April 2018 Books to Read!

I fulfilled my goal of having a great winter, and I hope you had a great one, too! Still, once spring comes around, I perk up quite a bit and I love to go sit in the garden with a book. The list below is so exciting I wish that all I had to do this month was sit down in the garden and read!

Which ones have I missed that you’re excited about?

The links to Amazon.com are affiliate links, so if you purchase the book (or any item) by going there from this page, we’ll make a bit of money for the site. Do not feel obligated, of course — we’ll keep going regardless! Release dates are based on the U.S. release date.

April 3

Stream Systems: The Collected Short Fiction of Gerald Murnane
by Gerald Murnane
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

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.

While the Australian master Gerald Murnane’s reputation rests largely on his longer works of fiction, his short stories stand among the most brilliant and idiosyncratic uses of the form since Borges, Beckett, and Nabokov. Brutal, comic, obscene, and crystalline, Stream System runs from the haunting “Land Deal,” which imagines the colonization of Australia and the ultimate vengeance of its indigenous people as a series of nested dreams; to “Finger Web,” which tells a quietly terrifying, fractal tale of the scars of war and the roots of misogyny; to “The Interior of Gaaldine,” which finds its anxious protagonist stranded beyond the limits of fiction itself.

No one else writes like Murnane, and there are few other authors alive still capable of changing how?and why?we read.

Border Districts
by Gerald Murnane
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

“The mind is a place best viewed from borderlands . . .”

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.

In Border Districts, a man moves from a capital city to a remote town in the border country, where he intends to spend the last years of his life. It is time, he thinks, to review the spoils of a lifetime of seeing, a lifetime of reading. Which sights, which people, which books, fictional characters, turns of phrase, and lines of verse will survive into the twilight? A dark-haired woman with a wistful expression? An ancestral house in the grasslands? The colors in translucent panes of glass, in marbles and goldfish and racing silks? Feeling an increasing urgency to put his mental landscape in order, the man sets to work cataloging this treasure, little knowing where his “report” will lead and what secrets will be brought to light.

Border Districts is a jewel of a farewell from one of the greatest living writers of English prose.

See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary
by Lorrie Moore
Knopf

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Knopf:

A welcome surprise: more than fifty prose pieces, gathered together for the first time, by one of America’s most revered and admired novelists and short-story writers, whose articles, essays, and cultural commentary–appearing in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Harper’s Magazine, and elsewhere–have been parsing the political, artistic, and media idiom for the last three decades.

From Lorrie Moore’s earliest reviews of novels by Margaret Atwood and Nora Ephron, to an essay on Ezra Edelman’s 2016 O.J. Simpson documentary, and in between: Moore on the writing of fiction (the work of V. S. Pritchett, Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, Stanley Elkin, Dawn Powell, Nicholson Baker, et al.) . . . on the continuing unequal state of race in America . . . on the shock of the shocking GOP . . . on the dangers (and cruel truths) of celebrity marriages and love affairs . . . on the wilds of television (The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Into the Abyss, Girls, Homeland, True Detective, Making a Murderer) . . . on the (d)evolving environment . . . on terrorism, the historical imagination, and the world’s newest form of novelist . . . on the lesser (and larger) lives of biography and the midwifery between art and life (Anaïs Nin, Marilyn Monroe, John Cheever, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eudora Welty, Bernard Malamud, among others) . . . and on the high art of being Helen Gurley Brown . . . and much, much more.

Varina
by Charles Frazier
Ecco

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Ecco:

In his powerful new novel, Charles Frazier returns to the time and place of Cold Mountain, vividly bringing to life the chaos and devastation of the Civil War.

Her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects the secure life of a Mississippi landowner. Davis 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.

First Person
by Richard Flanagan
Knopf

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Knopf:

From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, the hypnotic tale of a ghost writer writing the memoir of a notorious con man, and the chilling events that unfold as their lives become increasingly intertwined.

Kif Kehlmann, a young, penniless writer, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl offers Kehlmann the job of ghost writing his memoir. He has six weeks to write the book, for which he’ll be paid $10,000.

