Top 10 Fiction Books of 2021
The year 2021 was poised to be a great one for established, fan-favorite authors. We were blessed with new work from a buzzy roster of titans, from Colson Whitehead to Lauren Groff to Kazuo Ishiguro. But while they, along with several others, did not disappoint, it was debut authors who truly shined. In an industry that has long been criticized for exclusion—and where it’s increasingly difficult to break out from the crowd—a crop of bright new voices rose to the top. From Anthony Veasna So to Torrey Peters to Jocelyn Nicole Johnson and more, these writers introduced themselves to the world with fiction that surprised us, challenged our perspectives and kept us fulfilled. Here, the top 10 fiction books of 2021.
Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro
The eighth novel from Nobel Prize–winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, longlisted for the Booker Prize, follows a robot-like “Artificial Friend” named Klara, who sits in a store and waits to be purchased. When she becomes the companion of an ailing 14-year-old girl, Klara puts her observations of the world to the test. In exploring the dynamic between the AI and the teen, Ishiguro crafts a narrative that asks unsettling questions about humanity, technology and purpose, offering a vivid view into a future that may not be so far away.
Open Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson
In his incisive debut novel, Caleb Azumah Nelson tells a bruising love story about young Black artists in London. His protagonist is a photographer who has fallen for a dancer, and Nelson proves masterly at writing young love, clocking the small and seemingly meaningless moments that encompass longing. In just over 150 intimate pages, Nelson celebrates the art that has shaped his characters’ lives while interrogating the unjust world that surrounds them.
Afterparties, Anthony Veasna So
The nine stories that constitute Anthony Veasna So’s stirring debut collection, published after his death at 28, reveal a portrait of a Cambodian American community in California. One follows two sisters at their family’s 24-hour donut shop as they reflect on the father who left them. Another focuses on a high school badminton coach who is stuck in the past and desperate to win a match against the local star, a teenager. There’s also a mother with a secret, a love story with a major age gap and a wedding afterparty gone very wrong. Together, So’s narratives offer a thoughtful view into the community that shaped him, and while he describes the tensions his characters navigate with humor and care, he also offers penetrating insights on immigration, queerness and identity.
Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr
The five protagonists of Anthony Doerr’s kaleidoscopic and remarkably constructed third novel, all living on the margins of society, are connected by an ancient Greek story. In Cloud Cuckoo Land, a National Book Award finalist, a present-day storyline anchors a sweeping narrative: in a library, an ex-prisoner of war is rehearsing a theatrical adaptation of the Greek story with five middle schoolers—and a lonely teenager has just hidden a bomb. Doerr catapults Cloud Cuckoo Land forward and back from this moment, from 15th-century Constantinople to an interstellar ship and back to this dusty library in Idaho where the impending crisis looms. His immersive world-building and dazzling prose tie together seemingly disparate threads as he underlines the value of storytelling and the power of imagination.
The Life of the Mind, Christine Smallwood
The contemporary fiction landscape is full of protagonists like Christine Smallwood’s Dorothy: white millennial women who are grappling with their privilege and existence in a world that constantly feels like it’s on the verge of collapse. Plot is secondary to whatever is going on inside their heads. But Dorothy, an adjunct English professor enduring the sixth day of her miscarriage, stands apart. In Smallwood’s taut debut, this charming yet profound narrator relays amusing observations on her ever-collapsing universe. Languishing in academia, Dorothy wonders how her once-attainable goals came to feel impossible, and her ramblings—which are never irritating or tiring, but instead satirical and strange—give way to a gratifying examination of ambition, freedom and power.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
The debut novel from poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, longlisted for a National Book Award, is a piercing epic that follows the story of one American family from the colonial slave trade to present day. At its core is the mission of Ailey Pearl Garfield, a Black woman coming of age in the 1980s and ’90s, determined to learn more about her family history. What Ailey discovers leads her to grapple with her identity, particularly as she discovers secrets about her ancestors. In 800 rewarding pages, Jeffers offers a comprehensive account of class, colorism and intergenerational trauma. It’s an aching tale told with nuance and compassion—one that illuminates the cost of survival.
Detransition, Baby, Torrey Peters
Reese is a 30-something trans woman who desperately wants a child. Her ex Ames, who recently detransitioned, just learned his new lover is pregnant with his baby. Ames presents Reese with the opportunity she’s been waiting for: perhaps the three of them can raise the baby together. In her delectable debut novel, Torrey Peters follows these characters as they become entangled in a messy, emotional web while considering this potentially catastrophic proposition—and simultaneously spins thought-provoking commentary on gender, sex and desire.
My Monticello, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s searing short-story collection is one to read in order. Its narratives dissect an American present that doesn’t feel at all removed from the country’s violent past, and they build to a brutal finish. The unnerving standout piece—the titular novella—follows a group of neighbors who seek refuge on Thomas Jefferson’s plantation while on the run from white supremacists. Johnson’s narrator is college student Da’Naisha, a Black descendant of Jefferson who is questioning her relationship to the land and the people with whom she’s found herself occupying it. The story is as apocalyptic as it is realistic, a haunting portrait of a community trying to survive in a nation that constantly undermines its very existence.
The Prophets, Robert Jones, Jr.
At a plantation in the antebellum South, enslaved teenagers Isaiah and Samuel work in a barn and seek refuge in each other until one of their own, after adopting their master’s religious beliefs, betrays their trust. In The Prophets, a National Book Award finalist, Robert Jones, Jr. traces the teens’ relationship, as well as the lives of the women who raised them, surround them and have been the backbone of the plantation for generations. In moving between their stories, Jones unveils a complex social hierarchy thrown off balance by the rejection of the young mens’ romance. The result is a crushing exploration of the legacy of slavery and a delicate story of Black queer love.
Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead
The beginning of Maggie Shipstead’s astounding novel, a Booker finalist, includes a series of endings: two plane crashes, a sunken ship and several people dead. The bad luck continues when one of the ship’s young survivors, Marian, grows up to become a pilot—only to disappear on the job. Shipstead unravels parallel narratives, Marian’s and that of another woman whose life is changed by Marian’s story, in glorious detail. Every character, whether mentioned once or 50 times, has a specific, necessary presence. It’s a narrative made to be devoured, one that is both timeless and satisfying.
Source: Time Magazine by Annabel Gutterman Dec. 10, 2021.
Forget summer reading—fall is the season of literary bounty. The next few months bring with them a starry landscape full of returns from the buzziest names in the business as well as bold newcomers with hotly anticipated debuts. There’s a crime novel set in 1960s Harlem from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead, a posthumous novel from British master John le Carré, the very first book from acclaimed television creator Michaela Coel and the latest narrative of young people stumbling their way through romantic strife from superstar Sally Rooney. That’s all to say: there’s truly something for everyone in this jam-packed season. Here, the most anticipated books to read this fall.
Misfits: A Personal Manifesto, Michaela Coel
Michaela Coel, creator and star of I May Destroy You and Chewing Gum, makes her literary debut with a slim manifesto written with the same perfect balance of sentiment, insight and wit that made viewers fall in love with her on the screen. Built on a speech Coel delivered at the 2018 Edinburgh International Television Festival, Misfits describes her experience of racism, prejudice and trauma, and her empowering transformation from a person trying to fit in to a person determined to make new space for herself. It’s an impassioned and rousing defense of staying true to yourself and supporting others to do the same.
Inseparable, Simone de Beauvoir
Thirty-five years after Simone de Beauvoir’s death, her never-before-published novel Inseparable is finally being released to the world. The iconic French philosopher (and author of the landmark feminist text The Second Sex) describes a profound and passionate friendship between Sylvie and Andrée, two tenacious young women who meet as children and strengthen their bond as they grow into adulthood in post–World War I France. It’s a vibrant exploration of female will and friendship in a world that is still, too often, intent on constraining both.
Matrix, Lauren Groff
At the center of Lauren Groff’s new novel, her first since her 2015 hit Fates and Furies, is teenager Marie de France. It’s the 12th century and Marie’s just been sent to an abbey in England after being ousted from the French royal court. The fierce protagonist of Matrix is entering a bleak scene: disease is everywhere at the abbey, and the nuns barely have enough to eat. Marie is tasked with making life better for these women—a challenge that proves both thrilling and heartbreaking. Groff, a two-time National Book Award finalist, crafts an electric work of historical fiction charting Marie’s plight.
Poet Warrior, Joy Harjo
Three-time U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo—the first Native American to hold the title—delivers a follow-up to her 2012 memoir Crazy Brave with Poet Warrior, a lyrical study of her relationship to poetry and music. Alternating between poetry and prose, Harjo meditates on the stories and songs she grew up with, her artistic and ancestral influences and how poetry informs and reflects her connection to her community and home. The result is a memoir that is soulful and celebratory.
On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, Maggie Nelson
The latest book from poet and writer Maggie Nelson is a meditative and potent examination of freedom. Looking at freedom through the realms of art, sex, drugs and climate, the author of The Argonauts explores the contradictions, complexities and rhetoric that surround the term. Combining thoughtful cultural criticism with anecdotes from her personal life, Nelson delivers an intriguing work of nonfiction that seeks to challenge readers’ definition of freedom and rethink how the concept operates in our lives.
Beautiful World, Where Are You, Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney exploded onto the literary scene in 2017 with her debut novel Conversations with Friends. Next came her similarly beloved follow-up Normal People, now an acclaimed Hulu series. Rooney’s latest, one of the most anticipated books of the year, is again concerned with Irish millennials navigating the turbulence of falling in and out of love and questioning the seemingly broken world that surrounds them. Tracing the lives of best friends Alice and Eileen, and the emails they write to stay connected to each other, Rooney unravels a sharp narrative about intimacy, religion and romance.
The Magician, Colm Tóibín
Colm Tóibín, the award-winning author of Brooklyn and The Master, returns with another sweeping historical novel, this time a fictionalized account of the life of Thomas Mann, the Nobel prize-winning author of Death in Venice. Extensively researched and lyrically wrought, The Magician follows Mann from his childhood in early 20th-century Germany—as a young boy grappling with desires he can’t reveal to his conservative family—through his marriage, the trip that inspires his groundbreaking novel, his discomfort with his new role as a public intellectual during World War II and his escape to the U.S. It’s a complex but empathetic portrayal of a writer in a lifelong battle against his innermost desires, his family and the tumultuous times they endure.
Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement, Tarana Burke
In her debut memoir, Tarana Burke mines her past, from her coming-of-age as a Black girl in the Bronx to her rise in activism as the founder of the MeToo movement. In candid terms, Burke lays bare her relationship with trauma, exploring how her sexual assault impacted her sense of self, and how she went on to use that experience to empower others and create meaningful change. Bold and inspiring, Unbound is a searing look at leadership, activism and empathy.
Harlem Shuffle, Colson Whitehead
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead is known for narratives that vary greatly in subject matter. His body of work contains multitudes, from his debut about the aftermath of an elevator crash to a zombie apocalypse story to piercing retellings of violent periods in U.S. history. Whitehead’s latest showcases yet more of his range as a storyteller, as Harlem Shuffle follows a 1960s furniture salesman leading a double life of crime. What ensues is part heist novel and part family drama, all set against the backdrop of Harlem, which the author captures in rich, visceral prose.
Silverview, John le Carré
When he died last year, the legendary British spy novelist John le Carré left behind only one unpublished full-length novel. Silverview, to be published posthumously in October, is the iconic writer’s 26th novel. The new installment in le Carré’s enormous body of work is another classic espionage tale. This time, the focus is on a bookseller living in contemporary Britain and the spy chief who arrives at his seaside town to investigate a potential leak.
Source: Annabel Gutterman & Arianna Rebolini for Time Magazine Aug. 30, 2021.
The best books arriving this month dive deep in all different directions. There’s a comprehensive look at loneliness in America—and an equally compelling dissection into why we sweat. One new novel is a thrilling quest to avenge a double murder and another finds its characters investigating their husbands’ dubious moralities. Some narratives expose the harsh realities of everyday living; others seek to uncover the unknown. Here, the 10 new books you should read in July.
The Collection Plate: Poems, Kendra Allen (July 6)
Blending personal narrative and cultural commentary, The Collection Plate introduces Kendra Allen as a poet to watch. In her debut collection, Allen underlines the common threads between a variety of experiences, from what it means to exist as a Black person in America to the tense relationships between mothers and daughters. Throughout, as she explores girlhood, freedom, sex and more, Allen shines a light on the spaces that connect and divide us, coalescing into an electric portrait of joy and pain.
