I always try to narrow these monthly lists down to a manageable number (10 is the sweet spot, in my opinion). But this April boasts so many fine novels and poetry collections — so many brilliant translations and renewed classics — that I didn’t stop until 25. Scroll down for new work by Brian Evenson, Meg Wolitzer, César Aira, and many others, including the second BreakBeat Poets anthology.
By Richard Powers
From WW Norton: “A monumental novel about trees and people by one of our most “prodigiously talented” (The New York Times Book Review) novelists. In his twelfth novel, National Book Award winner Richard Powers delivers a sweeping, impassioned novel of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world.”
Amy Brady will interview Powers in this month’s Burning Worlds.
By Gerald Murnane
From FSG: “Border Districts, purportedly the Australian master Gerald Murnane’s final work of fiction, is a hypnotic, precise, and self-lacerating “report” on a life led as an avid reader, fumbling lover, “student of mental imagery,” and devout believer—but a believer not in the commonplaces of religion, but rather in the luminescence of memory and its handmaiden, literature.”
Brian Evenson will review Murnane’s final works for us later this spring.
By Gerald Murnane
From FSG: “Never before available to readers in this hemisphere, these stories—originally published from 1985 to 2012—offer an irresistible compendium of the work of one of contemporary fiction’s greatest magicians.”
Brian Evenson will review Murnane’s final works for us later this spring.
America Is Not the Heart
By Elaine Castillo
From Viking: “An increasingly relevant story told with startling lucidity, humor, and an uncanny ear for the intimacies and shorthand of family ritual, America Is Not the Heart is a sprawling, soulful debut about three generations of women in one family struggling to balance the promise of the American dream and the unshakeable grip of history.”
The Female Persuasion
By Meg Wolitzer
From Riverhead: “Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time.”
Greer Macallister will review The Female Persuasion for us later this month.
By Julia Whicker
From St. Martin’s Press: “A post-apocalyptic fantasy about religious war, a perverse faith, and waiting for the space shuttles to return. In the city of Cape Canaveral, the royal establishment is steeped in excess, and science has been corrupted into a blood-soaked religion. When an outcast girl is captured by a self-styled prophet and warlord, she is thrust into his violent designs on the throne. As war nears, Aurora must decide, is she willing to become her captor’s queen? And just how far will she go to protect herself? Then two strange lights appear in the sky. Have the shuttles of their forebears returned, or have their beliefs led them all to ruin?”
By Amelia Brunskill
Delacorte Press, April 3
“If you love The Third Twin and One of Us Is Lying and binge-watched Thirteen Reasons Why, get ready for a heart-wrenching psychological thriller about a girl who knows her twin sister better than anyone . . . or does she? Taut and atmospheric, The Window will keep you guessing until the end.”
Rachel León will interview Brunskill for us later this month.
The BreakBeat Poets Vol 2
Black Girl Magic
Edited by Mahogany L. Browne, Idrissa Simmonds, and Jamila Woods
Haymarket Books, April 3
“A BreakBeat Poets anthology, Black Girl Magic celebrates and canonizes the words of Black women across the diaspora.”
Essays on the Writing Life
By Jenny Boully
Coffee House Press, April 3
“Jenny Boully’s essays are ripe with romance and sensual pleasures, drawing connections between the digression, reflection, imagination, and experience that characterizes falling in love as well as the life of a writer. Literary theory, philosophy, and linguistics rub up against memory, dreamscapes, and fancy, making the practice of writing a metaphor for the illusory nature of experience. Betwixt and Between is, in many ways, simply a book about how to live.”
By Joy Williams
From Tin House: “With a new introduction by Karen Russell, the 40th anniversary edition of The Changeling is a visionary fairy tale and a work of mythic genius by one of our best writers.”
Tobias Carroll will take another look at The Changeling for us later this month.
Smart: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion
By Michelle Dean
From Grove Press: “From celebrated literary critic Michelle Dean, a powerful portrait of ten women writers who managed to make their voices heard amid a culture of sexism.”
Amy Brady will interview Dean for us later this month.
By Aimee Nezhukumatathil
From Copper Canyon Press: “With inquisitive flair, Aimee Nezhukumatathil creates a thorough registry of the earth’s wonderful and terrible magic. In her fourth collection of poetry, she studies forms of love as diverse and abundant as the ocean itself.”
By Hieu Minh Nguyen
From Coffee House Press: “Being queer and Asian American; families we are born into and ones we chose; nostalgia, trauma and history—all dissected fearlessly. Not Here is a flight plan for escape and a map for navigating home; a queer Vietnamese American body in confrontation with whiteness, trauma, family, and nostalgia; and a big beating heart of a book. Nguyen’s poems ache with loneliness and desire and the giddy terrors of allowing yourself to hope for love, and revel in moments of connection achieved.”
Hailey Dezort will interview Nguyen for us later this month.
