Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Reading is the key to discovering new knowledge and insight. Especially now, it is important to celebrate the work of POC, and try to achieve an understanding of racism. As youth, reading books and gaining knowledge is salient to understanding social issues, and general changes that are shaping our society. In this article, I have compiled a list of 10 important books you should read this summer.
1. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This coming of age novel takes us through the story of Janie Crawford, a young black woman living in the South in the 1930s.Janie’s grandmother arranges her marriage to Logan Killicks, creating tension and a struggle between Janie and her grandmother. Zora Neale Hurston crafts the blossom of a girl into a woman, amidst exploring the relationship between men and women, and focuses on the liberation of a woman after freeing herself from the man.
2. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Potok’s 1967 novel explores the unique, and at times turbulent, relationship between two boys, Reuven Malther, a secular Jew, and Danny Saunders, a religious Hasid. The Chosen recognizes the link between people from two seemingly different worlds, and serves as a lesson about compassion and gaining understanding within different people. The emotional culmination towards the end is especially powerful.
3. When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi
Mahmoud and Fereiba live a fulfilled, happy life in Kabul, Afghanistan with their 3 children. However, Mahmoud is taken away and murdered; Fereiba is left to flee Kabul with her children to live with family in England. With her raw, lyrical style, Hashimi is able to capture the emotional journey people of color face in their quest for a better life. Chapters alternate between the perspective of Fereiba, and her son, Saleem, as he is stuck in a network of refugees in an attempt to reunite with his mother and siblings. Heartbreak, loss, and an uplifting sense of hope are all beautifully encapsulated within this novel
4. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harrari
Ranging from the beginning of humans’ existence on Earth, to injustice in history, and capitalism, Harrari provides useful insight on topics that we wouldn’t normally think about. The range of opinions, examples, allegories and theories is a remarkable offering to the readers by Harrari, delivered in a clean, stately manner (humor included!). To gain a better understanding of us humans, and the evolution of the world around us, reading Sapiens is a fundamental step towards this goal. After finishing Sapiens, the sequel Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow is also an essential!
5. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Through the stories of young women and girls around the globe, readers are offered a glimpse into the oppression and poor treatment that they experience on a daily basis. By bringing these injustices to light and focusing on the escape and transformation of these women,Kristof and WuDunn help us understand the causes, the aftermath, and ways one can contribute to the solution.
6. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
No, the book doesn’t teach you how to literally do nothing. On the contrary, Odell’s book refers to the constant feed of information and media, often done for the purpose of a profit or a materialistic outcome. The book covers issues that are often traced to our frequent consumption of social media, in which Odell offers useful critique. How to Do Nothing is an extremely helpful guide to stepping back, evaluating our surroundings, and learning to maintain distance from the precarious cycle fueled by general media and social media.
7. The Stranger by Albert Camus
Although only 123 pages long, Camus offers the story of one man that is wholly philosophical in nature. After the passing of his mother we follow the life of Meursault, from the time he commits murder, sits in prison, and eventually, faces execution. Meursault is simple with his interactions, his thoughts, and speech, setting him apart from the norm. Camus shapes him in a clean, effortless, and raw manner, making his peculiar character completely transparent. Yet, there are questions and deeper meanings that are left for the reader to interpret. Why does Meursault act in such a way without remorse? Originally in French, The Stranger is an evocative book that is a valuable read.
8. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
I cannot reiterate this enough: please read this book! I have already written an article highlighting the importance of Oluo’s comprehensive and insightful guide, but this needs to be said again. Read it to understand how to have a conversation about race and recognize microaggressions that you (yes you!) may make without noticing. Beautifully crafted and full of useful information, So You Want to Talk About Race is a crucial book to pick up.
9. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant reminds readers about the importance of friendship. We watch as Eleanor Oliphant, shy and awkward, meets Raymond and develops a friendship amidst Eleanor’s past. Raymond helps her recover from childhood trauma, thus nurturing a tight bond with our protagonists. The book is a perfect hug of warmth and emotion.
10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
To end the list, I feel The Hate U Give is extremely important to consider. Many may have read it already, but it is very much worth a reread in lieu of current events. Understanding modern issues regarding racism are uncovered from the perspective of Starr Carter. In this poignant and equally enlightening book, Thomas successfully delivers a message that everyone needs to hear. I have personally become more aware of racism, issues, and viewing it from a different perspective.