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Put a spring in your step with the 10 best books of April

“With the coming of spring, I am calm again,” wrote Gustav Mahler, the Austrian composer, and many readers would echo his sentiment, with a slight addition: “With the coming of spring books.” The month of April brings delightful fiction, which in a strange convergence includes many animals: a motherless elephant, a lonely monkey, bees, and even a mongoose. In the nonfiction category, a stellar biography of Nancy Reagan and a comprehensive history of capitalism offer fresh insights. 

Why We Wrote This

A sprightly bouquet of books celebrates the qualities of loyalty, humor, imagination, and unflinching candor in this month’s picks.

From a buoyant novel to an eloquent memoir, and from a spot-on biography to a history of the slave trade, April books provide opportunities for reflection and renewal. 

1. The Elephant of Belfast by S. Kirk Walsh

A young zookeeper caring for a motherless elephant plumbs the depths of love and loyalty in a spellbinding novel set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in World War II. S. Kirk Walsh’s account was inspired by the true story of the “elephant angel” of the Belfast Zoo, and she provides a deeply researched backdrop for complex characters.

Why We Wrote This

A sprightly bouquet of books celebrates the qualities of loyalty, humor, imagination, and unflinching candor in this month’s picks.

2. Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

This funny, smart, and enormously kindhearted novel begins in 2002, as Jane, a 20-something Michigander and second grade teacher, settles into her new life in upstate Boyne City. As Jane’s love life kicks into gear and her social circle expands, the dynamics of small-town relationships play out in honest, hilarious ways.

3. First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami enthralls with this short-story collection that proves again why he is foremost a remarkably affecting storyteller. In these tales, older men remember their younger selves; a tanka writer disappears but her verses linger; Charlie Parker plays again; a lonely monkey speaks of love; and baseball inspires poetry.

4. The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin

The striking beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and the humble marvel of beekeeping, bring home nature’s life lessons to a trio of misfits in Eileen Garvin’s debut novel. This charming small-town story about second chances hums along, with the characters finding renewal in the kindness of friendship.

5. Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi

Otto and Xavier Shin and their pet mongoose set off on a mysterious train trip, the start of a surreal adventure of imaginings and memories and illusions. In this weird and wonderful novel, the trio explore the exquisite sleeper train as they uncover enigmas including personal insights that will forever bind them together.

6. My Broken Language by Quiara Alegría Hudes

Quiara Alegría Hudes wrote the book for the Tony-winning musical “In the Heights” and won a Pulitzer for her play “Water by the Spoonful.” In this raw and eloquent memoir, she brings a brutal honesty to the experiences of Latina girls and women. She uncovers how language both reflects and distorts the self-images of immigrants.

7. The Light of Days by Judy Batalion

Judy Batalion’s thrilling, devastating book tells of an underground network of young Jewish women in Poland who resisted the Nazis by engaging in smuggling, sabotage, and even armed defense. Their courageous deeds, largely forgotten until now, are astounding. 

8. The Ledger and the Chain by Joshua Rothman

In smoothly readable prose and with an unflinching moral eye, Joshua Rothman uses the biographies of a few key players to investigate the internal slave trade of America in the years before the Civil War, when a half-million enslaved people were bought and sold all over the South.

9. The Triumph of Nancy Reagan by Karen Tumulty

Karen Tumulty combines years of original research and sharply readable prose to effect a near-miracle: the complete rescue of former first lady Nancy Reagan from the hands of slanderers and trivializers. The woman who emerges from these pages might not always be likable, but she’s the most formidable first lady in half a century.

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10. Ages of American Capitalism by Jonathan Levy

Economic historian Jonathan Levy has written a history of the American economy that is simultaneously comprehensive and readable. He explains fundamental economic concepts and their importance with unusual clarity, and recounts the major economic and societal shifts in the United States with an emphasis on their effects on ordinary lives.

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