I’ve been on an intense reading spree since the start of the quarantine period, easily zooming through novels (I know, who am I?), short story collections, (auto)biographies, and nonfiction guides the day I started them. Thankfully, swapping weekly books with Megan has introduced literature I never knew I could or would love (aka the entirety of the fiction genre), although she still doesn’t care for my beloved poetry. Because I was quickly forgetting all of the books I’d gone through since March, I started listing them and adding the new ones I read. Since then, I compiled a collection of my 10 top favorite books ever, which includes several of the books I loved over the past handful of months.
Going from left to right in the stack of my 10 top favorite books (I keep them at work in case I want to skim through them again!) is Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. I wrote about Three Women when I read it in April and it’s still one of the best books I’ve ever read! The book is about women: their desires, their heartbreaks, and ultimately, their sex lives, written simultaneously from the beginning of their intimate encounters until where they are at the end of Taddeo’s reporting. My favorite story of the three is Maggie’s, which is the most heartbreaking and upsetting of the bunch. The book doesn’t have a happy ending for any of the women (and should we expect otherwise?), but it’s fantastically written and extraordinarily vulnerable.
Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur is my favorite autobiography ever (with the second being In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado) as it showcases the raw strength of Assata—the Black Liberation Army member, revolutionary, communist, and writer from childhood until her escape from prison and eventual asylum seeking in Cuba. She is absolutely the most brave and talented person I admire.
The first poetry book in my 10 top favorite books is Clint Smith’s Counting Descent, which is a type of coming of age collection featuring pieces about his family, hurricane Katrina, being Black in America, and finding strength in his ancestors. My favorite poem in the book is “For the Hardest Days.”
Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair by Danielle Sered is about how we cope with, end, and heal violence without relying on policing or incarceration. Sered runs a nonprofit called Common Justice that utilizes healing and restorative justice practices to ensure that people who commit harm and people who have been harmed are both receiving the type of justice that suits their own needs.
Is there anything else I can say about Normal People by Sally Rooney? Read the book! Watch the show! This novel about Irish teens Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron and their years-long love affair is absolutely stunning and devastating and is everything I love about romantic stories. Prepare for your heart to be completely shattered. Get ready for more poetry books!
The second poetry collection of my top 10 favorite books is Sharon Olds’ Stag’s Leap, which is about the author’s divorce from her husband of three decades and her following heartache. I’m extremely intrigued by divorce or rather why and how people fall out of love and Olds tackles this painful topic with such grace and simple imagery. She’ll make you want to never love again and then change your mind once you get to the end.
My favorite poetry chapbook ever ever ever is Olivia Gatwood’s Life of the Party—a book so outrageously perfect I wish I wrote it myself. Gatwood is a magician with words and illustrations. She’s always inventing new ways to thrust readers directly into her scene of choice, which is both unsettling and magical. My favorite poem from the collection is “Staying Small.”
Speaking of heartbreak and devastating despair, enter André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name—an entry in my top 10 favorite books that would shock just about no one. I watched the movie version in the spring of 2018 right before ending my last relationship, devoured every line in the book, and then promptly gave up on love forever. I highly recommend following in my footsteps!
The first book that truly spoke to me in my life was Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, which I read in AP English 12 with my favorite teacher ever, Laz. Before diving into each of Rankine’s episodes about racism in the book, I was willfully ignorant about microaggressions and any other type of anti-blackness outside of blatant praise for slavery and Jim Crow. Rankine is another masterful wordsmith who uses short anecdotes about experiences Black people have in America. Her portions are essential always, and especially now when more people are finally realizing that Black people are human beings and always have been.
The last of my top 10 favorite books is probably the most important in Freedom Is A Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis. Everything Davis writes is essential reading as she illuminates the connections between oppressed groups of people around the world and how abolition, intersectional Black feminism, and anti-capitalism (specifically Communism) are the most essential theories in the fight for liberation. She perfectly ties together collective struggles and gifts her readers with the mental and verbal tools needed to build a better world. No let’s get to work!