7 Books You Need to Read This April

From Jon Ronson’s examination of social media shaming to Toni Morrison’s newest novel, April is shaping up to be one solid month for bookworms

Best of the West

Punk Elegies

mechanical(Rare Bird Books, $18, out April 28)
By Allan MacDonell

Punk is dead. Alan MacDonell, however, made it out alive—if barely—and it has been long enough now for the nostalgia to settle in. In this episodic memoir, the coinventor of slam-dancing and former executive editor at Hustler pens a love letter to the L.A. punk scene’s glory days. Set in Hollywood’s grimy 1970s backstreets, Elegies begins with a drunk nine-year-old MacDonell lying bloodied in a ditch and in the end leaves him uneasily awake to the post-punk world, wandering alone in the San Francisco fog. The action centers around the Masque, a small but influential punk rock club, and Slash, the flagship zine of the local punk scene. It’s a gritty ode to friendship, intense partying, hard-core drugs, and near death experiences that is equal parts exhilarating and tragic.

Tommy Lasorda: My Way

jobrani(Triumph Books, $26, out April 1)
By Colin Gunderson

“Only a handful of men in sports can merit a standing ovation from a crowd of 56,000 fans merely by showing their faces,” Gunderson writes. “Tommy Lasorda is one of those men.” Tommy Lasorda managed the Dodgers for 20 years—more than long enough to become an icon. But what was it that made the man so beloved by players and fans? If anyone knows it’s Gunderson, who worked for 12 years as the Dodgers’ press coordinator and Lasorda’s assistant. In My Way, Gunderson rounds up fond memories from former players and close friends of Lasorda (yes, Vin Scully is among them). The result is a glowing portrayal of an honest and humorous man—a man with a passion for the game that sometimes fueled his temper, but who still fostered great confidence and loyalty in his team.

Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in WWII

goldenstate(Henry Holt and Co., $32, out April 21)
By Richard Reeves

Bestselling author and USC senior lecturer Richard Reeves has created an accessible account of the 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese aliens detained in internment camps during World War II. Executive Order 9066 mandated the creation of the camps for the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans, and Infamy dives into that order’s effects. Reeves emphasizes the role that racism played and looks into the ways different generations of Japanese-Americans experienced interment differently. His tone is far from scholarly detachment: righteous indignation drives his research and writing, and what results is a plaintive tribute to an historic injustice.

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic

goldenstate(Bloomsbury Press, $28, out April 21)
By Sam Quinones

Black tar heroin is just as potent as it sounds. So what happens when it’s expertly marketed to suburbanites with the promise of a free trial and at-home delivery? Los Angeles-based freelance journalist and author Sam Quinones provides the dismaying answer as he tracks how OxyContin, a super-addictive painkiller, became the gateway drug to black tar heroine. With a background in reporting on gangs, drug trafficking, and the Mexican-American border, Quinones is up to the task, taking us from the source of the opiates (Xalisco, Mexico) to the suburban sprawl of cities like Charlotte and Portland. His investigation exposes a system that enables a 16-year-old girl to phone in an order for heroin, pizza delivery-style, and receive a customer satisfaction survey a few days later.

Best of the Rest


holycow(FSG Originals, $14, out April 14)
By Amelia Gray

Gray’s third volume of short stories is bizarre to say the least (readers will encounter a giant snake, a machine that tells the future, a cat lady blessed by the gods, and an ominous labyrinthine corn maze at the Pumpkin Jamboree), and yet it is irresistible. Fast paced, unpredictable, and punctuated by wry comedic moments, the stories are as disorienting as they are visceral. Gray interweaves the curious with the commonplace, and the resultant stories are startling yet richly human at their core. To get a taste, give her story Labyrinth a read over at The New Yorker.

God Help the Child

funnygirl(Knopf, $25, out April 21)
By Toni Morrison

Nobel laureate and a Pulitzer Prize-winner Toni Morrison is back on our radar with Child, her first novel to be set in the present day. The book follows Bride, a confident young woman struggling through a tumultuous relationship with a man named Booker, who is striving to obtain her mother’s reluctantly bestowed love. Like most of Morrison’s works, this one grapples with a grueling subject: the lingering effects of childhood trauma. As youths, Morrison’s characters encounter murder, abuse, and prostitution; Child chronicles their attempts at healing and reconciliation.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

girlband(Riverhead Books, $27, March 31)
By Jon Ronson

It’s 2013. Justine Sacco tweets a joke about AIDS, boards a plane to Cape Town, takes a nice nap, and lands to find herself internationally infamous. In the Internet age, the power of moral judgment is in the hands of the masses, and boy, do we wield it viciously. Stories of public shame, like Sacco’s, caught the attention of gonzo journalist Jon Ronson and led to Shamed, his latest work of nonfiction. The manner in which Ronson describes the disconcerting consequences of social media shaming is appropriate to the heavy subject matter, yet it allows his inherent wit to shine through (did you really expect the author of The Men Who Stare at Goats to get all serious on us?). Throughout, Ronson examines examples of public shame around the world, scoring interviews with some of the most derided figures in immediate history (think Jonah Lehrer, the subject of our 2012 column “Caught Getting Creative”). In an age when slander has gained potency, he demonstrates how an Internet-enabled public falls prey to a craving for social control.