As with many people, I've read more this year than any other in recent memory. Reading has provided a silver lining throughout this year of turmoil and quarantine. Though it's not yet the new year, I decided to go ahead and publish my favorite books I've read, and spend the rest of the month reflecting in other ways. If the New York Times can do it, so can I.
5. Between the World and Me by Te-Nehisi Coates
Incredibly and thoughtfully written, I am grateful to have read this essay from Te-Nehisi to his son about being Black in America. It is the earliest book I read from the Top 5 list, before the protests against police brutality began over the summer. This book helped inform what the nation is living through, and it made me further reassess what it means to be White. I found myself underlining more from this book than any other this year. It was a most eloquent education.
4. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
This is the most recent book from the Top 5 list that I read, having completed it only a couple weeks prior. However, I expect this book to stick with me. It reminded me of why I appreciate Faulkner's writing style so much, and how only he could pull off such a feat. The story acts as a puzzle, piecing together each character's trauma to get an idea of what is happening, and each one is exceedingly fascinating. The part I love most, though, is how the character Quentin, from The Sound and the Fury, is also featured in this book. The way this story informs how Quentin acts in The Sound and the Fury adds a dimension which makes this novel absolutely exquisite and captivating.
3. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
I wanted a long story to immerse myself into this summer, and I got it. Though I would not have initially placed it so highly on my list upon its completion, it's a book that I think back increasingly fondly on. It's the book out of this list that I most expect to reread again. It is unbelievable how much the comedy can stand up to time, including the meta humor. It is also fun to see the references to the book everywhere, including in Absalom, Absalom! and in Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
2. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
I am a sucker for Roman history. It's part of the reason I went to Italy, backpacked Hadrian's Wall, and took so many Classics courses in college. The cast of characters inspired some of my favorites in other stories including Livia Soprano from The Sopranos and Stannis Baratheon from A Song of Ice and Fire. The politics are so interestingly weaved into the story that it makes you wish, and often believe, that this were indeed the true account of Claudius' rise to power in the Roman Empire. Though technically separated into two books, the second being Claudius the God, I will treat them as one in this list because the two books were written consecutively and clearly meant to be seen as a single story.
1. There, There by Tommy Orange
I did not initially plan to read this book, which was published in 2018. As seen from this list, I tend to focus on classic novels rather than newer material The book was suggested to me by a friend as a way to think about how to revise my book. To say it changed the way I thought about writing is an immense understatement. I feel foolish admitting it, but Tommy Orange did things with storytelling I did not know could be done. Though the perspective jumps around often, he keeps a cast of characters at the beginning to help you keep track, yet still retains some big surprises for later in the book. The story takes place around Native Americans preparing for a powwow in Oakland, and it reveals a lot about the broken diaspora and its struggle to overcome its inherited social ills. Just like the characters, you will be left grappling for meaning, understanding, and resolution. Both timely and timeless, I cannot stop thinking about this book.
Do you have any favorite books! Post them in the comments!