50 Books That Will Motivate, Educate, or Help You Escape


Take a look, it's in a book

by Stephanie Kaloi, Content Manager

book and glasses on a bed

Whenever I am feeling a particularly strong emotion, I often find myself turning to books. When I was trying to teach myself how to knit, I got really excited and bought like five books on the topic. A few months ago I got really into the story of Mary (yes, that Mary, celebrated across religions and revered by many), bought four books on Amazon, and read them all, even though I’m not religious. If, say, I’m feeling particularly frightened about the prospect of a tyrannical egomaniac running the country, I’ll go to my library and dig through stacks of books about similarly minded world leaders to better educate myself about their triumphs and what led to the demise of each.

If ever there was a time for reading books to learn, to find solace, or just for some pure escapism, I think it’s right now in the United States. With that in mind (and after receiving an email from reader Bridget, who sparked this idea), we’ve put together a list of fifty books you might want to sink your brains into over the holidays:

5 motivational books

https://www.amazon.com/Year-Yes-Dance-Stand-Person/dp/1476777128/ref=sr_1_1

YEAR OF YES (SHONDA RHIMES): TV writer and all-around amazing lady Shonda Rhimes decided to say yes to every opportunity that came her way, no matter what. Just about everyone on staff at APW loved this the most.

I’M JUDGING YOU: THE DO-BETTER MANUAL (LUVVIE AJAYI): If you’re already familiar with Awesomely Luvvie, a lot of her book will be like visiting a favorite friend. If you’re not, girl, get ready for an education.

the misadventures of awkward black girl (issa rae): Issa Rae is the brilliant mind behind the web series of the same name, and her book is 100 percent glory:

Rae covers everything from cybersexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself—natural hair and all.

big magic: creative living beyond fear (elizabeth gilbert): Elizabeth Gilbert is best known for Eat, Pray, Love, and in this book she talks about embracing curiosity and diving into life.

you can’t touch my hair: and other things i still have to explain (phoebe robinson):

Being a black woman in America means contending with old prejudices and fresh absurdities every day. Comedian Phoebe Robinson has experienced her fair share over the years: she’s been unceremoniously relegated to the role of “the black friend,” as if she is somehow the authority on all things racial; she’s been questioned about her love of U2 and Billy Joel (“isn’t that . . . white people music?”); she’s been called “uppity” for having an opinion in the workplace; she’s been followed around stores by security guards; and yes, people do ask her whether they can touch her hair all. the. time.

5 political books

hard choices by Hillary Clinton

Hard Choices (Hillary Clinton): Holy cow, do I love this book. Clinton documents life after she lost the presidency to President Obama in 2008, and the bulk of the book is about her time as Secretary of State for the Obama administration. Hillary love aside, the book offers compelling insight into what the role of Secretary of State means, and will likely serve as evidence of stark contrast between how President Obama and our incoming president will lead the nation.

THE NEW JIM CROW: MASS INCARCERATION IN THE AGE OF COLOR BLINDNESS (MICHELLE ALEXANDER): Here’s the deal. The election of Barack Obama didn’t all of a sudden cure the U.S. of racism, and we for sure do not live in a post-racial world. This book is a powerful examination of our prison system, and how it disproportionately targets and punishes black men.

NO PLACE TO HIDE: EDWARD SNOWDEN, THE NSA, AND THE U.S. SURVEILLANCE STATE (GLEN GREENWALD): If you’ve heard a little about Edward Snowden and the NSA but are still fuzzy, this is the book to start with. In May 2013, author Glen Greenwald headed to Hong Kong to meet an anonymous source who claimed that the U.S. government was spying its citizens. The source? Snowden himself.

They can’t kill us all: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a new era in america’s racial justice movement (wesley lowrey): Washington Post writer Wesley Lowrey spent a year conducting over a hundred interviews in Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, and Maryland—and then went back to Ferguson, Missouri, to find out what life in one of the most heavily policed cities in the U.S. is like.

Rules for revolutionaries: how big organizing can change everything (becky bond and zack exley): Becky Bond and Zack Exley both worked on the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and are now turning their expertise into lessons for anyone who wants to learn them. The two have also been working in and on political campaigns for twenty years, and they know their stuff.

 5 feminist books

men explain things to me by rebecca solnit

Men Explain Things to Me (Rebecca Solnit): This book is exactly what it sounds like: a shredding of men who mansplain, complete with essays added in 2014.

vagina (naomi wolf): While I think having the chance to read this book in public is worth buying it ALONE (that title, though), you should also buy it because Naomi Wolf does some serious consciousness raising work.

how to build a girl (caitlin moran): I was going to write something clever, but I think Amazon did it for me:

Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease. How to Build a Girl is a funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it.

bad feminist (roxane gay): This is a collection of essays speaking on feminism and politics that talks about everything from Sweet Valley High to Django in Chains.

sister outsider (audre lorde): If you look up “essential black feminist” and DON’T see Audre Lorde, Google has broken and we should all pray. Truly, this collection of essays is where you begin if you need an introduction to Lorde.

5 books for historical fiction

Mare's War by Tanita S Davis

MARE’S WAR (TANITA S. DAVIS): Mare is a WWII veteran and a grandma, and she’s on a cross-country road trip with her two teenage granddaughters. I am 95 percent sure that’s all you need to know before you pick up this book (I’ve already bought a copy, myself). Head’s up, it’s got a YA fiction angle as well.

The underground railroad (colson whitehead): The book is about Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. She meets another slave named Caesar, and he tells her about the Underground Railroad. In this book, the Railroad is actually a series of tracks and tunnels, and Cora and Caesar are being hunted the entire way.

THE IMPERIAL WIFE (IRINA REYN): The Imperial Wife follows the imagined tales of two women: Tanya, an immigrant and Russian art specialist, and Catherine the Great. The stories are heavily feminist and badass and will leave you wanting to know even more about Catherine (just me?).

THE LOST WIFE (ALYSON RICHMAN): First and foremost, I am a HUUUGGEEE Alyson Richman fan; I buy and devour all of her books. The Lost Wife is the first one that I read, and it was such a great introduction to Richman’s work. Set in pre-WWII Prague, the book is about a couple and what happens after the Nazis invade.

snow flower and the secret FAN (lisa see): Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is set in nineteenth century China, aka during the Qing Dynasty. It’s an emotional journey into the world of powerful female friendship, and a glimpse into a time that many may not know much about.

