I read 37 books this year, 19 were non-fiction, 18 were fiction. There were so many I enjoyed, but these were my five star reads.
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written as a letter to his son, this memoir offers an honest depiction of race in 21st century America. Toni Morrison calls it required reading, and I would agree. One of the most important books for Americans at the present moment.
Night – Elie Wiesel
This Holocaust account offers a short, brutal view of life in the camps. Wiesel’s simple prose makes these heart-wrenching scenes even more impactful. A stark reminder of where discriminatory and dehumanizing rhetoric leads.
Thanks, Obama – David Litt
This hilarious insider’s view of the Obama White House will give you nostalgia for what the Presidency used to be. Litt’s casual, self-deprecating style offers many laugh-out-loud moments, as an Obama fanboy joins the White House staff and discovers the complicated nature of US politics.
I’m Still Here – Austin Channing Brown
A Black woman, named so she would appear white and male on a future resume, chronicles her experiences growing up in a world made for whiteness. From casual racism and sexism in the workplace to a horrific plantation tour that includes Black college students being asked to pick cotton, this book packs a punch.
The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson
This epic fantasy contains some of the best world-building in any fantasy novel, following the stories of a slave, a knight-lord, and a young scholar in the midst of a years-long war triggered by a mysterious assassination involving a power that has been lost to the world. This massive book is filled with intrigue and is just plain fun.
The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien
I finally actually read The Lord of the Rings, and while The Two Towers left much to be desired for me, The Return of the King was thoroughly enjoyable all the way through. The Ring is destroyed, and Sam carries Frodo up Mt. Doom. What else do you need to know?
Red Rising – Pierce Brown
This blockbuster sci-fi, about a slave who rises to become a warrior in order to avenge his murdered wife, was nearly impossible to put down. While it borrows some obvious elements from Hunger Games, the action is excellently rendered and the characters are unpredictable and fun to watch.
Exit West – Mohsin Hamid
A uniquely relevant novel about a pair of young lovers as they flee a war-torn nation in search of a new life. This short novel could have easily been 600 pages, but the succinct prose and short scenes manage to pack even more power as Sayid and Nadia journey through mysterious doorways and face tragedy and trials as refugees.
Your Inner Fish – Neil Shubin
A paleontologist, who discovered a ‘missing link’ between sea and land animals, traces back the evolutionary origins of the human body through fossils, an adventure to the Arctic, and genetics. A surprisingly accessible introduction to how we know what we know about evolution.
Inspired – Rachel Held Evans
A popular liberal Christian writer tackles the ancient text at the core of her complicated faith experience. Evans uses scholarly research, narrative prose, and personal stories to share her journey wrestling with how an ancient collection of texts (all-too-frequently misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misused) can still be useful in an age of science and social awakening.
The Future of Humanity – Michio Kaku
A speculative exploration of how humanity may move from Earth to Mars, and even interstellar travel. Kaku tackles many theoretical solutions to the problems humanity will likely face as we move beyond our own world in a fascinating and accessible way. It’s hard not to be hopeful and excited for the future.
Some Other Honorable Mentions (not 5 star, but very enjoyable):
- Pet Sematary – Stephen King
- Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
- Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
- Braving the Wilderness – Brene Brown
- Billions and Billions – Carl Sagan