Paperback Picks

Need a wonderful short-story collection? A diverting mystery? A thoughtful novel? A doorstoppy biography? Look no further — and all in fresh new paperbacks, too.

Afterlife” by Julia Alvarez (Algonquin, $16.95). Alvarez’s first novel for adults in 15 years (she’s best known for “In the Time of the Butterflies”) is the story of a widowed English teacher who, while coping with her grief, finds an undocumented pregnant teenager on her doorstep. “Like so much of Alvarez’s work, ‘Afterlife’ is anchored not just in easy humor and sharp observation, but in her fine-tuned sense for the intimacies of immigrant sisterhood,” wrote Francisco Cantú in The New York Times. “Unlike her previous novels, however, this one ably tackles the subject of privilege as well.”

The Law of Innocence” by Michael Connelly ($13.99, Grand Central Publishing). I’ll fully admit to having a bit of a crush on Connelly’s flashy, smart defense attorney Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey’s performance in the 2011 movie “The Lincoln Lawyer” didn’t hurt), so it’s nice to see him back again at the center of another Connelly novel. This time, a corpse has been found in the trunk of Haller’s trademark Lincoln — and guess what, it’s an ex-client. Mickey’s half-brother Harry Bosch, who’s starred in more Connelly books than I can count, turns up to help, and the whole thing is “a virtuoso performance even by Connelly’s high standards,” writes Kirkus Reviews.

Warhol” by Blake Gopnik (HarperCollins, $25). Journalist/art critic Gopnik’s meticulous, nearly 1000-page account of the life of Andrew Warhola, the frail son of Slavic immigrants who would grow up to become a star in the world of pop art, is “by turns gossipy, informative, exhaustive and reflective,” wrote David D’Arcy in The Observer. Noting that, “It takes a book of this size to evaluate the mountain of unreliable information published by people in Warhol’s circles, and by Warhol himself,” D’Arcy writes that “Gopnik, a good storyteller, has also been able to separate the accurate gossip from legend that’s become the conventional wisdom.”

The Moment of Tenderness” by Madeleine L’Engle ($15.99, Grand Central Publishing). The beloved author of “A Wrinkle in Time” died in 2007, but this collection of short stories — some of which have never been published before — came out in hardcover only last year. Reviewer Heidi Pitlor, in The New York Times, wrote that the book “reflects not only L’Engle’s growth as a writer but her search for her own personal philosophy, one that ultimately recognized opportunity and authenticity in nonconformity. … L’Engle shared with her readers her great capacity for wonder, and her refreshingly earnest desire to tunnel deep inside the human heart and expose its power to generate and regenerate hope and love — even in the face of eviscerating darkness.”

Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid (Penguin, $17). A 2020 bestseller and staple on many best-of-year lists, Reid’s debut is about a young Black babysitter, her 3-year-old white charge, and her well-meaning white employer. It’s a layered, of-the-moment book that’s nonetheless “a page-turner with beautifully drawn characters and a riveting plot,” wrote NPR reviewer Ilana Masad, urging readers to, “Let its empathic approach to even the ickiest characters stir you, allow yourself to share Emira’s millennial anxieties about adulting, take joy in the innocence of Briar’s still-unmarred personhood, and rejoice that Kiley Reid is only just getting started.”

How to Pronounce Knife” by Souvankham Thammavongsa (Little, Brown, $15.99, available April 27). Winner of the 2020 Giller Prize and a finalist for that year’s National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, Thammavongsa’s debut collection of short fiction tells stories of immigrants working to find their bearings in a new country. The book is “not only  a collection of stories, but a culmination of lives stripped bare for the naked eye,” wrote Sonya Lara in the Los Angeles Review of Books. “Unrelenting in her mastery of zoomed-in detail, Thammavongsa propels readers into the raw depths of what it means to love, desire, dream, ache, and grieve through stories that challenge and push against the problematic American standard of beauty, the dangers of assimilation, and the damaging effects of racism.”