5 books that will prepare you for the apocalypse

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E Butler

parable of the sower (octavia butler): Environmental and economic crises abound in the United States (sound familiar), and a young girl finds herself totally alone in a largely unknown American landscape.

parable of the talents (octavia butler): In this installment, environmental and economic mayhem still rage and are now joined by bigots who are against a black woman leading a new religion.

station eleven (Emily st. john mandel): A devastating pandemic has wiped out 95 percent of the world’s population, and the world is completely changed.

find me (laura van de berg): What if an illness swept the country… and you were immune?

Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy’s immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence.

wool (hugh howey): Wool takes place in a toxic future, where the surviving people are living underground. A sheriff asks to go outside, and everything starts to change.

5 memoirs

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When breath becomes air (Paul kalanithi): Neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at the age of thirty-six. He promptly went from lifesaver to patient and chronicled his journey. The book is, oddly, full of hope right down to his horribly untimely death.

Ordinary Light (tracy k. smith): Smith is a powerful poet, and when she released her memoir I was first in line to pick it up. The heart of her story is about a mother and daughter, and race, religion, and loss all come into play.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More (JANET MOCK):

With unflinching honesty and moving prose, Janet Mock relays her experiences of growing up young, multiracial, poor, and trans in America, offering readers accessible language while imparting vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of a marginalized and misunderstood population.

the year of yes (maria dahvana Headley): For one year, Maria Dahvana Headley decided to date anyone—anyone—who asked her out, and ultimately discovered what really matters.

i am malala (Malala Yousafzai): In 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot at point-blank range by a member of the Taliban. She survived, and went on to become an international activist for girls, children, and the power of education.

10 young adult fiction books

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park (rainbow rowell): Ugh, y’all: if you have yet to dive into the wonderful world of Rainbow Rowell, please go ahead and do so. This book is about bittersweet young love, the kind that probably won’t last but that you really hope does, anyway.

All the bright places (jennifer niven): All the Bright Places is about two people: Theodore, who is fascinated by death, and Violet, who is anything but. It’s also going to be turned into a movie in 2018, so you’ll be able to say you read the book first.

I’ll Give you the sun (jandy nelson):

At first, Jude and her twin brother are NoahandJude; inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them.

Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways… but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor.

The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.

the rest of us just live here (patrick ness): At its core, this book explores a crucial question: What if you aren’t particularly remarkable? What if you don’t vanquish dragons and save the day? What if you just want to graduate high school and go on a date with that girl you like? And how do you find extraordinary in your ordinary life?

ASH (MALINDA LO):

Entrancing and romantic, Ash is a riveting and empowering retelling of the Cinderella story—a novel about choosing life and love over solitude and death.

Esperanza Rising (Pam Muñoz ryan): Esperanza lives in Mexico in a big house with her family, until the Great Depression hits and she finds herself in California, and she and her mother become farm workers.

Magonia (Maria Dahvana Headley): Aza is a young girl who is caught between two races (and essentially, two worlds), and finds herself lost in a very real, very not-Earth world after seeing a spaceship.

dreams of significant girls (Cristina Garcia): Three girls are brought together at a Swiss boarding school, and they hail from various backgrounds: one is an Iranian princess, one is German-Canadian, and the third is a Cuban-Jewish girl who loves to cook.

more happy than not (adam silvera): Aaron’s father has committed suicide, and he’s struggling to find a way back to a place of light. The book is the story of how he gets there and who helps along the way.

the kidney hypothetical: or how to ruin your life in seven days (lisa yee):

Higgs Boson Bing has seven days left before his perfect high school career is completed. Then it’s on to Harvard to fulfill the fantasy portrait of success that he and his parents have cultivated for the past four years. Four years of academic achievement. Four years of debate championships. Two years of dating the most popular girl in school. It was, literally, everything his parents could have wanted. Everything they wanted for Higgs’s older brother Jeffrey, in fact.

5 sci-fi/dark fantasy books

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch) (Ann Leckie): A solider on an icy planet known as Breq is almost finished with her mission—until an act of treachery is committed.

who fears death (Nnedi Okorafor): 

In a far-future, post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa, genocide plagues one region. When the only surviving member of a slain village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand, and instinctively knows her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means “Who Fears Death?” in an ancient African tongue.

From Under the Mountain (Cait spivey): Nineteen-year-old Guerline knows what she has to do: be compliant, and don’t fall in love with Eva. But… she doesn’t quite get there. From Under the Mountain poses a crucial question: How do you know what evil is if everything you’ve been told is a lie?

unburied fables (rachel sharp): This is a collection of stories from students to established writers in which classic tales are reinvented. Half of the proceeds are donated to The Trevor Project.

midnight robber (nalo hopkinson): The Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating Carnival—until a girl and her father are captured and taken to a new, brutal world.

5 detective/mystery books

In The Woods by Tana French

IN THE WOODS (TANA FRENCH):

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

the curious incident of the dog in the Night-Time (mark haddon): A neighborhood dog has died suspiciously, and the most unlikely man is trying to figure out why.

the cuckoo’s calling (robert galbraith): Cormorman Strike is a former solider who is now working as a private investigator. He’s down to one client, his girlfriend has left, and life… kind of sucks. Enter John Bristow, who has a new case for Cormorman that will propel the PI into a dazzling world of wealth, fame, and confusion.

the hidden wife (B.M. HArdin): Tiffany has it all—except for a husband who isn’t married to someone else.

the rozabal line (ashwin sanghi):

An elite army of thirteen calling itself the Lashkare Talatashar has scattered around the globe. The fate of its members curiously resembles that of Christ and his Apostles. Their agenda is Armageddon.

 

 what are you reading right now, apw? what would you add to the list?

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her husband, their seven year old metalhead son, and a crew of beasts. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and smiley faces.

Staff Picks

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  • Angela’s Back

    FYI, it’s actually Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, not Sea :)

    • stephanie

      OMG thanks for catching that! This post was a beast to pull together. Fixing now!

  • Alexandra

    Just finished The Opposite of Spoiled, which is about raising kids with good financial habits. I liked it a lot and am lobbying for my husband to read it.

    Right now I’m in the middle of Pound Foolish, which is a nonfiction book about the dark underbelly of the financial services industry. Fascinating and infuriating. Particularly the chapter about financial services marketing to women. I highly recommend the whole book for that chapter alone. Personal finance/investing/frugality are my major hobbies, though, so I might be more into this book than the average person.

    • MC

      I read Pound Foolish on my vacation this summer so I am right there with you :) I found it FASCINATING.

  • Danielle

    YASSS. I love this list!

    Would also love to add “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (about personal and political experiences with racism in the US). And currently reading “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith, oof, what a good writer! Many of you have probably read it already, but it’s a great novel with a multiracial cast of characters in London (and beyond).

