There’s something eminently satisfying about looking back into history and learning something new from the experience. This isn’t just history in the sense of wars, revolutions and governments — depending on the telling, the right history can teach you about the origins of a favorite meal or a transformative moment in the life of a beloved artist. Our recommended books for April include plenty of forays into an array of histories — works where you might end up with new insights into an old favorite.
Ian MacAllen, Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Apr. 4)
Countless diners grew up eating Italian food, whether at home or at a particular restaurant. But Italian cuisine underwent a transformation in the United States, becoming a distinctive cooking style all its own. Ian MacAllen’s new book Red Sauce offers an in-depth look at how this happened — and it might just inspire a couple of food cravings while you’re reading.
Tajja Isen, Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service (Apr. 19)
We live in a world that aspires to be more just — but what happens when rhetoric outpaces actually putting those ideas into practice? That conflict is at the heart of Tajja Isen’s new book, which reckons with the ways different people and different industries have responded to the current moment — and where some flaws in that response can be found.
Matti Friedman, Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai (Apr. 5)
In 1973, Leonard Cohen traveled to the Sinai Peninsula, where armed forces from Israel and Egypt were at war. The experience was a contradictory one for Cohen, who initially considered walking away from his work as a musician, but instead went on to record the acclaimed New Skin for the Old Ceremony. Matti Friedman’s new book offers a comprehensive look at Cohen’s fateful trip.
Bénédicte Savoy, Africa’s Struggle for Its Art: History of a Postcolonial Defeat (Apr. 5)
If you’ve been reading about the art world at all, you’ve probably noticed an increasing number of museums returning — or being pressured to return — historical materials that were looted from various nations during colonial periods. For a broader look at the history involved that got us to this place, Bénédicte Savoy’s new book (translated by Susanne Meyer-Abich) offers an incisive perspective.
Ben Shattuck, Six Walks: In the Footsteps of Henry David Thoreau (Apr. 19)
A growing number of writers have embraced the narrative possibilities of a simple act: walking. Ben Shattuck’s new book Six Walks finds him revisiting several treks made in the middle of the 19th century by Henry David Thoreau — making this both a foray into literary history and a document of Shattuck’s own concerns about the contemporary world.
Paul Holes, Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases (Apr. 26)
Some murders are never solved; in the case of others, it can take a while. Paul Holes is best known for his decades of work looking into cold cases — which, among other things, led to his playing a crucial role in identifying the Golden State Killer. You might think that someone in that line of work has a few stories to tell — and sure enough, he does, and he tells them in this new memoir.
Shawn Levy, In on the Joke: The Original Queens of Standup Comedy (Apr. 5)
There was a time when the role of stand-up comedian was synonymous with men. Thankfully, we live in a time when that’s no longer the case — but it took a lot of work by a host of legendary women to get us there. Shawn Levy’s new book covers decades of history — and discusses comedy from the likes of Joan Rivers, Moms Mabley and Elaine May.
Jim Ruland, Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records (Apr. 12)
Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and Black Flag all released acclaimed, essential albums on SST Records, a label whose output remains hugely influential to a substantial amount of punk and indie rock. But the story behind the scenes of what was happening at SST is a compelling (and cautionary) tale all its own — and in this new book, Jim Ruland offers a comprehensive look at a part of musical history.
Samantha Hunt, The Unwritten Book: An Investigation (Apr. 5)
What happens when personal history and cultural history converge in a way you never saw coming? That’s what Samantha Hunt explores in her new book The Unwritten Book, which is both a moving exploration of the concept of haunting and a powerful reverie into her own family history.
Christopher Makos, Andy Modeling Portfolio Makos (Apr. 26)
Acclaimed photographer and frequent Andy Warhol collaborator Christopher Makos has written of his decades-long friendship with Warhol before, in 1989’s Warhol: A Personal Photographic Memoir. Here, he shows another side of Warhol, via a number of photographs taken during Warhol’s early years in New York City, when Warhol was working as a model.
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