Razorblade Tears, S.A. Cosby (July 6)
Two ex-cons come together to seek revenge after both of their sons, a married couple, are murdered. They don’t have too much in common, but the tragedy has left them unexpectedly linked. As they grapple with their messy pasts amid a violent present in the American South, the men embark on a dangerous quest, which S.A. Cosby captures in gripping and intense terms.
Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, Kristen Radtke (July 6)
The latest work of graphic nonfiction from Kristen Radtke pulls apart how loneliness operates to understand why it exists and the forms it can take. Combining history and cultural analysis with personal stories, Radtke argues that loneliness is an epidemic that can be viewed through many lenses. In pages full of haunting illustrations, Seek You prompts readers to look inwards. In forcing us to confront our own loneliness, Radtke makes us feel a little less alone.
Give My Love to the Savages: Stories, Chris Stuck (July 6)
Nine short stories set in cities across the United States, from Los Angeles to Phoenix to New York, examine masculinity and Blackness, and the many ways race and identity intersect. From a Black Republican grappling with a skin disease that’s made him appear white to a biracial man on a visit to see his estranged white father, the characters that populate Chris Stuck’s electric debut collection highlight the complexities of racism and Black life. Often employing satire, Stuck is unafraid to tackle and illuminate the absurdities that accompany how we perceive and react to race.
Embassy Wife, Katie Crouch (July 13)
Persephone Wilder is living in Namibia where she diligently attends to her duties as the wife of an American diplomat. When the newest trailing spouse, Amanda Evans, arrives in town, she’s quick to show her the ropes. But Amanda’s husband may not have been so honest about his reasons for uprooting their family—and the consequences grow increasingly dire when their daughter becomes embroiled in international conflict. As Amanda fights to save her family and Persephone is forced to confront the cracks in her own life, the two women start to question if they ever really knew their husbands at all.
The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration, Sarah Everts (July 13)
The science of sweat is complicated and, well, weird. Journalist Sarah Everts explores how sweat works in a book that jumps around the world, from a dating event in Moscow where romantic hopefuls sniff each other’s sweat to an infamous smoke sauna in Finland. Everts answers a range of questions throughout about sweat and our history of wanting to control it, including an analysis of the deodorant and antiperspirant industries.
Ghost Forest, Pik-Shuen Fung (July 13)
The intricately plotted debut from Pik-Shuen Fung finds a daughter as she wrestles with questions over her father’s death. For most of her life, he worked in Hong Kong while she grew up in Vancouver and lived with the rest of their “astronaut” family. After his passing, the unnamed protagonist revisits their family history to understand the man she never really got to know. Her search, both complex and devastating, yields revelations about family, grief and the durability of love.
The Final Girl Support Group, Grady Hendrix (July 13)
So you’ve survived the worst night of your life—what comes next? The question propels Grady Hendrix’s twisty new novel, which builds off of tropes in horror movies to ask what happens to the people left standing after a massacre. Like its title suggests, The Final Girl Support Group follows a group of women who meet with a therapist to discuss their experiences following their traumas and struggles to move on with their lives. Things hit a snag when one of the girls misses a meeting—setting off a narrative that is equal parts thrilling and darkly funny.
Intimacies, Katie Kitamura (July 20)
At the center of Katie Kitamura’s piercing new novel is a translator caught in the intersection of a lot of other people’s drama. She’s working at The Hague, and there, her colleagues have somehow embedded her into their private lives. As she becomes more involved in their sagas, the protagonist of Intimacies slips into her own when she’s tasked with interpreting for a powerful former president on trial for war crimes. From there, Kitamura’s latest unravels in terms both disquieting and unexpected.
Nightbitch, Rachel Yoder (July 20)
The premise of Nightbitch sounds bizarre and that’s because it is: a young stay-at-home mother begins to notice hair growing where it shouldn’t be, her canines becoming suspiciously sharper and impulses that are increasingly dog-like. Her search for answers about her strange state leads her to a book called A Field Guide to Magical Women—and the absurdities only pick up from there. The outrageous nature of the plot yields funny and, at times, unsettling results as Yoder’s protagonist navigates her animalistic qualities.
Source: Time Magazine by Annabel Gutterman, June 30, 2021.
For many, the upcoming summer will be quite different than the last. But whether you’re staying in or venturing out, a good book can always keep you grounded. The 10 best new books arriving in June are sure to offer something new for readers to explore.
With Teeth, Kristen Arnett (June 1)
Like her breakout debut, Mostly Dead Things, Kristen Arnett’s latest novel looks at a fractured family unit, this time focusing on two women as they struggle to raise their son. Samson has been difficult ever since he was a young child, but now his juvenile misbehavior gives way to a startling level of hostility in his teenage years. When that aggression hits a breaking point, his parents grapple with the challenges of queer motherhood and marriage as he tests the boundaries of their love.
Somebody’s Daughter, Ashley C. Ford (June 1)
Best known as a writer and podcast host with sharp pop-culture takes, Ashley C. Ford offers a debut memoir that pulls no punches. Tracking her impoverished youth and adolescence in Indiana, Ford shares her struggles growing up with a single mother as she grapples with her changing body, painful relationships and the truth of her identity, embarking on a poignant quest to find and understand her incarcerated father.
The Other Black Girl, Zakiya Dalila Harris (June 1)
Both a blistering satire and sharp social commentary, Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel follows Nella Rogers, the only Black editorial assistant at the fictional Wagner Books. But that changes the day Hazel-May McCall is hired—setting in motion a strange series of events that leaves Harris’ protagonist unexpectedly isolated. Though the two women initially bond, Hazel begins to rise in the ranks as Nella is shut out, all while Nella receives anonymous hostile messages. As the mysteries mount, Harris, who worked as an assistant editor at Knopf before leaving to write this book, guides us through a thrilling narrative set against the backdrop of the starkly white publishing industry.
One Last Stop, Casey McQuiston (June 1)
Twenty-three year-old August has just arrived in New York City with a cynical attitude and barely any luggage—her whole life fit into five boxes. She’s a perpetual loner, until one fateful ride on the Q train changes everything. August meets a mysterious girl in a leather jacket named Jane, and is instantly smitten. But there’s a catch: Jane has been stuck on the subway since the 1970s. Like her debut novel, Red, White & Royal Blue, McQuiston’s latest rom-com bursts with charm, humor and this time a bit of magic.
How the Word Is Passed, Clint Smith (June 1)
Writer and poet Clint Smith thoroughly excavates the pervasive (yet not always visible) legacy of slavery in America in his nonfiction debut, How the Word Is Passed. To delve into this history, Smith uses his hometown of New Orleans as the launching point for an evocative and frank exploration of the American slave trade, mapping the wide-reaching effects of our nation’s greatest shame from Angola—a Louisiana plantation-turned-prison—to lower Manhattan’s dark past as a slave market hub. Through Smith’s clear-eyed storytelling, he illustrates just how deeply the consequences of this intergenerational history manifest in the present day, both politically and personally.
We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto, Alice Waters (June 1)
Chef Alice Waters is often considered the mother of the farm-to-table food movement, thanks to her legendary Berkeley, Calif., restaurant, Chez Panisse, which she opened in 1971. Waters remains one of the loudest advocates for sustainability in the restaurant business, and has long championed conscientious consumption. Her new book, We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto, is an explanation of that ethos, detailing the problems with fast food and how constant availability has negatively impacted our habits. Waters makes a convincing case that the act of eating is political, with powerful effects on the future of the planet.
The Chosen and the Beautiful, Nghi Vo (June 1)
The Great Gatsby’s recent copyright expiration means everyone can take their shot at reinventing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s legendary story of East Coast glitz and glamour. Nghi Vo’s debut novel does so with ample amounts of magic and mystery, and is centered on Jordan Baker, who in Vo’s telling is a queer Vietnamese woman navigating her way through the 1920s New York social scene. The Chosen and the Beautiful finds Jordan fighting for her place in this Gatsby-adjacent world as an outsider, a plight that Vo illuminates in heartbreaking specificity.
The President’s Daughter, Bill Clinton and James Patterson (June 7)
Former President Bill Clinton teams up with best-selling author James Patterson once more for this summer’s standalone sequel to their 2018 thriller, The President Is Missing. This time, ex-president and one-time Navy SEAL Matthew Keating’s daughter has been kidnapped by a terrorist. Through its 500-plus pages, Clinton and Patterson’s novel puts their respective expertise to good use in a twisting plot.
Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir, Akwaeke Emezi (June 8)
Structured as a series of letters to friends, lovers and family, Akwaeke Emezi’s searing nonfiction debut is an intimate exploration of the novelist’s relationship to their gender, body, family and freedom. Raw and piercing, these short pieces trace Emezi’s rise as a literary powerhouse, and outline their intense work ethic amid difficult life events. Together, the letters serve as a self-portrait of a storyteller sharing their fight to survive.
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch, Rivka Galchen (June 8)
Rivka Galchen’s smart, wry novel Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is a thought-provoking take on the proverbial witch hunt. Drawing inspiration from real historical documents about Katharina Kepler, an illiterate German woman in the 1600s (and the mother of astronomer Johannes Kepler) who was accused of being a witch, Galchen spins a tale that blurs the line between truth and heresy. Punctuated with sparkling wit and irreverent humor, it taps into the depths of who we choose to fear and why.
Source: Time Magazine by Raisa Bruner, Annabel Gutterman and Cady Lang, May 25, 2021.
With roots in more than 20 countries, Asian Americans make up one of the most diverse groups in the United States. Yet, pop culture depictions sometimes fail to reflect the depth of the Asian American experience, often neglecting smaller communities and ethnicities within the diaspora to focus instead on larger, more established populations. This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we're spotlighting books by acclaimed Asian American authors such as Christina Soontornvat and Sheba Karim as well as a few others. These books speak to the often overlooked parts of Asian America and the importance of being seen in the books we read.
The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M Masood
The book begins in the mid-1990s when Anvar Faris’ parents — disturbed by increasing fundamentalism around them — decide to immigrate to the United States from Pakistan. At the same time, thousands of miles away in Iraq, an adolescent girl named Faqwa is also getting ready to move to the United States with her father under much more tragic and complicated circumstances. Following both characters over the course of 25 years, the two unexpectedly meet as adults in California.
A Good True Thai by Sunisa Manning
Sunisa Manning’s “A Good True Thai” gives readers an in-depth look at the intensity of the student movement of the 1970s in Thailand through the eyes of three twenty-somethings with very different backgrounds and life experiences. The sumptuous details immerse you in life in Bangkok in the tumultuous ‘70s. This story of friendship and betrayal is startlingly relevant to both the current political situation in Thailand, and the fight for democracy and voting rights that is happening right now in the United States.
Afterparties: Stories by Anthony Veasna So
The literary world was stunned by the news in December that Cambodian American writer Anthony Veasna So had died unexpectedly at the age of 28, just months before the highly anticipated debut of his first book. Over the course of his short career, So had developed a reputation for creating sharply observed stories about the Cambodian American experience, many of which drew from his family’s own history as Vietnam War-era refugees. In August, Ecco will release “Afterparties,” a collection of short stories by So that wrestles with the immigrant and queer experiences in touching and unexpected ways.
Adobo and Arsenic by Mia P. Manansala
Lila Macapagal, the lead character in Mia P. Mansala’s funny new mystery is going through a rough patch. She’s recently had to move back to her hometown after a bad breakup left her reeling and she’s also been tasked with helping to save her Tita Rosie’s Filipino restaurant. Things go from bad to worse when Lila’s high school boyfriend — now a food critic with a grudge against Tita Rosie— suddenly drops dead while dining. It’s now up to Lila to clear her own name and to find out what really happened. As an added bonus for readers, Manansala includes recipes for classic Filipino dishes like chicken adobo so that they can recreate Tita Rosie’s cuisine at home.
Every Day Is A Gift by Tammy Duckworth
The new memoir by Senator Tammy Duckworth takes readers from the Illinois Democrat’s childhood in Southeast Asia as the child of a Thai Chinese mother and white American father to the devastating injury she experienced as a helicopter pilot during the Iraq War and her present position in the Senate. This memoir doesn’t hold back while showing us how resilient and strong the human spirit is. Senator Duckworth is unquestionably a hero, but it’s the beautiful tributes to the other unsung heroes in her life that will leave you in tears.
