I usually struggle to update my reading list. I try to read one book
every two weeks often and it gets confusing deciding what to read. My most recent goal was to put together a list of socially conscious, coming of age, and inspiring books to read this summer. I’m lucky to have friends who are avid readers and intellectuals, so I thought; why not have them recommend some of their favorite books? The result is this eclectic list of books with heartfelt and insightful reviews. Each book is a masterpiece that will leave you inspired and better off after reading. I suggest you add one or two (or all) to your summer reading list. You won’t regret it.
Enjoy and take notes.
Audre Lorde was a very self-aware, socially conscious and intelligent writer and it reflects throughout her work. In her essays, she challenged the status quo and put so eloquently a lot of thoughts I’ve had but otherwise couldn’t express. Seeing the world through the eyes of a woman from a different generation and background than me and still being able to relate so strongly was a very cathartic experience. Her words gave meaning to some feelings I couldn’t express and reinforced some convictions about self-love and fearlessness I’ve always had.
One of my many favorite Quotes from this book: ” …the ability to feel strong and to recognize those feelings is central: how to feel love, how to neither discount fear nor be overwhelmed by it, how to enjoy feeling deeply” – Jiji M. U
2.The Will to Change by Bell Hooks
Bell Hooks is already responsible for some major healing in my life re: recovering from sexism and embracing my femaleness. This book is not only helping me understand male consciousness but to deconstruct toxic behaviors I adopted as “good” because they were “masculine,” and thus “better.” Highly recommended, especially for all men interested in the emotional wholeness that patriarchy denies them. – Ma Tar
3.The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book is moving, heartbreaking, and an absolute must read for everyone. It is inspired by the black lives matter movement but it is so much more than that. It’s a story of a scared teenage girl with a loving family and complicated relationships. It’s a story about empowerment and learning to use your voice. I adored this book and highly recommend it. – Rachael Hitt
4.So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
This book is unusual, quirky, and poignant both in its subject matter and execution. It follows the lives of people who have been victims of public shaming, particularly online, and the aftermath of the shaming on their personal, professional and mental lives.
Ronson is altogether funny and exhibits a level of introspection that most people shy away from. In so doing, he manages to peel back layers behind a phenomenon that is getting to be increasingly common in the world today.
I usually recommend books for specific groups of people, but this is one that I think pretty much everyone should read…..unless you’re a Luddite (but then again, there are people who might shame you for that as well)- Omotola
Judas Goat entails how to deal with false friendships, betrayals and the temptation not to forgive. A Judas goat is an actual goat that’s raised with sheep in the field; eating with them, sleeping with them and generally gaining their trust. When the time comes to lead the sheep into the slaughterhouse, the sheep will follow the Judas goat into specially marked pens, the back of the trucks and in some instances into the slaughterhouse itself. The book makes a strong correlation between this Goat and the people in your life who are operating with ulterior motives. It helps you understand the betraying strategy of potential Judas goats in your life, the three levels of relationships and whom you should let into your inner circle of trust, how to address false rumors and lies from those close to you, the critical danger of unforgiveness and more. – Majiri dokta-ray
6.Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Sometimes, it can be hard to come into your own person and accept the changes around you, but my favorite character (Olanna) did and it was nice to witness it. Hated the ending though.
It’s about a young Igbo couple who in the midst of the Nigeria/Biafra civil war learns the value of family, faith and of course true love. I liked it because I found the main characters relatable. – Sic
7. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
This is book one in a three-part series (1492 and 1493 are parts two and three). If you’ve ever been disturbed by the amount of history that was erased by the European invasion and genocide of the Americas but want to know more: this is an absolute must read. There is simply so much we don’t know about the world before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but this book attempts to solidify some of the doubts and resolve many of the untruths we were told in history class. – Katrina Godfrey
8. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Holy Cow!! This is a funny book. For all the stuff that Trevor describes in the book, it really shouldn’t be humorous at all but the many absurdities of Noah’s life will fill you with equal parts introspection and laughter. Noah’s outsider perspective gives you an inside look into how Apartheid separated South Africans from each other and the world, such that layers of significance that are immediately evident to someone living outside of South Africa, were completely lost on him and his friends.
For example, I was completely dumbfounded by his story about DJing and hyping his friend Hitler (the person’s real name) at a cultural party for Jewish kids in the suburbs near his neighborhood. This book is officially one of my favorites. I will likely keep it in rotation for whenever I need a laugh. – Omotola
9. Veinte Días a la Medianoche, by Mikey Mondejar. (Poetry, bilingual)
This stunning collection of poems written by a Spanish/English poet details a life lived on the autism spectrum. It gives a glimpse into a life that many of us cannot understand, allowing us to walk in his shoes for a short while. It is an inspiring collection. – Katrina Godfrey
If you’ve seen (and loved) the movie, pick up the book that inspired it! The book actually focused more on the history surrounding the space race and is more impersonal in its telling, but the story is still fascinating to read. – Katrina Godfrey
11. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
When you write you are cursed to forever read like a writer. It is systematic reading. This is usually not a good thing until you stumble on a book that makes your forget to read like a writer. I read The Book Thief, a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak in 2014. Set in Nazi Germany circa WWII, this gorgeously horrifying book, and through the eyes of its narrator – Death – follows a ten-year-old German girl. Liesel Meminger is on her situation-imposed quest to unavoidably steal books – more like save books from Nazi nighttime bonfires and from libraries where they rot, unread. These are books written by Jewish authors, Liesel helps claim the soul of Jewish writery, in a sense, one book at a time; and this in a time when books are/were the enemy of the state. In the book, Death is personified into a darkly humorous, sarcastic onlooker, looking in on the lives of the charismatic, spellbinding characters whose rotten and beautiful lives Death narrates with candor, humor, colors, light, air raids and darkness. – Chuka Nestor
12. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
One of the most compelling books I have ever read. Verghese crafted a masterpiece beyond measure. The book presents a rich tapestry that explores the heights and depths of the human condition through characters that appear almost god-like in their impact yet still come across profoundly human. Perhaps, that’s the charm of a life surrounded by clinical medicine. In the interest of fairness and objectivity, it’s possible that I feel such a kinship with the Stone twins because of the ways in which my life resembled theirs: an identical twin who spent most of his formative years on a continent most know or care little about, all the while aspiring to career in medicine.
This book has made me think very deeply about the people who have come and gone as I have continued to walk this path towards being a physician. I can only hope that in time, I will become as a clinician as Dr. Ghosh, perhaps that I will be someone else’s Ghosh. – Omotola
13. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
It’s an interesting read with an unsettling premise. It has a well-crafted moment of charm, wit, and humor that seem almost incredulous when you realize that they’re coming from a deeply troubled kid on his 18th birthday. Teenagers simply do not have so many profound thoughts about the world. But then again, most adults don’t either and perhaps that’s what makes him a fascinating character. – Omotola
14. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
I thought it was a good book. It reminded me a lot of my boarding school experience and the general frivolity with which children treat life. What I found to be the most incredibly telling is the coming of age that these boys undergo as they start to understand the fragility of life nature of growing up. It’s an easy read and a pretty good one.- Omotola
15. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Recently, a new TV show has been released based on this dystopian novel. The book offers a look into one woman’s account of the truly horrific world in which she lives, and acts as a reminder to us all that complacency is not an option.- Katrina Godfrey
16. The House of the Spirits: A Novel by Isabel Allende
This story spans three generations of women in a single family, The Truebas. Set in Chile, it is a story of love and hate, triumph and defeat, and the little and large details that make up an entire life. – Katrina Godfrey
Other Books to also check out