    Also, would like to give a plug for audio books. I started listening to them this year during my daily commute, and it’s just so wonderful to hear the author’s voice reading their words. Really brings it to life. And Shonda Rhimes made me LOL with her dramatic reading style!

    • Cleo

      Double plug for audio books!

      I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never read THE INVISIBLE MAN (by Ralph Ellison) before, but saw that Audible had a version narrated by Joe Morton (Papa Pope from SCANDAL) and snatched it up. I’m about a quarter of the way in. The book is great – eye-opening and just as impactful today as I’m sure it was when it was published – and Morton’s performance is incredible.

      • Danielle

        No shame. I haven’t read it yet either even though it’s been on my list for like 20 years. There are just so many good books in the world!

        Hopefully, life is long, and there will be time to read the books we need to.

      • JC

        If you’re into it, after finishing The Invisible Man, I recommend The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty, which is based on the Ellison novel!

      • I didn’t love Invisible Man (a forced read in HS, so that could be why), but I would give anything narrated by Papa Pope another shot — that voice!

    • Jane

      White Teeth and On Beauty were both so great. I didn’t love NW or Autograph Man as much. Have you read Swing Time? If so, would you recommend it?

      • Danielle

        “White Teeth” is the first book of hers I am reading, inspired by all the reviews of “Swing Time”. Glad to hear you liked “On Beauty” too.

        Recently listened to this audio interview with her; ooh, I just love her voice, could listen to her for hours! http://radioopensource.org/swingin-zadie-smith/

        • Jane

          Yeah – well, I’m a big EM. Forester fan and On Beauty is an homage to Howard’s End. So it was like hitting the jackpot for me.

    • CMT

      TNC’s first book is great, too!

  • Jenny

    I’ll add Uprooted by Naomi Novik to the young adult fiction recommendations!

  • Jane

    The suggested APW articles at the end of this list included some APW book clubs. Is that still a thing APW does?

    • stephanie

      Not at the present, though I think it would be a fun thing to bring back for The Compact!

      • Mary Jo TC

        Please, please do!

      • Jane

        Please do! That’d be great.

      • ruth

        Please do! I would definitely be a part of this! Also, it would be amazing if local, in-person APW book groups could form too for discussions (I’m in NYC) Looking forward to The Compact

        • thebluecastle

          Oh my gosh! I was just thinking how much I wanted to join a book club!!! I second this idea!

        • Alyssa

          YES. I want to join a book club but have a hard time finding people who would be interested. A local APW Book Club chapter would be amazing!

        • Lisa

          There is an APW feminist off-shoot book club in Chicago that was still going on when I left the city two years ago. That might be an option for someone who lives on the third coast.

        • Jane

          I’d be up for one in Seattle if people were interested!

          • Cellistec

            I’m in Seattle! Count me in.

          • Jane

            I’ll repost at happy hour tomorrow and see if we can get a group for Seattle. I know there’s a lot of us who read APW.

          • Cellistec

            Yes! Do it!

  • I haven’t read in like forever ;-( so I’m so excited about this list!

    The last thing I started (but have not finished) is On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee. It’s set in the future and the protagonist sets out to learn what happened to her boyfriend who disappeared.

    In terms of things about just living and learning about life, I love anything by J California Cooper. In my opinion,she’s a national treasure, and I was so sad when she passed away a few years ago. All of her stuff is amazing but my absolute fave is her book In Search of Satisfaction.

  • Jessica

    I got into the romance genre while my husband was deployed. I highly recommend Courtney Milan’s books for some fun, feminist, historical escapism. She puts diversity of characters in her books, which is rare for a mainstream author in that genre.

    I also liked “Yes, Please” by Amy Poehler, “Where Am I Now” by Mara Wilson (the girl who played Matilda), “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt, and “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein

    • Jessica

      Also adding “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern

      • idkmybffjill

        I LOVED that.

      • Call Me Penny

        You’ve just reminded me that’s been on my to read list for an age. Excited to get stuck in now!

    • Cleo

      OMG – Courtney Milan’s The Brothers Sinister series!

      The heroines in the series include a chess master, a botanist, a suffragette and a black mathematician.

      • Jessica

        Yes! The Countess Conspiracy is my favorite book, but my favorite character set of hers are two sisters in Heiress Effect–a plus sized heiress and her sister is involved with an Indian man. Love it.

        • Cleo

          I love The Suffragette Scandal the most, but Countess Conspiracy is a close second. Love those sisters too :)

    • LifeSheWrote

      Love Courtney Milan’s books for exactly what you said: “fun, feminist, historical escapism.” Pretty sure I discovered them via APW! YAY!

    • LifeSheWrote

      Not quite as romance-y but I also love Liane Moriarty for books that will consume you. (Connection to Courtney Milan = lots of female characters, not much beyond that.) I’ve read everything she wrote and would suggest starting with The Husband’s Secret or Big Little Lies. My favorite thing about her books is how the characters all fit together so well – overlapping secrets in THS and in BLL, a murder mystery where you both don’t know who done it OR to whom it was done. Fun twists.

      • Jane

        These are such good escapist reads!!! And they’re making an HBO miniseries out of BLL. Unless I’m mixing up my Moriarty books, which sometimes I do.

    • Jess

      I’m 100% sure I got that recommendation from you (back in the A Practical Smut Goodreads, maybe?), and I truly have enjoyed her books. Also in the Historical Romance Escapism w/ Women Chafing at Gender Constraints: Sarah MacLean’s novels (9 Rules to Break When Romancing A Rake, etc.)

      In the historical escapism with murder solving and some romance without the erotic: the Lady Julia Grey series was very interesting (Deanna Raybourn), which has some iffy gender/class politics going on sometimes but I also really liked the lead’s insistence that she is capable, and that the family treats the sister’s lesbian relationship as essentially no big deal. I stumbled across that at my library while looking for the Deja Dead (Kathy Reichs) series.

      Also in escapism plus women plus fantasy elements and ethnic diversity: Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose is good too.

      • Jessica

        Yes! Every once in awhile I see that I’m part of that group on Goodreads, and hang my head in shame that nothing came of it. Nine Rules to Break was the first really good romance novel I read!

        Deanna Raybourn is an interesting author. I’ve read the first of the Julia Grey series and her new Veronica Speedwell series, as well as a stand alone called “Spear of Summer Grass.” I like that her characters are a bit unlikeable–they have their charms, but are also insufferable in many ways.

        Zoe Archer is going on the “To Read” list.