Olive Witch by Abeer Hoque
One of the most memorable memoirs Karim has read in recent years is “Olive Witch” by the Bangladeshi American writer and photographer Abeer Hoque. Born in Nigeria to Bangladeshi parents, Hoque moved to Pittsburgh with her family as a teenager. Karim said she was particularly struck by the book’s openness. It talks about moving to America as a teenager and also talks in a very honest way about mental health issues and other experiences.
Eyes That Kiss in the Corner by Joanna Ho with illustrations by Dung Ho
The book is about a young Asian girl who, upon realizing that her eyes look different from everyone in her class, learns how to embrace her eyes and those of her mother, grandmother and other family members.
Amrita Sher-Gil: Rebel with a Paintbrush by Anita Vachharajani
A new picture book about the Indian and Hungarian painter Amrita Sher-Gil, who was renowned for her portraits in the 1930s.
Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh
The latest book by We Need Diverse Books co-founder Ellen Oh was inspired by the author’s mother’s experiences as a child growing up in wartorn Korea. Main character Junie Kim is a modern-day middle schooler who is struggling to process things after she encounters racism at school. After learning about her grandparents' experiences growing up during the Korean War, Junie learns how to draw on her inner resilience and speak up.
Amina’s Song by Hena Khan
Shortly before the release of her popular 2017 middle grade novel “Amina’s Voice,” author Hena Khan told NBC News that she hoped “girls from all backgrounds find a friend in Amina, especially those who may not have met a Muslim before.” Khan’s latest release “Amina’s Song” is a follow up to Amina’s story and was released earlier this spring.
A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi
Two girls from two very different worlds strike up an unlikely friendship in “A Thousand Questions” by Saadia Faruqi. When Mimi is sent to Karachi to stay with her grandparents for the summer, she isn’t happy. The Pakistani American middle schooler is more interested in finding the father she hasn’t seen in years, even though she is not quite sure how to do so. But it’s at her grandparents' home that Mimi meets Sakina, the daughter of her family’s cook who has a secret of her own. The two girls decide to team up and help each other throughout a summer of discovery.
Source: NBC News by Lakshmi Ghandi, Shop TODAY May 18, 2021.
Beach reads, literary marvels, telling memoirs — whatever usually makes it to the top of your summer reading list, we’ve got a few more for you to explore. From an impossible scientific mystery to terrifying historical thrillers, a southern noir, swoon-worthy royal romance, and an ode to the wonder that is a hummingbird, here are our picks for the best new books to look out for this May.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
The only hope for humanity rests with Dr. Ryland Grace — if only he could remember his mission. Andy Weir, the bestselling author of The Martian, delivers another perfect science-based thriller with Project Hail Mary, a tale of impending catastrophe, survival and interstellar adventure. “If you like a lot of science in your science fiction, Andy Weir is the writer for you.”—George R. R. Martin, author of A Game of Thrones.
The Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian
Seventeenth-century New England was not a safe place, especially for women. Any small action outside of being a “good wife” had the potential to spurn allegations of witchcraft, so what was a woman to do if she found herself in a marriage marked by cruelty and domestic abuse? Chris Bohjalian’s latest thriller feels incredibly timely despite the historical setting, full of twists and the impossible and sometimes terrifying choices women must face in the pursuit of safety.
Revival Season: A Novel by Monica West
Every summer, Miriam and her family load up the minivan and drive through small southern towns for revival season, where her father holds healing ceremonies for the faithful who come looking for cures for their various illnesses. This summer, Miriam learns a secret about her father that forces her to reckon with her faith, her father’s cruelty, and her own abilities as a healer. Novelist Ann Patchett describes this novel about disillusionment, faith, and a young woman’s burgeoning sense of self, as “tender and wise”.
Great Circle: A novel by Maggie Shipstead
Readers will be swept away by Shipstead’s masterful writing in this unforgettable story of two women charting their own courses in life. Spanning over a hundred years across Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, London and Los Angeles, this breathtaking epic tells the story of Marian Graves, a female aviator determined to circumnavigate the globe, and Hadley Baxter, the actress cast to play Marian in a movie about her fateful disappearance in Antarctica.
Madam: A Novel by Phoebe Wynne
“Imagine if Donna Tartt and Margaret Atwood got together to write a creepy, suspenseful novel about a school for young women in the Scottish Highlands,” says Chandler Baker, bestselling author of Whisper Network. Perfect for fans of The Secret History, this dark gothic novel is a thrilling story about what goes on behind closed doors at an elite, secretive boarding school called Caldonbrae Hall.
Olympus, Texas: A Novel by Stacey Swann
All at once heartbreaking and hilarious, Stacey Swann’s debut novel Olympus, Texas is a must-read for anyone who loves stories of familial bonds and complexities — with a dash of classical mythology. March Briscoe returns to his family and their small Texas town two years after he was very publicly caught having an affair with his brother’s wife. Within days of his return, a man is dead, marriages are on the line, and seemingly strong sibling ties are unraveled, begging the question: how much destruction can one family take?
Find You First by Linwood Barclay
We are always surprised by the plots of Linwood Barclay’s novels. The premises are easy to grasp but you soon realize the deeper pull is more complicated and fascinating. Here, the possible heirs of a tech millionaire are vanishing — like they never existed at all. Barclay is at the top of his game here with another psychological thriller that will hook you quickly and reel you even more so. Every page is an adventure.
Basil’s War by Stephen Hunter
You might be familiar with Stephen Hunter’s work as film critic for The Washington Post, or maybe his contemporary thriller series about American sniper Bob Lee Swagger. With broad cinematic appeal and the moves of his suspense novels, Hunter now gives us a standalone historical thriller. Throw in a little dash of James Bond and you’ll find yourself propelled through this fast-moving, compact WWII thriller.
Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick
A boy meets boy romance where one of them just happens to be the Crown Prince of England. It’s one thing to fall in love but another to fall into the arms of a prince! A sweet royal romance that’s made in tabloid heaven, this charming and often hilarious novel is pure escapism with heart and soul. Fans of Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue will not want to miss it.
Billie Eilish by Billie Eilish
A look inside the life of Billie Eilish as told by the superstar herself with a treasure trove of photographs. Up until now, Eilish has been very guarded about her personal life. Her decision to reveal the most intimate details and allow the public to see her in her most private moments through her words and amazing photos will be eye-opening to all her followers who think they know the real Billie Eilish. Here, she captures raw moments before, during and after her concerts as well as during the creative process.
Yearbook by Seth Rogen
“Hi, I’m Seth Rogen! This is my collection of true stories of doing stand-up as a kid, surviving Jewish summer camp, doing way more drugs than my mom would like (sorry, mom!) and more. Enjoy!” The actor, writer, producer, director, entrepreneur, and philanthropist known for Superbad and Pineapple Express gifts us this hilarious collection of personal essays and true stories that will likely get him in a bit of trouble for divulging, but makes for one fantastic read.
Freedom by Sebastian Junger
Set against the rigors of a trek along the wooded railroad lines of the East coast, Sebastian Junger considers the conundrum that is “freedom,” whether freedom to, freedom from, individualistic or in community, juxtapositions that have bedeviled through time. Moving between travelogue, history, nature writing, observation and philosophy, Freedom raises essential human questions in new frames. As with War and Tribe, the perspective here is close, powerful and tactile. Junger is a knock-out punch of a writer.
Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night by Julian Sancton
Meticulously researched and realized, with a deep novelistic flare, Madhouse at the End of the Earth reconstructs the action-packed survival story of an early expedition to the South Pole. Amundson, Cook and an inexperienced, undisciplined crew, on an ill-fated ship, imprisoned in the Antarctic ice and darkness. This tale of adventure, excitement and indeed, terror, will captivate those who were drawn to The Lost City of Z, In the Kingdom of Ice and In the Heart of the Sea. Julian Sancton has gifted us an insanely gripping book from start to finish.
The Hummingbirds’ Gift: Wonder, Beauty, and Renewal on Wings by Sy Montgomery
In each of her books, Sy Montgomery has introduced adults and children to the complicated, intelligent spirits of our fellow creatures in the natural world, be it an octopus, a good, good pig, pink dolphins, or golden moon bears. This tale of an intervention to save the lives of two orphaned, nearly microscopic hummingbird babies is a rumination on fragility and interdependence, and an extraordinary close-up on the wonder that is a hummingbird. “Hummingbirds are less flesh than fairies … little more than bubbles fringed with iridescent feathers — air wrapped in light.”
Source: by Kat Sarfas Barnes & Noble website April 20, 2021 .
The best new books arriving in April tackle a wide range of subjects, from a sweeping anthology that illuminates the history of Black farmers in the United States to the firsthand account of an EMT in New York City. This month welcomes the return of award-winning authors like Jhumpa Lahiri and Haruki Murakami as well as the first novels from Morgan Jerkins and JoAnne Tompkins. Here are the best new books to read in April.
We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy
by Natalie Baszile (April 6)
In her new anthology, Natalie Baszile examines the relationship between Black farming and American culture through essays, photographs, first-person accounts and more. Together, these pieces dissect the legacy of Black farmers in the U.S. and the impact of land loss and food injustice over generations. In illuminating how these farmers persevered in the face of such challenges, Baszile creates a moving collection about identity, food and community.
I’m Waiting for You: And Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young (April 6)
The two sets of paired stories in Kim Bo-Young’s newly translated work of speculative fiction confront life’s biggest questions: How long can love endure? Who decides what makes a person good or bad? And is there really such a thing as free will? These are heavy topics, but Kim tackles them with playful prose and a creative eye. Her narratives, which are set in the future, drive us to reconsider our present and all that we take for granted.
My Broken Language by Quiara Alegría Hudes (April 6)
In her memoir, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes details her coming-of-age in Philadelphia surrounded by her Puerto Rican family. In lyrical terms, she describes the stories that filled her life, told in both English and Spanish, and examines her relationship with language. In the process, she considers how these stories have informed her artistry and sense of home. The result is a moving self-portrait of an author reckoning with the worlds she straddled and the communities she found along the way.
Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins (April 6)
In her debut novel, Morgan Jerkins tells the story of the notorious Melancons—a family in Harlem that derives special powers from caul, an amniotic layer of skin that affords them miraculous healing properties. Concerned with questions of motherhood, fertility and race, Jerkins captures the Melancons and their grip on their community, which starts to unravel as the youngest member of the family begins to question where she really came from.
The Hard Crowd: Essays 2000-2020 by Rachel Kushner (April 6)
Novelist Rachel Kushner blends journalism, memoir and criticism in her new collection of essays. The 19 pieces, which are from the past 20 years of the author’s career, are wide-ranging in scope. In one, Kushner recounts a visit to a Palestinian refugee camp; in another, she reflects on the music scene of her youth in San Francisco. Throughout, her energetic voice carries the reader through as she muses about art, nostalgia, writing and more.
First Responder: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Love on New York City’s Frontlines
by Jennifer Murphy (April 6)
As an EMT in New York City, Jennifer Murphy is able to provide an intimate look at what it’s like to be on the frontlines. In her memoir, she offers a window into the world of EMTs, describing the grief and chaos that come with being a first responder (along with some unexpected, but necessary, moments of humor). The book is a wrenching account of Murphy’s experiences before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, catapulting readers into scenes of crisis and rescue efforts.
First Person Singular: Stories by Haruki Murakami (April 6)
The hotly anticipated new book from celebrated author Haruki Murakami features eight short stories, and, as described in the title, each is told by a first person narrator. The question of perspective is important, as these narrators may offer glimpses into the author’s own thoughts. Featuring the magical realism that he’s best known for, Murakami’s latest collection moves from narratives about music to baseball to jazz albums and more.
Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (April 6)
While preparing for her daughter Ruby’s upcoming high school graduation, Flora Mancini discovers an envelope with her husband’s wedding ring inside, which is curious because he claimed to have lost the ring in a pond during a summer trip many years before. The ring’s reappearance has unforeseen consequences—ones that ripple throughout the second novel from Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest. In navigating the many fissures in her relationships with her husband and her best friend, Flora must come to terms with all that she didn’t know about the people closest to her.
