This is one of the best memoirs I’ve read in years! It’s so full of courage, hope, and resilience; and it’s ultimately about finding family in extraordinary circumstances.
In 1999, a 9-year-old Javiercito began his harrowing journey from El Salvador to the United States with a “coyote” to reunite with his parents. He left behind his grandparents and aunts, his school and classmates, and the only home that he has ever known. Can you imagine travelling 3,000 miles and crossing borders with fake documents with a group of strangers? At the age of 9!?
I was absolutely enraptured by the author’s storytelling. He had me reading with my heart in my throat— this is truly a special story. (P.S. I totally cried at the end)
Imagine a not-so-distant future where rising sea levels have wiped Japan, known as “the land of sushi,” off the face of the earth. Refugees are spread throughout the world and Japanese is a dying language. Hiruko is one of those refugees. She’s living in Denmark teaching immigrant children her invented language of Panska, which can be understood by most Scandinavians. Through a number of chance encounters, she becomes the center of an incidental troupe of eccentric characters, all of whom are now on a mission to help her find someone else who still speaks Japanese.
It’s told through different characters’ POVs and it’s incredibly clever and funny. Tadawa paints a thought-provoking picture of place, language, and cultural identity against a not-so-far-fetched dystopian backdrop.
You know how gentrification is taking over historic neighborhoods around the country?(*cough* exeterandportsmouth *cough cough*)
Well, this immersive novel-in-stories brings a vivid humanity to the plight of gentrification through a subtly woven cast of unforgettable characters. Each story focuses on a different tenant of an apartment complex in Harlem and their individual battles against rent hikes and evictions.
Full of life and sprinkled with humor, Fofana’s portraits of Banneker Homes residents reveal the deeply personal and cultural consequences capitalism can have on a diverse and struggling community.
This is a remarkable debut novel! Escoffery serves up a gut-punching and a soul-soothing literary elixir of identity and belonging. It’s a triumph of generational stories I didn't know I needed.
The book focuses on two generations of a Jamaican-American family and their struggles to survive the capitalism-driven and white-dominated ways of American life after immigrating to Miami. Themes of familial tension, racism, and flat-out bad luck are balanced with a pleasantly surprising dose of humor, making this portrait of everyday life incredibly readable.
Okay I read this after it won the National Book Award, but I was still blown away — it’s both hilarious and insightful, and it’s probably the best novel out there that grabbles with blackness in 21st century America. Mott writes with the sharp, quick humor of Kurt Vonnegut and the powerful eloquence of James Baldwin.
The book follows an author as he tours the country promoting his book...and it’s the one you’re reading… crazy, right? The protagonist remains unnamed, which adds to the ambiguity and universality of his character and experience. It results in a warping and blending of realities, and one hell of a book about race, identity, and the possibilities that life can bring— and how quickly those possibilities can be taken away. This one will sit with me for a long time
I’m obsessed with this book (and the 5 others in the series). The world-building, the character development, the plot— it’s all fantastic. And underneath it all you’ll find profound commentaries on politics, ecology, and religion.
When Paul Atreides and his noble family arrive on Arrakis (aka Dune), they are expected to rule over the desert planet where the only valuable commodity is melange, the spice that prolongs life and enhances consciousness. The family is immediately met with a traitorous plot against them and Paul goes into exile. This marks the beginning of an unimaginably epic space saga...Oh, did I mention the giant sandworms?
If you didn’t already know, this is classic science fiction and a great book to start exploring the genre with. Herbert is a master of his craft.
This is a powerful and timeless alternate history of the underground railroad with a splash of magical realism— it’s like nothing I’ve read before and I devoured it!
The hero of the book is Hiram, a boy born into slavery with no memory of his mother; surprisingly, he also happens to have an incredible photographic memory. A carriage accident reveals that he has an incredible ability, which leads him on an incredible journey of freedom, courage, and hope for a reunion with his family in the North. His superhuman ability brings him deep into the network of the Underground Railroad, encountering key figures of the movement and playing an important role in the salvation of his people.
I adored this wildly inventive debut from Donaldson. His compulsively readable novel-within-a-novel dances between moments of laugh-out-loud humor and solemn observations of race and sexuality with a seamless grace. Plus, who doesn't love a good literary ghost story?
Kip Starling has locked himself in his basement with nothing but a jug of water and a handgun while he rewrites his entire book in time for his publisher’s deadline. He’s telling the story of the affair between E.M. Forster, a white British author, and Mohammed el Adl, his black Egyptian lover. As the book progresses, the line between Kip and Mohammed’s realities begin to blur as he realizes their similarities— both queer black men in interracial relationships, fighting the forces of white assimilation. Through this journey, Mohammed’s haunting becomes the ultimate self-reflection for Kip.
This quintessential Australian black comedy is a true diamond in the rough. It’s one of Carey’s earliest novels, and a great introduction to a hidden literary talent.
