“Books shed light unto the darkness. Darkness retreats one letter, one line, one page at a time,” said writer Kiyoko Yoshimura. Remembering that books hold the incredible power to enrich and educate can be a lifeline, especially during turbulent times like these.
If you’re craving a deep-dive into a title that makes you think, critique, and reflect, check out these 8 well-reviewed books:
1. Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now by Evan Osnos is a “fast-paced biography that draws on extensive interviews with his subject, as well as with Obama and a host of Democratic party heavyweights. In pursuit of brevity it races through the many personal dramas of a tumultuous life and deals only perfunctorily with Biden’s surviving son … This book suggests Biden has the capacity for self-reinvention,” according to Julian Borger, of The Guardian.
2. Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark is an “incandescent, richly researched biography … Red Comet takes us on a literary picaresque, drawing on untapped archives, Plath’s complete correspondence, interviews with surviving members of the couple’s social and professional circles, and, most crucially, on Hughes’ journals and letters… A bravura performance, Red Comet is the one we’ve waited for,” The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Hamilton Cain stated.
3. Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes “explains in splendidly engaging prose why this fact is cause for wonder and celebration … What Wragg Sykes has produced in Kindred, after eight years of labor, is masterful,” says NPR writer Barbara King. “Synthesizing over a century and a half of research, [Wragg Skyes] gives us a vivid feel for a past in which we weren’t the only smart, feeling bipedal primate alive. That feel comes across sometimes in startlingly fresh ways.”
4. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson includes “vivid stories about the mistreatment of Black Americans by government and law and in everyday social life—from the violence of the slave plantation to the terror of lynchings to the routines of discourtesy and worse that are still a common experience for so many—retain their ability to appall and unsettle, to prompt flashes of indignation and moments of sorrow,” as stated by Kwame Anthony Appiah, a writer of The New York Times Book Review. “The result is a book that is at once beautifully written and painful to read.”
5. After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America by Jessica Goudeau is considered required reading for anyone looking to understand the United States in the Trump era, according to Mimi Swartz in The New York Times Book Review: “Goudeau understands the metaphorical power of a beloved courtyard where family gatherings will never occur again, and the fear inspired by the sideways glance of a newly minted government soldier who may or may not be a friend on any given day … Reading After the Last Border will make you wish that more Americans would take a critical look at themselves and ask whether we are who we want to be, or whether we have lost our allegiance to the dreams that still inspire so many to try to reach our shores.”
6. Memorial by Bryan Washington, author of Lot, is “a new and nuanced rom-com, and what truly makes Memorial extraordinary—especially the final section—is Washington’s uncanny ability to capture the elusive essence of love on nearly every page… if there’s one book you should go out of your way to read in 2020, it should be this one,” as Alexis Burling from The San Francisco Chronicle said in her review.
7. The Weekend by Charlotte Wood is a work described as being “more Big Chill than Handmaid’s Tale, with a dash of Big Little Lies and an echo of Atwood’s The Robber Bride. Wood uses the classic theatrical set-up of a house party to concentrate tension in a tight space. If she were Agatha Christie this would lead to murder, but her characters’ emotional blow-ups are closer to those in David Williamson’s Don’s Party or Rachel Ward’s recent film Palm Beach… Behind the laughs there is deep humanity, intellect and spirituality, qualities that mark The Weekend as much more than old-chook lit … The Weekend is a novel about decluttering and real estate, about the geometry of friendship, about sexual politics, and about how we change, survive and ultimately die,” as said by The Guardian’s Susan Wyndham.8.
8. The Cold Millions by Jess Walter is “a tremendous work, a vivid, propulsive, historical novel with a politically explosive backdrop that reverberates through our own… Walter is a Spokane native, and he captures both the depth and breadth of this moment in his hometown’s history … gives us the grand tour, with a bounty of crime and intrigue and adventure anchored by an unforgettable ensemble cast … About half of the novel is narrated in the third person from Rye’s point of view, but Walter brings in a multitude of first-person voices to bring the world roaring to life,” according to Steph Cha, from USA Today.