Can't-Miss Spring Books

Our picks for the best new reads

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Blood Will Out

by Walter Kirn; Liveright


Kirn’s new memoir probes his bizarre 15-year friendship with Christian Gerhartsreiter, aka Clark Rockefeller, the nebbishy little psychopath who used the name of one of America’s pre-eminent families to capture a slice of the American dream. Before being put away for murder, he was a cannibal of other people’s lives, much like a novelist (Kirn himself, for example) cherry picking details for a story. Flattered by Clark’s attention and dazzled by his supposed wealth and connections, the author blinded himself to clues that his friend was not who he pretended to be. “Rationalizing, justifying, imagining,” he writes, “I’d worked as hard at being conned by him as he had at conning me. I wasn’t a victim; I was a collaborator.” Kirn bravely lays bare his own vanities and follies in this heart-pounding true tale; he examines the hold of fiction on the human imagination—how we live for it and occasionally die for it, too. —Judith Newman


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Bryan McCay

Words Will Break Cement

by Masha Gessen; Riverhead


In 2012, members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot videotaped themselves in a Moscow cathedral—between services—performing a song that slammed President Vladimir Putin. The clip went viral, and Maria Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova went to prison for “felony hooliganism,” despite the protests of luminaries from Madonna to German chancellor Angela Merkel. (The sentence of a third provocateur, Kat Samutsevich, was suspended.) Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen has done a superb job of exploring the personal and historical forces that turned the trio into activists. Her accounts of their surreal trial and prison life are lively, insightful and unsettling. Putin pardoned the two women, both mothers, in December 2013, a few months shy of their release date; they’re already back to calling out corruption and repression. Sequel, anyone? —Judith Stone


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Bryan McCay


by Lorrie Moore; Knopf


Reading the luminous stories in Lorrie Moore's collection is like spending another insanely perfect afternoon with your smartest, most acerbic, tough-minded but loving and loyal friend. Moore is that necessary writer who brilliantly observes the dead-on sorrow and hilarity of our day-to-day. But she's not out to glibly poke fun (though you'll laugh out loud and urgently read sentences to friends) or to glorify gloom; instead, in each of these eight stories, her characters—flawed, middle-aged, divorced, divorcing—are loath to to entirely give up. As one suggests, "You had to unfreeze your feet, take blind steps backward, risk a loss of balance, risk an endless fall, in order to give life room." —Victoria Redel


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Bryan McCay

The Wives of Los Alamos

by TaraShea Nesbit; Bloomsbury


Once you give in to the collective voice of this terrific first novel, you're hooked.  Based on archival records, the book tells of women who followed their scientist husbands to the New Mexico desert without knowing what secret project they were working on or how long they'd all be there. We hear about parties, affairs, the course of World War II, but first-person identities aren't important: This is a sidelong glance at history that, thanks to its Greek chorus, becomes rivetingly personal and urgent. After the atomic bomb was dropped, "we felt ashamed, we felt proud, we felt confused." Everyone's truth is here, making the reality of what was done more human and more horrifying. —Elaina Richardson


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Bryan McCay

First published in the March 2014 issue

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