My challenge this year is not only to read 30 books, but to write a thoughtful review of every book I read. Read more on Riffle
Skylight by José Saramago
Happy marriages, abusive relationships, jealousy, gossip, love—Skylight is a portrait of ordinary people painted by the master of the quotidian, a great observer of the immense beauty and profound hardship of the modern world.
1 / 30
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls―the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder's biography.
2 / 30
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Navigating between the Indian traditions they've inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri's elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations.
3 / 30
Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
The intimacy of pet ownership is sweetly suffused throughout this heartwarming autobiographical fiction, originally written as self-therapy for the author’s own grief. In generous helpings of bittersweet humanity, Rowley has written an immensely poignant and touchingly relatable tale that readers will love.
4 / 30
Escape Home: Rebuilding a Life After the Anschluss by Charles Paterson
Escape Home is at once an engaging tale of a young refugee from Hitler's Europe making a new and fascinating life for himself in post-war America as well as a reverential homage to his Viennese father's survival after living through not one, but two, world wars.
5 / 30
Behold the Dreamers (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel by Imbolo Mbue
A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy.
6 / 30
A Catalog of Birds by Laura Harrington
A Catalog of Birds is the story of a family and a community confronted with a loss of innocence and wounds that may never heal. The legacy of war and its destruction of nature is seared onto the memories of a small American town.
7 / 30
Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
In this unforgettable debut novel, an Indian-American Muslim teen copes with Islamophobia, cultural divides among peers and parents, and a reality she can neither explain nor escape.
8 / 30
White Houses: A Novel by Amy Bloom
Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick” is not instantly charmed by the patrician Eleanor. But as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love.
9 / 30
Sharp by Michelle Dean
Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, and Janet Malcolm's lives intertwine as they cut through the cultural and intellectual history of America in the twentieth century, arguing as fervently with each other as they did with the sexist attitudes of the men who often undervalued their work as critics and essayists.
10 / 30
Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry by Paul Goldberger
Goldberger follows Gehry from his humble origins—the son of working-class Jewish immigrants in Toronto—to the heights of his career. He explores Gehry’s relationship to Los Angeles, a city that welcomed outsider artists and profoundly shaped him in his formative years. He surveys the full range of his work, from the Bilbao Guggenheim to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. to the architect’s own home in Santa Monica.
11 / 30
Ragtime: A Novel (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) by E.L. Doctorow
Published in 1975, Ragtime changed our very concept of what a novel could be. An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century and the First World War.
12 / 30
The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates
An exceptional father-son story from the National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us.
13 / 30
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
In the international bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think.
14 / 30
My Absolute Darling: A Novel by Gabriel Tallent
With Turtle's escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero—and in the process, becomes ours as well.
15 / 30
Mozart's Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
On May 27th, 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart met a flirtatious little starling in a Viennese shop who sang an improvised version of the theme from his Piano Concerto no. 17 in G major. Sensing a kindred spirit in the plucky young bird, Mozart bought him and took him home to be a family pet.
16 / 30
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai / Sherwin, Martin J. Bird
J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of the iconic figures of the twentieth century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war, and who later found himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress.
17 / 30
Bridge of Sighs: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) by Richard Russo
This novel follows Louis Charles Lynch (“Lucy”) as he and his wife of forty years are about to embark on a vacation to Italy. Lucy is sixty years old and has spent his entire life in Thomaston, New York. Like his late, beloved father, Lucy is an optimist, though he’s had plenty of reasons not to be—chief among them his mother, still indomitably alive.
18 / 30
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life.
19 / 30
Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest.
20 / 30
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Rothstein explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions. Rather, it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions of government—that promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue today.
21 / 30
Halsey Street by Naima Coster
Penelope Grand has scrapped her failed career as an artist in Pittsburgh and moved back to Brooklyn to keep an eye on her ailing father. She’s accepted that her future won’t be what she’d dreamed, but now, as gentrification has completely reshaped her old neighborhood, even her past is unrecognizable.
22 / 30
This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins
From one of the fiercest critics writing today, Morgan Jerkins’ highly-anticipated collection of linked essays interweaves her incisive commentary on pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism with her own experiences to confront the very real challenges of being a black woman today.
23 / 30
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
In this breakout book, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today's racial landscape--from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement--offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide.
24 / 30
The Beekeeper:Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq by Dunya Mikhail
The true story of a beekeeper who risks his life to rescue enslaved women from Daesh (ISIS). In the face of inhuman suffering, this powerful work of nonfiction offers a counterpoint to Daesh’s genocidal extremism: hope, as ordinary people risk their own lives to save those of others.
25 / 30
Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds.
26 / 30
Everything Here Is Beautiful (Lee, Mira T.) by Mira T. Lee
Told in alternating points of view, Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its heart, the story of a young woman’s quest to find fulfillment and a life unconstrained by her illness. But it’s also an unforgettable, gut-wrenching story of the sacrifices we make to truly love someone—and when loyalty to one’s self must prevail over all.
27 / 30
Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World by Mackenzi Lee
Bygone Badass Broads features 52 remarkable and forgotten trailblazing women from all over the world. Starting in the fifth century BC and continuing to the present, the book takes a closer look at bold and inspiring women who dared to step outside the traditional gender roles of their time.
28 / 30
Speak No Evil: A Novel by Uzodinma Iweala
On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents.
29 / 30
The Parking Lot Attendant: A Novel by Nafkote Tamirat
A haunting story of fatherhood, national identity, and what it means to be an immigrant in America today, Nafkote Tamirat's The Parking Lot Attendant explores how who we love, the choices we make, and the places we’re from combine to make us who we are.
30 / 30