What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins (April 13)
JoAnne Tompkins’ gripping debut novel begins with the most unwelcome of endings: the apparent murder-suicide of best friends Jonah and Daniel. The teenage boys leave behind a devastated Quaker community in Washington State where Isaac, Daniel’s father, finds himself with an unlikely house guest, a pregnant 16-year-old girl. Tompkins flips between perspectives, including the harrowing thoughts of one of the boys before his death, to reveal the heartbreaking intersections of her characters’ lives. What Comes After is equal parts thrilling mystery and aching examination of grief and guilt.
I Am a Girl from Africa by Elizabeth Nyamayaro (April 20)
When she was 8 years old, Elizabeth Nyamayaro was surrounded by death and devastation as a draught came over her village in Zimbabwe. A United Nations aid worker saved her from starvation. In her memoir, Nyamayaro explores this transformative moment in her childhood and how it drove her to become an activist and fierce advocate for change. She shares personal stories of perseverance as she reflects on what it took to make it to the U.N. herself as a Senior Advisor, where she went on to launch the HeForShe campaign.
From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement by Paula Yoo (April 20)
In 1982, Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man, was beaten to death by two white men at a club. Blending together court transcripts, interviews and more, Paula Yoo revisits this horrific killing and the trial that followed. From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry, written for young readers, is a bruising account of the aftermath of Chin’s death, from the outrage it sparked over hate crimes and racism to the protests that shaped the Asian American movement.
Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner (April 20)
Expanding on her viral 2018 essay of the same name, Michelle Zauner takes a stirring look at her relationship with her mother, food and identity in her new memoir. Zauner, the indie pop star who performs under the moniker Japanese Breakfast, describes her difficult adolescence as one of the only Asian American kids at her school in Oregon. When Zauner was 25, her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer—forcing the singer to grapple with her Korean American identity and her mother’s presence in her life. In her book, she captures, in piercing terms, the powerful connections between food and family.
You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience and the Black Experience by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown (editors) (April 27)
Curated by Tarana Burke, the founder of the ‘me too’ movement, and best-selling author Brené Brown, this powerful new essay collection brings together a group of influential Black voices, including Kiese Laymon, Imani Perry, Austin Channing Brown and Jason Reynolds. Their pieces center on vulnerability and shame resilience, and ask urgent questions about the impact of white supremacy on Black lives.
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (April 27)
In her first novel in nearly a decade, Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri tells the story of an unnamed woman as she questions who she is and where she fits into the world. The reader gets to know this contemplative narrator through a series of vignettes that showcase her witty observational skills and Lahiri’s piercing prose. Whereabouts finds the protagonist often wandering around her European city, reflecting on her relationship with her mother and the people who move in and out of her life. It’s a quiet and emotional text—originally written in Italian and translated into English.
White Magic: Essays by Elissa Washuta (April 27)
Ten interconnected essays make up Elissa Washuta’s electric new nonfiction collection. In them, the author, who is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, unveils her efforts at healing following years of struggling with sobriety, PTSD and a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder. She asks haunting questions about intoxication, love, grief and more, all while interspersing references to the pop culture that has informed her life, from Twin Peaks to Stevie Nicks. These are seemingly disparate threads, but Washuta ties them all back to her quest to understand the impact of everything that she’s endured.
Source: Time Magazine by Annabel Gutterman, April 1, 2021.
Showers, flowers, and books! Celebrate the arrival of spring with these great books for kids.
Explore Spring: 25 Great Ways to Learn About Spring
Lauri Berkenkamp Age: 5-8
How do we love spring? Let us count the ways–25 ways to be exact. Whether it’s weather-appropriate activities or planting flowers with furry animals, this book gives you 25 ways to interact with spring.
Jill Esbaum Age: 5-7
“I hate baby animals and warm weather,” said no one ever. Warm up to spring by flipping through cute photographs of animals and the great outdoors.
Feel The Wind
Arthur Dorros Age: 4-8
Air is always moving! You can hear it, feel it, even smell it! Wake up your spring senses with this eye-opening, breezy read.
Who Likes Rain?
Wong Herbert Yee Age: 4-7
Grab your umbrella and hit the puddles! Check out this interactive question-and-answer book to find out which species enjoy the rainy April showers as much as humans do.
Planting a Rainbow
Lois Ehlert Age: 2-5
With her Eric Carle-esque illustrations and colorful text on wide, easy-for-little-fingers pages, Ehlert introduces the youngest kids to vibrate spring images and simple site words.
What Will Hatch?
Jennifer Ward Age: 2-5
The Anticipation is haunting! Full of playful text and rhythmic couplets, kids will get excited as they learn about different animals and their life cycles, which begin in spring.
And Then It’s Spring
Julie Fogliano Age: 4-7
In this sweet story, a young boy and his dog prepare a garden for spring. Children can learn a wonderful lesson about patience and friendship just by reading this instant favorite.
Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms
Julia Rawlinson Age: 4-8
Say it ain’t snow! Fletcher the Fox is very excited for spring! The flowers bloom, the air is fresh and crisp… but snow?! The transformation of seasons can be full of surprises, as your little ones will learn with via Fletcher’s adventures.
Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic
Steven Schnur Age: 2-4
This book has great appeal for both kids and adults, and can be read and reread at home and in school. Adults appreciate the sleek writing style that exposes kids to a unique form of poetry.
A New Beginning
Wendy Pfeffer Age: 6-9
What is the spring equinox? Learn some simple spring science and history lessons along with suggested activities to try with your kids this season.
Source: PBS Kids by Danielle Steinberg March 21, 2018
Who Is Maud Dixon?, Alexandra Andrews (March 2)
Entry level publishing employee Florence Darrow is desperate to be a successful writer, like best-selling Maud Dixon, whose debut captured the world’s attention even as her true identity remained a secret known to very few. The stars align in the strangest ways for Florence when she somehow becomes the personal assistant to the author, leading them on a research trip to Marrakesh, where things go haywire. It’s there that this publishing satire transforms into a lively suspense novel as Florence is forced to reckon with the person she’s become in her quest for fame.
What’s Mine and Yours, Naima Coster (March 2)
A debate over school integration divides a community in North Carolina and forever alters the lives of two families. At the center of the story are students Gee and Noelle, whose worlds collide at their newly integrated school. The convergence of their paths sets off a series of events that Naima Coster traces through the following 20 years in her piercing examination of race, identity and generational trauma.
Infinite Country, Patricia Engel (March 2)
Talia is a teenager serving time at a correctional facility in Colombia. She’s desperate to flee and return home to her father in Bogotá where a plane ticket to the U.S. is waiting for her. It’s there that Talia’s mother and siblings are living. Patricia Engel follows Talia’s journey to reunite with her family, illuminating the struggles of the fractured unit. The result is a heartbreaking portrait of a family dealing with the realities of migration and separation.
Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (March 2)
In his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro brings readers to a strange world filled with human-like robots called Artificial Friends (AFs). His narrator is a particularly observant AF named Klara who studies the behavior of the customers who come to the store where she’s patiently waiting to be bought. What ensues is a quietly devastating narrative about the intersection of humanity, technology and love.
The Committed, Viet Thanh Nguyen (March 2)
In 2015, Viet Thanh Nguyen published his debut novel, The Sympathizer, to critical acclaim. The sweeping tale about the Vietnam War went on to win the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in fiction and sold over 1 million copies globally. Now, Nguyen revisits the saga of his unnamed narrator through a sequel, which follows the protagonist, a South Vietnamese army veteran, as he attempts to live as a refugee in 1980s France.
The Code Breaker, Walter Isaacson (March 9)
In his biography of Nobel Prize–winning chemist Jennifer Doudna, former TIME editor-in-chief Walter Isaacson explores the story behind CRISPR, the technology that can edit DNA and is showing promise as a way to both test for the COVID-19 virus and potentially even protect human cells from infection. Isaacson chronicles the integral role Doudna played in the development of CRISPR and outlines the impact the technology will have on generations to come.
Black Girl, Call Home: Poems, Jasmine Mans (March 9)
In her new collection, spoken-word poet Jasmine Mans examines her relationship to home and her journey navigating life in America as a queer Black woman. The pieces vary in form and subject, tackling everything from race to feminism to belonging. Together, they showcase Mans’ power as a poet who can relay her experiences in lyrical, vivid terms.
How Beautiful We Were, Imbolo Mbue (March 9)
The second novel from the author of Behold the Dreamers details the plight of a fictional African village as it faces extreme environmental degradation at the hands of an American oil company. The consequences are severe and long-lasting—toxic water is killing children, pipeline spills are destroying farmlands. In surveying the damage over several years, Imbolo Mbue crafts an aching narrative about greed, community and perseverance.
A Place Like Mississippi, W. Ralph Eubanks (March 16)
From William Faulkner to Natasha Trethewey, some of the most prolific American writers have hailed from Mississippi. Included in that list is essayist W. Ralph Eubanks whose newest work of nonfiction seeks to understand the state’s influence on modern literature. Eubanks takes readers on a literary tour of his home state, charting the role Mississippi has played in shaping the writers who lived there and the work they produced.
There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job, Kikuko Tsumura (March 23)
The English-language debut from award-winning Japanese writer Kikuko Tsumura tells the story of an unnamed 30-something crippled by career burnout who is desperate for an “easy” job. Tsumura chronicles her narrator’s experiences as she moves between jobs that require little thought or effort. But as strange and magical moments arise, the protagonist begins to realize that perhaps the search for an easy occupation is harder than she thought. It’s a revelation that plays out through Tsumura’s sharp prose and biting observations on late capitalism.
A Little Devil in America, Hanif Abdurraqib (March 30)
Poet and critic Hanif Abdurraqib crafts a stirring account of the relationship between Black artists and American culture in his new book. A blend of cultural analysis, criticism and memoir, A Little Devil in America takes a close look at a wide range of Black performances, from a dance marathon to a game of spades to a performance by Whitney Houston at the 1988 Grammy Awards. Throughout, Abdurraqib writes with urgency as he highlights what these performances mean, how they connect to his own feelings on grief, love and life, and where they fit into American history.
Girlhood, Melissa Febos (March 30)
In eight haunting essays, Melissa Febos unearths the trauma of her adolescence as she picks apart the burdens that accompany being a young woman. In sharing the darkness that clouded her coming of age, Febos asks pointed questions about the expectations placed on women and how they impact a person’s sense of self. Febos combines her own stories with investigative reporting to argue why we need to transform the way we think about girls as they grow up.
Of Women and Salt, Gabriela Garcia (March 30)
Jeanette is living in Miami, where she takes in the daughter of a neighbor who has been detained by ICE. The decision comes as she wants to know more about her own family—a yearning that soon yields revelations about the legacy of those who came before her in Cuba. Flipping between the voices of several characters, Gabriela Garcia creates a thoughtful portrait of women coming to terms with the difficult decisions they’ve made in their lives—and the betrayals they’ve committed along the way.
Libertie, Kaitlyn Greenidge (March 30)
Though Libertie Sampson grew up free in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, she knows that freedom is limited. Her mother wants her to follow in her footsteps and become a doctor—something Libertie not only doesn’t want to do, but also can’t because of her darker skin. As the young woman wrestles with what it means to be free, a notion made more complicated by time spent in Haiti, Kaitlyn Greenidge weaves together an intricate narrative about colorism, classism and community.
Source: Time Magazine website, by Annabel Gutterman, February 26, 2021.
The 10 Best Books of 2020
A Children’s Bible By Lydia Millet
In Millet’s latest novel, a bevy of kids and their middle-aged parents convene for the summer at a country house in America’s Northeast. While the grown-ups indulge (pills, benders, bed-hopping), the kids, disaffected teenagers and their parentally neglected younger siblings, look on with mounting disgust. But what begins as generational comedy soon takes a darker turn, as climate collapse and societal breakdown encroach. The ensuing chaos is underscored by scenes and symbols repurposed from the Bible — a man on a blowup raft among the reeds, animals rescued from a deluge into the back of a van, a baby born in a manger. With an unfailingly light touch, Millet delivers a wry fable about climate change, imbuing foundational myths with new meaning and, finally, hope.
Deacon King Kong By James McBride
A mystery story, a crime novel, an urban farce, a sociological portrait of late-1960s Brooklyn: McBride’s novel contains multitudes. At its rollicking heart is Deacon Cuffy Lambkin, a.k.a. Sportcoat, veteran resident of the Causeway Housing Projects, widower, churchgoer, odd-jobber, home brew-tippler and, now, after inexplicably shooting an ear clean off a local drug dealer, a wanted man. The elastic plot expands to encompass rival drug crews, an Italian smuggler, buried treasure, church sisters and Sportcoat’s long-dead wife, still nagging from beyond the grave. McBride, the author of the National Book Award-winning novel “The Good Lord Bird” and the memoir “The Color of Water,” among other books, conducts his antic symphony with deep feeling, never losing sight of the suffering and inequity within the merriment.