Harry Joy is living what he thinks is a great life, until he suddenly drops dead. For 9 minutes, he stays dead, and suddenly comes back to life— but it’s not the life he was living before. His perfect wife and kids are unfaithful, selling drugs, and advocating communism. Is this hell, or is he seeing his true reality for the first time?
While outrageously funny at times, the novel simultaneously touches on profundities of life, death, love, second chances, and redemption.
Ishiguro does it again, and this one really tugs at the heart strings. The narrator of this novel is Klara, an intelligent and realistic “Artificial Friend,” or AF, who begins the story in a retail store waiting to be chosen by a child. Klara is very observant and her artificial intelligence seems to be more aware of certain nuances of human behavior than other AFs. Once she is finally chosen by a little girl, she is taken to a home the with some weird energy— there is some history to uncover and the future is uncertain.
This dystopian novel, though narrated by a robot, does an amazing job of exploring themes of friendship, love, and hope in the face of tragedy. But, at its core, the story is about the limits of technology, and what it really means to be human. I know it sounds super cheesy, but it’s so good!
Before you rush out the door to give this book as a gift to your avid-swimmer-friend, you should know it turns a sharp corner about 1/3 of the way in.
The first part of the book is the rhythmic, lyrical writing that we know and love from Otsuka. She offers delightful portraits of the swimmers who frequent an underground pool— their routines, their personalities, and their quirks. Then a crack appears at the bottom of the pool. And it disrupts everything. The second part of the book focuses on the consequences of the crack for a particular swimmer. We get an intimate look at her relationship with her daughter, her deteriorating memory, and her life without the sacred ritual offered by the pool.
It’s experimental fiction that feels semi-autobiographical, and it absolutely wrecked me. If you have experience with a loved one with dementia, I can’t recommend this one enough.
This is one of the greatest sports memoirs. Ever.
Andre Agassi is one of the all-time greats in tennis, and he hated the sport. He was a rebel in every sense of the word, especially known for his flamboyant appearance— sporting jean shorts and a bleach-blonde wig, complete with mullet, in professional matches.
He lays out his entire story here in this brutally honest autobiography— from his beginning when his father was forcing him into the sport to his battles with drugs later in life. It’s an emotional ride and worth the read for anyone, tennis fan or not.
One of the most innovative works I can recommend, this is an absorbing and genre-bending book that brings new life to some of the most important academic pioneers in history. By putting his twist on the stories of real scientists and mathematicians and their groundbreaking discoveries, Labatut explores genius, madness, and the consequences of changing the world as we know it.
A super interesting read!
Not gonna lie, this book is pretty depressing. But it’s also so well written, researched, and organized that I really enjoyed reading it!
There have been 5 mass extinctions on Earth, all caused by various natural events—climate changes, asteroids, etc. Each one caused a massive shift in the ecosystems and species on the planet. Now we’re in the middle of a 6th mass extinction, and humans are to blame.
Kolbert does an awesome job of giving us historical and scientific context for this event— humans have had a greater impact on the planet than any single species in history, and this book will make you think deeply about our impact on the planet.
In How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan gave us fantastic perspectives on the history, usage, therapeutic potential of psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, DMT, ayahuasca). In this highly anticipated follow-up, he focuses on opium, caffeine, and mescaline and the appeals and taboos associated with each.
Why are some psychoactive plants so widely used and accepted, while others are reserved strictly for medical use? Does a gardener's intention matter when growing certain plants? What classifies a plant as a "drug" anyway?
Through his unique mixture of investigative journalism, historical research, and personal experimentation and reflection, Pollan explores these questions and more.
If you enjoyed The Botany of Desire or How to Change Your Mind, you'll love this book!
This is my #1 recommendation for anyone that wants to read something about Cambodia— especially if you’re travelling there. It also provides great context for the enduring unrest in Southeast Asia as a whole.
The book is a deeply moving and heartbreaking memoir about growing up during the rise and reign of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. His army committed one of the worst genocides in history, and this is the best book out there to understand what it was like to survive one of the most tumultuous times in the country’s history. The author’s life was turned upside down when, at 5 years old, she was separated from her family and sent to work and labor camps. Her story is filled with courage, hope, and love— it’s a devastating but wonderful read.
Ray Carney is a furniture salesman in 1960s Harlem who wants to provide a good life for his family. He owns his own store, but he feels like it’s not enough. He doesn’t feel “successful.” When an opportunity arises to give him a much needed financial boost, he begins to orchestrate a delicate balancing act between his loved ones, his local reputation, and the criminal activity that he has stumbled into. It’s a slippery slope.
This novel is new genre territory for Whitehead, and it’s a good look on him. It’s a fun heist story, but it’s also a powerful commentary on race and socioeconomic status in 1960s America.