The 10 best books of April hint at change in the air

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“Spring in the world! And all things are made new!” declared Richard Hovey in his 1892 poem “Spring.”

The books recommended by our reviewers this month include novels about characters who reinvent themselves, reject the status quo, and refuse to mold themselves to society’s limited expectations. By embracing their quirky individuality, they find hidden depths and strength.

Why We Wrote This

Our reviewers’ picks for this month include books about challenging sexism, moving out of complacency, and recognizing the impact of today’s decisions on the future. And, for poetry month, a collection of poems offers ways to find joy and connection in small moments.

A fresh start can also happen for a town, in this case an Italian village whose devoted mayor is determined to find a way to save it. 

Among the nonfiction selections are a biography of an unheralded archaeologist who discovered the ancient buried city of Alexandria in Egypt, a memoir of a Jordanian-born woman who founded an education program for refugee children in America, and an in-depth look at what caused dinosaurs to die out. 

Spring is a time of fresh starts, and many of the books recommended this month amplify that message. From Anna Quindlen’s advice about “Writing for Your Life” to James Crews’ collection of poems, “The Path to Kindness,” these titles will put a little bounce in your step.   

1. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

“Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.” It’s 1961, and these brisk, bold words close “Supper at Six,” America’s hit TV cooking show hosted by Elizabeth Zott. Brilliant and determined, the 30-something chemist would rather work in a research lab; the story of why she doesn’t, her efforts to return there, and the social toll of the era’s noxious sexism roils and rivets in this potent debut novel. (Full review here.)

Why We Wrote This

Our reviewers’ picks for this month include books about challenging sexism, moving out of complacency, and recognizing the impact of today’s decisions on the future. And, for poetry month, a collection of poems offers ways to find joy and connection in small moments.

2. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Gaspery Roberts travels through time, hunting for answers to a mysterious anomaly. Emily St. John Mandel’s new novel, intertwined with, but not dependent upon, her previous one, “The Glass Hotel,” transports readers from British Columbia to New York to the farthest planets. The precariousness of civilization, plus the impact of today’s decisions on tomorrow, receive thoughtful, lyrical treatment.

3. The Patron Saint of Second Chances by Christine Simon

The self-appointed mayor of Prometto, Italy, needs to secretly raise tourist dollars to save the village. So he starts a rumor that a famous actor is filming his next movie there. Excitement spreads through the town, even reaching the ears of the actor’s agent, who makes the rumor true. This charming comedy, filled with devoted and lovable characters, is a breath of fresh air.

4. Hope and Glory by Jendella Benson

A British Nigerian woman returns to London to try to mend her fractured family after the death of her father. Jendella Benson shows both the racist stereotypes under which the family labors and the hidden strength and goodness of her characters. 

5. Theatre of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth

Zillah, a young biracial woman performs as The Great Amazonia at Crillick’s Variety Theatre in the late 1840s. An encounter, plus a glimpse of a horrifying new stage act, sets Zillah on a path out of complacency. The novel considers the costs of pretending – and the challenges of choosing only parts of one’s identity.

6. The Path to Kindness edited by James Crews

This anthology, a follow-up to James Crews’ bestselling collection “How to Love the World,” features more than 100 poems that highlight the importance of finding joy and connection in small moments. 

7. Writing for Your Life by Anna Quindlen

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Anna Quindlen turns a spotlight on her own craft. In passionate and often soaring prose, she urges her readers to take up a pen or keyboard and try writing for themselves. 

8. The King’s Shadow by Edmund Richardson

In the 1830s, a private in the army of the East India Company wandered into Afghanistan and made a series of breathtaking archaeological discoveries. When the Anglo-Afghan wars broke out, he is imprisoned and his notes are lost. In this thriller-like nonfiction account, author Edmund Richardson reclaims the legacy of Charles Masson.

9. Learning America by Luma Mufleh

In her riveting debut, Jordanian-born Luma Mufleh describes how her encounter with a group of refugee boys playing soccer in a Georgia parking lot led to her founding of the Fugees Academy schools, which serve refugee children who’ve been resettled in the United States.  

10. The Last Days of the Dinosaurs by Riley Black

A familiar topic is transformed into a gripping tale of chaos, destruction, and resilience. Riley Black helps us understand the planetwide catastrophe on a comprehensible scale, while explaining why it matters.

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