Hamnet By Maggie O’Farrell
A bold feat of imagination and empathy, this novel gives flesh and feeling to a historical mystery: how the death of Shakespeare’s 11-year-old son, Hamnet, in 1596, may have shaped his play “Hamlet,” written a few years later. O’Farrell, an Irish-born novelist, conjures with sensual vividness the world of the playwright’s hometown: the tang of new leather in his cantankerous father’s glove shop; the scent of apples in the storage shed where he first kisses Agnes, the farmer’s daughter and gifted healer who becomes his wife; and, not least, the devastation that befalls her when she cannot save her son from the plague. The novel is a portrait of unspeakable grief wreathed in great beauty.
Homeland Elegies By Ayad Akhtar
At once personal and political, Akhtar’s second novel can read like a collection of pitch-perfect essays that give shape to a prismatic identity. We begin with Walt Whitman, with a soaring overture to America and a dream of national belonging — which the narrator methodically dismantles in the virtuosic chapters that follow. The lure and ruin of capital, the wounds of 9/11, the bitter pill of cultural rejection: Akhtar pulls no punches critiquing the country’s most dominant narratives. He returns frequently to the subject of his father, a Pakistani immigrant and onetime doctor to Donald Trump, seeking in his life the answer to a burning question: What, after all, does it take to be an American?
The Vanishing Half By Brit Bennett
Beneath the polished surface and enthralling plotlines of Bennett’s second novel, after her much admired “The Mothers,” lies a provocative meditation on the possibilities and limits of self-definition. Alternating sections recount the separate fates of Stella and Desiree, twin sisters from a Black Louisiana town during Jim Crow, whose residents pride themselves on their light skin. When Stella decides to pass for white, the sisters’ lives diverge, only to intersect unexpectedly, years later. Bennett has constructed her novel with great care, populating it with characters, including a trans man and an actress, who invite us to consider how identity is both chosen and imposed, and the degree to which “passing” may describe a phenomenon more common than we think.
Hidden Valley Road By Robert Kolker
Don and Mimi Galvin had the first of their 12 children in 1945. Intelligence and good looks ran in the family, but so, it turns out, did mental illness: By the mid-1970s, six of the 10 Galvin sons had developed schizophrenia. “For a family, schizophrenia is, primarily, a felt experience, as if the foundation of the family is permanently tilted,” Kolker writes. His is a feat of narrative journalism but also a study in empathy; he unspools the stories of the Galvin siblings with enormous compassion while tracing the scientific advances in treating the illness.
A Promised Land By Barack Obama
Presidential memoirs are meant to inform, to burnish reputations and, to a certain extent, to shape the course of history, and Obama’s is no exception. What sets it apart from his predecessors’ books is the remarkable degree of introspection. He invites the reader inside his head as he ponders life-or-death issues of national security, examining every detail of his decision-making; he describes what it’s like to endure the bruising legislative process and lays out his thinking on health care reform and the economic crisis. An easy, elegant writer, he studs his narrative with affectionate family anecdotes and thumbnail sketches of world leaders and colleagues. “A Promised Land” is the first of two volumes — it ends in 2011 — and it is as contemplative and measured as the former president himself.
Shakespeare in a Divided America By James Shapiro
In his latest book, the author of “Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?” and “1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare” has outdone himself. He takes two huge cultural hyper-objects — Shakespeare and America — and dissects the effects of their collision. Each chapter centers on a year with a different thematic focus. The first chapter, “1833: Miscegenation,” revolves around John Quincy Adams and his obsessive hatred of Desdemona. The last chapter, “2017: Left | Right,” where Shapiro truly soars, analyzes the notorious Central Park production of “Julius Caesar.” By this point it is clear that the real subject of the book is not Shakespeare plays, but us, the U.S.
Uncanny Valley By Anna Wiener
Wiener’s stylish memoir is an uncommonly literary chronicle of tech-world disillusionment. Soured on her job as an underpaid assistant at a literary agency in New York, Wiener, then in her mid-20s, heads west, heeding the siren call of Bay Area start-ups aglow with optimism, vitality and cash. A series of unglamorous jobs — in various customer support positions — follow. But Wiener’s unobtrusive perch turns out to be a boon, providing an unparalleled vantage point from which to scrutinize her field. The result is a scrupulously observed and quietly damning exposé of the yawning gap between an industry’s public idealism and its internal iniquities.
War By Margaret MacMillan
This is a short book but a rich one with a profound theme. MacMillan argues that war — fighting and killing — is so intimately bound up with what it means to be human that viewing it as an aberration misses the point. War has led to many of civilization’s great disasters but also to many of civilization’s greatest achievements. It’s all around us, influencing everything we see and do; it’s in our bones. MacMillan writes with impressive ease. Practically every page of her book is interesting and, despite the grimness of its argument, even entertaining.
Source: New York Times; A version of this article appears in print on Dec. 13, 2020, Page 14 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: The 10 Best Books of 2020.
The holiday season is upon us, and this is good news for folks who have all of the holiday spirit and can’t watch those Hallmark movies fast enough. We too especially love this time of the year. Our holiday playlist has been on repeat for weeks and we've already put up our Christmas trees. We love this time of year! That being said, here's a list of holiday themed YA books for readers of all ages to enjoy. And no, you don't have to be a young adult/teen to read them! So get in the holiday spirit with us and read one of these holiday themed YA books. They're sure to bring the romance and remind readers of their favorite Hallmark movies.
#ALLIWANTFORCHRISTMAS: A SWEET YA CHRISTMAS ROMANCE BY YESENIA VARGAS
Christmas Eve is right around the corner, but enjoying the perfect Christmas is looking more impossible than ever for these five friends. Ella’s Prince Charming is caught in a snowstorm. Lena is just over the holidays in general. Harper needs another $100 for a family in need. Tori is more concerned with balloon colors than her boyfriend, and Rey just feels forever alone. Will their first Christmas together as friends be a flop?
CAROLS AND CHAOS BY CINDY ANSTEY
For fans of Jane Austen, Downton Abbey, and of course, Hallmark movies comes this companion novel to Suitors and Sabotage set during the Yuletide season of 1817. Lady’s maid Kate Darby has her hands full between performing her household duties at the Shackleford Park country estate and caring for her ailing mother. Matt Harlow is also busy acting as valet for the Steeple brothers, two of the estate’s holiday guests. Falling in love would be a disaster for both of them, but resisting their feelings for each other becomes the least of their problems when Kate and Matt unwittingly become swept up in a devious counterfeiting scheme.
DECKED WITH HOLLY BY MARNI BATES
A Christmas cruise with her two cousins is not Holly’s idea of a good time. The trip doesn’t get better when she gets seasick and then pepper-sprayed by a cute guy named Nick who is actually Dominic Wyatt, a drummer from one of the hottest boy bands. Soon, Holly’s face is plastered all over the internet, and rumors are flying. The band can’t risk destroying their family-friendly image, so Dominic convinces Holly to be his fake girlfriend for the next two weeks.
EX-MAS: A LOVE/HATE STORY BY KATE BRIAN
Lila Beckwith is ready to throw an epic holiday party while her parents are out of town. Lila’s big plans are soon spoiled when her Christmas-obsessed little brother Cooper takes off with his best friend Tyler to save Santa. Lila has to bring Cooper back home safely before her parents return on Christmas Eve, but the only person who can help is Tyler’s older brother Beau, who also happens to be Lila’s ex-boyfriend. It may take more than a Christmas miracle for Lila and Beau to overcome their differences and find their brothers.
FRENCH KISSMAS BY CATHY HAPKA
Christmas in Paris is like a homecoming for Nicole Larson. A year ago, Nic studied abroad in Paris and is now back with her friend Annike to spend the holiday season in the City of Light. Almost instantly, Nic is once again rekindling her romance with Parisian hottie Luc, but what is the point of reigniting something that will only last for a few weeks? Instead, Nic prefers spending her time with new friend Mike…until it becomes clear Mike is also interested in being more than just friends.
LET IT SNOW: THREE HOLIDAY ROMANCES BY JOHN GREEN, MAUREEN JOHNSON, AND LAUREN MYRACLE
Comprised of three separate but intertwined stories, Let It Snow follows three Gracetown teenagers during a huge snow storm on Christmas Eve. The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson follows Jubilee Dougal who is forced to spend Christmas Eve with her grandparents instead of her boyfriend Noah. A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green begins with Tobin and his friends, the Duke and JP, being lured to the local Waffle House by their friend Keun. In The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle, Addie deals with a recent breakup.
After reading Let It Snow, stream the Netflix adaptation!
MY NEW CRUSH GAVE TO ME BY SHANI PETROFF
The only thing Charlie Donovan wants for Christmas is Teo Ortiz. He barely knows she exists, but Charlie is determined to be Teo’s date to the Christmas Ball. All Charlie has to do is rig the school paper’s Secret Santa and win Teo’s heart with the perfect gift. To succeed, Charlie needs the help of J.D. Ortiz, Teo’s cousin. He is the most annoying person Charlie’s ever met, but J.D. is willing to give Charlie insight into what Teo wants. Yet, as Charlie spends more time with J.D., she begins to wonder if she knows what (or who) she really wants for Christmas after all.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU BY LAURA SILVERMAN
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets You’ve Got Mail in this YA holiday romcom about rival teen booksellers. Shoshanna Greenberg loves working at her favorite local bookstore Once Upon. When her boss announces a holiday bonus to the employee who sells the most books, Shoshanna sees an opportunity to make enough money to fix her car. The only person standing in her way is the store’s new hire Jake Kaplan. Jake doesn’t even read, but his sales soon begin to rival Shoshanna’s. Jake may be handsome, single, and Jewish, which is hard to find in Atlanta, but to Shoshanna, Jake is the enemy. She is ready to take him down, but the competition seems to bring them closer.
SECRET SANTA BY SABRINA JAMES
Hopeless romantic Noelle just knows her Secret Santa gift is from her crush Charlie. Froggy the super geek likes the super popular Celia and plans to use being her Secret Santa to reveal his feelings, but Celia has a crush on resident bad boy Jake. Celia thinks her presents are from him. Lily just wants to give Connor a great gift because she loves Christmas, but her gifts are making Connor’s girlfriend jealous. All will be revealed at the Winter Dance, and there’s more than one surprise waiting under the mistletoe.
SNOW IN LOVE BY MELISSA DE LA CRUZ, NIC STONE, AIMEE FRIEDMAN, AND KASIE WEST
What’s better than one cozy holiday story? Four stories written by some of the bestselling YA authors. Kasie West shares a snowy road trip taking an unexpected detour when secrets (and crushes) are revealed. From Aimee Friedman comes a story about a young Jewish woman who finds love while working as a department store elf. Melissa de la Cruz gives Christmas Eve a plot twist when a high school couple exchanges presents. Nic Stone’s story is about a scavenger hunt amid holiday crowds at the airport.
SNOWED IN BY RACHEL HAWTHORNE
If you’re looking for Christmas YA books that provide cozy winter vibes without all the Christmas, then Snowed In is the must-read book for you.
At 17 years old, Ashleigh is about to experience a lot of things for the first time. The first thing is snow, because she and her mom are moving from sunny Texas to icy Michigan. Living on the completely snowbound and tiny Mackinac Island means experiencing small-town life for the first time. The scariest new experience of them all is boys. Of course, there were boys in Texas, but Ashleigh has never met a boy as cute or irresistible as Josh Wynter.
TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT BY JENNIFER CASTLE
Kendall, who just returned home from a life-altering semester abroad in Europe, and Max, who is going through a gap year, witness a tragic accident during the holiday season. Racked with guilt from the incident, the two decide to perform random acts of kindness for strangers around New York City. Max and Kendall can’t deny their growing bond as the challenge brings them closer together. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will their other romantic entanglements keep them apart or will Kendall and Max be together at midnight?
Source: Katisha Smith for Book Riot. Originally posted Oct 23, 2020.
November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is also referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. This month is a time to celebrate and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. This month is also a good time to educate the general public about tribes and raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced. This includes both historically and in the present. So let's celebrate Native American heritage by reading Indigenous authors all month long. Here’s a list of books by Indigenous authors to get you started.
