Here’s the best of the latest…
1. Between the World and Me,
by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
This is an important book. It’s required, really — something I honestly believe every American would benefit from reading. Most simply, it’s a father’s letter to his teenage son about what it means to be black in America. Riveting, devastating, and eye-opening, it recently won the National Book Award and, yeah… just read it.
2. Gold Fame Citrus, by Claire Vaye Watkins.
Continuing with my trend of accidentally reading dystopian tales of the near future, I present this gritty, yet ethereal story. Mega droughts and relentless winds have turned the Southwest into a desert wasteland. Most Californians have been evacuated, and the ones who remain are an odd bunch of hippies, survivalists, loners, and dune-dwelling cult members. Stuff happens, but deep down, I think the story is ultimately about how honesty, or the lack of it, plays out within and between people.
3. Ready Player One, by Ernst Cline.
Although this book is also set in the not-so-distant-but-totally-bleak-post-collapse-future, it’s basically pure nerd fun and nostalgia. The world is crap. Most people spend their time in an expansive virtual reality, and teenage protagonist Wade Watts has dedicated his life to conquering the ultimate video game quest. Though set in the near future, the book is really a love letter to 80’s culture, and it’s full of inside jokes and references to everything from Family Ties to Monty Python. I especially enjoyed the debate on the merits of Ladyhawke. Summer is coming, and this is a delightful summer read.
4. Euphoria, by Lily King.
Set in remote tribal New Guinea in the early 1930’s, King’s beautifully crafted novel pays homage to the great anthropologist Margaret Mead. Steamy (literally–they’re in serious jungle here) and vibrant, the story follows the research, relations, and subsequent love triangle between three anthropologists, and is inspired in part by Mead’s own life. It’s a gorgeous book.
5. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman.
This book is pure mood and ambiance. Set in the gritty and bleak 1910’s of industrial New York City, the story follows a young girl with webbed fingers who works and lives in a sideshow museum, and a young immigrant photographer who walks away from his Jewish Orthodox community and faith. It’s book-ended by two terrible fires, and encompasses thoughts on workers’ rights, deceit, truth, change, and the courage it takes to forgive and value yourself.
6. Blankets, by Craig Thompson.
A dreamy, snow-swept account of falling in love for the first time, Blankets speaks to keeping and losing faith, to being a teenage misfit, brother, and developing artist. It’s meditative, powerful, and full of grace, and it’s on a lot of “best non-superhero graphic novel” lists for a reason.