Leading Men by Christopher Castellani (Viking, $27). Make yourself an Aperol Spritz (or an entire pitcher) and find a comfortable chair because you’re going to spend the afternoon reading Leading Men by Christopher Castellani. Tennessee Williams was a genius — charming, brilliant, and powerful — but he was hell to live with and even harder to love, a challenge even for the man who loved him best, Frank Merlo. Castellani’s fourth novel brings to life not only their fraught relationship, but also the gritty glamour of their time. It’s a rich and gorgeous party whose guests include Truman Capote, Luchino Visconti, and you. Fortunately, you have that Aperol Spritz. Salut!
Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting by Anna Quindlen (Random House, $26). Before mommy blogs were even invented, Anna Quindlen became a go-to writer on the joys and challenges of motherhood in her nationally syndicated column. Now she's taking the next step and going full Nana in the pages of this lively and moving book about her grandchildren, her children, and her new and remarkable role. Perfect for Mother's Day.
Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef's Journey to Discover America's New Melting-Pot Cuisine by Edward Lee (Artisan, $15.95). A natural-born storyteller, Chef Edward Lee decided to hit the road and spent two years uncovering fascinating narratives from every corner of the country. There's a Cambodian couple in Lowell, Massachusetts, and their efforts to re-create the flavors of their lost country. A Uyghur café in New York's Brighton Beach serves a noodle soup that seems so very familiar and yet so very exotic--one unexpected ingredient opens a window onto an entirely unique culture. A beignet from Café du Monde in New Orleans, as potent as Proust's madeleine, inspires a narrative that tunnels through time, back to the first Creole cooks, then forward to a Korean rice-flour hoedduck and a beignet dusted with matcha. Sixteen adventures, sixteen vibrant new chapters in the great evolving story of American cuisine. And forty recipes, created by Lee, that bring these new dishes into our own kitchens.
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo (Catapult, $16.95). Full of humor and heart, Welcome to Lagos is a high-spirited novel about aspirations and escape, innocence and corruption. It offers a provocative portrait of contemporary Nigeria that marks the arrival in the United States of an extraordinary young writer.
Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux (Norton, $27.95). Alcott's novel has moved generations of women, among them many writers. Simone de Beauvoir, J. K. Rowling, bell hooks, Cynthia Ozick, Jane Smiley, Margo Jefferson, and Ursula K. Le Guin were all inspired by Little Women, particularly its portrait of the iconoclastic young writer, Jo. Many women writers have felt as Anna Quindlen has declared, "Little Women changed my life." Anne Boyd Rioux sees the novel's beating heart in its portrayal of family resilience and its honest look at the struggles of girls growing into women. In gauging its current status, she shows why it remains a book with such power that people carry its characters and spirit throughout their lives. Buy this book
French Exit by Patrick DeWitt (Ecco, $25.99). Our friend Andrew Sean Greer writes "French Exit made me so happy -- I feel as if I have downed a third martini, stayed up past sunrise, and still woken up refreshed. Brilliant, addictive, funny, and wise, deWitt's latest has enough charm to last you long after you've put it down, which is what so many of us need in a book. I think you need it, too." Signed copies available. Buy this book
Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson (Flatiron Books, $23.99). Brought together by a shared love of the Tollund Man, a Danish professor and an English farm wife begin exchanging letters. "This business, of being no longer young, is occupying much of my mind these days." The friendship that grows between them allows them to imagine a new story for themselves, but how far will they go? This is a beautiful novel and one, we think, that you will find yourself wanting to share. Buy this book
How Do We Look by Mary Beard (Norton, $24.95). In this slim, yet beautifully illustrated, volume, classicist Mary Beard emphasizes the power of the context in which we look at and interpret art, she ultimately suggests that civilization itself is a leap of faith. Beard is having fun in this joyfully accessible primer, backed with a robust appendix, for all interested in a new perspective on religion, art, and history. Despite its brevity, this one of the most thought-provoking books of the season. Signed copies available. Buy this book
In Paris: 20 Women on Life in the City of Light by Jeanne Damas & Lauren Bastide (Penguin, $30). This intensely pleasureable book explores the city of Paris through the lives of 20 different women -- artists, activists, booksellers, and filmmakers -- aged fourteen to seventy. Beautifully illustrated, it is not only a fine guide to hidden secrets of Paris, but also a guide to living a considered life. Buy this book
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher (Doubleday, $25.95). Now is the fall of his discontent, as Jason Fitger, newly appointed chair of the English Department of Payne University, takes arms against a sea of troubles, personal and institutional. For anyone who has ever been caught as much by cunning colleagues as by faceless bureacracy, this mordantly funny novel is sure to resonate. Buy this book
Small Fry: A Memoir by Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Grove, $26). Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents -- artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs -- Lisa Brennan-Jobs's childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. Part portrait of a complex family, part love letter to California in the seventies and eighties, Small Fry is an enthralling memoir by a brave new voice. Buy this book
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (Doubleday, $27.95). Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes of the Trojan war--the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead--all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis's perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker's latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives--and it is nothing short of magnificent. Buy this book
The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King (Abrams Press, $30). Historian David McCullough writes, “As the extreme importance of our most gifted teachers, and the credit they are due, become ever more evident, Maxwell King has provided a superb, thoughtful biography of the brilliant Fred Rogers, who with his long-running television show, reached more children than any teacher ever. The enormous amount of thought, creative talent, and hard work that Rogers put into every aspect of the show becomes abundantly clear in this book, as do the lessons in empathy and kindness that he took so to heart. Much there is for all of us to learn in Maxwell King’s The Good Neighbor.” Buy this book