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I am a firm believer in the idea that every day we should strive to become a better version of our yesterday self and one of the best ways to grow everyday is to read.

It doesn’t even matter if you have time to read because platforms like Audible, Kindle and Streaming Books make it easy for busy people to consume the best literary works on-the-go.

This year, I used reading as a welcome escape from the global pandemic and read a little more than usual.

Here is a list of a few of the books that I’ve read this year and an excerpt from the publisher about each book:

Girl, Woman, Other

By Bernardine Evaristo

Bernardine Evaristo is the winner of the 2019 Booker Prize and the first black woman to receive this highest literary honor in the English language. Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women that paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.

The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London’s funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, is a successful investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.

Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative fast-moving form that borrows technique from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that shows a side of Britain we rarely see, one that reminds us of all that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart.

Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.

Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race”, a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of Black women and men – bodies exploited through slavery and segregation and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a Black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son – and listeners – the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. 

Four Things Women Want From a Man

by A. R. Bernard

Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward. 

After decades of preaching, teaching, and counseling, influential Christian leader A.R. Bernard reveals the four qualities women want in a man—qualities that contribute to a satisfying and happy relationship.

As a longtime pastor of a big-city church, A.R. Bernard has witnessed couples in every stage of life. He’s been with them as they experienced dizzying joys, unspeakable tragedies, and everything in between.

As men and women have come to Bernard for spiritual counseling and advice, he’s learned patterns of behavior that are repeated time and again. After almost four decades of preaching, teaching, and counseling, he’s seen that while every situation is unique, people’s behaviors and consequences are amazingly consistent. With this in mind, Bernard has developed a simple system for understanding how couples relate to each other.

Maturity, decisiveness, consistency, and strength—these are the four things women want and need most from a man. In his book, Bernard teaches readers how to identify and cultivate these traits toward a happy and long-lasting relationship—one built to weather any storm

The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap

by Mehrsa Baradaran

When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the black community owned less than 1 percent of the total wealth in America. More than 150 years later, that number has barely budged. The Color of Money seeks to explain the stubborn persistence of this racial wealth gap by focusing on the generators of wealth in the black community: black banks.

With the civil rights movement in full swing, President Nixon promoted “black capitalism,” a plan to support black banks and minority-owned businesses. But the catch-22 of black banking is that the very institutions needed to help communities escape the deep poverty caused by discrimination and segregation inevitably became victims of that same poverty. In this timely and eye-opening account, Baradaran challenges the long-standing belief that black communities could ever really hope to accumulate wealth in a segregated economy.

Becoming

by Michelle Obama

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
 
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

The Water Dancer

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer isa propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.

Finding My Voice

by Valerie Jarrett

When Valerie Jarrett interviewed a promising young lawyer named Michelle Robinson in July 1991 for a job in Chicago city government, neither knew that it was the first step on a path that would end in the White House. Jarrett soon became Michelle and Barack Obama’s trusted personal adviser and family confidante; in the White House, she was known as the one who “got” him and helped him engage his public life. Jarrett joined the White House team on January 20, 2009 and departed with the First Family on January 20, 2017, and she was in the room–in the Oval Office, on Air Force One, and everywhere else–when it all happened. No one has as intimate a view of the Obama Years, nor one that reaches back as many decades, as Jarrett shares in Finding My Voice.

Born in Iran (where her father, a doctor, sought a better job than he could find in segregated America), Jarrett grew up in Chicago in the 60s as racial and gender barriers were being challenged. A single mother stagnating in corporate law, she found her voice in Harold Washington’s historic administration, where she began a remarkable journey, ultimately becoming one of the most visible and influential African-American women of the twenty-first century.

From her work ensuring equality for women and girls, advancing civil rights, reforming our criminal justice system, and improving the lives of working families, to the real stories behind some of the most stirring moments of the Obama presidency, Jarrett shares her forthright, optimistic perspective on the importance of leadership and the responsibilities of citizenship in the twenty-first century, inspiring readers to lift their own voices.

I do hope you consider checking out these books and finding inspiration within them as well.

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