Big Ideas and Big Reads to Celebrate Spring

7 min read

| By Thorndike Staff |

Of the four seasons, spring is unrivaled in delivering both majestic beauty and devastating natural catastrophes. Likewise, our April picks explore opposing perspectives with unusual concepts. Two titles examine the power of memories, minds, and emotions in spellbinding tales. Nature is central to two others – one looking at environmental crises and the other considered a breakthrough novel where trees serve as central characters. Finally, an epic novel chronicling nearly 200 years of American achievement and another that explores a woman’s fascinating journey to find the African father she never knew.

Featured Titles

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

A New York Times Bestselling Author
An Award-Winning Author
On Over 17 Most Anticipated Book Lists

“Wonderfully kaleidoscopic . . . meticulously rendered . . . Most impressive . . . A forceful, wonderfully fragmented novel of a terrifyingly possible future, as intellectually rigorous as it is formally impressive, and yet another monumental work from Egan.” — starred, Library Journal

Bix Bouton is 40, with four kids, restless, desperate for a new idea, when he stumbles into a conversation group, mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, “Own Your Unconscious” — that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others — has seduced multitudes. In spell-binding interlocking narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of Own Your Unconscious through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades.

Bewilderment by Richard Powers

An Instant New York Times Bestseller
An Oprah’s Book Club Selection
A New York Times Notable Book
Shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize
Longlisted for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction
On Over 8 Best Book Lists

“Richard Powers is one of our country’s greatest living writers. He composes some of the most beautiful sentences I’ve ever read. I’m in awe of his talent.” ― Oprah Winfrey

The astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life throughout the cosmos while single-handedly raising his unusual nine-year-old, Robin, following the death of his wife. Robin is a warm, kind boy who spends hours painting elaborate pictures of endangered animals. He’s also about to be expelled from third grade for smashing his friend in the face. As his son grows more troubled, Theo hopes to keep him off psychoactive drugs. He learns of an experimental neurofeedback treatment to bolster Robin’s emotional control, one that involves training the boy on the recorded patterns of his mother’s brain.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

A New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction
Winner of the William Dean Howells Medal
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
On Over 6 Best Book Lists

The Overstory is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that’s also a stunning evocation of — and paean to — the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’ 12th novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late 20th-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There’s a world alongside ours — vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.

Small World by Jonathan Evison

A New York Times Editor’s Choice
An Amazon Best of the Month Pick in Literature and Fiction
One Christian Science Monitor’s 10 Best Books of January
One of LA Times’ 10 Books to Add to Your Reading List This Month
One of Book Culture’s Most Anticipated Reads of January 2022

“Masterpiece . . . Such masterful strokes seem to qualify Small World as the quintessential Great American Novel as Evison eloquently shows that perhaps the most authentically American ideal is the ongoing, blended palette of stories.” — starred, Booklist

Small World is an epic novel for now. Set against such backdrops as the California gold rush, the development of the transcontinental railroad, and a speeding train of modern-day strangers, it’s grand entertainment that asks big questions. In exploring the passengers’ lives and those of their ancestors, Small World chronicles 170 years of American nation-building. And it does it with a fullhearted, full-throttle pace that asks whether it’s truly possible to meet, and survive, the choices posed — and forced — by the age. The result is a historical epic with a Dickensian flair, a grand entertainment that asks whether our nation has made good on its promises.

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert

A National Bestseller
Recommended by President Barack Obama and Bill Gates
Shortlisted for The Wainwright Prize for Writing
On 8 Best Book Lists

“A tale not of magic-bullet remedies where maybe this time things will be different when we intervene in nature, but rather of deploying a panoply of strategies big and small in hopes that there is still time to make a difference and atone for our past. A sobering and realistic look at humankind’s perhaps misplaced faith that technology can work with nature to produce a more livable planet.” — starred, Library Journal

Elizabeth Kolbert takes a look at the new world we’re creating and along the way, meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth. She examines how the very sorts of interventions that have imperiled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation.

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo

A New York Times Bestseller
A Reese’s Book Club Pick
An Amazon Best Book of the Year
On Over 4 Best Book Lists

“Unscrupulous politicians, irresponsible journalism, and the yawning gap between rich and poor feel deeply personal as Anna’s journey unfolds . . . Fresh and new.” — Library Journal

Anna is at a stage of her life when she’s beginning to wonder who she really is. In her 40s, she’s separated from her husband, her daughter is all grown up, and her mother — the only parent who raised her — is dead. Searching through her mother’s belongings one day, Anna finds clues about the African father she never knew. His student diaries chronicle his involvement in radical politics in 1970s London. Anna discovers that he eventually became the president — some would say dictator — of a small nation in West Africa. And he’s still alive. When Anna decides to track her father down, a journey begins that is disarmingly moving, funny, and fascinating.

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