If you need a gift idea, check out these suggestions for books! Our friends at Wellesley Books offer suggestions in a range of genres:
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead gives us a terrifying glimpse into an imagined past in which each state was able to pass its own laws in regard to slavery and treatment of people of color. The underlying fear of white southerners that the slaves population would soon outnumber their own leads them to terrifying ends and is not so different from some of the rhetoric we are hearing today regarding the ethnic composition of America. Equals parts prescient and frightening.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is a fascinating study of human ingenuity and survival in newly minted Soviet Russia. By turns philosophical, humorous and downright provocative, we view a changing Russia through the eyes of a former count under house arrest who manages to remain a step ahead of the Communists at every turn. Towles’ ability to capture his characters, scenes and the era in general are simply brilliant!
Never Look an American in the Eye by Okey Ndibe is a charming memoir about the author’s transition from Nigeria to life in America presented as a series of short stories. Ndibe’s self-deprecating sense of humor lends an air of mischief and levity to issues as benign as miscommunication about cultural norms like “going dutch” and “personal space” but also hit hard around issues of racial profiling, colonialization and discrimination. Ndibe’s story resonates on a more personal dimension as he comes full circle as a writer and as a man of principal. Sincere, funny and beautifully written!
The Last One by Alexandra Olivia. Hunger Games meets The Stand in this fast paced dystopian thriller. Imagine being a contestant in a survival reality television show. Sometime during your solo mission, unbeknownst to you, a deadly pandemic erupts killing most of the world’s population within a very short period of time! You believe every strange situation you encounter is a challenge issued by the producers of the show. One can only imagine the finale of this game show nightmare! A fascinating premise with page turning action—just make sure you keep the lights on!
Mister Monkey by Francine Prose. Irony and sarcasm lace this fabulous character study in classic Francine Prose wit and style. We are introduced to a series of misanthropic characters who are loosely connected through an unremarkable off-broadway production of a time worn children’s musical. The realistic and unique rendering of these individuals is truly remarkable as Prose manages to combine humor and great depth with compassion in each life she creates. Great read!
The Underground Airlines by Ben E. Winters is a compelling story about what might have happened if slavery had not been abolished. It is frightening to note many parallels in this fictional story with what is happening in race relations today. My favorite part of this story centers on the notion that the actions of a single person or two can make a huge impact.
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett is a compelling story about a family dealing with substantial mental health issues of both the father and one of the children. Haslett does a masterful job of illustrating the perspectives of five family members as they deal with issues large and small over a forty-year period. Small moments hold humor as well as heartbreak including a fabulous scene of a birthday dinner held at a restaurant no one can afford. I was spellbound with Haslett’s incredible writing, depth of characters and insightful treatment of each individual’s journey as an integral part of this beautiful family.
A Word for Love by Emily Robbins is a uniquely rendered Middle Eastern love story complete with civil disobedience and a fascinating cast of characters from around the globe. Within the confines of a middle class family, an Indonesian housekeeper, a reluctant policeman and an American exchange student must come to grips with their choices amidst a repressive and chaotic political environment. A Word for Love offers a fresh and authentic view into life in the Middle East.
The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach. Ivan is an orphaned teen whose in vitro exposure to a nuclear reactor plant tragedy has left him severely disabled—he will break your heart. Stambach covers everything from the brutalities of institutionalization to the shortcomings of the communist state to an absolutely gorgeous love story—and he does it all with sharp humor and tender grace. Intellect and inner beauty trump all in this masterful work which covers so many important topics so brilliantly well.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is a hard hitting look at the failures of our criminal justice system and more specifically the racial biases that prevail. Stevenson is slowly and steadily increasing awareness and forcing change in the system. One person CAN make a difference—truly inspiring.