Deb G. picked up “Just Mercy” after it was awarded the 2015 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, one of many accolades it received over the past two years. Written by acclaimed lawyer Bryan Stevenson, this nonfiction work examines Stevenson’s own legal career after he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a practice dedicated to defending those most in need: the poor, mentally disabled and the wrongly accused. He ends up painting a scathing portrait of the U.S. Justice system, and through reflecting on the personal stories behind some of his most important cases, illuminates why our country has the largest incarcerated population in the world and why it needs to change—now.
A Little Life
Suellen W. knows a book of this heft demands some undivided attention. “I decided to use the long break to read “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara,” she told us on Facebook when she was about halfway through the tome. The epic novel follows four college friends—Malcolm, JB, Willem and Jude—as they leave their bucolic Massachusetts campus and embark on careers in New York City. As they mature, they contend with addiction, loss, love and abuse, finally realizing they can’t outrun demons from their youth. The deceptively simple-sounding plot has great depth and Yanigihara’s storytelling will be seared into your brain long after you turn the last page.
Between the World and Me
“May I have a tie?” Brenda T. was torn as to which holiday read was her favorite. She picked up the National Book Award winner “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, calling it “a runaway hit that everyone recommended and reviewed.” The non-fiction book, written as a letter from a father to his son about the racial inequities he may face as a black man in America, resonated deeply with Brenda. Called “required reading” by Toni Morrison, Coates’ book provides a new framework for understanding race in this country.
A Brief History of Seven Killings
Brenda’s other pick was Marlon James’ “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” another book that had literary circles buzzing in 2015. James fictionally renders real life, reimagining the gunmen who stormed into Bob Marley’s Kingston, Jamaica home in 1976, shooting and injuring the singer, his wife and manager. The incident served as the cataclysmic event that forever changed Jamaica’s political and social landscape and it explodes off the page in James’ capable hands. “This book affected me in a personal way,” Brenda says.
The Voyage Out
Debbie A. enjoyed Virginia Woolf’s first novel, “The Voyage Out,” originally published in 1915. Woolf’s story about free-spirited and strong-minded Rachel’s ship voyage from London to South America—and all that transpires while she’s aboard—is a scathing portrayal of Victorian high society and the patriarchal gender politics of the time. Debbie called Woolf’s first literary foray “amazing,” saying, “I love her style!”
Daphne du Maurier
Ginia B. told Read It Forward that she re-read Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca.” The gothic novel, first published in 1938, introduces readers to the unnamed second wife of Maxim de Winter. After joining her new husband at Manderley, his coastal home, she is rebuked by Mrs. Danvers, the creepy housekeeper who compares her to the first lady of the house, the beautiful and elegant Rebecca. But, as the new bride soon learns, Rebecca’s influence over Manderley holds fast and her presence is still felt by all who walk its halls. If you haven’t read “Rebecca” since high school—or at all—you must pick it up at once. This suspenseful, “sad, beautiful love story” will captivate you all over again.
The Weird Sisters
Stacey S. was given this novel—perfect for book lovers—by her father, “because I am the oldest of three sisters who all love to read!” (Stacey, your family sounds like a dream!) The three Andreas sisters, while also avid readers, are a bit more troubled. All named for Shakespeare’s heroines by their professor father, the three girls return to their parents’ home, each looking to escape something. Having them under one roof again will no doubt ignite a tempest within the family.
Vacation is truly the best time to read. Once the hectic holiday schedule calms down, it’s wonderful to sink into a book and be transported to another world entirely.
But you already know that. As a RIFer, we know you’ve always got at least one book you’re working on, but with a little time off? You’re unstoppable.
On our Facebook page, we asked you to share with us the best book you read over holiday break and we were blown away by the response! (Currently 324 comments and rising…)
We were so inspired by the great books you’re reading and the wonderful things you said about them, that we had to curate another bookshelf based on your vacation reads.
What We're Reading This WeekGet recommendations for the greatest books around straight to your inbox every week.
And if you missed the first bookshelf, you can find it here.
Want to see the book YOU’RE reading on Read It Forward? Tell us in the comments below what literature you enjoyed this holiday or head on over to Facebook to continue the conversation there.
Bookshelf curated by Read It Forward readers.