But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghost writing a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him–his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: Who is Siegfried Heidl–and who is Kif Kehlmann?

As time runs out, as Kehlmann’s world feels it is hurtling toward a catharsis, one question looms above all others: What is the truth?

By turns compelling, comic, and chilling, this is a haunting journey into the heart of our age.


April 10

Cove
by Cynan Jones
Catapult

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Catapult:

“Cynan Jones is utterly brilliant. The writing in Cove is so delicate and cruel and insightful. I don’t understand why no statues have been erected in his honour yet.” ?Eimear McBride, The Times Literary Supplement

Out at sea, in a sudden storm, a man is struck by lightning. When he wakes, injured and adrift on a kayak, his memory of who he is and how he came to be here is all but shattered. He will need to rely on his instincts, resilience, and imagination to get safely back to the woman he dimly senses is waiting for his return. This is an extraordinary, visceral portrait of a man locked in a struggle with the forces of nature.

Woman of the Ashes
by Mia Couto
translated from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

The first in a trilogy about the last emperor of southern Mozambique by one of Africa’s most important writers.

Southern Mozambique, 1894. Sergeant Germano de Melo is posted to the village of Nkokolani to oversee the Portuguese conquest of territory claimed by Ngungunyane, the last of the leaders of the state of Gaza, the second-largest empire led by an African. Ngungunyane has raised an army to resist colonial rule and with his warriors is slowly approaching the border village. Desperate for help, Germano enlists Imani, a fifteen-year-old girl, to act as his interpreter. She belongs to the VaChopi tribe, one of the few who dared side with the Portuguese. But while one of her brothers fights for the Crown of Portugal, the other has chosen the African emperor. Standing astride two kingdoms, Imani is drawn to Germano, just as he is drawn to her. But she knows that in a country haunted by violence, the only way out for a woman is to go unnoticed, as if made of shadows or ashes.

Alternating between the voices of Imani and Germano, Mia Couto’s Woman of the Ashescombines vivid folkloric prose with extensive historical research to give a spellbinding and unsettling account of war-torn Mozambique at the end of the nineteenth century.

Circe
by Madeline Miller
Little, Brown and Company

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Little, Brown and Company:

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.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.

The Kremlin Ball
by Curzio Malaparte
translated from the Italian by Jenny McPhee
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Perhaps only the impeccably perverse imagination of Curzio Malaparte could have conceived of The Kremlin Ball, which might be described as Proust in the corridors of Soviet power. Malaparte began this impertinent portrait of Russia’s Marxist aristocracy while he was working on The Skin, his story of American-occupied Naples, and after publishing Kaputt, his depiction of Europe in the hands of the Axis, thinking of this book as a another “picture of the truth” and a third panel in a great composition depicting the decadence of twentieth-century Europe. The book is set at the end of the 1920s, when the great terror may have been nothing more than a twinkle in Stalin’s eye, but when the revolution was accompanied by a growing sense of doom. In Malaparte’s vision it is from his nightly opera box, rather than the Kremlin, that Stalin surveys Soviet high society, its scandals and amours and intrigues among beauties and bureaucrats, including legendary ballerina Marina Semyonova and Olga Kameneva, sister of the exiled Trotsky, who though a powerful politician is so consumed by dread that everywhere she goes she gives off a smell of rotting meat. Unfinished at the time of Malaparte’s death, this extraordinary court chronicle of Communist life (for which Malaparte also contemplated the title God is a Killer) was only published posthumously in Italy over fifty years after Malaparte’s death and appears in English now for the first time ever.

Macbeth
by Jo Nesbo
translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
Hogarth Shakespeare

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Hogarth Shakespeare:

Set in the 1970s in a run-down, rainy industrial town, Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth centers around a police force struggling to shed an incessant drug problem. 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 for more, exploring the darkest corners of human nature, and the aspirations of the criminal mind.


