Ranking books is such a subjective task.
Still, in the spirit of the end of a year and as a way to showcase the great books I read, here’s a list for you.
I dedicated an entire blog post to this book. It’s that good.
Yaa Gyasi is an epic storyteller and I really don’t know how a short blurb can do the book justice.
This novel isn’t your average or even above average look into how the slave-trade impacted families. Instead of giving a broad look at slavery, Homegoing follows two sisters (one left in Ghana and one sold in America) and their lineage.
By the time the novel was over I was out of breath, emotional, and thankful for the seven years Yaa Gyasi took to write this book.
2. Salvage the Bones
Salvage the Bones is my most recent read and the most surprising.
This novel follows a Black family for 12 days before and after Hurricane Katrina hits.
It was powerful. I loved that this book focused on how a family living in extreme poverty was impacted by a natural disaster.
It’s a lived experience that doesn’t get a lot of airplay, when it really should.
Where does a family evacuate when they can’t afford to and how can the love of family see you through?
This novel answered that and more.
3. What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky
I also wrote about this book a few months ago, and I still can’t stop thinking about it.
Lesley Nneka Arimah re-wrote the rules on imaginative story telling, especially when it concerns short stories. Thus, even though I read this novel in the summer time, “Redemption,” “What is a Volcano,” “What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky,” and “Who Will Greet You at Home,” holds rank in my mind.
The baby made out of hair, how grief created a volcano, and math calculations to take away sadness, blew my mind.
I did my best to pace myself, but What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky is a page turner.
4. The Sympathizer
The Sympathizer was dark at times, but also incredibly funny. I was so amazed by how often I burst out laughing at the main character who also acts as the narrator.
This novel follows an undercover communist agent acting as an anti-communist. As readers we are taken on a ride as the main character leaves Vietnam, enters Los Angeles as a refugee, and returns back to Vietnam only to be captured.
Listen, give this book a chance. It won a Pulitzer for Fiction for a reason. This is a stellar debut novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen, and you won’t regret reading it.
5. Bird by Bird
Bird by Bird changed me. I highly, highly, highly recommend this book if you’ve always wanted to write, have dreams of being published, or just need some motivation in general. Anne Lamott is funny, real, and refreshing.
Her personal outlook on everything concerning writing: the emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental work, is good for the soul. It’ll also leave you reflecting on your goals—writing or otherwise. You won’t be disappointed.
I finished Elsewhere in three days on accident. Once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down and I’m forever thankful to my good friend Shelby for recommending it.
In the novel, when you die you go to a place called “Elsewhere,” age backwards, and only then are you transported back to earth again for a new life. However, the main character doesn’t want to be dead and watching her battle and accept her fate made for a real good read.
Elsewhere gave me a lot to think about. I’ll never look at life or death the same after reading this book. It’s so good.
7. Redefining Realness
Janet Mock is such an eloquent writer.
I loved this book because she was raw in her storytelling, vulnerable, and honest about what it was like growing up poor and being born as a boy even though she knew in her heart and soul she was a girl.
Melissa Harris-Perry was right in stating, “You will be changed by this book,” because you really will be.
I also enjoyed Redefining Realness because I related so deeply to the relationship she has with her father and family.
Don’t write this book off, y’all. Janet Mock stole the show with this one.
8. Dark Matter
As soon as you think you know where Dark Matter is going, it takes you for another spin.
The main character Jason Desson is kidnapped and transported to another world by no one other than himself—Jason Desson. Crazy right? This novel takes parallel universes and turns them on their heads. I was completely amazed by how the story developed and ended. There were times where I didn’t even realize I was holding my breath. It was simply, amazing.
You gotta read this book, you just gotta.
9. American Gods
American Gods was trippy. Do y’all hear me? Trippy and so good.
I loved how Neil Gaiman took folklore and the history of gods I did and didn’t know to make this book.
Shadow, the main character, is imprisoned for theft, freed a few days before his appointed release to bury his wife, and ends up joining Odin—yes, the Odin: god of war, death, wisdom, and poetry in a recruitment effort.
There’s a war brewing between the old gods and the new— internet, television, and capitalism—, and everyone must prepare.