        • Jess

          This was the first series of hers I read – her characters are definitely a bit insufferable, and I got a kick out of that. They were annoying but in a slightly likeable, relatable way, rather than the “I actually hate all of you” way that a lot of modern fiction/TV/Movies have right now.

          I reread The Blades of the Rose quite a bit. It’s definitely more on the fantastic historical adventure side, but the characters are great. The last two books of that foursome are my favorites.

  • Alice

    I just finished a new Orange Prize book by Kamila Shamsie called Burnt Shadows, which I really enjoyed. It traces the history of two families from Nagasaki in 1945 through Pakistan, England, New York, and Afghanistan in the present. Great insight into some interesting moments in history, and well written. I also think the APW-inclined might really enjoy Rebecca Goldstein, who has several novels (ex. Mazel, Properties of Light, The Mind-Body Problem, etc.) which incorporate feminism, Judaism, history, and math, among other things.

    Also, I think I’ve seen it mentioned here before, but Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a fantastic writer (her novels are also great), who has released a book based on her TED talk called “We Should All Be Feminists.” It’s only £5 here in the UK, and it’s a pretty little book, and I wish I had lots of young women in my family so that I could use it as a stocking stuffer. She makes a familiar but very compelling argument for feminism, and it would be a great way to explain to someone resistant, or who just hasn’t given feminism much thought.

    And finally, my hubby is on a Kurt Vonnegut kick at the moment. Although he’s a dead white guy, his insight into the peculiarities of the human race and his ability to make readers smile wryly makes him feel appropriate for the state of the world right now, and I highly recommend checking him out if you haven’t already.

    • Danielle

      Ooh, YES to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie! I recently finished “Americanah,” and ahh, so good <3

      • Alice

        Oh, thanks so much for sharing that! I’m so glad to see her writing for The New Yorker, my subscription to them is one of the things I miss the most about living in the States. It’s not quite the same reading it online (but it would cost us something like $300 a year to get it sent to Scotland, so I can’t really justify that, sadly).

        • Danielle

          The New Yorker is a huge commitment. I can’t subscribe because the articles are *so* rich, detailed, and long that a subscription (to me) would mean little time to read anything else!

          • Alice

            Very true. I always got through them in the bathtub, which is one of my favorite reading places, but I’ve always worried about dropping in real books…

        • Cbrown

          New Yorker / Scotland buddy club? I got the digital version for the ipad and it isn’t bad at all to read.

      • MC

        Favorite book. Half of a Yellow Sun is also incredible (just a way more serious, less feel-good story).

        • Alice

          Yes, I loved that one and learned so much history from it, but it was definitely less of a happy tale.

        • stephanie

          I love Half of a Yellow Sun!

    • AGCourtney

      Just wanted to say thank you for the rec on “We Should All Be Feminists”. I felt like I needed to get my two sisters-in-law one more thing, and I remembered that someone had recommended a little feminist book and dug through APW to find it, haha. They’re in college and forming their worldviews on stuff like this, so it’ll be perfect. Just ordered two copies!

      • Alice

        Glad to hear it! It’s a pretty little book, too, I think it will be a great gift for them. And props to you for encouraging them!

  • Cleo

    I just noticed that all these links go to Amazon. And as a writer of fiction and someone related to other writers, can I suggest we try to buy our books from local independent bookstores and/or brick and mortar establishments instead of Amazon (even Barnes and Noble)?

    As much as I love how convenient Amazon is (and how they’re providing lots of opportunities for TV/film writers), their behemothness is hurting authors and smaller booksellers in multiple ways (happy to expound if anyone is interested). Indiebound.com is a good resource/place to order books – and doing so there helps support low and mid-list authors who aren’t getting as much traction as they should!

    And APW, can I suggest linking to a Goodreads page next time you do these lists, in order to be distributor neutral (and/or Indiebound or Barnes & Noble) instead of Amazon?

    • Amy March

      I’m always so torn on this. Because I do like my local bookstore, but they also charge minimum 30% more than Amazon for an identical product, and that’s hard for me to justify.

      • MrsRalphWaldo

        Barnes and Noble usually charges much less online! It’s certainly not a small local store, but it’s not Amazon!

    • Jessica

      I would like to second the Goodreads link suggestion, because then I can easily add the book to my “To-Read” list.

      FWIW, I tend to get books from my library instead of buying them. I do have a Kindle, which plays into the whole Amazon rips off the author thing, but it’s still supporting libraries. If my library were a little bit closer I would probably get more physical books.

      • Meg Keene

        I just want to state that Amazon does not rip of authors. I make a solid side living off them, and I’m grateful for it.

        I love libraries, but I try to buy books, because Libraries support literacy and community, but not authors. Authors are all in favor of them, don’t get me wrong. But they don’t put food in our families mouths.

    • MC

      I also love thriftbooks.com for buying used books – a lot of the sellers there seem to be used bookstores and libraries.

      • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

        Thriftbooks is amazing! I use them all the time. They’re affordable and I love the reading rewards!

      • Lauren

        On a similar note, a lot of bookstores/charities sell used books on Amazon, so I always try to check there before buying new books from Amazon.

    • idkmybffjill

      I think the issue is that the links are monetized, so if someone clicks on the link and orders a book – APW receives commission. I’m sure that’s probably a big part of their revenue stream, which makes sense to me.

    • stephanie

      Hey Cleo! We are all very aware of everything you mentioned here. What it comes down to for APW is that Amazon helps pay the bills (when you buy through our links, you help keep the site online), which helps keep staff on board, which helps our content stay on the internet.

      Personally speaking, I split my book buying 3 ways: at my local shop, at Amazon, and on the website for Powell’s. We trust that most readers will choose where they want to shop for themselves. ♥

      • Cleo

        Understood and thanks for the explanation. My desire was mostly to educate/inform those who might not be aware.

        Though now that I know those links are monetized for APW, it’s tougher to not buy from Amazon *just this once* :)

        • stephanie

          Yeah, I totally understand! I think this conversation is part of a bigger one about where we buy everything, honestly. Like, I try to buy my produce from the small grocery stand down the road, but it’s super convenient to run into the big box store, especially if it’s like 7pm and I just want to be home. I try to buy my books locally, but sometimes it’s way easier to hop on Amazon and snag one real quick, even with a 2 day wait.

          And we do appreciate every single person who uses our links! They really do make a huge difference.

      • idkmybffjill

        Just wanted to compliment how well you handled this conversation. You always have really measured, thoughtful writing and you back that up with grace in the comments and I just wanted to let you know it’s noticed!

        • rg223

          Agreed – you are the best, Stephanie!!

      • AnneM

        Quick question about this: Does this still work if I open the affiliate link, but then change the top level domain? I don’t really want to have two amazon accounts, but my .de account doesn’t seem to work at the .com site.

