There is no question that finding a good book is both time consuming and difficult. Finding a good book to read despite being exhausted from all your classes and homework? It’s even harder. But, if you love books, and want something to read that’s more exciting than the idea of sleep and Netflix, then these four titles are worth your time.
1. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Okay, this isn’t so much a full novel as it is a collection of poems, but hear me out. I’m not a huge fan of poetry usually, but this book caught me within the first five pages. This collection of poems by a young author puts into words those feelings that we deal with in relationships of all kinds. It’s as beautiful as it can be absolutely heartbreaking.
Broken into four sections, the many poems are all fairly short, not wordy or difficult to understand, and hit a personal level. I think I cried within the first fifty pages. Though many of the topics are difficult – not only do they cover relationships, but also loneliness, abuse, and building yourself back up after being hurt – there’s this openness to the book that can open you up a bit too.
So if you’re looking for something to dig into your heart with very real emotion? Give this book a read. Like me, you might end up having it finished within hours of purchasing it in the first place.
Trigger warning: abuse, rape.
2. Wenjack by Joseph Boyden
Another smaller, shorter book, Wenjack is a little novella that hits some very real emotions. Historically based, it tells the story of Chanie Wenjack, a residential school runaway in the 1960’s, whose death prompted the first inquiry into the practices of residential schools in Canada. While the overarching residential schools are a big part of this book, the story is personal, told from the point of view of Chanie, as well as the animal spirits who witness his sad journey.
To be fully honest, I bought this book not fully knowing what it was about, and not expecting it to really get to me like it did. Because this is history, because it’s the real story of a young boy, it has a historical weight and importance to it. Though short, the emotion and meaning is present and strong. There’s no questioning the significance of this story. It’s a must-read.
Trigger warning: sexual abuse.
3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
You know those books that you start reading, and you have to pace yourself because you just don’t want them to end? This is one of those. Set in both now-Ghana and the US, this novel starts with two sisters, separated at birth, who have two very different experiences with British colonization and its effects overall. One marries a British slaver. One is sold into slavery, and through the transatlantic slave trade, ends up on the other side of the ocean.
That’s a pretty interesting and important topic to start with – but something else sets this book apart. Every chapter introduces the next generations, traced down from the two initial sisters, as they deal with the changes and challenges of growing up in their respective parts of the world, in the face of the rise and fall of slavery and the British empire.
And it’s excellently executed – of the many characters featured, each one I would read a full whole novel about, they all jumped off the page. Honestly, the historical care taken to these situations, the way that cause and effect from generation to generation is laid out in a larger societal context, it’s as thought-provoking as it is engaging. I read this over the winter break, and I already want to revisit it. In short? Go read this book!
4. The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
For all of you who prefer something mostly nonfiction, this last book is for you. To tell the truth, this book has also been my favorite of late, mostly because it threw a lot of what I thought I knew about my own rationality totally off-track. The Undoing Project is an account of the work of two psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, whose friendship produced some major works about the psychology of rationality and decision making.
This book does two really great things while speaking about some complicated, but well explained, theory. First, it frames the information in a way that is understandable. I, myself, being a very un-sciencey person, thought I might have trouble understanding some of it. That was not the case. Second, it shows relatable examples, things we recognize – the first chapter explains the use of statistically choosing draft picks for the NBA, something that was a result of Kahneman and Tversky’s work.
And don’t get the wrong idea, either, this isn’t just a fun textbook. It tells the life stories of these two psychologists, and includes their work. It’s just a taste of their work, within the story of their friendship. And, if you want more, the author Michael Lewis provides notes and sources at the end, and in the novel, includes the names of the papers written by Kahneman and Tversky.
So, these are my picks for books that are worth your while. Check them out, and tell me what you think in the comments if you like them! Happy reading!