The Best Books of April


“April is the cruelest month,” wrote T.S. Eliot, and was he ever right. This month combines gloomy weather with income taxes and your favorite team getting kicked out of the NBA playoffs. But it pays to be optimistic — after all, the sun could break through, you could wind up with an IRS refund (well, probably not) and your least favorite team could lose their playoff bid. Either way, April brings a bunch of great books for your reading pleasure, whether you’re interested in a 19th-century serial killer, the Godfather of Soul, ground meat in tube form, or a team of highly trained women assassins.

The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead)
The debut novel from Kentucky-based author Gonzales, who delighted readers with his bizarre short story collection The Miniature Wife, focuses on a group of women who know how to do two things: assassinate bad guys and save the world. They’re forced to defend their shadowy organization when a defector launches a vicious attack on their headquarters.

The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America's First Serial Killer, Skip Hollandsworth (Henry Holt and Co.)
The “Servant Girl Annihilator” of Austin, Texas, terrorized the city for a year, murdering eight people and seriously injuring another eight, literally ripping them apart with axes and steel rods. Texas Monthly writer Hollandsworth recounts the unsolved terror spree, which predated the Jack the Ripper murders by three years, and still haunts Austin to this day.

Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul, James McBride (Spiegel & Grau)
James Brown might have been the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, but he was so much more than that. McBride, who won the National Book Award for his novel The Good Lord Bird, looks for the real Brown, talking with his family, friends, and colleagues about how a kid from Barnwell, South Carolina, became one of the most influential figures in American music.

Tuesday Nights in 1980, Molly Prentiss (Gallery/Scout)
Prentiss’ debut novel follows four people in 1980s SoHo: an art critic with synesthesia, a troubled Argentine painter forced to leave his home country, a mysterious young woman from a small town, and an orphan from Buenos Aires. But the main character, in a way, is the unpredictable and electric Manhattan art scene of the Reagan era.

All Tomorrow’s Parties, Rob Spillman (Grove)
This isn’t a typical coming-of-age memoir, but Rob Spillman didn’t have a typical childhood. The co-founder of acclaimed literary magazine Tin House grew up with musician parents in West Berlin, and moved to the newly reunified city not long after the Berlin Wall came down. His memoir chronicles his search for a city to call home.

Old Records Never Die: One Man’s Search for His Vinyl and His Past, Eric Spitznagel (Plume)
Journalist Spitznagel never forgave himself for selling his record collection. His memoir recounts his frantic efforts to track down the LPs he sold, and explores vinyl culture and the people obsessed with it. His book takes its name from an Ian Hunter song, and features a foreword by Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy.

The Wurst of Lucky Peach: A Treasury of Encased Meat, Chris Ying and the editors of Lucky Peach (Clarkson Potter)
Sausage parties don’t have to be a drag. The staff of the food journal Lucky Peach have put together a collection that’s more than just a cookbook — it explores the history of sausage and all the variations on it around the world, from Mexican chorizo to currywurst, from Green Bay brats to Kazakh pigs in a blanket.

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