While reading this book and for a few weeks after, my dreams were vivid. I literally dreamed in color and riddles and it was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had.
The twist is also just too good for words. This book was damn good.
10. The Illustrated Man
Ray Bradbury has my heart. I’ve been a fan of his ever since Fahrenheit 451—one of my favorite banned books.
He is one of the kings of short story writing and The Illustrated Man is proof.
The book follows a man alienated from society because of the tattoos covering his whole body. These tattoos aren’t just any tattoos though. They move and tell stories—disturbing and spectacular—and readers get a front row seat on the stories this man carries.
I think you’ll love it. I sure did.
11. The Handmaid’s Tale
This book right here?
Talk about timely. The Handmaid’s Tale left me all in my feelings because I believe it could really happen and in a way, is happening.
In this novel, people aren’t having children anymore, not like they used to, and because of this the human population faces extinction.
Slowly but surely, a plan is put into place to combat this catastrophe and it relies on the oppression of women.
As a result, women aren’t allowed to have jobs anymore, their money is given to their husbands, and the ones who have given birth in the past are kidnapped, beaten, and separated from their children, spouses, and partners. These women are called Handmaids, and as Handmaids they are placed in homes with people—husband and wives they don’t know—and forced to procreate. If they conceive, their babies are given to the couple and they are transported to another house to do it all over again.
If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re right. It’s god-awful, but a great read.
P.S. The show on Hulu is spot on with only a few deviations (so far).
I was on Twitter one day and saw someone mention how good LaRose was, and so I had to give it a try.
The story follows two families who have been in each other’s lives forever. However, these families are tried when the father of one accidentally shoots and kills the son of the other, while hunting.
To compensate, as best as he can, for his friend’s loss, the father gives his own son to the family he destroyed.
It’s devastating and hard, and author Louise Erdrich does a fantastic job of displaying what this loss means for both families, but she also does a great job at showcasing how love, forgiveness, and the space to be mad as hell, can heal.
13. When My Brother Was an Aztec
It’s been a while since I read a poetry book, but I’m glad I read this one.
When My Brother Was an Aztec is a book of poetry by Natalie Diaz that greatly details what it’s like being the sibling of a brother addicted to meth. (I believe anyone who loves someone with an addiction will relate deeply to this book).
Natalie is also a member of the Mojave and Pima Indian tribes and this book of poetry also showcases what it was like growing up poor and on the reserves.
In short, it’s moving and there’s one poem in particular: Why I Hate Raisins, that will be with me forever. I read it to my mom recently because it encompasses all the things I’ve ever wanted to say about the type of child I was at times.
A snippet: “I still hate raisins but not for the crooked commodity lines we stood in to get them, winding around and in the tribal gymnasium. Not for the awkward cardboard boxes we carried them home in. Not for the shits or how they distended my belly. I hate raisins because now I know my mom was hungry that day, too, and I ate all the raisins.”
14. Bird Box
I love horror novels and when Bird Box was advertised on my Kindle as one, I jumped at it.
It’s not the scariest book I’ve read, but it did creep me out on some nights, and it was an overall disturbing read.
So, it did what it was supposed to do, haha.
In this novel, people are forced to cover every nook and cranny, window, or any access point that would allow them to see outside. What’s worse, if they have to travel outside for water, food, etc., they must do so blindfolded, because if they don’t they’ll go crazy.
Bird Box follows a group of people who’ve mastered the art of closing their eyes, but of course as plot twists go, shit eventually gets real.
I enjoyed this book and I think you should give it a try.
I loved Animal Farm. George Orwell is also the type of author I feel like I should read more of. So, I read 1984.
However, this book hurt my feelings. I was hopeful on up to the very end only to be disappointed and depressed. It wasn’t that it was a badly written book, because it’s not. It’s just depressing and scary as hell because the times we’re currently living in feels like life in 1984.
This novel is what happens if “45” is allowed to wreak more havoc. It’s what will happen if we lose Net Neutrality, and it is oppression personified.
I still think you should read it, but make sure when you do, you follow it up with something a bit warmer.
What do you think, Wordies?
Will you try out all, some, or at least one of the books from this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Comment below, share, or like.