April 17

Villa Amalia
by Pascal Quignard
translated from the French by Chris Turner
Seagull Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Seagull Books:

Musician Ann Hidden suspects her partner, Thomas, isn’t telling her everything. So one dark night, she secretly follows him to an unfamiliar house in the Paris suburbs, where he disappears inside with an unknown woman. But before she can even begin to process what looks like a betrayal, she gets another surprise—an old schoolmate, Georges Roehlinger, appears, berating her for spying the from the bushes.

?With Georges’s help, Ann takes radical action: while Thomas is away, she resolves to secretly sell their shared house and get rid of all the physical manifestations of their sixteen years together. Thomas returns to find her gone, the locks changed, and his few possessions packed up and sent to his office. Ann, meanwhile, has fled the country and started a new, hidden life. But our past is never that easy to escape, and Ann’s secrets eventually seek her out.

Fox
by Dubravka Ugresic
translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac and David Williams
Open Letter Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Open Letter Books:

With characteristic wit and narrative force, Fox takes us from Russia to Japan, through Balkan minefields and American road trips, and from the 1920s to the present, as it explores the power of storytelling and literary invention, notions of betrayal, and the randomness of human lives and biographies.

Using the duplicitous and shape-shifting fox of Eastern folklore as a motif, Ugresic constructs a novel that reinvents itself over and over, blending nuggets of literary trivia (like how Nabokov named the Neonympha dorothea dorothea butterfly after the woman who drove him cross-country), with the timeless story of a woman trying to escape her hometown and find love to magical effect.

Propelled by literary footnotes and “minor” characters, Fox is vintage Ugresic, recovering the voices of those on the margins with a verve that’s impassioned, learned, and hilarious.

Basic Black with Pearls
by Helen Weinzweig
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

A brilliant, lost feminist classic that is equal parts domestic drama and international intrigue.

Shirley and Coenraad’s affair has been going on for decades, but her longing for him is as desperate as ever. She is a Toronto housewife; he works for an international organization known only as the Agency. Their rendezvous take place in Tangier, in Hong Kong, in Rome and are arranged by an intricate code based on notes slipped into issues of National Geographic. He recognizes her by her costume: a respectable black dress and string of pearls; his appearance, however, is changeable. But something has happened, the code has been discovered, and Coenraad sends Shirley (who prefers to be known as “Lola Montez”) to Toronto, the last place she wants to go. There the trail leads her through the sites of her impoverished immigrant childhood and sends her, finally, to her own house, where she discards her pearls and trades in her basic black for a dress of vibrant multicolored silk.

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.

The Farm
by Hector Abad
translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean
Archipelago Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Archipelago Books:

Closely knit Colombian siblings’ internal rifts threaten to tear apart the hard-won legacy their father fought to establish against guerilla and paramilitary violence. An intimate and transgressive novel that confirms Héctor Abad as one of the great writers of Latin American literature today.

Pilar, Eva, and Antonio Ángel are the last heirs of La Oculta, a farm hidden in the mountains of Colombia. The land has survived several generations. It is the landscape of their happiest memories but it is also where they have had to face the siege of violence and terror, restlessness and flight.

In The Farm, Héctor Abad illuminates the vicissitudes of a family and of a people, as well as of the voices of these three siblings, recounting their loves, fears, desires, and hopes, all against a dazzling backdrop. We enter their lives at the moment when they are about to lose the paradise on which they built their dreams and their reality.

The Only Story
by Julian Barnes
Knopf

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Knopf:

From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending, a novel about a young man on the cusp of adulthood and a woman who has long been there, a love story shot through with sheer beauty, profound sadness, and deep truth.

Most of us have only one story to tell. I don’t mean that only one thing happens to us in our lives: there are countless events, which we turn into countless stories. But there’s only one that matters, only one finally worth telling. This is mine.