    • While that suggestion is great, APW isn’t making any judgements on where people get their books, whether it’s library, Amazon, local bookstore, borrow from a friend, etc.

      Amazon links help APW keep the lights on, provide fee content on the web, and pay staff – are you suggesting that APW forego that revenue stream because you personally have issues with how Amazon pays writers?

      • Cleo

        I hadn’t seen the fine print when I read the article (before I made this comment). If I had, I wouldn’t have added the request at the end.

        No hostility to you or other stafers or APW was meant by this comment and as I didn’t realize I was making a comment about a revenue stream, I’m sorry if I came off as hostile or anti-everyone making money.

        • Cleo

          staffers* (stupid typo)

      • Marie

        Errrr companies should choose their revenue streams wisely? I don’t know enough about Amazon to comment on this instance specifically, but the concept of revenue by any means necessary being the end goal for all companies is pretty terrible. APW shouldn’t be above high expectations of how we choose to spend and earn our dollars.

        • Wait a second – are chastising me over a revenue stream that you don’t even know any specifics about? Why are you assuming that APW didn’t do their due diligence? And more importantly, why are you questioning ME as if I’m the only APW staffer who’s commented on this?

          • Marie

            “I don’t know enough about Amazon to comment on this specifically”.

            I was responding to your quote that said “Are you suggesting APW forego that revenue stream bc you have issues with how Amazon pays writers”.

            IT rubbed me the wrong way because i think if APW did in fact have a problem with how Amazon operates as a company, then they should adjust policy accordingly.

            Not chastising. And responded to you bc that was the comment that was there at the time?

            All good though. Not looking for an argument. Just had a reaction to one of your thoughts. Peace.

    • Meg Keene

      I’m an author, and 80% of my sales come through Amazon. I was able to buy a house thanks to them. So, it varies. They are not universally bad for creatives, by a very long shot.

      Regardless, running APW takes a whole lot of money, and you guys get to consume all the content for free. Amazon affiliate links are part of how we pay the bills. It’s not a large part of our revenue stream, but it probably pays 1/3 of a staffers salary a month. So it’s important, and those links (disclosed) are going to stick around. We trust that you guys can make your own choices about where you make purchases. I don’t purchase all my books through Amazon, and I assume you don’t either.

      • Cleo

        No. I’d never say they are universally bad for creatives. That wasn’t at all what I meant. But there are cons to weigh.

        And I wouldn’t begrudge anyone an honest revenue stream – so no disrespect meant. I really should know to read the fine print by now :/

        • idkmybffjill

          It was clear (at least to me) that your comment was not disrespectfully meant! Also I learned about some alternative book sources – which is great for when I’m buying books that aren’t providing revenue streams to sites I care about.
          Thank you very much for sharing!

        • stephanie

          No worries, Cleo! I think everyone is fine. ♥

      • anonymous for this

        This reads a bit attacking to the OP- additionally, mentioning that “you guys get to consume all the content for free” suggests that we get the honor of reading your articles and should be in eternal gratitude for having that privilege. This website obviously is a heartfelt venture that you put a lot of work into, however I would be wary of the way you describe it to the customers which essentially provide your income through paid links, advertisements, etc.

        • JAS

          Woah with the tone policing…. “eternal gratitude” is certainly not suggested by pointing out that the content on this site doesn’t exist behind a paywall–it could. To point out that creative work is WORK, and to expect to be paid for that work is just good business practice.

      • Anna Wagner

        I totally bought the first APW book from Amazon immediately after getting engaged. It was the most convenient in a hectic time. Normally, my book purchases if any come about 50/50 from smaller stores and Amazon. Typically though, I get my reads from the local library because buying all the books I want to read just isn’t feasible. I buy if it’s a book I may want to come back to – as was the case with the APW book.

    • stephanie

      Heads up, I deleted part of this thread that had little to do with the post. If anyone has questions, email me: stephanie@apracticalwedding.com.

  • Vanessa

    Fiction:
    The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
    Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
    Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
    Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam
    A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
    Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

    Nonfiction:
    All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women & the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
    One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead

    Currently:
    Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
    Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

    Outside of the current reads, these are all books I have enjoyed so much that I either have or would buy them for other people in my life. Yay books!

    • Call Me Penny

      Oh the Snow Child, what a read ?

  • Jane

    This book isn’t that new anymore, but H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald is fantastic. It’s part memoir about the author coping (poorly) with her father’s death, part field guide/history of goshawks, part biography of E.B.White (who wrote The Once and Future King and tried to train a goshawk).

    • CMT

      Oooh, yes, I loved H Is For Hawk!

  • idkmybffjill

    Ooh! Just purchased the Spanish Edition of Esperanza Rising (Esperanza renace) recently, anyone else have good modern lit recommendations for Spanish reading (en espanol)? I have sort of exhausted Siglo de Oro literature & mystical realism and would like to read more modern spanish authors! American bookstores are seriously lacking and I’ve not had alot of luck finding recs online!

    • CMT

      I read (in English) Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue this year and thought it was great. I saw him speak at the Sydney Writer’s Festival and really enjoyed him. I’m guessing his books are even better in Spanish.

  • MC

    My book club is reading Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue right now and I’m about halfway through and loving it. I also love anything by Louise Erdrich but especially LaRose and The Roundhouse. Also everything by Jhumpa Lahiri.

    Also, one of my favorite writers of anything is Sherman Alexie, but his poetry is especially poignant and hilarious and tragic all at once.

  • Sara

    I’ve recommended it here before but The Martian by Andy Weir was a fantastic book, highly recommend.
    Freakaonimics is an old recommendation, but still great for those that haven’t read it yet.
    Time Expectancy by Dean Koontz is a fun suspense novel that I’ve read over and over.
    If you like romantic comedies, anything by Jennifer Crusie is like a rom-com in novelization. Agnes and the Hitman is probably my favorite.
    I’ve been super into memoirs of actors lately so I recommend Amy Poheler’s, Rob Lowe’s and Michael J. Fox’s.
    Also: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson who is not an actor but still a great read.

    • JC

      I can’t read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened in public anymore because laughing with tears streaming down my face apparently makes strangers uncomfortable.

    • Kat

      My #1 book genre is: Essays by Funny Ladies. i.e Mindy Kaling, Amy Poheler, Tina Fey….I’m asking for Anna Kendrick’s “Scrappy Little Nobody” and Carol Burnett’s “In Such Good Company” for Christmas

      I just noticed this was a predominately white-lady list. In the name of doing better and intersectional feminism, does anyone have recommendations that were written by WOC and fall into this category?

