The 10 best books of May to enjoy in the fresh air

From debut novels to political biographies, May brings showers of new releases to entertain and enlighten.

Courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company and Hachette Book Group
“Our Riches” by Kaouther Adimi, New Directions, 160 pp.; and “A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth” by Daniel Mason, Little, Brown and Company, 240 pp.

Travel to Algeria or to Jane Austen’s village, go deeper into current events, or become engrossed in the lives of the powerful, with the books that appealed to Monitor reviewers this month. 

1. A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth by Daniel Mason

This collection of nine stories captures characters in the midst of remarkable experiences: a hot air balloonist investigating the upper atmosphere, a French telegraph operator discovering companionship deep in the Amazon, a bug collector corresponding with Charles Darwin. Daniel Mason conveys more in a short story than many authors manage in an entire novel.

2. Our Riches by Kaouther Adimi

Kaouther Adimi writes about the famed Les Vraies Richesses bookstore in Algiers, Algeria. Plundered by French colonial forces in the 20th century, it is now the setting for another effort to suppress culture and free thought. The novel celebrates bookstores and the power of the written word.

3. The Index of Self-Destructive Acts by Christopher Beha

New York City after the 2008 financial collapse provides the setting for Christopher Beha’s modern-day morality tale in which algorithmic thinking clashes with impulsiveness. Cleverly written with poetic overtones, the narrative provides engaging twists and turns.

4. Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Courtesy of Penguin Random House
“Rodham” by Curtis Sittenfeld, Random House, 432 pp.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel poses the question, what would have become of Hillary had she not married Bill Clinton? “Rodham” moves from her graduation from Wellesley College through an alternate universe of personal and political highs and lows. It’s a peculiar fantasy, but one that will resonate with readers who think Hillary got a raw deal.

5. The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson

When eccentric matriarch Helen Miller dies, she leaves her estranged family with a secret treasure – the missing Florentine Diamond. Faults and foibles come to light as the Millers discover that love, family, and forgiveness may be more valuable than a vast fortune.

6. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Natalie Jenner’s lovingly crafted debut novel weaves together the post-World War II lives of lost souls in Chowton, England, who find renewed life and happiness in uniting to preserve author Jane Austen’s cottage as a museum. Dodging personal regrets, small-town gossip, and unfortunate schemes, they ultimately find that friendship wins the day.

7. In Deep by David Rohde

At the heart of President Donald Trump’s claims that a “deep state” is conspiring to undermine his presidency are long-standing debates over executive power and checks and balances. Pulitzer Prize winner David Rohde’s lucid investigation of the role unelected intelligence and military officials play in policy is a timely and compelling read.

8. The Hour of Fate by Susan Berfield

Historian Susan Berfield writes a fascinating account of the clash between two of the biggest personalities of the Progressive era –President Theodore Roosevelt and financier J.P. Morgan – in a fight over whether the United States would be controlled by government or business interests. 

9. Pelosi by Molly Ball

Courtesy of Macmillan Publishers
“Pelosi” by Molly Ball, Henry Holt and Co., 368 pp.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has long been vilified by the right and often underappreciated by her own party. But between her willingness to stand up to President Donald Trump and her ability to wrangle votes with LBJ-like mastery, her stock has risen. Journalist Molly Ball’s sharp, admiring biography shows how the tireless, dauntless Pelosi became the most powerful woman in politics.

10. Dark Mirror by Barton Gellman

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman writes an insider account of the breaking of Edward Snowden’s story and its wider implications for the modern world, all told in prose as gripping as a spy thriller.

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