Thanks in part to mass protests across the world, recent social movements, like Black Lives Matter, for instance, have inspired readers to look beyond their traditional reading habits in an effort to educate themselves on these causes. There are so many great books out there from diverse voices, so we wanted to choose a few that we have read and loved recently. So, if you’re looking to diversify your bookshelf but don’t know where to start, here are some books you should consider picking up!
Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters by Anita Kushwaha
My favourite thing about Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters was the role location played in the story. The book is a kind of love letter to Ottawa, highlighting it’s beauties, complexities and areas for improvement.
Solitary by Albert Woodfox
The first event I ever worked on with HarperCollins was “In Conversation with Albert Woodfox” and I’ll never forget the event and the things he explained about the deeply-felt effects of institutionalized racism. His talent for truth-telling shines through the book and you’ll learn so much!
DreadfulWater by Thomas King
I am a long-time Thomas King fan and so I picked this one up as soon as I could. It’s a funny, engaging and exciting murder mystery full of unique characters and I just couldn’t put it down.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
I really enjoyed this book and it’s so beautifully written. Although the lives of the characters are ripped apart by injustices outside of their control, this book focuses on the consequences they have on individual relationships, rather than the injustice itself. If you love complex character drama and a thought-provoking read, I highly recommend you pick this one up.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
I absolutely loved this book, and I was immediately hooked when I learned it was inspired by American Airlines Flight 587 (a regular passenger flight from JFK International Airport to the Dominican Republic that crashed in 2001). This novel follows two sisters, one from New York, and the other from the Dominican Republic who only discover each other after their father dies in a plane crash. Told from alternating perspectives both of the sister’s voices are distinct and the fact that this is told in verse makes it all the more enjoyable to read.
I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi
If you’re a fan of personal memoirs, you definitely want to add this one to your TBR! A collection of deeply personal essays, in her memoir, Nigerian-American author Bassey Ikpi explores her experiences navigating Bipolar II and anxiety. Complicated by cultural differences, Bassey looks at the ways mental health is inextricably linked with our lives with startling honesty.
Break in Case of Emergency by Brian Francis
This book was an emotional rollercoaster about the effects of suicide and attempted suicides. This one is a tear-jerker but it’s an important read and a book I wish I had when I was younger. I highly recommend that everyone read this book!
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
A page-turning novel that depicts race, class, and oppression. As the story alternates between the courtroom and the past of Frannie Langton, I had to keep reading because I needed to find out what happened in the past and present because Frannie is such an intriguing character. Plus there’s a LGBTQ+ twist!
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
If you’re looking for a striking cultural critic, Bad Feminist is the book for you. Roxane Gay is a bestselling author who tackles important topics that everyone should read about. When you’re done reading this one, you should definitely check out the rest of Roxane’s published works. She’s truly incredible.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
I’m kicking my recommendations off with a book that is the definition of a classic! I try to avoid adages like “this book should be mandatory reading,” because far too often the books being mentioned in such a way are pillars of the literary canon we’re all taught to read from a young age. Zora Neale Hurston‘s Their Eyes Were Watching God, however, is a novel that supersedes this rule. Originally rejected at the time of its initial publication for featuring a strong black female protagonist, Their Eyes Were Watching God never gained the audience or respect it deserves until it was reissued in 1978. Though it’s billed as a Southern love story, it’s so much more than that. Please, just read this book. It’s tremendous.
That Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung
By virtue of the way my brain works, I typically struggle to get into short story collections. That was absolutely not the case with Carrianne Leung‘s That Time I Loved You, a remarkable collection of interconnected stories set in one shiny new subdivision in 1970s Scarborough. Believe me when I say it, Savvy Readers: this book has one of the best opening paragraphs I have ever read, and it manages to get better from there!
Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
The beautiful thing about YA literature is its ability to appeal to both young readers and adults alike, and this novel is no exception. Based on interviews with young women who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is the story of a young girl forcefully taken from her village in Nigeria and her harrowing fight for survival. Poetic, educational, and, above all else, beautiful, Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is a tremendous book about a very real atrocity happening right this minute that we in North America don’t hear nearly enough about.
Looking for more suggestions? Our friends at HarperCollins Canada recently launched readbetter.ca, and it’s a great resource to discover even more books from Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ authors! Do you have suggestions you want to add to the list? Feel free to let us know in the comments or on Twitter @SavvyReader!
Team Savvy Reader