10 books to add to your reading list in April

montage of 10 book covers
(Los Angeles Times)

Critic Bethanne Patrick recommends 10 promising titles, fiction and nonfiction, to consider for your April reading list.

April’s book releases cover some difficult topics, including Salman Rushdie discussing his 2022 maiming, Leigh Bardugo’s fiction about the dark arts and Ada Limón’s poetry anthology about our fragile world. However, like April, there is also sunshine: Leif Enger’s wild Great Lakes love story, Helen Tworkov’s beautiful memoir of Buddhism and a collection of the inimitable Maggie Nelson’s essays. Happy reading, happy spring!


I Cheerfully Refuse: A Novel
By Leif Enger
Grove Press: 336 pages, $28
(April 2)

Cover of "I Cheerfully Refuse"

An unusual and meaningful surprise awaits readers of Enger’s latest, which takes place largely on Lake Superior, as a man named Rainy tries to reunite with his beloved wife, Lark. While the world around this couple, a dystopian near-future American where billionaires control everything, could not be bleaker, the author’s retelling of the myth of Orpheus (who went to the underworld to rescue his wife) contains the authentic hope of a born optimist.

The Familiar: A Novel
By Leigh Bardugo
Flatiron Books: 400 pages, $30
(April 9)

Cover of "The Familiar"

Bardugo departs from novels of dark academia in a standalone to make the hairs on your neck stand up, set in 16th century Spain. A hidden Sephardic Jew and scullery maid named Luzia Cotado matches wits with fellow servant Guillén Santángel. Luzia discovers a secret of Guillén’s, but she’s already fallen in love with him. And because he knows hers, too, they might both avoid the Spanish Inquisition. It’s a gorgeous tale of enchantments both supernatural and earthly.

The Sleepwalkers: A Novel
By Scarlett Thomas
Simon & Schuster: 304 pages, $28
(April 9)

Cover of "The Sleepwalkers"
(Simon & Schuster)

A couple honeymoons at a Greek resort. What could go wrong? In Thomas’ hands, plenty – especially as the author has never written a comfortable story; her books, from “PopCo to “Oligarchy,” crackle with unreliable characters, as well as big philosophical ideas. In this case, the new marriage’s breakdown is chronicled through letters between the spouses, and sometimes bits of ephemera, that ultimately untangle a dark mystery relating to the title.

The Garden: A Novel
By Clare Beams
Doubleday: 304 pages, $28
(April 10)

Cover of "The Garden"

Few novels of literary fiction are written as well as “The Garden,” let alone given its sadly relevant retro setting, a 1940s country-estate obstetrical program. Irene Willard walks through its gates having endured five miscarriages; pregnant again, she and her war-veteran husband George desperately hope for a live birth. But as Irene discovers more about the woman who controls all here, Dr. Bishop, she fears carrying to term as much as she once feared pregnancy loss.

Reboot: A Novel
By Justin Taylor
Pantheon: 304 pages, $28
(April 23)

Cover of "Reboot"

David Crader, former teen TV heartthrob, just wants to reboot his career when his old show “Rev Beach” has a moment. His life has devolved through substance abuse, divorce and underemployment. But when he and colleagues launch a remake, devolution continues: The protagonist’s struggles are mirrored by climate-change issues, from flooding to wildfires. Despite that darkness, Taylor’s gift for satire might make this a must-read for 2024 beach bags.


You Are Here: Poetry in the Natural World
By Ada Limón (Editor)
Milkweed Editions: 176 pages, $25
(April 2)

Cover of "You Are Here"

A wondrous artist herself, Limón is currently poet laureate of the United States, and this anthology is part of her signature project, “You Are Here,” which will also feature poetry as public art in seven national parks. Released in conjunction with the Library of Congress, the collection features 50 previously unpublished poems by luminaries including Jericho Brown, Joy Harjo, Carl Phillips and Diane Seuss, each focusing on a piece of regional landscape.

Like Love: Essays and Conversations
By Maggie Nelson
Graywolf Press: 336 pages, $32
(April 2)

Cover of "Like Love"

While all of the pieces in Nelson’s new book have previously been published elsewhere, they’re made fresh here both through being collected and through their chronological placement. Readers can practically watch Nelson’s incisive mind growing and changing as she speaks with colleagues such as Hilton Als and Judith Butler, or as she writes about queerness, motherhood, violence, the lyrics of Prince and the devastating loss of a friend.

Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder
By Salman Rushdie
Random House: 204 pages, $28
(April 16)

Cover of "Knife"
(Random House)

On Aug. 12, 2022, the author Salman Rushdie was speaking at upstate New York’s Chautauqua festival when a man rushed the stage and attempted to murder him. Rushdie, a target of Iranian religious leaders since 1989, was permanently injured. In this book, he shares his experience for the first time, having said that this was essential for him to write. In this way, he answers violence with art, once again reminding us all that freedom of expression must be protected.

Lotus Girl: My Life at the Crossroads of Buddhism and America
By Helen Tworkov
St. Martin’s Essentials: 336 pages, $29
(April 16)

Cover of "Lotus Girl"
(St. Martin’s Essentials)

Tworkov, founder of the magazine Tricycle, chronicles her move from a 1960s young-adult interest in Buddhism to travels through Asia and deep study in the United States of the different strands that follow the Buddha’s teachings. Tworkov mentions luminaries such as the artist Richard Serra, the composer Charles Mingus and the Dalai Lama, but she’s not name-dropping. Instead, she’s strewing fragrant petals from her singular path to mindfulness that may help us find ours.

The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War
By Erik Larson
Crown: 592 pages, $35
(April 30)

Cover of "The Demon of Unrest"

Even diehard Civil War aficionados will learn from Larson’s look at the six months between Lincoln’s 1860 election and the surrender of Union troops under Maj. Robert Anderson at Charleston’s Ft. Sumter. Larson details Anderson’s secret Christmas redeployment and explores this individual’s contradictions as a former slave owner who loyally follows Lincoln’s orders. The author also shares first-person perspective from the famous diaries of the upper-class Southerner Mary Chesnut. All together, the book provides a riveting reexamination of a nation in tumult.