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.
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.
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.
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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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.
If, during this period of relative isolation, your to-be-read pile needs refreshing, June offers plenty of possibilities: superb debut fiction, hilarious essays and even a compendium to help you figure out what to do with all the produce from the garden you began in quarantine. Click on the book title for link to the CLAMS catalog where available.
The Vanishing Half: A Novel by Brit Bennett (June 2) Bennett’s first novel, “The Mothers,” was a hit in 2016, and her second, “The Vanishing Half,” should be one in 2020. The Vignes twins, Desiree and Stella, are born and raised in a small-town haven for people of mixed race in Louisiana. But after their father is brutally lynched, the sisters run away to New Orleans and grow up living lives so different that when their futures intersect, tragedy ensues.
Surviving Autocracy by Masha Gessen (June 2) After growing up in the Soviet Union and reporting on Russia’s subsequent totalitarianism, Gessen (“The Future Is History”) has plenty of experience wrestling meaning from political repression. In this expanded version of their 2016 viral essay “Autocracy: Rules for Survival,” Gessen offers solutions for those who believe in resistance.
A Burning: A Novel by Megha Majumdar (June 2) While government extremists in India might wish differently, that country contains multitudes — and those multitudes don’t always agree with the government. Majumdar’s astute debut, about three characters from varying socioeconomic backgrounds, shows how dangerous it can be for a culture to push any group to the sidelines. Sound familiar?
Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why: Essays by Alexandra Petri (June 2) "One of the difficulties of being alive today,” Petri writes, “is that everything is absurd but fewer and fewer things are funny.” Lucky for us, this popular Washington Post political satirist is here to point out the absurdity of public figures in the funniest ways.
The New Homemade Kitchen: 250 Recipes and Ideas for Reinventing the Art of Preserving, Canning, Fermenting, Dehydrating, and More by Joseph Shuldiner (June 2) The Institute of Domestic Technology wants you to understand that you don’t have to accept sticky jars of sourdough starter from a neighbor. You can make your own! You can also make your own miso paste, mustard and instant soup mixes (with vegetables you dehydrate). Shuldiner, who founded the institute, died in 2019, but his legacy lives on in this lively reference.
The Daughters of Erietown: A Novel by Connie Schultz (June 9) Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who’s married to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), lives a full life that includes dogs, grandchildren and previously published works of nonfiction. But she wanted to write a novel about American women in the second half of the 20th century. Here it is: the kind of smart, authentic story that both men and women will find riveting. Don’t miss it.
Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World by Chris Wallace (June 9) Everyone knows the outcome, yet Wallace manages to make this carefully researched account of the months before Hiroshima read like a tense thriller. People of all ages and positions appear, from scientists to pilots to politicians to survivors, their experiences testimony to a dreadful decision.
The Hardest Job in the World: The American Presidency by John Dickerson (June 16) Dickerson, a “60 Minutes” correspondent and former “Face the Nation” host, posits that being a good POTUS has become nearly impossible. Looking at the evolution of the role of commander in chief and the successes of effective presidents from history, the veteran journalist suggests ways to make the job more productive.
Love: A Novel by Roddy Doyle (June 23) The Kelly green background and Guinness-brown pint on the cover of Doyle’s new novel say it all: Here is a paean to all things Irish. Fans of “The Commitments” and “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha” will be glad (although all of yez should read “The Snapper,” too) to follow old mates Davy and Joe through a pub crawl that is both elegiac and hilarious.
The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win by Maria Konnikova (June 23) How many Harvard grads with PhDs from Columbia, who have built careers writing for The New Yorker, are also phenomenal professional poker players? Just one, at last count. The tale of how Konnikova followed a story about poker players and wound up becoming a story herself will have you riveted, first as you learn about her big winnings, and then as she conveys the lessons she learned both about human nature and herself.
Check out these books released this May featuring titles based on actual science and data, whether that involves the chemistry of yeast or the reality of immigration. The fiction, meanwhile, provides portals to worlds more coherent than our current one. There are so many good excuses to keep reading!