The Best Books To Read This April

If you’re looking for something uplifting or immersive to read this month, then look no further. From smart short stories to moving debuts, April sees the publication of some of the most exciting novels of the year...
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Common Ground by Naomi Ishiguro

It's a lonely life for Stan, at a new school that feels more of an ordeal than a fresh start, and at home where he and his mother struggle to break the silence after his father's death. When he encounters fearless, clever Charlie on the local common, all of that begins to change. Charlie's curiosity is infectious, and it is Charlie who teaches Stan, for the first time, to stand on his own two feet. But will their unit of two be strong enough to endure in a world that offers these boys such different prospects? The pair part ways, until their paths cross once again, as adults in London. Now Stan is revelling in all that the city has to offer, while Charlie seems to have hit a brick wall. He needs Stan's help, and above all his friendship – but is Stan really there for the man who once showed him the meaning of loyalty?

A wonderful book, both tender and wise.” – Okechukwu Nzelu, author of Here Again Now

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First Person Singular: Stories by Haruki Murakami

Japan’s most famous author, Haruki Murakami returns this month with a series of short stories. The eight masterly stories in this new collection are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator. From nostalgic memories of youth, meditations on music and an ardent love of baseball to dreamlike scenarios, an encounter with a talking monkey and invented jazz albums, together these stories challenge the boundaries between our minds and the exterior world. Occasionally, a narrator who may or may not be Murakami himself is present. Is it memoir or fiction? The reader decides. Philosophical and mysterious, the stories in First Person Singular all touch beautifully on love and solitude, childhood and memory – all with a signature Murakami twist.

"Some novelists hold a mirror up to the world and some, like Haruki Murakami, use the mirror as a portal to a universe hidden beyond it."  – The Wall Street Journal

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My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

Helen Grant is a mystery to her two daughters. Growing up, Bridget and her older sister Michelle were kept at a distance by their mum's caginess and flair for the dramatic. Meanwhile, their Saturdays were spent with their father, a serial liar whose boasts and bluster were exhausting. Now Bridget is an academic in her 40s. She sees her mother once a year for a shared birthday dinner, they text occasionally about Mad Men and Elena Ferrante to feign a shared interest, and they have settled into a strained peace. But when Helen makes it clear that she wants more, it seems Bridget's childhood struggle will have to be replayed. And as it becomes clear that her mother's life might end sooner than she thinks, Bridget struggles to know what forgiveness entails – and whether it's possible to find meaning in a vanishing past and a relationship that never was.

Riley writes about ordinary life with a mordant clarity that recalls the writing of Alice Munro and Denis Johnson. Like many female writers of her generation, she strains at the idea that women in fiction need to be likeable.” – The Times

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I Am a Girl from Africa by Elizabeth Nyamayaro

When severe draught hit her village in Zimbabwe, eight-year-old Elizabeth had no idea that this moment of devastation would come to define her life purpose. Unable to move from hunger, she encountered a United Nations aid worker who gave her a bowl of warm porridge and saved her life. This transformative moment inspired Elizabeth to become a humanitarian, and she vowed to dedicate her life to giving back to her community, her continent and the world. Grounded by the African concept of Ubuntu – “I am because we are” – I Am a Girl from Africa charts Elizabeth’s quest in pursuit of her dream from the small village of Goromonzi to Harare, London and beyond, where she eventually became a senior advisor at the United Nations and launched HeForShe, one of the world’s largest global solidarity movements for gender equality.

Traveling with Nyamayaro – from Tblisi to Montevideo – is both inspiring and maddening, seeing all that has been accomplished and all that’s left to do.” – Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

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The High House by Jessie Greengrass

Francesca is Caro’s stepmother, and Pauly’s mother. A scientist, she can see what is going to happen. The high house was once her holiday home. Now looked after by locals Grandy and Sally, she has turned it into an ark, for when the time comes. The mill powers the generator, the orchard is carefully pruned, the greenhouse has all its glass intact. Almost a family, but not quite, they plant, store seed, and watch the weather carefully. Another stunning novel by Jessie Greengrass – author of the Women’s Prize For Fiction-shortlisted Sight – The High House explores the extraordinary and the everyday, how we get used to change that once seemed unthinkable, how we place the needs of our families against the needs of others – and who, if we had to, we would save.

A writer who clearly has considerable gifts.” – Financial Times

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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, a Black punk artist before her time. Despite her unconventional looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her one night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together. In early 70s New York, just as she's finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal's bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially Black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Lovely and lyrical; a warm and wonderful intersection between journalism and fiction. This is a novel you'll want to read out loud.” – Kiley Reid, author of Such A Fun Age

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The Penguin Book of Feminist Writing by Hannah Dawson 

Beginning in the 15th century with Christine de Pizan, who imagined a City of Ladies that would serve as a refuge from the harassment of men, the book reaches around the earth and through the years to us, now in the midst of the fourth wave of feminism. Hannah Dawson’s collection goes beyond the usual white, western story, encompassing race, class, capitalism, imperialism and other axes of oppression that intersect with patriarchy. Drawing on poems, novels and memoirs, as well as roaring manifestos, The Penguin Book of Feminist Writing aims to parts the clouds on a huge collection of feminist classics.

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