      • Sara

        Oh I want Anna Kendrick’s book too, and I was planning on asking for Lauren Graham’s ‘Talking As Fast As I Can’ but that doesn’t help your question.

        • Kat

          Lol but thanks for reminding me that I also want to read that one.

      • JC

        I haven’t read the book, but You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson is supposed to be great (linked in the article above), and her podcasts (Two Dope Queens and Sooo Many White Guys) are awesome.

        • Kat

          I love podcasts!!! Adding these to my rotation

    • Cellistec

      Seconding The Martian. It blew my mind in many ways.

  • Mary Jo TC

    This list is amazing! Either I’ve read and loved them, they’ve been on my LOOONG list of books to read for a while, or they’re being added today! Some standouts:
    -Big Magic by Liz Gilbert–especially for anyone who wants to write or make art of some kind
    -The New Jim Crow–Every time someone says “education is the civil rights issue of our day” I want to throw a copy of this book at their head.
    -How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran–a fictionalized version of her youth. Reminded me of a dirtier version of “Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging.”
    -Snow Flower and the Secret Fan–one of the most profound books about female friendship I’ve ever read
    -Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler – postapocalyptic and bleak and yet hopeful in the best way
    -Eleanor and Park– I <3 Rainbow Rowell sooo much, but this is not my favorite of hers. That would be either Fangirl (another YA) or Landline (an adult book).
    -Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad and Robert Galbraith's (AKA JK Rowling) Cormoran Strike mysteries are my 2 favorite mystery series right now, by far.

    • LifeSheWrote

      Me too for mystery series!! LOVE French & Galbraith and will continue to read anything they decide to write (even after my not-so-favorable opinion of the most recent Galbraith – ick – Career of Evil). The most recent French (Trespasser) was spot on though!!

    • LifeSheWrote

      Oh and I also loved Landline more than Eleanor and Park – so fun! We have similar tastes – now I need to go look closely at your recommends that I haven’t gotten to yet!

    • scw

      re: rainbow rowell – I like eleanor and park, and also landline, and also fangirl. and also attachments. ok I love them all! they’re perfect easy airplane books.

      • LifeSheWrote

        Oooh, I forgot about Attachments! That one is super fun.

      • scw

        am now realizing I got the original tip to read rainbow rowell in one of these open threads! (maybe the honeymoon reading one?)

      • Mary Jo TC

        All Rainbow Rowell is good. Although I guess if you hate Harry Potter-inspired fantasy and boys kissing each other you might not like “Carry On,” but then you’re not someone I want to know.

  • RNLindsay

    Love book recommendations! Some of my recent favorites:
    –Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – favorite book of 2016. Beautifully written story of 2 families forced together when the mother of one and the father of the other have an affair.
    –Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – my book club unanimously loved this book. Adichie is so well spoken and it flows through her writing too.
    –A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Oh man, did I love love love this book. I always have to preface my recommendation that it deals with many dark subjects (child abuse, suicide) but it is the most beautiful story of enduring friendships I have ever read. I’m not a crier but the ending tore me apart. Be prepared for tough subjects and extreme length though!

    • MC

      Seconding Commonwealth – I just read it last month and loved its portrayal of complicated, complex blended families. As a child of divorce who now has ex-stepsiblings and an ex-stepfather it was really comforting to see those relationships portrayed in literature.

    • Mary Jo TC

      Seconding Americanah.
      A Little Life needed more trigger warnings than any other book I have ever read (though luckily I have no trauma in my past and was not triggered, personally). It’s deeply disturbing in the way it gets inside the head of a severely traumatized person and shows the effect of that trauma on his psyche and self-image. I’m glad I read it, and that’s saying something about a book that’s like 700 pages, but I didn’t find it as profound and moving as you did.

      • RNLindsay

        I know, I always recommend it with the warnings. This unfortunately means very few people in my real life have read it for me to discuss with!

  • LifeSheWrote

    Fabulous list – I love love love APW reading list round-ups. Thank you for putting these out here!!

    I super duper second Station 11 and anything written by Tana French or Robert Galbraith, my favorites being French’s The Likeness and Gailbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling.

    I’d want to add to this list books by Barbara Kingsolver – especially Prodigal Summer.

  • Lisa

    I recently read The Handmaid’s Tale, which feels like it’s becoming more possible by the day. It’s also being turned into a TV series soon with Elizabeth Moss (aka Peggy Olson) in the title role, which I’m excited to see.

    I also recently picked up Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy at the library, which is about women during the Civil War. I’m hoping that will be a good dose of female empowerment.

    • idkmybffjill

      I bought The Handmaid’s Tale just before the election and have been afraid to pick it back up! Must do so.

    • Alyssa

      Ah, the Handmaid’s Tail got me hooked on Margaret Atwood, I love her writing. That book is SO good.

    • The Handmaid’s Tale got me hooked on Margaret Atwood – so good but terrifying at the same time.

      • Cellistec

        It’s one of the most chilling and memorable books I’ve ever read…I had no idea it was being turned into a TV series! And with Elizabeth Moss! #win

    • LifeSheWrote

      I will second Handmaid’s Tale – I’m excited to reread it before the series comes out!

    • CMT

      I got a promoted tweet in my Twitter timeline for a Netflix version of The Handmaid’s Tale the day after the election. I don’t know if that was on purpose or not, but I was not pleased. (Great book, though!)

      • Lisa

        Wow, Netflix is doing a version in addition to Hulu? Also, freaky timing on their part!

        • CMT

          Oh, maybe it was Hulu, I don’t remember exactly.

          • Lisa

            I only remember because I saw an article about it just yesterday on FB and had to google it once you mentioned the series. Either way, I’m hoping it will be good!

    • Becca

      Funny. It was already made into a movie in 1990.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099731/

    • AP

      Ohhhh I read The Handmaid’s Tale last summer right around the time I started working in reproductive health and rights, and hot damn what a mindf**k. Essential reading, IMO.

  • Alyssa

    It’s my personal bias, but I’m surprised All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr) is not in the Historical Fiction section. I’m not really big on historical fiction, but that book is AMAZING and perhaps my favorite of all time.

    • Call Me Penny

      Oh man, what a book. Such an amazingly read

    • MC

      Yes, this is SUCH a good one.

    • Lawyerette510

      Yes, such a wonderful book!

  • Call Me Penny

    This thread is giving me so much excitement for the holidays so I can properly hunker down and get caught up on some long overdue books. I’d add The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon to the list. I’ve never had ambitions to write a book myself, but it always makes me think about what an incredible thing it is to be able to weave a story.

