Every month, a deluge of new books comes flooding out from big publishers, indie houses, and self-publishing platforms. So every month, The A.V. Club narrows down the endless options to five (or six) of the books we’re most excited about.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews (April 2, Bloomsbury)
From 2005 to 2009, more than 130 Mennonite women in Bolivia were drugged and raped by a group of men in their community. Anesthetized with animal tranquilizers sprayed into their homes at night, the women would wake in the morning bloodied and in pain. When they spoke up, the acts were explained as the work of the devil or “wild female imagination.” Women Talking is Miriam Toews’ imagined response to these real crimes, the novel taking place over the course of two days as the women debate among themselves on how to respond: do nothing, leave, or stay and fight. The book was published in Canada and the U.K. last year, and has earned a great deal of praise, including from Toews’ fellow Canadian Margaret Atwood.
Read our review of Women Talking here.
How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy by Jenny Odell (April 9, Melville House)
How To Do Nothing should have instead been called How To Do Something Significant (Also: Twitter Sucks). First a lecture, then popular article, and now expanded into a full-length book, How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy is a manifesto for the internet age. In it, artist and writer Jenny Odell calls for intentionally retreating from the unending demands that social media and the internet make on our attention, so that we can instead more clearly think our own thoughts and accomplish something meaningful. This isn’t just about finally quitting Facebook or limiting “screen time.” How To Do Nothing insists upon a complete shift in our thinking and a re-engagement in our local, physical communities.
Ways Of Hearing by Damon Krukowski (April 9, MIT Press)
The transition from analog to digital audio has been dramatic: from listeners dropping the needle on vinyl discs to strap-hanging through the city with earbuds in, from bands recording live to tape to assembling albums via email. With Ways Of Hearing, author and musician Damon Krukowski (Damon & Naomi, Galaxie 500) asks us to stop and think about the implications of our modern music habits. Like the short-run podcast of the same name, the book takes its inspiration from John Berger’s 1972 television series Ways Of Seeing, itself adapted to the page, and its design plays with the medium as it explores how digital audio is shifting our “perceptions of time, space, love, money, and power.”
Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac (April 16, Soho Press)
Receiving a translation four years after its initial Argentinean publication (her debut novel, Savage Theories, made its English-language arrival in 2017), Pola Oloixarac’s follow-up to her well-received first book is a dizzying sci-fi exploration of science, sex, and alternate-history hypothesizing that more than delivers on the expectations set by her earlier work. The book jumps back and forth in time between 19th-century botanists, late-20th-century hackers, and a near-future cyberpunk vision of DNA as the most valuable resource in an increasingly privacy-free world. Oloixarac toggles between severity and satire with Borgesian ease, yet her bleak visions of a society so easily conquered by a small number of amoral innovators is eerily plausible, and captured with an evocative lyricism. The Argentinean writer’s second novel is ambitious in its centuries-spanning story, the heady combination of philosophy and political allegory containing a soupçon of nearly every major issue of our times.
Normal People by Sally Rooney (April 16, Hogarth)
Released last year in the U.K. to wide acclaim (including a Man Booker nomination), Sally Rooney’s highly anticipated second novel at last arrives Stateside this month. With Normal People, the “Salinger for the Snapchat generation” returns with another story of what it’s like to be young and overeducated in the internet era, this time introducing her characters while in high school and following them to university. Popular, well-adjusted Connell and lonely, fiercely intelligent Marianne form a distant connection while living under their respective parents’ roofs, then circle each other throughout their years at Trinity, navigating the new world of Dublin. Rooney has once again written a smart, precisely crafted novel of sex, class, and interpersonal relationships.
The Socialist Manifesto by Bhaskar Sunkara (April 30, Basic Books)
Bhaskar Sunkara, founder of the popular, accessible socialist magazine Jacobin, is a leading voice on the political left, which has seen renewed energy and support since Bernie Sanders’ enlivening 2016 presidential campaign and Trump’s disgraceful time in office. Sunkara’s Socialist Manifesto sounds like a clean collecting, condensing, and reifying of the ideas that have run in Jacobin and throughout the contemporary socialist movement. Sunkara has also written for other outlets, publishing frequently in The Guardian, and it’s his broadly appealing way of translating modern problems like economic inequities—under which falls enormous price tags for health insurance, education, and housing—that have resulted in many millennials saying they prefer socialism to capitalism. Here’s hoping The Socialist Manifesto is as visionary as its namesake.
More in April: Hold Fast Your Crown by Yannick Haenel (April 2, Other Press); Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (April 2, One World); Native Country Of The Heart: A Memoir by Cherrie Moraga (April 2, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); The Light Years by Chris Rush (April 2, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); The Affairs Of The Falcóns by Melissa Rivero (April 2, Ecco); Stay Up With Hugo Best by Erin Somers (April 2, Scribner); A Wonderful Stroke Of Luck by Ann Beattie (April 2, Viking); 33 ⅓: The Shangri-Las’ Golden Hits Of The Shangri-Las by Ada Wolin (April 4); Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza (April 9, Catapult); Notes From A Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi (April 9, Knopf); Naamah by Sarah Blake (April 8, Riverhead); Trust Exercise by Susan Choi (April 9, Henry Holt); Miracle Creek by Angie Kim (April 16, Sarah Crichton Books); Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg (April 16, Scribner); Pop Culture And The Dark Side Of The American Dream: Con Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, And Zombies by Paul A. Cantor (April 22, University Press Of Kentucky); This Searing Light, The Sun And Everything Else: Joy Division: The Oral History by Jon Savage (April 23, Faber & Faber); We Speak For Ourselves: A Word From Forgotten Black America by D. Watkins (April 23, Atria); Flowers Of Mold by Ha Seong-nan (April 23, Open Letter); The Besieged City by Clarice Lispector (April 30, New Directions); Walking On The Ceiling by Ayşegül Savaş (April 30, Riverhead); Why You Like It: The Science And Culture Of Musical Taste by Nolan Gasser (April 30, Flatiron); Spring by Ali Smith (April 30, Pantheon)