It is that time of year again! Time to marvel at how many good books exist in the world! Every year I highlight some of my favorites that I have read in the past 12 months. Some of these came out in 2019, but not all of them. This year was a year of award winners for me! Sometimes I gravitate to more obscure titles, but this year the big titles informed my being. Let me know your favorites, and may 2020 be the best year in books yet!
Novel: There, There
Tommy Orange skillfully weaves together story threads of twelve different Native folks from the Oakland area all converging on the Big Oakland Powwow.
Short Stories: Her Body and Other Parties
About once a year, I am lucky enough to read a book and think, “I’ve never read anything quite like this.” Carmen Maria Machado has a refreshingly new voice in stories that are beautifully crafted and honor the importance of our bodies and beings.
Nonfiction: My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of our Bodies and Hearts
I have read a lot of books on race, and this I found profoundly practical and accessible. Resmaa Menakem presents how race trauma is passed down through generations and lays out a clear path toward read healing. I think of this book in my day to day, and it gives me hope at a time I need it most.
Spiritual: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved
I read this book in one day and it was a day well spent as a human and as someone who teaches a unit on suffering. I marveled at how Kate Bowler can move from levity to profundity so effortlessly in her story of surviving a cancer diagnosis. She is hilarious and raw. I sobbed a whole bunch. And there is an appendix of things to say and not say to someone surviving with cancer. Brilliant.
Sequel: The Testaments
I read The Handmaid’s Tale in high school and later taught it, so my expectations for The Testaments was very high. Margaret Atwood does not disappoint. I was intrigued by the form, the female characters and the underbelly of Gilead. Atwood creates a universe so prophetic, it calls us to work for a better society here and now.
Anthology: The Best Creative Nonfiction, Volume 3
Five years after my oldest was born, I am still trying to make peace with my limited reading time as a mom. When a full book looms and seems to insurmountable, mocking me from my nightstand, books like this save me. I can ingest real art in manageable splashes.
This epic and gorgeous novel by Yaa Gyasi spans from Ghana to the United States over eight generations. I loved the book and deeply appreciated listening to it. The talented actors brought a sense of place and time in their voices that added a significant layer to the experience for me. I tend to prefer reading pages I can hold, but I am glad I listened to this one!
Young Adult: Brown Girl Dreaming
This book of poems tells the story of Jacqueline Woodson being from both South Carolina and New York City. Her poems stand alone and are so powerful and accessible, yet together they weave a story of her childhood that gives us a glimpse into her heart.