    • LifeSheWrote

      Yes, I loved The Shadow of the Wind (I also read the follow-ups and liked them not-as-much) but TSOTW (terrible abbreviation, sorry) was my all-time-favorite-book for awhile.

      • Call Me Penny

        Abbreviation definitely justified! I loved the sequel too but the original will always be number one for me

    • Lisa

      La sombra del viento is one of my favorite books. My host dad gave me his copy when I was living in Spain, and while it took me a while to get through a 600 page novel in a second language, it was such a beautiful story.

      • idkmybffjill

        Me too – I’ve read it probably 3 times (twice in spanish, once in english). That reminds me! I need to check into Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s other works. Thank you!

        • Lisa

          There’s actually a sequel to La sombra called El juego del angel. I own it but only got about 100 pages in. I should probably try again.

          • idkmybffjill

            Oooh hot tip! Thank you!

          • Call Me Penny

            I loved the sequel too, but the original will always get me right in the feels. And the fact that it’s a translation makes it even more impressive I think.

          • idkmybffjill

            Totally agree. I read Sombra first in spanish (which isn’t my first language), and definitely loved it – but reading it again in english really solidified my love for it. (sometimes reading in a second language distracts from the narrative for me because I can’t quite lose myself in the story the same way)

          • Lawyerette510

            The sequel took a little time to get into, and it wasn’t as good, but I did find it worth reading.

        • I liked his adult books, but I accidentally checked out some of his books written for children/young adults from the library and I was not as big of a fan of them (although also confused because I did not realize they were children’s books since I checked them out of an academic library and they were in that formal library binding and it took me a bit to catch on to why the wording was different and not as beautiful–also maybe could be due to translations). But I really like his books written for adults.

      • Call Me Penny

        What an achievement though – not sure I could manage it in French!

  • idkmybffjill

    Reading for Escape: David Sedaris. I’ve never laughed aloud so often reading. He’s my go to when I’m feeling stressed! I read basically him and only him the last few months before my wedding.

    • Lisa

      We are seriously the same. David Sedaris is my favorite author of all time. Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames are perfect for re-reading because I can read an essay at a time. I’ve seen him read twice live, and each time was a great experience.

      • idkmybffjill

        Omg we are. The titular scene in When You are Engulfed is one of my go to happy imaginings when I just want to think of something funny.

        If it’s a rough day at work I’ll often just search for his essays on the New Yorker for some happy time reading. Love him forever. Saw him read once in Chicago a couple of years ago and obviously loved it – were you at that one??

        • Lisa

          I never saw him in Chicago, but I went in undergrad (200…9?) and again in 2014 when he was at a university near Badtown. My husband was so sweet and bought the tickets for my birthday, and he splurged on good seats because he didn’t realize I’d already seen Sedaris before!

          • idkmybffjill

            Oh! That’s adorable.

    • Gaby

      I have apparently only been able to handle reading for escaping this year so all I’ve read is 4 David Sedaris books and the Fun Home graphic novel. I haven’t seen him live though, but I hope to!

  • CMT

    I just finished the first of the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante and holy crap, did I wish I start those sooner. I loved it! This year I also really liked Euphoria by Lilly King and Living History by HRC.

    On my to-read list I have all these political science-y/sociology books about just what the hell is going on in this country, but I find that I don’t actually want to read them when I can read a nice novel. They’re frustrating and depressing, but I know they’re important.

    • AP

      I’m on the second Neapolitan novel right now and just love them!

    • RNLindsay

      Euphoria was so good! Such an intriguing story. And I’m usually a kindle reader but bought the actual book because the cover was so beautiful!

  • Em

    Seconding the Tana French recommendation – her books are excellent holiday devouring material! I’m not a huge crime fiction fan (or I don’t think I am, if that makes sense?) but I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her, as well as Robert Galbraith and Jussi Adler-Olson (an excellent Danish author with a great crime series).

    For the sci-fi fans who I assume must be lurking here somewhere – The Expanse is so great (as is the recommendation down thread for Andy Weir’s The Martian). Plus I love, love, love Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and would recommend it wholeheartedly…

    • Jess

      The Vorkosigan series is on my list! I have a huge list of Sci-Fi that I *want* to read, and somehow keep getting sidetracked.

      • Em

        Oh, they are SO great! Start with Cordelia’s Honor, and go from there. One of the best things about the series is that depending on the book, they range in tone/style from military sci-fi to mystery novel to political intrigue to romance novel – and they are all so wonderful.

  • Amy March

    In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. Mystery set in a bachelorette party weekend gone very wrong.

    • Jess

      This has been on my GoodReads “To Read” List for too long!

  • JC

    I keep telling myself I need a better system to keep track of my reading list, because I read too many great books this year to recommend them all!
    Chief among them, The Girls by Emma Klein. It was bewitching.
    Second is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which others have mentioned, and which includes the origin story of two fabulous novels, The Signature of All Things by Gilbert and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I had never read Patchett before, which is a travesty that is now rectified.
    If you’re into non-fiction that is vaguely self-help (which I eat for breakfast), I enjoyed Quiet by Susan Cain and Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. (Better than Before is about habit forming, as as an aforementioned self-help reader, I quite like habits.)

    • CMT

      Goodreads is great for this! I used to try sending myself emails, but never worked well for me.

      • JC

        You’re right, I need to play around with Goodreads more. I didn’t try hard enough!

    • khshire

      Try Goodreads! And yes, Signature of All Things was fabulous.

    • Lisa

      I started using Goodreads this year as part of my NY’s resolution, and it’s been great! Anytime I hear of a book that interests me, I add it to my “To Read” list, and then when I need a new book, I scroll through the list to find one that fits my current mood.

    • JC

      Just did a massive Goodreads update yesterday; thanks, all!

  • Rebekah

    Just a (probably unnecessary) warning about When Breath Becomes Air – I freaking sobbed, especially reading the epilogue, written by his wife. Big ugly gross tears.

    • anachronismsarah

      Reading it now… I’m bracing myself for the end!

  • khshire

    Thanks for including Octavia Butler. She is an all-time fav. I’m currently reading the Patternist series. The Parable books have stuck with me since I read them for the first time 10 years ago. I will read her biography as soon as someone writes it!

  • Laura

    A few mentioned below, but:

    Fiction:
    – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Two half-sisters born in Ghana, one married off to a British slaver, the other sold into slavery.
    – Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. One of my favorite authors, and I loved this way better than The Martian (they came out around the same time, but the I loved the complexity of Stephenson’s characters in Seveneves). Part I chronicles the survival of humanity in outer space after escaping catastrophe on Earth, and Part II is 5000 years later as their descendants recolonize the planet.
    – Mink River by Brian Doyle. Whimsical, lyrical novel about the inhabitants (human and non-human) of a little town in Oregon.