American Sunrise by Joy Harjo
In her latest collection, Joy Harjo returns to the Southeast where her ancestors, the Mvskoke people, were forcibly removed under the Indian Removal Act of 1830 to west of the Mississippi. The book opens with a map, one of many trails of tears. Harjo is extremely skilled at using short, deceptively simple lines and stanzas to create imagery that swells with emotion. As Harjo explores the grief and mourning of this forced exile, she also tells a story of erasure and survival, of personal and intergenerational loss, and of a new beginning.
Hope Matters by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb, and Tania Carter
This book is a collaboration between a celebrated poet, novelist, nonfiction writer and editor. This mix makes for a poetry collection that's a pleasure to read. Joyful and sad, charting colonial and familial beginnings, it sings with hope and reconciliation in its verse. Hope Matters is a welcome addition to Native American literature.
Eyes Bottle Dark With A Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Skeets
This debut collection from Skeets (Diné) is remarkable in every way. The photograph on the cover is an image of the author's uncle, who was killed not long after it was taken. Eyes Bottle Dark With a Mouthful of Flowers is brimming with poetic imagery and gripping prose. In content and in form, Skeets brings both queer and Indigenous ways of thinking and being to living. This book shines and glitters on every page. It marks the emergence of a major new poetic voice in Native American literature.
The Beadworkers by Beth Piatote
This debut collection of contemporary writing from writer and scholar Dr. Beth Piatote (Colville Confederated Tribes) ranges in form from short stories to poetry to plays. Some of the stories even include historical fiction narratives. No matter what form Piatote takes in her storytelling, the fiction here is gripping and totally readable. The stories here are wide-ranging, but include many perspectives of Indigenous people in North America.
Living on the Borderlines by Melissa Michal
Melissa Michal’s debut short story collection centers on people of Seneca descent. The stories and characters here differ widely and as the title implies, they dance along the borderlines of a colonialist and racist society. The familial relationships in these stories are strong and touching. Melissa Michal has created potent stories with disturbing and beautiful elements both. All of the characters here are full of depth and are complex. This book is one of the more underrated short story collections of the year.
Black Indian by Shonda Buchanan
Shonda Buchanan dives deep into her identity and inheritance with this shining memoir. The author was raised as a black girl, but told stories of her multiracial heritage throughout her childhood. This book shows readers how her life experience informed her sense of self. Told in stunning and poetic prose her story takes readers across landscapes and cultural sagas. The result is both a poignant personal narrative and a broader cultural one. Buchanan has truly gifted us with this beautiful and totally engrossing memoir that touches on the meanings of family, legacy, and self-identity.
Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s by Tiffany Midge
In this collection of short essays, the author uses humor to examine identity, feminism, privilege, and politics. All of this is done through her stories that span the personal (losing her mother) to the seemingly inane (the existence of pumpkin spice everything). The essays here mark a good balance between insight and an intuitive sense of humor. This book is full of writing that'll make you laugh, think, and feel deeply, no matter what your identity is.
Mamaskatch by Darrel J. McLeod
This book is a true story narrated in the first person by the author. It's told from his perspective, but includes many other characters. The narrative begins with a story of his mother and her escape from a Canadian residential school. The author writes about Catholicism throughout, first finding meaning in it, then rejecting it as white washing. He grows from a curious, loyal, and happy child and his life starts and stops in cycles. He writes touchingly about how whiteness and Catholicism negatively changed how gender nonconforming, trans, and sexually fluid people are viewed. Also, how they're treated in Indigenous communities, even within modern times.
Shapes of Native Nonfiction, edited by Elissa Washuta & Theresa Warburton
This collection of essays from established and new contemporary Indigenous writers simply sparkles. It includes pieces from well-known writers such as Terese Marie Mailhot, Tiffany Midge (whose Bury My Heart at Chuck E Cheese’s is on this list), Eden Robinson, Alicia Elliott, Laura Da´, Ernestine Hayes, and Deborah A. Miranda. This book is a must for fans of Indigenous authors. The editors named the four sections of the book after basket weaving craft: technique, coiling, plaiting and twining. This is a unique way to use literary pieces to form an experimental, innovative, lyrical and world-building narrative. In these pages, we witness storytelling as a way of developing new roads in Native nonfiction writing.
As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, From Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker
Dina Gilio-Whitaker is the co-author of this book along with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. In this short but dense story, Gilio-Whitaker brings her vast knowledge and experience to the page. The book opens with a detailed account of Standing Rock and moves outward, highlighting the ways in which western colonial expansion, the Industrial Revolution and the mainstream EJ movement continue to exclude, marginalize and harm First Nations people. Making connections between Indigenous health, sacred sites, and the leadership of Indigenous women, Gilio-Whitaker makes a complete and compelling argument to open the doors for indigenous people in the EJ movement.
Legacy: Trauma, Story, and Indigenous Healing by Suzanne Methot
Suzanne Methot (Nehiyawak) is the author of this beautifully written book that highlights healing from intergenerational trauma. Indigenous communities have higher rates of depression, addiction, and other chronic illnesses than other North Americans. The first sentence of the book reads, “Indigenous people do funerals really, really well.” Methot discusses damaging, toxic patterns of behavior, thought, and physical illness as a direct result of unresolved grief and loss. She points out the importance of storytelling in healing from trauma. These twisting stories have a transformational and emotional narrative that can facilitate healing. In clear and driven prose, the author has written a book that is both easy to follow and crucial to read.
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States won the 2015 American Book Award. It remains a pillar text in telling the true indigenous history - without whitewashing. It's been recently adapted for YA and middle grade readers by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza. This adaptation is a wonderful approach to writing history in a way that is accessible to young readers. It opens with a straightforward explanation about bias to Indigenous languages. It also uses images to great effect, from maps to photographs of Indigenous art and Indigenous resistance and activism. The book as a whole illustrates the history of colonialism and Indigenous communities, including mentioning that the democracy within Indigenous communities inspired key parts of the US Constitution. It includes “Did You Know” boxes and exercise questions. Overall, it reads like a very accessible textbook and a strong introduction to Indigenous history of North America for young readers.
Now that we’re midway through October, Halloween is just around the corner. Although, if we’re being honest, we’ve been ready for Halloween since September 1st. We've gathered up a list of some spooky books to get you in the Halloween spirit (e-book links are included in the headings). So enjoy one of these frightful reads while getting cozy under the blankets. Though you might want to keep the lights on while reading…
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Practical Magic is about two sister-witches trying to escape a long-standing curse on their family. Sisterhood, love, tragedy and magic — what’s not to love? This is an all time favorite movie and book! If you haven’t seen the movie, we recommend adding it to your watch list.
IT by Stephen King
With the success of the movies based on this story, you probably know what this book is about. A group of children try to defeat a scary clown that feeds on kids… and fear. This is a great psychological thriller, and it has us spooked every time we pick it up. It’s a long read, but well worth it — it's considered one of the best Halloween books for adults. Plus, it’ll give you further insight into the characters in the movie that you might not have picked up on otherwise.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
If you’ve watched the series on Netflix, you’re going to love the book!
The Haunting of Hill House is about four people who come to stay in an unfriendly, poltergeist-ridden house. Naturally, chaos ensues. This book is genuinely scary — we refused to read it at night, and most of the reviews say the same! If supernatural horror stories are your jam, this haunted tale is right up your alley.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
A classic ghost story! The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is about schoolteacher Ichabod Crane, his hapless attempts to win over a woman and his eerie encounter with the headless horseman. This classic gothic tale is full of heavy description and lore behind the legendary headless soldier. We think it's still a good Halloween classic and should be read every year.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Here’s another one of the best Halloween books for adults. If you like spooky mystery novels, consider this a must-read. Ten strangers are lured to a mysterious island mansion for a dinner party, during which they are accused of guilty secrets. At the end of the night… one of the guests is found dead. It’s a little gothic and a lot spooky. Perfect for your next night in.
Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel by A.W Jantha
If Hocus Pocus isn’t on your must-watch list this Halloween, you’re doing it wrong! That said, have you considered trying the book version too? This classic story is about a boy named Max, who accidentally unleashes the sinister Sanderson Sisters from the afterlife and has to stop them from carrying out their evil plans. The sequel takes place 25 years later when Max’s daughter finds herself in a similar situation… Try this book for a fun and more lighthearted read.
The Shining by Stephen King
Although he's already appeared once on our list, you can't blame us for including another great spooky read by the master of horror. The story of Jack Torrance and his family, who are off-season caretakers of the Overlook Hotel, is truly terrifying. You'll feel as if you too are walking the empty halls of the atmospheric old hotel. This book is a uniquely horrifying read that just screams Halloween. It's about as perfect a haunted house story as can be.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
This classic spooky read is for the whole family and brilliantly spun by Gaiman's signature imagination. This book is suitable for all ages, there is not the weird menace or dark element of a lot of Gaiman's material (certainly his adult reads) and it is brilliantly illustrated including characters and elements from tales and fables many will be familiar with.
The Witches by Roald Dahl
Another family friendly read is this Roald Dahl classic. This chapter book tells a story of a grandma, a grandson, and their journey together is ridding the world of 'real' witches and saving the world's children. It's a delightful and delicious Halloween fodder from a master of children's literature.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
A blood-curdling (and draining) Halloween essential. This has it all: the castle high on a mountain, the bats, the Count sleeping in his coffin. Famously the Count arrives in Whitby, but most of the action is around London and his home turf in Transylvania. And quite a lot of action there is. It's written as a collection of diary entries so you get the perspective of each of the main characters. Although it's fairly long, it's a compelling read!
For young readers, picture books are an important part of learning how to read. Usually this type of format marks the first step in introducing a child to reading and is often the start of language development for many children. Libraries that include picture books to promote literacy to young readers are boosting beginner-level vocabulary skills, introducing sentence structure and developing story analysis. Read the benefits of picture books for young readers below.
Building Language Skills – When reading through picture books during story time, at home or in the classroom, children can practice sounding out the language while adults introduce and explain new and interesting words. The rhythm and rhyme of picture books makes them easy to understand and fun to read aloud, allowing children to learn words quickly. In addition, reading the same story repeatedly increases vocabulary by 12%.
Inspiring Visual Thinking - Illustrations in a picture book help children understand what they are reading, allowing new readers to analyze the story. If children are having difficulty with the words, the illustrations can help them figure out the narrative, which can increase their comprehension.
Increasing Engagement – Picture books allow teachers and parents to spend time discussing the story, pictures and words. This gives young readers confidence and allows them to talk about what they see on the page, what happened in the story, what the characters are doing and which events have unfolded. Another good activity to try in the library or classroom is working in a small groups by placing children into groups of three with a picture book. Have one child concentrate on reading the text aloud; have another concentrate on the illustrations (pointing out details as the book is read); and have the third highlight what they see in the story that might differ from the others.
Delivering Fun – Picture books should always make the reading experience fun. If a child’s first experience with reading is a negative one, and looked at as a chore, it may make reading appear to be work rather than fun, which might hinder a child’s progress from picture books to chapter books.
Like any experience for children, it’s important that they like what they’re doing in order to succeed. Teachers and parents should encourage children to read whatever they’re interested in, including graphic novels, comics, magazines and poems. Check out these picture e-books picked out from the CLAMS OverDrive e-book collection.
September is self-improvement month, a time to focus on improving yourself to achieve desired goals. We have compiled a list of books—from timeless classics such as James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh to recent bestsellers like Nike swoosh creator Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog—that provide insights on maximizing potential, overcoming fears and recognizing the pivotal moments that can have the greatest impact on your life.
1. Acres of Diamonds: All Good Things Are Possible, Right Where You Are, and Now!
Opportunities for success, wealth and happiness often lie under foot and yet go unnoticed. This little book, originally a speech by Russell Conwell, serves as a reminder not to overlook the abundance right on our doorstep. This timeless work addresses the myth that fame and fortune are waiting somewhere “out there.” Conwell also dispels the notion that men and women of integrity shouldn’t desire money or wealth. He advises readers to begin searching for the diamonds in their lives… at home.
2. As a Man Thinketh
“This little volume” as James Allen refers to it, has been a source of inspiration for millions and has influenced the work of many respected personal-development leaders. And with statements such as, “The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors, that which it loves, and also that which it fears,” Allen paved the way for many contemporary philosophers. At its core is the belief that “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
3. Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!
