Our picks for the best books of April include everything from Madeline Miller’s subversive novel about a goddess to Alexander Chee’s powerful essay collection. The 10 books below—including titles from our most anticipated books of 2018 list—will keep you entertained through the coming months.
1. Because We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought by Lily Bailey
Release Date: April 3rd from Harper
Why You’ll Love It: Lily Bailey’s raw memoir offers an unfiltered look at a mind crippled by OCD, resulting in a heartbreaking yet uplifting read.
Description: By the age of 13, Lily Bailey was convinced she was bad. She had killed someone with a thought, spread untold disease and ogled the bodies of other children. Only by performing an exhausting series of secret routines could she make up for what she’d done. But no matter how intricate or repetitive, no act of penance was ever enough.
Beautifully written and astonishingly intimate, Because We Are Bad recounts a childhood consumed by obsessive compulsive disorder. As a child, Bailey created a second personality inside herself—”I” became “we”—to help manifest compulsions that drove every minute of every day of her young life. Now she writes about the forces beneath her skin, and how they ordered, organized and urged her forward. Lily charts her journey, from checking on her younger sister dozens of times a night, to “normalizing” herself at school among new friends as she grew older and finally to her young adult years, learning—indeed, breaking through—to make a way for herself in a big, wide world that refuses to stay in check.
2. Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution by Menno Schilthuizen
Release Date: April 3rd from Picador
Why You’ll Love It: Evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen delivers an entertaining look at how wildlife is rapidly adapting to urban habitats, offering fascinating examples from across the globe.
Description: Menno Schilthuizen is one of a growing number of “urban ecologists” studying how our manmade environments are accelerating the evolution of the animals and plants around us. Cities are extreme environments and, in a world of adapt or die, the wildlife sharing these spaces with us is being forced to adopt fascinating new ways of surviving, and often thriving:
Carrion crows in the Japanese city of Sendai have learned to use passing traffic to crack nuts.
Spiders in Vienna are adapting to build their webs near moth-attracting streetlights, while moths in some cities are developing a resistance to the lure of light bulbs.
Certain Puerto Rican city lizards are evolving feet that better grip surfaces like concrete.
Europe’s urban blackbirds sing at a higher pitch than their rural cousins, to be heard over the din of traffic, while many pigeons have eschewed traveling “as the crow flies” in favor of following manmade roads.
Darwin Comes to Town draws on these and other eye-popping examples to share a stunning vision of urban evolution in which humans and wildlife co-exist in a unique harmony.
3. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
Release Date: April 3rd from Riverhead Books
Why You’ll Love It: Meg Wolitzer’s electric novel tackles power, loyalty and relationships in one compulsively readable story.
Description: To be admired by someone we admire—we all yearn for this: the private, electrifying pleasure of being singled out by someone of esteem. But sometimes it can also mean entry to a new kind of life, a bigger world.
Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at 63, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer—madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place—feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.
4. Varina by Charles Frazier
Release Date: April 3rd from Ecco
Why You’ll Love It:
Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier returns to the Civil War, this time weaving a devastating tale about the First Lady of the Confederate States of America.
Description: With her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects a life of security as a Mississippi landowner. He instead pursues a career in politics and is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, placing Varina at the white-hot center of one of the darkest moments in American history-culpable regardless of her intentions.
The Confederacy falling, her marriage in tatters and the country divided, Varina and her children escape Richmond and travel south on their own, now fugitives with “bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit.”
Intimate in its detailed observations of one woman’s tragic life and epic in its scope and power, Varina is a novel of an American war and its aftermath. Ultimately, the book is a portrait of a woman who comes to realize that complicity carries consequences.
5. Circe by Madeline Miller
Release Date: April 10th from Little, Brown and Company
Why You’ll Love It: Madeline Miller’s follow-up to The Song of Achilles is just as mesmerizing, and you won’t be able to put down this luminous, feminist saga.
Description: In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from or the mortals she has come to love.
6. Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Release Date: April 10th from Atria Books / 37 INK
Why You’ll Love It: Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ short story collection explores black identity in contemporary settings, delivering a gripping and humorous must-read for 2018.
Description: Each captivating story plunges headfirst into the lives of new, utterly original characters. Some are darkly humorous—from two mothers exchanging snide remarks through notes in their kids’ backpacks, to the young girl contemplating how best to notify her Facebook friends of her impending suicide—while others are devastatingly poignant—a new mother and funeral singer who is driven to madness with grief for the young black boys who have fallen victim to gun violence, or the teen who struggles between her upper middle class upbringing and her desire to fully connect with black culture.
Nafissa Thompson-Spires fearlessly shines a light on the simmering tensions and precariousness of black citizenship. Her stories are exquisitely rendered, satirical and captivating in turn, engaging in the ongoing conversations about race and identity politics, as well as the vulnerability of the black body. Boldly resisting categorization and easy answers, Thompson-Spires is an original and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.
7. Macbeth by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett
Release Date: April 10th from Hogarth
Why You’ll Love It: The latest addition to Hogarth’s Shakespeare project, Jo Nesbø’s thrilling novel reimagines Macbeth in a drug-ridden industrial town in the 1970s.
Description: Duncan, chief of police, is idealistic and visionary, a dream to the townspeople but a nightmare for criminals. The drug trade is ruled by two drug lords, one of whom—a master of manipulation named Hecate—has connections with the highest in power and plans to use them to get his way.
Hecate’s plot hinges on steadily, insidiously manipulating Inspector Macbeth: the head of SWAT and a man already susceptible to violent and paranoid tendencies. What follows is an unputdownable story of love and guilt, political ambition and greed, exploring the darkest corners of human nature and the aspirations of the criminal mind.
8. The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein
Release Date: April 10th from St. Martin’s Press
Why You’ll Love It: It’s challenging to describe The Trauma Cleaner, but in chronicling a remarkable woman’s life, Sarah Krasnostein has created an engaging reading experience.
Description: Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife. . . But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.
A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for 40 years. A man who bled quietly to death in his living room. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose.
Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead?and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.
9. Before Mars by Emma Newman
Release Date: April 17th from Ace
Why You’ll Love It: A standalone novel set in Emma Newman’s fantastic Planetfall universe, Before Mars delivers another thrilling sci-fi story that grapples with mental health issues.
Description: After months of travel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist in residence—and already she feels she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth.
In her room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note, painted in her own hand, warning her not to trust the colony psychiatrist. A note she can’t remember painting.
When she finds a footprint in a place that the colony AI claims has never been visited by humans, Anna begins to suspect that she is caught up in an elaborate corporate conspiracy. Or is she losing her grip on reality? Anna must find the truth, regardless of what horrors she might discover or what they might do to her mind.
10. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee
Release Date: April 17th from Mariner Books
Why You’ll Love It: Believe the hype surrounding Alexander Chee’s upcoming essay collection; this book is well worth a read.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is Alexander Chee’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing—Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley—the writing of his first novel, Edinburgh, and the election of Donald Trump.
By turns commanding, heartbreaking and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.