161 Bird Box

birdboxby Josh Malerman, 2014

I’m not much of a horror genre reader, but I was intrigued when I heard so many people talking about Bird Box. Set in a world where mysterious creatures roam the earth, one must give up the sense of sight in order to stay sane. No one knows what the creatures are or what they look like, for every person who has set eyes on them has been driven mad, resulting in their violent end. We enter the story some four years after reports of gruesome attacks and ghastly suicides start flooding the news. The day has come when Malorie and her two children, known only as Boy and Girl, must leave their barricaded house and venture out into the world. It is a story as much about the breakdown of society and the lengths one would go to survive as it is about the suspense surrounding these horrific creatures.

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159 Behold the Dreamers

beholdthedreamersby Imbolo Mbue, 2016

Ah, the American Dream: The idea that anyone can come to this country and build their fortune based on merit and hard work alone. Sadly, that dream has proven to be little more than that – a dream – and Jende and Neni Jonga in Behold the Dreamers find this out the hard way. What starts out as a promising change from the poverty of their native Cameroon soon becomes a hell from which they must escape. It is a turn of events that is the fault of no one, but it is one that seems all too common for those hoping to come to America to start over.

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158 Love

loveby Toni Morrison, 2003

Leave it to Toni Morrison to completely turn the idea of the love story on its head. If you were to judge this book by its cover, you’d likely expect the pages to contain something akin to an urban romance. Inside, however, you’ll find that this is a meditation on love in all of its forms – romantic, parental, platonic, envious, destructive – and how it can completely tear a person apart.

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156 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

dragontattooby Stieg Larsson, 2005
narrated by Simon Vance

Years ago when it first became popular, I tried to read the first book in the Millennium Trilogy. I ambitiously attempted to read it in Spanish, figuring that if I were going to read a translated work, I might as well sharpen my Spanish skills while I was at it. It wasn’t long before I gave up, and I assumed that my Spanish simply wasn’t up to snuff. Then I borrowed it from the library in English and, well, quickly gave up, too. I was bored. Not only did I not understand the financial stuff, I didn’t care. It was only when I was searching for my next audiobook to accompany me on my commute, and found every book I wanted to read had a waitlist, that I decided to give this another shot. Surprisingly, I’m glad I did.

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151 The Fifth Season

fifthseasonby N.K. Jemisin, 2015

When I decided to make an effort to read award-winning books, I included the Hugo and Nebula awards in my list because I’m a decent fan of science-fiction. I forgot this meant that I would also have to read fantasy, a genre of which I’m not particularly enamored. Nevertheless, I’d heard much effusion over N.K. Jemisin’s writing and I was interested to find out what has garnered her so much attention, even while being a bit apprehensive about reading her. After having read this book I can say…I didn’t hate it. That’s about as much excitement as I can muster for a fantasy read, but even if I didn’t fall in love with it, I can surely appreciate some of what Jemisin is doing here.

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147 Paradise

paradiseby Toni Morrison, 1997

Toni Morrison is, in the parlance of our times, like, whoa. And I feel that she has never been so whoa as she is in Paradise. Set in Ruby, Oklahoma, a town founded by the descendants of slaves and housing only black citizens, Morrison depicts a community whose reality is anything but what the book’s title suggests. I was recently discussing with a co-worker contemporary books that address feminism and gender studies in their literature, to which I offered, “Anything by Toni Morrison.” I think this proves my point finely. Her vicious pulling apart of destructive racial and gender oppression is brilliantly juxtaposed with her understated style, showing why Morrison is regarded as a master of her craft.

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