10 Must-Read Books for April 2016


It’s spring in the United States, which of course means another translated volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. It’s hard to imagine what we’ll do, in 2018, when there is no more Knausgaard left to wildly celebrate or mock as pretentious. Thankfully, in the interim, we have a range of worthy fiction and nonfiction, including Dan Fox’s excellent book on the very idea of pretentiousness, to pull us through.

Pretentiousness: Why It Matters, Dan Fox, (April 5, Coffee House Press)

There is no getting around it: calling someone “pretentious” is usually meant to start a fight. But it doesn’t haven’t to be so. In this wide-ranging study, Fox, the editor of Frieze, reclaims pretentiousness as a generative force in contemporary art.

The Red Parts, Maggie Nelson (April 5, Graywolf)

This reissue seems as timely as ever, given the omnipresence of unthinking true crime in the current media diet. A typically multiform work (should we start calling these hybrids Nelson-esque?), The Red Parts has Nelson probing the murder of her aunt (a reopened case with a new trial) alongside questions of her own adulthood.

All Tomorrow’s Parties: A Memoir, Rob Spillman (April 5, Grove)

Spillman, the cofounder of Tin House, has written a spirited and searching memoir with All Tomorrow’s Parties, which considers the author’s own pursuit of art and authenticity in Berlin and New York.

Tuesday Nights in 1980, Molly Prentiss (April 5, Scout)

2016 is shaping up to be a face-off between ’80s and ’90s nostalgia. Next month will bring Robin Wasserman’s Girls on Fire, a novel set in the ’90s, but now we have Prentiss’ debut novel of the ’80s, which is set in a pre-gentrification New York art world.

Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto, Lesley Hazleton (April 5, Riverhead)

The title of Hazleton’s “manifesto” on agnosticism is not a contradiction: she imbues the middle ground between belief and non-belief with spirit by showing that agnosticism itself is a disposition in favor of intellectual and emotional dexterity. A book that should be read as much by the believer (the religious or atheist) as anyone else.

True Crimes: A Family Album, Kathryn Harrison (April 5, Random House)

A collection of linked essays that form a kind of photo book, Harrison’s True Crime considers death and love in the American family from surprising angles, which also means that she revisits the The Kiss, a book about her affair with her own father.

The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, Seymour M. Hersh, (April 12, Verso)

Seymour Hersh is without a doubt the most important journalist in the United States, and this collection of essays from the London Review of Books shows why. The title essay in particular — about what really happened during the killing of Osama Bin Laden, an event that helped Obama get reelected — is a masterpiece of investigation, even if was (curiously) controversial upon publication.

Mount Pleasant, Patrice Nganang, trans. Amy Baram Reid (April 12, FSG)

A beautiful and wise novel about colonial Cameroon told from the present by a 90-year-old woman who was, in her youth, a slave, Mount Pleasant is one of the welcome surprises of the season.

My Struggle: Book Five, Karl Ove Knausgaard, trans. Don Bartlett (April 19, Archipelago)

In some ways the most thematically momentous volume yet of Knausgaard’s autofictional behemoth, the fifth book has Karl Ove striving to be a writer, enduring the death of his father, and completing his first novel.

Ladivine, Marie NDiaye, trans. Jordan Stump (April 26, Knopf)

Some believe that NDiaye is destined to induce Ferrante-level fevers in readers; if that happens, Ladivine could be the book to communicate the disease. A piercing psychological novel about the hidden relationships among three generations of women and the murder that undoes them.