Within each person is a sleeping giant of greatness. With this book, motivational coach Anthony Robbins seeks to help you “take immediate control of mental, emotional, physical and financial destiny.” This personal-development classic delves into the specifics of goal setting, achieving success in relationships, talking to yourself and discovering your true potential.
4. Chicken Soup for the Soul Series
The phenomenal success of Chicken Soup for the Soul offers inspiration on many levels. From the tenacity it took to get the first Chicken Soup for the Soul published (Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were rejected by 140 publishers and their book agent before finding a publisher willing to take a chance on their idea) to the thousands of touching and thought-provoking stories, these books will warm your heart and may help you view life from a new perspective.
5. Grit: The Power of Passion a Perseverance
Pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes or businesspeople—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.” Duckworth mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance.
6. How To Win Friends and Influence People
First published in 1937, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was an overnight success with staying power. Today, this book is regarded as one of the all-time best for its lessons on dealing with people. It is packed with anecdotes from historical leaders and lessons learned or taught by some of history’s greatest businessmen, making the read as interesting as it is enlightening. And the methods—calling a person by his or her name or looking at the situation from the other’s point of view—work in business and in personal life with family and friends.
7. Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace
Change is so rapid today that leaders must do much more than stay the course to be successful. If they are not nimble and ready to adapt, they won’t survive. The key is to learn how to leadershift. In this book, John C. Maxwell helps leaders gain the ability and willingness to make leadership changes that will positively enhance their organizational and personal growth.
8. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable
In bestsellers such as Purple Cow and Tribes, Seth Godin taught readers show to make remarkable products and spread powerful ideas. But this book is about you—your choices, your future and your potential to make a huge difference in whatever field you choose.
9. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
Phil Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always been a mystery. In Shoe Dog, he tells his story at last. At twenty-four, Knight decides that rather than work for a big corporation, he will create something all his own, new, dynamic, different. Knight details the many risks he encountered, the crushing setbacks, the ruthless competitors and hostile bankers—as well as his many thrilling triumphs.
10. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
In this book, Carol Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success, but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment but may actually jeopardize success.
9 Books to Read in September
Several of this month’s book selections will remind readers of what’s at stake during the upcoming election, from racial equality to governmental transparency — and that includes the fiction.
“The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War — A Tragedy in Three Acts,” by Scott Anderson (Sept. 1)
Many stories about spies are also stories of derring-do, something Anderson (“Lawrence in Arabia”) also incorporates into his new history of Cold War intelligence. Anderson’s look at four men who ran covert operations around the globe after World War II is as thrilling as it is tragic, as each man confronts the moral compromises he made in the name of democracy.
“The Lying Life of Adults: A Novel,” by Elena Ferrante (Sept. 1)
Meet Giovanna, an awkward adolescent like her foremothers in Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels — except that Giovanna lives in an upper-middle-class milieu and knows nothing of her home city’s blue-collar district until an overheard comment spurs her to seek out her Aunt Vittoria. Thereby hangs a tale of awakening and change that will delight both old and new fans of the elusive Italian writer.
“We Germans: A Novel,” by Alexander Starritt (Sept. 1)
Meissner, who as a young college student was drafted into the German army and sent to the Eastern Front, in his old age writes a letter to his grandson. At first an account of action and adventure, the letter turns to Meissner’s quest to live a life of atonement. Can an individual explain his country’s complicity? This novel may be more relevant now than we’d like.
“Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for Us All,” by Martha S. Jones (Sept. 8)
We all know that 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which secured the vote for White women. In her important new book “Vanguard,” Jones shows how African American women waged their own fight for the vote, and why their achievements speak mightily to our present moment as voters, regardless of gender or race.
“Just Us: An American Conversation,” by Claudia Rankine (Sept. 8)
Read the first two title words again, and you’ll get a glimmer of what Rankine (“Citizen”) has in mind for her new book of essays, poems and images that confront White privilege and White silence. But the subtitle provides an opening to disrupt the old talk and make space for new ideas.
“The Awkward Black Man: Stories,” by Walter Mosley (Sept. 15)
Mosley might be best known for his mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins, but in these short stories, we see the prolific author as a chronicler of Black life in America. As he overturns stereotypes and focuses on individual characters, Mosley asks us not to look away from men who are isolated and awkward, but to see them as human beings in full.
“Rage,” by Bob Woodward (Sept. 15)
President Trump didn’t speak on the record for Woodward’s 2018 bestseller, “Fear.” This time around, the Pulitzer Prize-winning associate editor of The Washington Post landed several exclusive interviews with the president and managed to obtain personal letters between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. This may be the clearest portrait we’ll get of a chaotic mind.
“Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America,” by Laila Lalami (Sept. 22)
The Pulitzer Prize finalist, who was born in Morocco and moved to the United States in the 1990s, explores the benefits and limitations of American citizenship. Her poignant reckoning looks at a country that keeps privileged White men in power while holding at arm’s length the “conditional citizens” whose race or gender doesn’t conform to the elite’s.
“Jack: A Novel,” by Marilynne Robinson (Sept. 29)
The latest novel in Robinson’s series about Gilead, Iowa — which also includes Pulitzer winner “Gilead,” “Home” and “Lila” — follows Jack Boughton, the black sheep of his family, who wound up an aimless, homeless alcoholic in St. Louis. There he meets Della, a Black teacher, and they embark on a complicated, poignant romance.
10 Books To Read In August
There are so many great books coming out through the fall, including a number from big-name authors. This month’s selections include a few of those along with books by writers you likely haven’t heard of before. It would be difficult to decide which group is better. Best not to try; just read them all.
“Life of A Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy,” by Edward Ball (Aug. 4)
Ball’s latest memoir is about his great-great-grandfather Constant Lecorgne, a white French Creole who became a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Ball approached descendants of the African American people who were victims of Lecorgne and his cohort to share their narratives. A powerful, relevant and personal story about how we look at the word “heritage.”
“Luster: A Novel,” by Raven Leilani (Aug. 4)
“You are a desirable woman. You are not a dozen gerbils in a skin casing,” the protagonist of this novel tells herself early in this strange, hilarious, important debut. Edie wants to be a painter, but she’s young, black and depressive, with no clue how to get what she wants. After falling for the much-older Eric, Edie finds herself part of his open marriage and an unwilling role model for his daughter. But what happens when their family flailing inspires her art?
“Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” by Isabel Wilkerson (Aug. 4) In “The Warmth of Other Suns,” Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, explained how the Great Migration changed our country forever. In “Caste,” Wilkerson shows the distinctions between race, class and caste, the latter a means of ensuring that there is always a “bottom rung” for humans to supposedly rise above. Yet that deep rut has many costs, and not just for those consigned to remain there.
“On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake,” by Sarah Chayes (Aug. 11)
Chayes, whose “Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security” won the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, once worked as a special assistant on corruption to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She understands the corrosive nature of malfeasance, and she has examples from plenty of presidential administrations to remind us what absolute power does.
“The New Wilderness: A Novel,” by Diane Cook (Aug. 11)
In a near-future America, the only natural area that remains is called the Wilderness State. When the government asks for volunteers to live there without any modern tools or amenities, a family of three agrees despite the rigid rules — no staying in one place longer than seven days, for example — and the rangers who enforce them. More than a version of “Survivor: Woodlands,” this novel asks tough questions about love and sustainability.
“Reaganland: America’s Right Turn 1976-1980,” by Rick Perlstein (Aug. 18)
The author of “Nixonland” and “The Invisible Bridge” returns with the finale of his trilogy about American conservatism. Readers can decide for themselves whether Perlstein deserves to be called “the hypercaffeinated Herodotus of the American century,” as the Nation magazine dubbed him, but there’s no doubt his energetic writing takes his topic to an engaging level.
“Black Bottom Saints: A Novel,” by Alice Randall (Aug. 18)
In Detroit’s celebrated Black Bottom neighborhood, Joseph “Ziggy” Johnson writes about gossip, emcees a night club, runs a theater school and keeps tabs on the city’s elite, including Count Basie and Ethel Waters. As he lies in a hospital dying, he curates a list of “52 Saints” and tells their stories — oh, and he provides cocktail recipes, too.
“Winter Counts: A Novel,” by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Aug. 25)
The first in a planned series set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, “Winter Counts” is a first-rate thriller that also delivers first-rate commentary on our nation’s colonial crimes. Virgil Wounded Horse, Rosebud’s local enforcer, needs to stop the flow of heroin into his community, and into his nephew’s veins. That quest will take him on the road, with his ex-girlfriend, to confront terrifying enemies.
“Squeeze Me: A Novel,” by Carl Hiaasen (Aug. 25) Leave it to Hiaasen to lampoon what is going on in Washington with a socialite’s murder in Palm Beach. Kiki Pew, a founding member of the POTUSSIES, women dedicated to the president, disappears from a charity gala and is found in a concrete grave. The president declares she’s been killed by “immigrant hordes,” but wildlife wrangler Angie Armstrong senses something closer to the White House is responsible.
“Vesper Flights: Essays,” by Helen MacDonald (Aug. 25)
If you haven’t read “H Is for Hawk,” MacDonald’s splendid 2015 memoir about raising a goshawk while grieving her father’s death, please put that title on top of your TBR pile, with this one directly beneath it. The essays in “Vesper Flights” prove that the author is a nature writer on par with Annie Dillard, one whose keen observations about everything from migrations to mushrooms intertwine with a compassionate perspective on her fellow humans.
A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory A clear, straightforward approach on how to introduce a complex and heavy topic to your child, A Kids Book About Racism will help you start a much needed conversation. Written to make a difficult conversation more digestible for little minds, your child as young as 6 can begin to understand what racism is, how it makes others feel, and why it happens.
Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan I tried to explain slavery to my own 7-year-old, and despite my best effort, I fumbled through it and didn't have answers to many of his questions. In a gentle, very powerful way, Freedom Over Me utilizes actual slave auction and plantation documents to create a picture of what putting a dollar amount on a human really meant. Along with creating a picture of slavery, the author also parallels beautiful poetry that represents the very human dreams of each individual. As slavery is a major part of the nucleus that is the racial biases and injustices in this country, helping your child understand the roots of the story is invaluable.
White Water by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein Drinking from a water from a public fountain is hardly seen as a privilege today. However, back in the ’50s and ’60s, a Black child quenching his thirst at a "Whites Only" fountain was essentially a death sentence. White Water tells the tale of Michael, a boy that simply wants to drink cold, clean water on a hot day. When he sips from his designated "Blacks Only" fountain, the water tastes awful. Glancing over at the other fountain, he wonders if the "Whites Only" fountain serves of better, more refreshing water. If it is for white people, it must be better than the fountain he has access to, right? It's only when he sneaks over to take a few sips that he realizes there is actually no difference between the fountains or the water — and much like racist constructs that rule the Deep South, the separate but unequal dogma is man-made.
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara It is never too early to teach your child about equality, tolerance, and civil rights. A is for Activist is a vibrant board book written to start the process of awareness for your little one. With upbeat alliteration and rhymes, you can use this board book to teach your child the basics of equality.
Teach Your Dragon About Diversity by Steve Herman When it comes to teaching your child about race, approaching the topic with a blanket of color-blindness can do more harm than good. However, the alternative of addressing differences between people based on skin color and ethnicity could feel counter intuitive. Teach Your Dragon About Diversity simplifies this complicated topic of tolerance and diversity through the medium of dragons. Instead of ignoring our differences and the aspects of us that make us individuals, this book calls the reader to teach their dragon that our variances of color, race, gender, and more is what makes us unique and special — but it doesn't have to be the catalyst for superiority or discrimination.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia For the first time in 7 years, Delphine and her two little sisters are going to go visit their mother who moved across the country for a radical political movement. It is the summertime in the late '60s, and racial tensions are as steamy as the long hot days. The news and the media portray the Black Panther Party as violent and harmful to everyone, including Black people. When Delphine and her sisters get to California, their mother thrusts them into learning about with the Black Panther Party is really all about. During this one crazy summer, the girls learn self-pride, how to advocate for themselves, and the importance of fighting against injustice.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes Twelve-year-old Jerome is dead. He was shot and killed by a white police officer who mistook his toy gun for a real one. Now that he is a ghost, Jerome is able to watch the turmoil, protests, and pain that unfolds after his death. It's a lot to process, even for a ghost. He soon meets up with Emmett Till, a boy who was killed decades earlier by the Ku Klux Klan for allegedly whistling at a white woman in 1955. Emmett helps Jerome process everything that is unfolding in the aftermath and how historic racism and prejudices led to the events that caused his death. Weaving together dangerous historical displays of racism and current events, your child will be able to gain a better understanding of why these things continue to happen.
