Man Who Lived Underground by Richard Wright (Apr. 20)

Long after his heyday in the mid-20th century, we’re still reading and talking about the writings of Richard Wright. In 2019, a film adaptation of his novel Native Son sparked heated critical discussions; more broadly, Wright’s take on race and class in America still feels very relevant. Wright wrote The Man Who Lived Underground — about a man wrongly accused of murder — in the early 1940s but was unable to find a publisher for it during his lifetime. For the first time, this lost classic is being published in its entirety — making for a major literary event.

"Empire of Pain"
“Empire of Pain”
Penguin Random House

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe (Apr. 13)

You might know the name of the Sackler family from its prominent placement in museums across the country; you might also know the family for its role in the opioid epidemic afflicting the nation. Patrick Radden Keefe has written about the family’s controversial history before; in Empire of Pain, he offers a book-length chronicle of their rise to prominence and the cost it incurred on a nation.

"My Broken Language"
“My Broken Language”
Penguin Random House

My Broken Language by Quiara Alegría Hudes (Apr. 6)

Quiara Alegría Hudes won a Pulitzer Prize for her acclaimed play Water by the Spoonful; she also wrote the book for the musical In the Heights, as well the screenplay for its upcoming film adaptation. Her new book My Broken Language recounts another compelling story: her own. In this memoir, she describes her youth, beginning with her coming of age in Philadelphia and gradually finding her voice as a writer.

"Trots and Bonnie"
“Trots and Bonnie”
NYRB Comics

Trots and Bonnie by Shary Flenniken (Apr. 27)

For 18 years, Shary Flenniken’s comic Trots and Bonnie ran in the pages of National Lampoon. Flenniken was also, for a time, the magazine’s editor — and if you’re intrigued by a new edition of work from one of the high points of American comedy in the last 50 years, that’s entirely understandable. Blending incisive humor with compelling artwork, this new edition of Flenniken’s work has plenty to offer.

"Finding Freedom"
“Finding Freedom”

Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story; Remaking a Life from Scratch by Erin French (Apr. 6)

Inside an old grist mill in Freedom, Maine, diners will find The Lost Kitchen — a restaurant that put a small town on the culinary map. (It was also the subject of a recent documentary series.) The chef and owner, Erin French, has a compelling life story of her own; in her new memoir, Finding Freedom, she offers readers a look at the events that shaped her character and brought her to where she is today. 

"Hummingbird Salamander"
“Hummingbird Salamander”

Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer (Apr. 6)

Jeff VanderMeer’s fiction often takes readers into phantasmagorical realms, including his Ambergris novels and — most recently — the mind-blowing settings of the novel Dead Astronauts. Hummingbird Salamander finds him working in a different vein than usual, retaining the ecological concerns of most of his work but simultaneously exploring the medium of the spy novel. It’s a very enticing combination.

"The Hard Crowd"
“The Hard Crowd”
Simon & Schuster

The Hard Crowd: Essays 2000-2020 by Rachel Kushner (Apr. 6)

There are few subjects that Rachel Kushner can’t write about with deftness and skill. Her novel The Flamethrowers is one of the best fictional explorations of art and politics in recent memory. Her latest book, the essay collection The Hard Crowd, offers readers an array of her work in the realm of nonfiction, covering subjects including classic cars, the art of Jeff Koons and the allure of nostalgia.

"A Man Named Doll"
“A Man Named Doll”

A Man Named Doll by Jonathan Ames (Apr. 20)

Over the decades, the private eye novel has undergone a host of permutations at the hands of a slew of talented writers. Jonathan Ames has riffed on the genre before, and with A Man Named Doll he meshes his distinctive sense of humor with noir troped even further. Plenty of writers have told the stories of private eyes in Los Angeles; few have done it like this.

"A Runner's High"
“A Runner’s High”

A Runner’s High: My Life in Motion by Dean Karnazes (Apr. 20)

What goes through the mind of someone while running an ultramarathon? Dean Karnazes knows a thing or two about that. His new memoir A Runner’s High chronicles the experience he had training for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. Karnazes first ran this decades ago; what would attempting it in his fifties entail? 

"Billy Wilder On Assignment"
“Billy Wilder On Assignment”
Princeton University Press

Billy Wilder on Assignment: Dispatches from Weimar Berlin and Interwar Vienna edited by Noah Isenberg and translated by Shelley Frisch (Apr. 27)

Over the course of his long career in film, Billy Wilder directed some of the best movies ever made. Wilder’s work as a filmmaker was only one part of his story, though — in Weimar Berlin, Wilder first made a name for himself as a writer. This new collection is the first time a number of his writings from this period have been translated into English — making it a must-read for film buffs and history aficionados alike.

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