One summer in the sixties, in a staid suburb south of London, Paul comes home from university, aged nineteen, and is urged by his mother to join the tennis club. In the mixed-doubles tournament he’s partnered with Susan Macleod, a fine player who’s forty-eight, confident, ironic, and married, with two nearly adult daughters. She is also a warm companion, their bond immediate. And they soon, inevitably, are lovers. Clinging to each other as though their lives depend on it, they then set up house in London to escape his parents and the abusive Mr. Mcleod.

Decades later, Paul looks back at how they fell in love, how he freed Susan from a sterile marriage, and how–gradually, relentlessly–everything fell apart, and he found himself struggling to understand the intricacy and depth of the human heart. It’s a piercing account of helpless devotion, and of how memory can confound us and fail us and surprise us (sometimes all at once), of how, as Paul puts it, “first love fixes a life forever.”


April 24

You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories
by Curtis Sittenfeld
Random House

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Random House:

Curtis Sittenfeld has established a reputation as a sharp chronicler of the modern age who humanizes her subjects even as she skewers them. Now, with this first collection of short fiction, her “astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads” (The Washington Post) is showcased like never before.

Throughout the ten stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It, Sittenfeld upends assumptions about class, relationships, and gender roles in a nation that feels both adrift and viscerally divided. In “The World Has Many Butterflies,” married acquaintances play a strangely intimate game with devastating consequences. In “Vox Clamantis in Deserto,” a shy Ivy League student learns the truth about a classmate’s seemingly enviable life. In “A Regular Couple,” a high-powered lawyer honeymooning with her husband is caught off guard by the appearance of the girl who tormented her in high school. And in “The Prairie Wife,” a suburban mother of two fantasizes about the downfall of an old friend whose wholesome lifestyle empire may or may not be built on a lie.

With moving insight and uncanny precision, Curtis Sittenfeld pinpoints the questionable decisions, missed connections, and sometimes extraordinary coincidences that make up a life. Indeed, she writes what we’re all thinking—if only we could express it with the wit of a master satirist, the storytelling gifts of an old-fashioned raconteur, and the vision of an American original.

The Emissary
by Yoko Tawada
translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani
New Directions

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from New Directions:

Japan, after suffering from a massive irreparable disaster, cuts itself off from the world. Children are so weak they can barely stand or walk: the only people with any get-go are the elderly. Mumei lives with his grandfather Yoshiro, who worries about him constantly. They carry on a day-to-day routine in what could be viewed as a post-Fukushima time, with all the children born ancient?frail and gray-haired, yet incredibly compassionate and wise. Mumei may be enfeebled and feverish, but he is a beacon of hope, full of wit and free of self-pity and pessimism. Yoshiro concentrates on nourishing Mumei, a strangely wonderful boy who offers “the beauty of the time that is yet to come.”

A delightful, irrepressibly funny book, The Emissary is filled with light. Yoko Tawada, deftly turning inside-out “the curse,” defies gravity and creates a playful joyous novel out of a dystopian one, with a legerdemain uniquely her own.

Elmore Leonard: Westerns
Last Stand at Sabre River
Hombre
-Valdez Is Coming
-Forty Lashes Less One
-Stories
The Library of America

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from The Library of America:

One of the great storytellers of our time, Elmore Leonard perfected his craft writing Westerns, a genre he loved. These tales–some adapted into such outstanding films as Hombre, Valdez Is Coming, and 3:10 to Yuma–are unexcelled for their wiry tautness, sharp characterizations, and jolts of unexpected humor. For sheer stripped-down narrative tension Leonard never did anything better, and the fresh twists he finds in resolving the genre’s classic confrontations reveal a master at work. Whether describing a Civil War veteran coming back to find his homestead stolen (Last Stand at Saber River), a man raised by Apaches treated with contempt by the white settlers who will ultimately depend on him for their survival (Hombre), a local constable, tricked into killing an innocent man, fighting back against the powerful man who duped him (Valdez Is Coming), or two convicts in a desert prison–one African American and the other half-Apache–plotting a near-impossible escape (Forty Lashes Less One), Leonard’s westerns are tough, suspenseful, convincing, and beautifully spare in style.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Mookse and the Gripes on Patreon!