Beyond Measure: Essays
By Rachel Z. Arndt
Sarabande Books, April 10
“Beyond Measure is a fascinating exploration of the rituals, routines, metrics and expectations through which we attempt to quantify and ascribe value to our lives. With mordant humor and penetrating intellect, Arndt casts her gaze beyond event-driven narratives to the machinery underlying them: judo competitions measured in weigh-ins and wait times; the significance of the elliptical’s stationary churn; the rote scripts of dating apps; the stupefying sameness of the daily commute.”
By Mary Sharratt
From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: “In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era. Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees. Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, author, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.”
Greer Macallister will interview Sharratt for us later this month.
Heads of the Colored People
By Nafissa Thompson-Spires
From Atria / 37 Ink: “Calling to mind the best works of Paul Beatty and Junot Díaz, this collection of moving, timely, and darkly funny stories examines the concept of black identity in this so-called post-racial era.”
Rabeea Saleem will review Heads of the Colored People for us later this month.
By Richard Wagamese
Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
By Brian Evenson
From Ig Publishing: “Renowned author Brian Evenson offers his take on Raymond Carver’s classic short story collection. A haunting meditation on love, loss, companionship, and finding one’s way through the dark, Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is one of the most important and influential short story collections in contemporary literature. In his entry in the esteemed Bookmarked series, acclaimed author Brian Evenson offers his personal and literary take on this classic Carver collection.
By Rebekah Frumkin
Henry Holt, April 17
“A dazzling epic that follows two very different families in Cleveland across generations, beginning with their patriarchs, who become irrevocably intertwined one fateful night.”
The Life List of Adrian Mandrick
By Chris White
From Touchstone: “H Is for Hawk meets Grief Is the Thing with Feathers in this evocative debut novel about a pill-popping anesthesiologist and avid birder who embarks on a quest to find one of the world’s rarest species, allowing nothing to get in his way—until he’s forced to confront his obsessions and what they’ve cost him.”
By Jeremy C. Shipp
From Tor.com Publishing: “The Atrocities is a haunting gothic tale of a governess tasked with instructing a dead girl. When Isabella died, her parents were determined to ensure her education wouldn’t suffer. But Isabella’s parents had not informed her new governess of Isabella’s… condition, and when Ms Valdez arrives at the estate, having forced herself through a surreal nightmare maze of twisted human-like statues, she discovers that there is no girl to tutor. Or is there…?”
Basic Black With Pearls
By Helen Weinzweig
Introduction by Sarah Weinman
From NYRB Classics: “A brilliant, lost feminist classic that is equal parts domestic drama and international intrigue. Helen Weinzweig published her first novel when she was fifty-eight. Basic Black with Pearls, her second, won the Toronto Book Award and has since come to be recognized as a feminist landmark. Here Weinzweig imbues the formal inventiveness of the nouveau roman with psychological poignancy and surprising humor to tell a story of simultaneous dissolution and discovery.”
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
By Alexander Chee
From Mariner Books: “From the author of The Queen of the Night, an essay collection exploring his education as a man, writer, and activist—and how we form our identities in life and in art.”
“When Loulou peers into the full-length mirror on the closet in the hall – the only one he can reach because of his smallness – he sees his sleek Pomeranian face reversed, but he sees his face. This portrait of the master’s friend Edward James shows the back of the man’s head twice and a book by Poe. Les aventures d’Arthur Gordon Pym reflects correctly, but James’ eyes, nose, mouth, etc. are not reproduced. Poe himself called the novel – his only one – “a very silly book.” Loulou has to agree, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. An important pre-condition of creativity is a feeling of weirdness.”
By Shahriar Mandanipour
Translated by Khalili Sara
From Restless Books: “From ‘one of Iran’s most important living fiction writers’ (The Guardian) comes a fantastically imaginative story of love and war narrated by two angel scribes perched on the shoulders of a shell-shocked Iranian soldier who’s searching for the mysterious woman haunting his dreams.”
The Linden Tree
By César Aira
Translated by Chris Andrews
From New Directions: “The Linden Tree was written in 2003. In it the narrator, who could be Aira himself (born the same year, in the same place, a writer who is now also living PBK in Buenos Aires) revisits down his childhood memories. Beginning with an enigmatically beautiful black father who gathered linden flowers to make a sleep-inducing tea, and continuing on to an irrational and physically deformed mother of European descent, the narrator also catalogs his best childhood friends and the many gossiping neighbors. Aira creates a colorful mosaic of an epoch in Argentina when the poor, under the guiding hand of Eva Peron, aspired to a newfound middle class. Moving from anecdote to anecdote, alternating between the touching, amusing, and sometimes surreal, we are comforted by the fact that for Aira ‘everything is allegory.'”
Aram Mrjoian will review The Linden Tree later this month.
Adam Morgan is the founding editor of the Chicago Review of Books and the Southern Review of Books. His essays and criticism have appeared in The Paris Review, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine, and elsewhere.