Recommended Reads For April
For book-lovers, April showers means bookshelves are deluged with really great reads. Here’s a sampling from the harvest of new literary offerings:
Susan Hacker Stang, Self-Published
Armed with only a JOCO VX5 toy camera and a sense of experimentation, St. Louis-based photographer Stang set out to capture the world, snapping shots of people, architecture and moments from faraway places.
A recognized artist whose work has been collected in over 25 museum and libraries, “reAPPERANCES” collects 52 of Stang’s pictures taken during her travels. They each showcase the serendipitous link that occurs between different people, places and cultures, capturing both sublime moments of the human spirit and achievement with an emotionally powerful simplicity.
With her eye focused on locales ranging from St. Louis, Florence, Paris, Tucson, Las Vegas and New York, subjects of her photography include baseball, gondolas and drive-thru wedding chapels, which capture the quintessential spirit of modern America. Stang also does not shy away from using iconic sites and symbols, including the Empire State Building, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Marilyn Monroe, to reaffirm her recurring theme that photography is an essential doorway to human connectivity.
2/ “The One Hundred Nights of Hero”
Isabel Greenberg, Little Brown
It turns out that one of the best graphic novels of the last six months is also one of the best books of the last half-year as well. “The One Hundred Nights of Hero” not only showcases Greenberg’s aptitude for telling compelling stories, it also showcases stunning visuals and characters who overcome the adversity of an oppressive world.
Each of her stories are small splashes of vibrancy that fold out onto a larger, brighter canvas, creating a cohesive exploration of love, sadness, magic and melancholy. She centers our journey in the mythical Migdal Bavel, where Hero, the center of our voyage, must display creative prowess and tell stories every night for 100 consecutive nights. She will then free herself and Cherry (her maid and lover) from the mental and physical constraints that bind them.
The tales Hero tells are imaginative, profound and deeply moving. Gloriously rebellious and tender, Greenberg hits all her marks in stimulating emotions. Sadly, not all of them work out in the end, showing readers that love of any kind is a risk.
3/ “Exit West”
Mohsin Hamid, Riverhead Books
A critical darling, it is impossible to read “Exit West” and not feel completely emotionally invested. This could be caused by the cruel hand of fate, which sees the novel’s release coincide with the public furor over travel bans.
Set in an unspecified Muslim country, the book follows a couple, Saeed and Nadia, who could not have picked a worse time to fall madly in love. Knowing that everything is crashing down around them at an alarming rate, they know they must escape to a better place.
Here things get a bit weird (but just roll with it) as Hamid utilizes some clever plot devices to move things along. Determined to win freedom, the couple turns to “magic doors” that, for a tidy fee, serve as both an evacuation point for transporting refugees to safer destinations and as a symbol for opening a doorway to a new life.
Hamid’s narrative wrestles with some weighty issues, including life under oppression, love, determination, violence and civil war, in a way that grammatically rages against the shortcomings of the modern world. Despite fear, bombs and bellicose rhetoric, Saeed and Nadia use their love as an anchor to navigate their challenges, hopes and struggles in order to live their lives, unspoiled by despots and dictators.
4/ “You Are A Badass At Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth”
Jen Sincero, Penguin
Following up the highly successful phenomenon that was “You Are A Badass” is not an easy task. The book soared, serving as a best-selling manifesto for people searching to find their niche.
“You Are A Badass At Making Money” is her insightful next step. In it, Sincero—who played in several bands and lived in a garage before finding her calling as a transformative teacher and self-help guru—guides readers into transforming their finances.
Overcoming fear is her mantra as she urges readers to fearlessly follow their passions in making their lives more fiscally secure. Her key is to do whatever it takes to pursue success, including making scary decisions and cutting longstanding ties of comfort that obstruct achievement.
Sincero also urges her audience to shed the stigma about making money. Money, she argues, allows people to live comfortably on their own terms with personal satisfaction. Here, she is pragmatic in her approach, reminding us to develop side hustles, focus on success and never look back.
Scattering advice with personal stories, Sincero’s book focuses on wealth improvement without relying on gimmicks or strong-arm tactics, while returning to her theme that that there is no such thing as being too awesome.
5/ “Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince”
Ben Greenman, Henry Holt & Company
Arriving in time to celebrate the first anniversary of Prince’s passing, Ben Greenman’s new biography celebrates all things Prince, most notably from the apex of his fame in the 1980s through contemporary times, while also delving into his creative process and personal life.
Asserting that Prince’s legacy derives not only from his music, but his ever-changing personas and cultural observations, the book presents Prince’s art as eternally relevant. This gives him a popularity that spans generations and defies the convention of modern rock stars. Greenman never wavers in heralding Prince’s talents. He was a bold, brash and daring genius, at a time when many of his contemporaries played it cool and shied away from variation. Greenman also notes how his personal beliefs and determination to micromanage his own career in films, concerts and on record made him both maddeningly frustrating and artistically brilliant. It is this fundamental element of control that makes celebrating the life of Prince so fascinating.
Although there have been a bevy of Prince biographies lately, this one best captures The Purple One as an artist completely immersed in perfecting his craft at every level—sonically, visually and aesthetically.