Home » Hot Type for Savvy Travelers — The Best Books For April 2020

Hot Type for Savvy Travelers — The Best Books For April 2020

by Jim Gladstone
April Best Books of the Month

April Best Books of the Month - The OverstoryIt’s rare for a single novel to combine stunning prose style, emotionally engrossing storylines, undeniable moral gravity, and several college semesters’ worth of esoteric information. When such a book comes along, it deserves to be celebrated. And in the case of Richard Powers’ The Overstory (W.W. Norton. $18.95. www.richardpowers.com), it has been. This decades-sweeping work of compassion for humanity and for the natural world that we both depend upon and destroy, won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize and was named a best book of the year in publications including The Washington Post, Oprah Magazine and Time. LGBTQ folks will have their minds opened further by Powers’ compelling argument that we must appreciate and honor diversity, not just among people, but all living creatures. In early chapters that could stand alone as brilliant short stories, we meet the novel’s nine central characters, including an Airforce veteran suffering with PTSD, an Asian-American engineer- turned-therapist, a paraplegic Indian American computer genius evocative of Stephen Hawking, and a brilliant botanist with a theory that plants communicate with each other. Each of these people has an early-life encounter with a tree that makes a profound imprint on their souls. In a plot that feels organic rather than coincidental, these disparate individuals end up joining forces as eco-warriors. Together, they take a stand against both the lumber industry and the Humans First sense of privilege that drives squandering of natural resources. While the book is punctuated with heartbreak and tragedy, Powers manages to end things with a glint of hope. His characters blossom with new levels of human empathy as they discover their deep-rooted connections with nature.

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April Best Books of the Month - New York in StrideNew York in the springtime is a walker’s paradise, with surprising changes of scenery around every corner. While aimless meandering has pleasures of its own, two new books from Rizzoli guarantee that your rambles will reap rewards. New York In Stride ($27.50. www.rizzoliusa.com) features neighborhood-by-neighborhood strolling itineraries, carefully curated by Jacob Lehman, who focuses on historical buildings, architecture of note, and public art, turning streetscapes into galleries for the wandering eye. April Best Books of the Month - A Booklovers Guide to New YorkCharming watercolor illustrations by Jessie Kanelos Weiner whet your appetite for exploration without the spoiler effect of photographs that show you just what you’re about to see. You can pick up a copy at one of the small shops spotlighted in Cleo LeTan’s A Booklover’s Guide to New York ($27.50), which features over 200 general and specialty bookstores (Mysteries! Cookbooks! Plays!) along with literary landmarks, from Truman Capote’s one-time home to opulent private libraries.

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April Best Books of the Month - CleannessIn 2016, Garth Greenwell dazzled readers with his slim, precision-crafted diptych, What Belongs To You, an elegant, acutely felt fictionalization of his time teaching English and exploring his sexuality on foreign turf. Now, with Cleanness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $26. www.garthgreenwell.com) he returns to Sofia, Bulgaria to delve further into the lives and psyches of his characters in a series of connected stories. Through Greenwell’s immaculately detailed prose, readers will experience the exquisite high-tension version of gaydar that one must develop in a country where homosexuality is forbidden. In one section, the narrator takes his young Bulgarian lover on a trip to Italy. They slowly make their way through a museum gallery, taking note of the artwork’s most minute details; there’s an echo, and an elevation, of cruising in this scene. This same sensitivity to subtle nuance and encoded meaning makes the book’s two keystone scenes of S&M sex particularly stunning. Yes, the action is hot, but Greenwell’s cool intellectual take on it packs an even greater wallop.

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“Not lovers/though we loved; Not boyfriends; though we were friends and still boys in most ways…; Not partners/Though we parted.” In 1992, Mark Bibbins watched as hundreds of helium balloons were set aloft as part of an AIDS memorial. A dozen of them were launched in honor of his own companion, who had passed away at age 25 just one night before. Bibbins elegiac new book, 13th Balloon (Copper Canyon Press. $17. www.markbibbins.com), is a single novella-length poem, accessible to even poetry-averse readers. Like its namesake, the verse floats across time and space, moving gracefully from the present to the past. Throughout the poem, Bibbins refers to books he’s read, memories of his long-gone friend rising up between the lines. Like great literature, he suggests, great love and great grief never truly leave us behind.

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AIRPLANE READ OF THE MONTH

April Best Books of the Month - I've Seen the Future and I'm Not Going“Oh my gawwd,” he shrieked. That pretty much sums up the overall tone of I’ve Seen The Future and I’m Not Going (Pantheon. $29.95. www.mcgoughandmcdermott.com), the screaming mimi of a memoir by industrial grade eccentric and one-time art world darling Peter McGough. He spills tea and drops names with Page Six fervor from start to finish, but never quite manages to pull together any retrospective wisdom. For over 40 years, McGough was the creative, and sometimes romantic, partner of David McDermott (now living as a tax exile in Ireland). Staples of the early 80s Lower East Side scene, they collaborated on paintings and photographs that chronicled their bizarre, time-defying lifestyle: In downtown tenements and upstate country houses, they decorated and dressed like Victorian dandies, frequently denying themselves modern comforts like, oh, electricity. Yet, somehow, they didn’t find any anachronism in partying hard with Warhol, Basquiat, Schnabel, Steve Rubell and dozens of other bold-faced names of a certain Manhattan milieu. Their work was accomplished, providing them inclusion in two Whitney Biennials, and for a period earning them tens of thousands of dollars for each new piece. But before, during, and after that period, they had a willfully naïve attitude toward money, spending profligately on real estate, horses, antiques, and foreign travel, perpetually teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. High-strung McGough is a shiny dragonfly of a storyteller, alighting on this party for a moment, that gallery opening for a page or two, then flittering on to this hot boy, that outrageous behavior, and so on. Disconcertingly, though, McGough’s narrative style remains the same after he’s diagnosed with AIDS and stubbornly dabbles with a pre-cocktail array of pseudo-scientific therapies, including Raw Foodism and spiritual babble. Miraculously, McGough ultimately agreed to take conventional meds and today, at 62, is still here to share his tales. His stories are a hoot, but you’ll have to make your own sense of them.

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