Books have the power to connect us to new people, places, and ideas. Each page contains a snapshot of life through the eyes of the author and a piece of truth that you can apply to your own life. Spend enough time between the pages, and you’ll come to new conclusions and wild revelations. Add these ten books to your reading list to get the most out of your year.
1. “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens
Where the Crawdads Sing is a coming-of-age narrative, a heart-wrenching tale of love, loss, and murder, and a celebration of nature. In this book, we see the world through the eyes of Kya Clark, a young woman who lives alone in a highly rural area of North Carolina. Her story will grip you from start to finish, absorbing you in a world where nature is Kya’s refuge from a cruel and deterministic world. Here, we experience the beauty of isolation, nature’s rhythm, and subtle acts of kindness. This book reminds us that as far as we can venture into the world, we can also go within.
2. “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doer
All the Light We Cannot See is a story of survival and humanity during times of crisis. Set in World War II, the book follows a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths parallel and eventually cross during a horrific period. The book is vivid and emotional, showing us glimpses of love, courage, and cruelty. All the Light We Cannot See invites us to understand the complexity of humanity: our innate vulnerability, how we make decisions, and how we form our identities.
Little Fires Everywhere illuminates a microcosm of American society. Celeste NG expertly navigates the tensions of race, class, and clan, inviting her reader to see beyond the facade of a stable suburb. In a city that upholds the motto, “Most communities just happen; the best are planned,” we watch as complex family dynamics and small-town politics expose each character’s imperfections. When tensions are high and fears are swept under the rug, a fire is bound to start.
4. “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan
Crazy Rich Asians is a trilogy you will read from start to finish. The characters are hilarious, and the plot is a never-ending rollercoaster. If you want to lighten your mood, pick up this book and become engrossed in a world of reckless jet-setters, exotic vacations, and dizzying wealth. You might fall in love with a character or two along the way. This satirical series is a page-turner–I read the entire trilogy in three days.
5. “The Giver of Stars” by Jojo Moyes
Set during the Great Depression, The Giver of Stars is a love letter to book lovers. Jojo Moyes depicts the resilience and compassion of women who worked tirelessly to bring books to isolated towns in Kentucky. As you watch these brave women ride horseback through rural America, explore new and distant lands, and grow together as friends, you can’t help to feel more inspired to explore your world. The Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky weren’t afraid of defying social norms, nor should we.
6. “The Martian” by Andy Weir
The Martian is a thrilling, survivalist sci-fi journey from start to finish. Have you ever wondered how to live on Mars? Mark Watney has your back. Set in 2035, this American Astronaut is impressionable, brilliant, and resourceful. To use his own words: “I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days.” Yet, he survives. Suspenseful and entertaining, The Martian is a must-read for fiction lovers, sci-fi nerds, or general readers who love a witty protagonist or a thrilling storyline.
Enlightenment Now acts as a scientific defense of human progress. Offering a variety of metrics, ranging from health to happiness, Pinker illuminates an essential truth: “the ideals of the Enlightenment are in fact stirring, inspiring, noble—a reason to live.” In a world dominated by knee-jerk partnership and misinformation, Pinker encourages us to be optimistic. His methodical and meticulous research is a force to be reckoned with for all modern critics. According to Bill Gates, ““If I could give each of you a graduation present, it would be this—the most inspiring book I’ve ever read” (May, 2017).
The Glass Castle tells the story of an adventure-filled yet dysfunctional family that follows a nonconformist lifestyle. The story is written from a child’s perspective, Jeanette Walls, who has an insatiable curiosity and zest for life despite her parent’s frequent pattern of alcoholism, emotional neglect, and immaturity. Eccentric and absorbing, Walls’ story is a triumph against all odds.
The Newcomers follows the lives of twenty-two immigrant teenagers placed in the South High School in Denver, Colorado. Ages fourteen to nineteen, many come from war-torn places such as Iraq, Burma, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A few also lost their entire family. At the school, Mr. Williams, an English Language Acquisition teacher, works to ensure they have the basic English skills and confidence to navigate the United States. The Newcomers shines a light on ongoing and emerging global horrors and the role of the United States in accepting refugees. This gut-wrenching story makes you walk a mile in the shoes of teenage refugees who abandoned everything to live in America.
Need I say more? “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is a riveting reflection of the roaring 20s. Extravagant, self-absorbed, and compelling, The Great Gatsby is a literature classic.