Perfect Pitch: 100 Pieces of Classical Music to Bring Joy, Tears, Solace, Empathy, Inspiration (& Everything in Between) by Tim Bouverie

If one were ever inclined to tote up the pandemic lockdown’s silver linings, Perfect Pitch would easily make the list. Tim Bouverie, the acclaimed historian and author of Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to War, found his access to archives curtailed over the past year. So, to bring a bit of joy to himself and his friends, he began firing off sprightly missives about his favorite pieces of classical music.

This delightful compendium now allows you to be in on his distribution list, and the subtitle splendidly captures the book’s spirit. Bouverie recommends a favored recording for each piece, which is where the debates are likely to begin (Carmen sung by Berganza and not by Price or Callas!), but there is no quibbling about the pleasure of Bouverie’s prose.

N-4 Down: The Hunt for the Arctic Airship Italia by Mark Piesing

On May 24, 1928, the famed exploration airship Italia—code-named “N-4”—crashed in a terrible storm somewhere near the North Pole, triggering a massive search that enlisted the great explorer Roald Amundsen, who in 1911 had been the first to reach the South Pole. Alas, he lost his life in that search, his body never found, but that is only one of the dramatic strands in this compelling tale of what happened when the romance of the zeppelin age clashed with bad weather.

The Appalachian Trail: A Biography by Philip D’Anieri

One has only to hike a few miles of “the A.T.,” as fans call it, to appreciate its specialness, wending as it does from Georgia to Maine, a 2,400-mile hike (give or take a mile) that began as the dream of a forester named Benton MacKaye more than 100 years ago and now constitutes the longest hiking-only pathway in the world. How the A.T. came to be and the battles that accompanied its growth over the decades are engagingly captured by Philip D’Anieri.