Breakout by Kate Messner Nora Tucker is ready to jump headfirst into her summer break. But instead of long days in the pool and popsicles for breakfast, Nora and everyone in her upstate New York town are on a sudden lockdown thanks to a couple of inmates breaking out of the local prison. As Nora and her friends figure out how to stay safe in the midst of a breakout, the Black families in the town endure microaggressions and outright racism from their neighbors. With reflections on race, lack of diversity, and our broken prison system, your middle-grade reader will have a list of topics that they'll want to discuss.
New Kid by Jerry Craft Jordan Banks would love to go to art school, but his loving parents have something else in mind. Instead of spending his days sketching and drawing, Jordan makes the long daily hike from his Washington Heights apartment to the ritzy Riverdale Academy Day School. Told through fantastic graphics, readers will go on the journey of diversity and classism, and see how Jordan Banks learns how to navigate his new school while staying true to himself.
Blended by Sharon M. Draper Isabella is biracial with a white mom and a Black dad. While her parents are divorced and in new relationships, she spends equal time with both of them. Being a child of divorced parents already makes Isabella feel like she is constantly divided between her father's wealthier lifestyle and the more modest life of her mother. However, being biracial is another struggle for Isabella to cope with as she is constantly bombarded with questions of who she really is. When she is pulled over with her soon-to-be stepbrother Darren and a cellphone is thought to be a weapon, shots are fired and Isabella's life becomes that much more complicated. Understanding race, diversity, and discrimination when you are comprised of two different backgrounds can be confusing for a child. Reading Isabella's story can be both relatable for your own child and help them build empathy for others.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis The Watson kids are restless and getting into a bit of trouble, especially the eldest son. Instead of hanging out in Michigan, the family decides to head down to Birmingham, Alabama to visit their grandmother. Unlike the north, the Deep South in 1963 is a boiler room of racial tension that is just about ready to explode. During their time there, the Watson family witnesses some of the most horrific displays of racism in America's history. Understanding the bloody, difficult, and tense past of America is a major piece to the puzzle when it comes to grasping where we are now. Reading about the Watson family will give your own child a keyhole view into the past and help them shape an understanding of the origins of racism.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone Despite being an honor student, staying out of trouble, and making an effort to escape his less-than-desirable neighborhood, Justyce Mcallister is still struggling. Between the harassment from cops, ridicule from his old neighborhood friends, and contempt from his current classmates, it feels like nothing he does is pushing his life forward. Justyce turns to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to help guide him to the answers of what to do next. When Justyce and his friend Manny are driving through town with their music cranked up, an off-duty white cop can't resist pulling them over for driving while black. In the midst of it all, shots are fired and, as the dust rises and falls, it is Justyce that is left holding the blame. By highlighting the innocent, smart person that Justyce is, your own young reader will be able to make a connection between the headlines of slain Black people and, instead of seeing them as just a headline, see them as actual people.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas There are many teens who straddle two worlds. In one, they are surviving in poor neighborhoods that don't have consistent access to important resources. In the other, they are navigating glitzy private schools where they are a part of a 1% diversity quota. This is the life of Starr until she witnesses her childhood friend being killed by a white officer, despite being unarmed. As the media gets a hold of the story, she watches as her loving and sweet friend's memory transforms into that of a criminal and street thug. During all of this, she has to figure out if she should speak up, putting her family at risk, or keep her mouth shut as her friends memory is dragged through the mud. A story that will promote understanding, empathy, and insight to situations that your own teen has seen play out repeatedly, The Hate You Give is a must-read.
Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi Watching the deaths of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and George Floyd and many others play out in the media and the racist overtones of each could have your teen feeling confused and wondering where this all began. Stamped is a readable history of racist ideas in America for teenage readers. Through incredible research, your reader will go on a journey of where it all started and why after centuries, racism still lingers in our everyday.
This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell If you asked your child how they would dismantle racism, what would they say? It's a big question that many adults don't even have the answer to. This Book is Anti-Racist will give your child both a deeper understanding of racism and tangible ways to be the change that they want to see. Through a world view, Jewell informs readers how racism has touched many parts of the world from America to the indigenous people of Australia. By the end of this book, your child should feel informed and like they have the confidence to stand up to racist adults and peers that they may encounter in life.
10 Books To Read In July
What does change look like? It’s a question at the center of many of this month’s new books. In Blacktop Wasteland, a mechanic who worked hard to move on from a life of crime is met with financial difficulties that leave him no choice but to drive the getaway car for an upcoming heist. In The End of White Politics, political analyst Zerlina Maxwell picks apart the Democratic Party and argues why it must reject white politics in order to truly evolve. And in a crop of memoirs, authors like Michele Harper and Natasha Trethewey analyze the pain of their pasts in an effort to understand how trauma has impacted the choices they’ve made in their lives. Here are 10 new books to read in July.
The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir, Michele Harper (July 7) In her new memoir, emergency room physician Michele Harper explores how the patients she’s treated have helped her come to terms with the traumas of her own past. Reflecting on everything from her turbulent childhood to the abrupt end of her marriage, Harper illustrates the complexities of self-healing and recovery. Throughout, she describes the chaotic nature of her work, which is amplified by the obstacles she must overcome as a Black woman in a profession dominated by white men.
The End of White Politics: How to heal our liberal divide, Zerlina Maxwell (July 7) Political analyst Zerlina Maxwell wants the Democratic Party to acknowledge and act on the fact that the demographics of the United States are changing. In her new book, Maxwell examines the fractures that exist within the party and argues that liberal politicians need to better connect with their base, which is no longer as white and male as it was years ago. Maxwell, who worked for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns, lays out how Democrats can move forward and explains why rejecting white politics is imperative to their success.
Blacktop Wasteland, S.A. Cosby (July 14) A dedicated father and husband, mechanic Bug Montage has successfully escaped his criminal past. But now his terminally ill mother needs help and the auto shop he owns is in financial distress. He decides to take a job as a getaway driver in a jewelry heist, threatening the life he has built by slipping into one he thought he left behind. S.A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland follows Bug on his twisty journey, a page-turning thriller about a man pushed to his breaking point.
Afterland, Lauren Beukes (July 28) After a global pandemic has fatally infected most of the world’s population, a mother named Cole is determined to do whatever it takes to protect her 12-year-old son Miles. As one of the few surviving boys, Miles had been housed at a government facility in California, until Cole came to his rescue. Now on the run, the duo must navigate a perilous landscape of fear and uncertainty, in which Cole has to disguise Miles as a girl. Lauren Beuke’s timely and unsettling novel, Afterland, depicts their journey across the country as they attempt to find safety.
Empire of Wild, Cherie Dimaline (July 28) It’s been almost a year since Joan last saw her husband Victor, who walked out on her after they got into a fight over what to do about her family’s land. In Cherie Dimaline’s latest novel, Joan catches up to him in a Walmart parking lot—but he has no idea who she is. Victor now goes by Reverend Eugene Wolff and he seems much more dangerous than the man she was once married to. Unsure of what to do, Joan leans on her Métis community to help her understand who her husband has become. In doing so, she begins to learn how the traditions of her ancestors might yield some much-needed answers.
Must I Go, Yiyun Li (July 28) While residing in a senior living facility, 81-year-old grandmother Lilia Liska is catapulted back in time when she reads her former lover Roland’s published diary entries. She begins marking up the pages with her own recollections of the events Roland described, and reflects on the adult daughter whom she lost to suicide. Like she did in her 2019 novel Where Reasons End, Yiyun Li creates a sensitive, strange and heartbreaking account of maternal love as Lilia processes the losses she’s experienced in her life.
Imitations: Six essays, Zadie Smith (July 28) Six essays comprise Zadie Smith’s latest collection, which she wrote during the first few months of stay-at-home orders. Though a slim book, Intimations captures the uneasiness of our modern moment as Smith reflects on the COVID-19 pandemic and relates it to issues of privilege and inequity. Her urgent voice tackles everything from what becomes important during isolation to the global response to George Floyd’s killing. The author asks questions, both timely and timeless, about how we respond to crisis and suffering.
Memorial Drive: A daughter's memoir, Natasha Trethewey (July 28) When she was 19 years old, Natasha Trethewey suffered a terrible tragedy: her former stepfather murdered her mother. In her anticipated memoir, the former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner contemplates the impact of this searing trauma on her life and artistry and reflects on her mother’s legacy. Trethewey places the event in the context of her upbringing in the South, revealing a youth shaped by domestic abuse and racism. In examining what came before and after the horrific event, Trethewey underscores the power of the love between a mother and daughter.
I Had a Wolf by the Ears: Stories, Laura van den Berg (July 28) Laura van den Berg’s latest collection includes 11 new stories, each eerie and dreamlike, anchored by a female protagonist who is slightly disconnected from her reality. One woman impersonates her missing sister at a conference abroad. Another remembers the treatment facility where she lived as a teenager after attempting suicide. Several can’t escape their pasts, a lesson one character in particular learns after running into her brother’s ex-wife while in Mexico City. Van den Berg writes about each woman in her dark and strange voice, interjecting glimpses of biting humor amid revelations of pain and loss.
Waiting for an Echo: The Madness of American incarceration, Christine Montross (July 21) Psychiatrist Christine Montross takes a stirring look at how the American legal system treats people with mental illness. In Waiting for an Echo, Montross argues that the system is broken, leaving many people who need therapeutic care behind bars and at the mercy of prison staff who do not know how to properly help them. Montross also follows what happens after release, illuminating the harrowing ways communities across the country are impacted by mass incarceration.
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10 Books About Anti-Racism
One of the best ways to combat racism in ourselves is to read widely and deeply on the subject. These anti-racist books, culled from reading lists offered by advocates and professors, address racism from a variety of angles. Some are educational texts that explain how it worms its way into so many aspects of society, largely without our noticing. Some are works of fiction that illustrate its destructiveness through story. And while this list is by no means exhaustive, we hope it gives you a starting point as you embark on or continue your own journey.
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race by Jesmyn Ward The National Book Award-winning author of Salvage the Bones edited this anthology of essays and poems that engage with James Baldwin's 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time. Organized into three sections, it looks at our legacy, the state of things today, and how we can work toward a better future.
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson Born out of a Washington Post op-ed, this book addresses the way that African American social progress has been stymied by white opposition throughout history, from the Jim Crow laws to the War on Drugs and even the response to Barack Obama's election. It offers a fresh perspective that history books didn't teach us.
So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeo Oluo From why it's not OK to touch your Black friend's hair, to how to tell your coworker their joke is racist, to talking about white privilege in general, this book can help us all navigate those difficult conversations. If you're uncomfortable talking about race, let this book be your guide.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Anjelou In her heart-wrenching debut memoir, Maya Angelou shares her experience with racism and bigotry and how she turned to literature and her own inner strength to help her survive. For those who need their lessons couched in story, you can't go wrong with Angelou.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi The title says it all. This book breaks down the author's own journey toward active anti-racism, while serving as a guide for people who want to go beyond not being racist, into working to create a more just society. It's essential reading for anyone asking, "What more can I do?"
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine With her signature blend of essay, poetry, and imagery, Rankine illustrates the many racial aggressions that permeate society, from the grocery store to the classroom, and in the media. For anyone who's ever thought we lived in a post-race society, this book will change their mind.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates Ranging from the broad social issues of our time to an intimate conversation between a father and son, this powerful book reckons with our shared history in a way that will both touch and challenge readers. It's part memoir, part reported history, and totally essential.
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad Use this workbook to help dismantle your own biases, with personal anecdotes and examples, digestible explanations and definitions, and further reading to continue your journey. Wherever you are on your quest to combat racism, this book can help.
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Collors and Asha Bandele This memoir from one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement is a poetic exploration of what it feels like to be a Black woman in America and how Patrisse Khan-Cullors turned her pain into political power. It's an empowering call-to-action that will make the reader want to stand up and do something.
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum By looking at the psychology of racism and self-segregation, this classic text can help us enable conversation across racial divides. It may help you understand and look honestly at the makeup of your own social structure, too.