“When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature,” said Maya Angelou. “If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.”
In my opinion, everyone should read. It’s a habit that literally changes my life and helps me learn new things — every day. I discovered many books in my library and bookstores worldwide, from the best fiction books to the best nonfiction books. So, how do you know when one book belongs in the top 5 best books of the month? I am an avid reader; you can tell from my book recommendations and to-read list.
To land in my top 5 best books to read before the year starts, you need to stand out — I’ve scoured Times Bestsellers, award-winning books, GoodReads, and critics alike. Even the book-to-movie adaptations coming out in 2023!) Continuing some of these spots snagged the New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, PBS, Time Magazine, etc. And the most profound, life-changing books which changed literature, culture and the world are here.
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Page Count: 305 Goodreads Rating: 4.47
New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Oprah’s Best Books of the Year & a PEN/Hemingway award winner. Homegoing follows the parallel paths of two sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed — and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of the United States. The book is written by Yaa Gyasi — the bestselling Ghanaian-American author of Transcendent Kingdom. It’s also worth mentioning that I watched Penguin Books’ interview with Yaa and hearing her talk through her writing and creativity hooked me into reading her book.
Yaa Gyasi discusses her new novel, ‘Homegoing’. Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies.
Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:
Page Count: 307 Goodreads Rating: 3.74
Goodreads Choice Award, Nominee for Best Fiction (2020), and Nominee for Best Debut Novel (2020). Majumdar’s standout debut novel, Jivan, a young Muslim woman, makes a Facebook post that takes a jab at the government’s handling of a train bombing in Bengal. Someone hastens to whisper of it, and Jivan lands in a prison cell, charged with the attack before night finishes falling.
A Burning is a cautionary tale for those who claim politics has no place in their lives, and that includes a great many people. Majumdar ties the private terrors of supposedly inconsequential people to the larger forces pulsing through India and the world. She lays bare issues of gender, religion and class, and keeps you reading when you most want to turn away. This book stayed with me for days — I highly recommend it. Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:
Page Count: 759 Rating on Goodreads: 4.39
Two words: Hilary Mantel. A goddess with the medieval written world. I absolutely love her blockbuster novel Wolf Hall.
And this evocation of Tudor England dusted with political drama is just as immersive as ever. The book climbed to the top of bestseller lists in the U.S. and U.K. In 900 richly detailed pages, The Mirror & The Light lays out the downfall of Thomas Cromwell, consigliere to King Henry VIII and powerbroker of the Reformation. It’s historical fiction, but dazzlingly literary in its ambitions and dramatic in the cut and thrust of its dialogue. Mantel’s Cromwell is a character for the ages — rough-edged yet introspective, with a mind as sharp as an axe. Her Henry, meanwhile, is an apt reminder that self-pitying men with oversized egos enjoyed power long before the present.
Page Count: 348 Rating on Goodreads: 4.18 How could I summarise 350 pages into a paragraph? I can’t possibly — not with this book. It was beautiful and raw and real. This is a book about choices and trauma, and how both intertwine to change your life. I began to understand the title early on — our leads lose themselves and each other, vanishing into memory. Not only do they lose half of their relationship, but they also lose half a life together.
Born and raised in mallard, a small African American town two hours outside of New Orleans where the lighter skin is preferred, twin sisters Stella and Desiree escape, making choices that detrimentally affect them and their relationships with others and each other until the very last page. We begin the story in 1968 and come to be changed forevermore. Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:
Page Count: 278 Rating on Goodreads: 4.04
“I Hold a Wolf by the Ears” Is conscious meditation and rejection of the absurd.
Time’s Top Fiction of 2020. Longlisted for the Joyce Carol Oates Prize. Named a Best Book of 2020 by NPR, Bustle, Good Housekeeping, the New York Public Library, Library Journal, Lit Hub, Electric Literature, and Tor.com.
I’ll admit the title I had a Wolf by the Ears caught my attention — how niche, rich, and eye-catching. Then, I read this collection of stories. Each of these 10 short tales presents women on the verge of livelihood — of madness, grief, or insanity — facing grief, divorce, motherhood, childhood, etc.
Laura is such a talented writer and she called this “on the border between magic and annihilation.” I just love reading about unhinged women on the edge of madness.
Real stories teach real lessons and these are sure to start your year well.
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By Shelby Jones
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