One of my favorite things to do is make lists. I like to make lists of anything and everything. I especially enjoy lists that include additional lists. Welcome to this blog post, which features ten bookish categories and six recommendations per group. This post was a delight to write and reminded me of many of my favorite reads. I hope this is as fun for you to read as it was for me to put together. Enjoy the superlatives!
Most Likely to Make You Cry
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Moving to New York to pursue creative ambitions, four former classmates share decades marked by love, loss, addiction and haunting elements from a brutal childhood.
I rarely cry when I read, but I sobbed like a baby when I finished this book. Yanagihara’s real, deeply sympathetic characters earned my compassion and empathy. I felt like I was in a daze for a while after finishing A Little Life. I’m thankful for books like this that leave a mark.
For more tear-jerkers, try:
- The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
- The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
- Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Most Likely to Change Your Mind
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
From the National Book Award–winning author comes a bracingly original approach to understanding and uprooting racism and inequality in our society—and in ourselves. Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America—but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other.
When I started seeing the word “antiracist,” I assumed it referred to someone who wasn’t racist. After reading How to Be an Antiracist, I realized antiracism is much more than a position or belief system. Antiracism is about our actions and decisions determining our way of being. There’s a reason this book has appeared on many recent book lists featuring Black voices.
For more blow-your-mind books, try:
- White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
- The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
- This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins
Most Likely to Make You Laugh
Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis
A riotous collection of essays on the art of living as a “Southern Lady” that explores subjects ranging from marriage and manners to women’s health and entertaining.
Helen Ellis is from Alabama but moves to New York City with her husband. The essays in this collection discuss how she assimilates to NYC while keeping her Southern roots. The mark of a good humor book is that it makes me laugh out loud, and this one did that repeatedly.
For more funny books, try:
- Calypso by David Sedaris
- Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
- Here For It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America by R. Eric Thomas
- One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
- I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
Most Likely to Open Your Eyes
Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Follows two teenagers coming of age in the midst of the Bronx drug trade as they experience budding sexuality, teen parenthood, and gang identity in a social examination of the challenges of family life in the face of violence.
This book opened my eyes to many things, but the most impactful thing was finally realizing how poverty is the root of so much trauma and pain. This book is a difficult one to read, but I’m thankful I read it. I think about the characters a lot and often wonder what their lives look like today. (This book was published in 2004.)
For more eye-opening books, try:
- Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy
- Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari
- Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy
- Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
- Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
Most Likely to Inspire You
Becoming by Michelle Obama
An intimate memoir by the former First Lady chronicles the experiences that have shaped her remarkable life, from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago through her setbacks and achievements in the White House.
Becoming is one of those rare books that I want to hand to every high school student I work with at my schools. Obama’s passion for education and her drive to succeed should make this book required reading for any student.
For more inspiring memoirs and biographies, try:
- Educated by Tara Westoever
- I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
- Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon
- First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower
- Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
Most Likely to Keep You Reading
All Night Long
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
An expertly planned celebrity wedding between a rising television star and an ambitious magazine publisher is thrown into turmoil by petty jealousies, a college drinking game, the bride’s ruined dress and an untimely murder.
For this category, I looked for books I read in just a day or two. This thriller is the most recent addition to that list. I love many things about The Guest List, including the twists, but the star of the show is the setting: an abandoned island that’s rumored to be haunted.
For more unputdownable books, try:
- Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
- The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
- The Dry by Jane Harper
- The Lies We Told by Camilla Way
- The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
Most Likely to Keep Your Book Club Talking for Hours
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Add this to the list of the books that I want to hand out to everyone. No other books have opened my eyes to the horrors of slavery the way this book did. Though slavery is a thread running through the stories in this novel, Homegoing is full of love and hope. There is so much to talk about thanks to the book’s long list of characters.
For more book-club-friendly books, try:
- Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld
- Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
- My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
- The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Most Likely to Encourage You
Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God by Sarah Bessey
The author tells her story of recovering from a traffic accident and how this experience changed everything she believed about God.
Sometimes I need a pep talk, and this book provided one. It’s also one of the most beautifully written and compelling stories I’ve read in a long time.
For more encouraging books, try:
- Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown
- Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
- Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott
- Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
- The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen
Most Likely to Surprise You
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
The secretary of a successful psychiatrist is drawn into the seemingly picture-perfect life of her boss and his wife before discovering a complex web of controlling behaviors and secrets that gradually reveal profound and dangerous flaws in the couple’s relationship.
I can’t think of another ending that surprised me as much as the one in Behind Her Eyes. While this book isn’t my favorite thriller, it is the one that kept me frantically turning pages until the last twist. Sometimes–like when there’s a global pandemic happening–that’s all I want.
For more surprising books, try:
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
- The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Most Likely to Make You Feel
Warm and Fuzzy Inside
We Met in December by Rosie Curtis
An American, Jess, follows her dream and moves to London where she becomes enmeshed in a love triangle with Alex and Emma all who live as housemates in a grand, Notting Hill house share.
Warm and fuzzy stories are what I read the least, but sometimes I need a palette cleanser for the more substantial stories I gravitate toward in my reading life. We Met in December is a lovely book with a feel-good story. It was the perfect Christmas break book and one I can see myself revisiting when I want a sweet tale.
For more warm and fuzzy books, try:
- One Day in December by Josie Silver
- How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
- Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
- Landline by Rainbow Rowell
- Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith