Thanks so much for subscribing to this newsletter, which is as much an incentive for me to keep finding good books, as it is a place for me to share all the ones that I read and don’t talk about enough. Feel free to forward this email to any and all book lovers! Or not!
I think my relationship with books is best captured by my kids; if you ask them what my favorite thing in the world is (aside from them), they will yell—before you even finish the question—HE LOVES BOOKS. Accurate, and it has been since I was at least 4 years old. I just love to crack open a book and get lost in the prose.
My plan for this newsletter is to keep each issue short, a few intro paragraphs on the theme, 5-ish recommendations with a paragraph-ish of why I recommend the book. I’m only going to link to Indiebound, and those links won’t be affiliate links. I’d much prefer you use your local library! Libraries are the greatest goddamned civic institution and we should all take advantage of them so that conservatives can’t kill ‘em.
In this inaugural issue I’m starting with the books I’d recommend if someone asked me what my favorite books are. I don’t really have favorite books, but these are the books I can see myself rereading many times. These are the books that made me swear out loud, repeatedly, because they are so damn good. These are the books that, were I to lend them out, I’d be extremely vigilant in getting them back. So without further delay, here’s some damn good reads.
Thick: and Other Essays
by Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom
Dr. Cottom writes essays that succeed on every level. The prose is gorgeous. The stories are well told. Her insights genuinely challenge you. In every essay she ties together deep sociological understanding, her lived experience as a Black woman, and numerous other threads to leave you, the reader, with new insight on the world and many challenges to the norms of American culture. This book is phenomenal.
The Warmth of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson
The poet Clint Smith described this book as turning “the Great Migration into a Tolstoy novel with black people,” an evocative description that captures it better than I ever could. The Great Migration was the period from 1915-1970 when an estimated 6 million black people left the South to move elsewhere in the US. Wilkerson braids together the oral histories of 3 people who migrated with a deeply researched history of the full period. The book covers the horrors of Jim Crow, the challenges of leaving the South, and the many injustices those who left still faced in their new homes. She also tells each person’s story with a care and humanity that is admirable and delightful.
The Real World of Technology
by Dr. Ursula Franklin
No other book has restructured my thinking as much as this small volume. Franklin—in the course of a series of essays first delivered as lectures—builds a framework for understanding how humans shape technology and how technology in return shapes human culture. Her ideas are insightful, brilliant, and will help anyone who deals with technology (which is um, all of us) better understand it. I reread this book yearly and learn new things every time. I recently showed a friend my copy and nearly every paragraph is underlined or marked (she had read it as well, and we talked about it for 4 hours).
How to Do Nothing
by Jenny Odell
Odell, in this book, critiques the commodification of attention in the digital age. She does this by drawing on a broad range of sources which also makes this book a great place to find other interesting books to read. I most enjoyed where she ends: with a reminder that each of us is still here, on Earth, with senses and abilities that allow us to pay attention to the things around us. The tech industry will need to be fought in systemic, regulatory ways, but Odell’s project is to remind us that each of us can also individually fight attention commodification, and the joys of doing so are myriad. Thanks to this book, I recently spent a Sunday afternoon identifying every tree on my block, so that now when I come home, I can pay better respect to the life around me.
The Broken Earth Trilogy
by N.K. Jemisin
I hardly ever reread books, and if I do it’s usually only after a year or more has passed since the last read. I reread the Broken Earth trilogy 2 months after I finished it the first time. The world of the books is so engrossing; the characters are so fully-realized; the plot is so exciting dreamy sigh everything about these freaking books is excellent. I have recommended these books to everyone I know. If anyone asks for fiction to read I immediately ask if they have read this trilogy. Even just thinking about it is reminding me how good it is. If you haven’t read it, go obtain it and enjoy. ENJOY.
Interpreter of Maladies
by Jhumpa Lahiri
This newsletter won’t often have short fiction recommendations because I don’t read a ton of it. But Lahiri’s fiction destroys me, and I couldn’t avoid mentioning this collection. Each story is gorgeous and wonderfully written. Her stories are masterful in the way they paint scenes and create characters.
That’s all for this week. I’ll send another issue in a couple weeks! Happy reading, and if ever you listen to one of my recs, please do let me know how it goes!