    Nonfiction:
    – Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. Cannot recommend this one enough.
    – Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. A couple years old now, but I recommend this to anyone thinking about life and end of life issues.

    Also anything by Barbara Kingsolver, Louise Erdrich, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. And John Muir essays for when my soul feels sad about the state of our world.

    • Charley

      I love Barbara Kingsolver – both Prodigal Summer and Flight Behavior were two of my favorite books from last year. Her book on a year of growing their own food, Animal Vegetable Miracle, is also wonderful and I have read that at least three times.

  • suchbrightlights

    Two series to read for hope about the human condition:

    Discworld, by Terry Pratchett. Pratchett wrote satiric fantasy, an unlikely but perfect vehicle to discuss the philosophy of human nature. He was an incredibly prolific writer and I don’t suggest reading in chronological order (the first handful are more fun than they are deep.) Attached is one suggested reading order, but if you’re just going to dip your toes in, try: Monstrous Regiment, a standalone about religion and feminism; or for a story about law and rights that feels increasingly relevant, these three cherry-picked from the Vimes storyline: Jingo, Thud, and Snuff. And then go immediately to the Witches books, and back to read the entirety of the Vimes books, and then read the Tiffany Aching books. Oh, and if you want to get seasonal, for a thriller about the nature of belief and the true meaning of Christmas, try Hogfather.

    Young Wizards, by Diane Duane. Y’all, I grew up on these books. They’re realistic science fantasy novels about practitioners of a magic discipline that’s heavily rooted in real-world science. They’re young adult novels that I think are equally accessible to older adults (i.e. not dumbed down for kids.) The third book is must-read for any young programmer.

    I love books a lot.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/03bb97485ce2c25bb16b622e3a7ab7d52ca4a5a206086426b320625eeca3ca45.jpg

  • AP

    Haven’t read through all the comments yet, but I am currently reading Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I find myself reading very slowly to savor every word. It’s technically poetry, but narrative poetry (is that a thing?) that is telling a complete story about the author’s childhood growing up as an African American in the South in the 60s and 70s. I’d love to hear it read aloud.

  • zoeee

    Yessss Rainbow Rowell! Fangirl is my favorite. :D

    If you like YA, also check out author Maggie Stiefvater. The Raven Cycle is an outstanding series.

    • Becky

      YES to The Raven Cycle! It’s soooo good. (Still haven’t read the last book yet, oops.)

  • ItsyBit

    I recently read The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi ad it kind of blew me away. The Goodreads summary: Jessamy “Jess” Harrison, age eight, is the child of an English father and a Nigerian mother. Possessed of an extraordinary imagination, she has a hard time fitting in at school. It is only when she visits Nigeria for the first time that she makes a friend who understands her: a ragged little girl named TillyTilly. But soon TillyTilly’s visits become more disturbing, until Jess realizes she doesn’t actually know who her friend is at all. Drawing on Nigerian mythology, Helen Oyeyemi presents a striking variation on the classic literary theme of doubles — both real and spiritual — in this lyrical and bold debut.

  • AnneM

    Just wanted to chime in really quick to say: I second The Rest of Us Just Live Here. My brain is more of a strainer than a sponge, so I don’t remember too much of the content, but I know I enjoyed reading it and it felt like the author was making an effort to be inclusive and give representation to a variety of groups.

  • Lauren

    I JUST finished reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and absolutely loved it. I have Parable of the Talents in the mail and I can’t wait! Also Station Eleven is one of my favorite recent reads, so apparently I have a thing for apocalyptic scenarios with female leads.

  • Just devoured “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is essential.
    Also recommend: “Caucasia” by Danzy Senna, “A Collection of Vital Phenomena” by Anthony Marra, “Quiet as They Come” by Angie Chau, “Night at the Fiestas” by Kirstin Valdez Quade.

  • ASimmons

    Warmth of Other Suns!!! Forgive me if someone recommended it in the comments, but it’s too amazing not to include in this list

  • Emily C

    I recently read and loved The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, I’d highly recommend both for the sci fi/dark/dystopian genera. Basically, what if the earth were hugely seismically active, and there was a race of humans who controlled seismic activity, and were hunted down or enslaved? The author won a Hugo for The Fifth Season, and was the first African-American person to win it for a novel. Which is crazy.

  • ThatsWhatEESaid

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS LIST! I already have some of these books or have read them, but I am looking forward to adding these to my list of 2016 reads. It is a good diverse list. It would be great if APW could make a list and allow people to add to it – that way it could be a collaborative effort from the community. Just an idea. :)

    I would also add to this list Milk & Honey for poetry, Americanah by Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi, Rosie Perez’s memoir Handbook for an Unpredictable Life and my I can go on and on. So pumped to read these!

  • Cellistec

    Love this list- thanks Stephanie + APW staff!
    My additions:
    The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (if you like that “I can’t look away, but I know I should” sense of impending horror when someone is screwing things up and has no idea)
    The Outlander series, for escapism
    Shrill by Lindy West, for feminist “preach, lady” solidarity

  • gipsygrrl

    So, I hesitated to make this comment because I know a partnership with Amazon gets bills paid, and I support that. But I was pretty disappointed to download one of the suggested titles (“A Hidden Wife”) and find it to be thoroughly awful… and not in an “I didn’t like this book” way. In an “I can’t believe this has been published on Amazon – surely none of the APW staff has actually read this title” way. It was riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, didn’t seem to have been edited and it culminated in an “ending” that was simply a grab for readers to purchase the next installment. I kept wondering if the book was a joke or if I’d downloaded the wrong title. So… I love APW and don’t mean to bash on its recommendations – I just honestly feel like that particular title has somehow wormed its way through a number of content curation teams and it shouldn’t have. Hopefully someone else will be spared the disappointment.

  • Anna Wagner

    Love this list. I’ve just added significantly to my reading list from it (which is now 140+ books long). Excited for the holiday break so I can catch up on some reading.

  • I’m about thirty pages shy of being finished with STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND by Arlie Russell Hochschild. It’s about the anger of the American Right. I started reading it to hopefully gain some empathy for my fellow Southerners and those who are members of the Tea Party, but it’s mostly just pissed me off even more. Part Three was finally when my frustration was coupled with empathy.

    Hochschild is a sociologist from Berkley who, for this book, spends years travelling to Louisiana and befriending upset white people. In her attempt to find common ground, the keyhole issue of the book is the environment.