April Showers Bring Good Reads and Fresh Perspectives

Compiled by Fiona Stevenson
April 12, 2023

In this time of new growth springing up all over, embrace a new perspective by reading something unexpected, outside – if it’s warm enough. You can feel the brain cells waking up.

Why not try Lone Women by Victor LaValle (One World, Tuesday), the tale of a Black woman who creates a homestead on free land in 1914 Montana. Adelaide Henry must break ground in more ways than one, but if that isn’t enough of a challenge, she carries a trunk that’s always closed because when it’s open, bad things happen. Will it curse or protect Adelaide in her new life in the West? This book swings between horror and history, drama and mystery in a genre-blending take on gender and race in American pioneer life.

If anyone wonders why there still seems to be a simmering sludge of bad feeling in American political and civil life, The Undertow: Scenes From a Slow Civil War by Jeff Sharlet (Norton) explains some of the MAGA madness of recent years. In Massachusetts the Trumpocene can seem far away, but it’s closer than we think. Thanks to Sharlet’s willingness to interview everyone and anyone, it’s impossible to dismiss the threats facing our fragile union. But union it is, and Sharlet encourages us to face the threats together.

Essex Dogs by Dan Jones (Viking) Historical fiction that is nasty, brutish and satisfying long for those of us who still mix up our Edwards. With the start of the Hundred Years War, soldiers landed in France in the summer of 1346. They didn’t know why they’re there and didn’t really care as long as they could fight, and get each other out alive. Bloody, disgusting, funny and full of armies that clash by day and night – history bottled like brown ale goes down easy, leaves a bad taste, yet leaves you wanting more. The first in a trilogy by Jones.

Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma by Claire Dederer (Knopf) is for those of us who still laugh (quietly) at Woody Allen jokes or dance (secretly) to Michael Jackson or gaze (covertly) at our favorite Picasso. Dederer takes on what to think when you love the art of those who lived bad lives, but want permission to consume art freely without getting canceled yourself.

As the school year draws to a close, chalk another year up to our nation’s heroes – educators and the students and families who rely on them. The Teachers: A Year Inside America’s Most Vulnerable, Important Profession by Alexandra Robbins (Dutton) opens our eyes even more to the toil, sacrifices, and triumphs made every day that give our children a future. This is one area where we’re better than we think, and it’s largely due to teachers.

Can you judge a book by its cover? I’m eyeing The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro (Del Ray Books) for that reason. I’m choosy about reading horror, but this variant on Mexican folklore and maternal myths is getting such good buzz.

My Recommended Book to Request at the Concord Free Public Library: Liar’s Beach by Katie Cotugno (Delacorte) coming out in May. Naughty New England teen elites go murdery on Martha’s Vineyard. So clever my head is spinning. Order it from the Concord Bookshop for your teen and steal their copy, and you’ll have something to talk about.