Home » Best Books For May 2023 | Hot Type for Savvy Travelers

Best Books For May 2023 | Hot Type for Savvy Travelers

by Our Editors
Hot Type for Savvy Travelers May 2023

Our Spring Reading List include The Echo Chamber by Irish Author John Boyne and for serious coffee aficionados you’ll drink in The New Art of Coffee by Ryan Castelaz. History lovers and geography buffs will all be terrifically tickled by Michael Hingston’s Try Not To Be Strange.

The Echo Chamber by John Boyne

The Echo Chamber by John Boyne

Gay Irish author John Boyne is widely known for his coming-of-age in Dublin novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, and his global bestseller, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a Holocaust story written for young adults. But Boyne is astonishingly prolific: 21 books since his debut in 2000. And while the quality of his writing is consistently high and there are certain thematic resonances throughout his works, he’s drawn his quill across a wide variety of genres, from 19th century historical fiction, to gothic melodramas, to a Patricia Highsmith-influenced crime thriller. So its at once gob stopping and no surprise at all to crack his latest work in paperback, The Echo Chamber (Doubleday. $17.95. johnboyne.com), a frighteningly contemporary laugh-out-loud satire that skewers influencers, the internet, and the entitled. London chat show host George Cleverley is both a cheater and a cuckold. His mistress is pregnant, and his wife, a Danielle Steel-y novelist, who indeed steals stories, is in a heated fling with a young Ukrainian dancer more attached to his pet tortoise than his perpetually horny patroness. Then there are the children: Nelson, a socially inept uniform fetishist; Elizabeth, a virtue signaling nincompoop who shames celebrities on her Twitter account @TruthIsASword; and Achilles, the omnisexual runt of the litter who collects spending money by scamming closeted gay men. A sequence of outrages is set in wild pinballing motion when George inadvertently deadnames his attorney’s trans receptionist and his own daughter makes him a public pariah. The ensuing tsunami of scandal sweeps the entire family into absurd, yet almost credible, territory. Its like Oscar Wilde done up in digital high def.

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The Magician by Colm Toibin

The Magician by Colm Toibin

The latest novel by another acclaimed Irish scribe, Colm Toibin (The Master, The Blackwater Lightship) has also recently been released in paperback. Gloriously absorbing, The Magician ($20. Scribner. colmtoibin.com) finds the Hibernian author turning toward 20th century Germany, where he delves into the simultaneously expressive and repressed genius of 1929 Nobel Prize-winner Thomas Mann, author of Buddenbrooks, The Magic Mountain and perhaps most essential to Toibin’s exploration of his psyche, Death in Venice. Like the protagonist of that slim novella, Mann is a deeply closeted gay middle-aged man, tortured in his attraction to male youth and beauty. His once aristocratic family has fallen in prestige, its members politically divided as Hitler comes to rise. Toibin beautifully conveys Mann’s constantly shifting feelings of ambition, inspiration, and isolation.

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The New Art of Coffee by Ryan Castelaz

The New Art of Coffee by Ryan Castelaz

Do your nearest and dearest include a hardcore java aficionado or a snarky critic of all things pretentious? You’d be hard-pressed to find a more appropriate gift book for either than The New Art of Coffee (Universe. $30. discourse.coffee) by Ryan Castelaz, the founder and “Creative Director” of Discourse Coffee, a caffeine dream dispensary founded in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. Castelaz, an experienced hospitality and mixology pro who has worked at Michelin-starred restaurants, is nothing if not earnest in this reference and recipe book. And some of his simplest tips are flat out brilliant (Try sprinkling the tiniest pinch of salt in your morning brew, the result is revelatory). Yet its tough not to giggle a bit when confronted grandé full-fat zen-tences like, “I had a singular purpose: to awaken my community to new possibilities for coffee. I wanted to express myself through coffee and empower others to do the same.” Then come the formulas for forty Wonka-worthy concoctions that range from hot to cold, boozy to temperate. Along with Kevin Miyazaki’s sensational photography, they’ll either send you racing to the kitchen or fantasizing about a flight to Wisconsin (yes, these bonkers beverages are that tempting). The latter option may actually seem more reasonable when you consider the armory of equipment and ingredients required by Castelaz’s rococo recipes: A sous vide machine, a spherical ice tray, a smoking gun, fennel juice, Orangina, pork fat, and pickled plums. Plus coffee, of course.

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Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers by Kelly McQuain

Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers by Kelly McQuain

From Vampirella to villanelles, Dolly Parton to deconstruction, poet Kelly McQuain gleefully reaches across the imaginary borders between high and low culture in poems that reflect his life’s story, from growing up gay in rural West Virginia to building a revised urban identity as an adult in Philadelphia. His first full-length book is the evocatively titled Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers (Texas Review Press. $21.95. kellymcquain.wordpress.com), winner of the Southern Poetry Breakthrough Prize. Amidst touching meditations on family secrets and hard-earned insights on his longterm relationship, McQuain weaves clever phrasing and wicked humor, as in these lines from “Uncle,” in which he quite literally places mutual masturbation under a microscope: “…the two of us jerked off onto glass slides/to watch our tadpoles flick like manic commas…a Catholic schoolgirl once said/each time a boy masturbates ‘he spews death/on countless millions’ and we laughed at all the times/we’d pleasured ourselves through mass genocide.” Rich in both wisdom and entertainment value, these sharp, sparkling pieces will engage even readers not normally disposed to poetry.

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AIRPLANE READ OF THE MONTH

Try Not To Be Strange by Michael Hingston

Try Not To Be Strange by Michael Hingston

Travelers, history lovers, and geography buffs will all be terrifically tickled by Michael Hingston’s Try Not To Be Strange (Biblioasis. $18.95. michaelhingston.com) a true-ish tale that is strange indeed. Subtitled “The Curious History of the Kingdom of Redonda,” the book delves into the backstory of a craggy bird turd-encrusted speck of land off the coast of Montserrat in the Leeward Islands. Hingston, whose previous books include a history of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, is clearly drawn to kindred eccentric spirits. He explains that, in the 1920s, science fiction writer M.P. Shiel’s father laid claim to the uninhabited mass of rock and, as a 15th birthday gift, crowned his son king. While technically the property of Antigua & Barbuda, alleged rights to the island’s figmentary crown (and a profusion of affiliated royal titles) were nonetheless passed along over the years as gifts and honors, largely among other writers and literary types who fabricated elaborate histories and backstories of Redonda through the years. Few, if any, of the real island’s figurative leaders ever visited their supposed domain as it gradually accrued a Camelot-like reputation, turning the real-life rockpile into a simultaneously mythic fiefdom. Major global literary figures, including Ian McEwan, A.S. Byatt. and Javier Marias, make cameo appearances in this woolly saga of succession and illusion.

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