413 I Am Not Your Negro

iamnotyournegrobookby James Baldwin, edited by Raoul Peck, 2017

I Am Not Your Negro is Raoul Peck’s Academy Award-nominated documentary based on the writings of James Baldwin. In 1979, Baldwin began working on a book about America as told through the deaths of three of his friends: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. The book was to be called Remember This House, but Baldwin never got past thirty pages of notes before his death in 1987. Twenty years later, Peck wrote to the Baldwin estate to ask for the rights to produce a film on the writer’s life and work. He wasn’t yet sure what form that film would take until Baldwin’s sister Gloria Karefa-Smart gave him the notes to her brother’s unfinished project, saying, “You’ll know what to do with these.” From this, Peck developed the idea to finish this book through the medium of film, with the three men and Baldwin serving as a means by which to tell the story of America.

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196 The Gunslinger

gunslingerby Stephen King, 1982
narrated by George Guidall

I have some weird literary blind spots. Until last year, I’d never read Toni Morrison. I still haven’t read a barrage of classics, like Catch-22, The Grapes of Wrath, or anything by Tolstoy. And, until now, I hadn’t read anything by Stephen King. I’ve been meaning to remedy this for a while, as I have seen a host of King-based movies, but it wasn’t until the first Dark Tower movie came out last fall that I finally got on the bandwagon. Why start here? Well, I’m taking into consideration that this is a planned movie franchise and that I will be seeing them all – this is Idris Elba we’re talking about – and I like to be that person who’s constantly making comparisons to the book on which a movie is based. Call me a movie downer, but that’s how I roll.

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123 Beasts of No Nation

beastsby Uzodinma Iweala, 2005

Some books exist to give insight into another part of the world. Some books exist to give insight into another culture. Some books exist to give insight into another way of life. Beasts of No Nation exists for all three, but mostly it exists to tell the horrifying story of a young boy caught up in the middle of a war.

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87 A Monster Calls

amonstercallsby Patrick Ness, 2011

First, let me just say, do not read this book in public. I wish someone had given me that warning before I decided to read/listen to this during my Amtrak ride over Christmas, where I was failing miserably at not openly weeping as the story came to its close. Second, I will say that you will probably benefit from not knowing too much about the story going in, as I did not and I feel my ignorance made it just that much more affecting. Read reviews sparingly. Third, I scooped up the audio version as one of Audible’s Daily Deals and I honestly don’t know if I would have wept quite so much had I read it without the stellar performance of Jason Isaacs (aka Lucius Malfoy). I highly recommend it.

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80 Ready Player One

readyplayeroneby Ernest Cline, 2011

It’s 2044 and the only respite from the bleakness of daily life is logging into the virtual utopia that is the OASIS. When the OASIS’s creator James Halliday dies, a video is released offering riches and wealth to the player who finds the Easter egg Halliday has hidden inside his game. Wade Watts – your everyday geeky, gamer teenager – takes up the quest to be the first to find the egg. This is his story. (Minor spoilers below.)

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69 A Walk in the Woods

walkinthewoodsby Bill Bryson, 1997

Although I love the city, sometimes I bemoan the fact that there is little nature to be found here. Sure, I’m grateful to have the lakefront path but it doesn’t hold a candle to hiking in Colorado or seeing the mountains in New Mexico every day. Little did I know that when I left New Mexico as a teenager, I would one day miss the beauty that I so clearly took for granted. But here I am, and if I can’t get my nature fix from, well, nature, then at least I can find it in a book.

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58 Eat, Pray, Love

eat-pray-loveby Elizabeth Gilbert, 2006

This is the second time I’ve attempted to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love. The first was at the height of its popularity, when Gilbert appeared on Oprah and everyone fawned over the courage of this woman to travel for a year in search of herself. What I found off-putting was that Gilbert was able to afford this year of self-discovery by selling the idea of this very book to her publishers. What was billed as a sacrifice, was really born of extreme privilege. This is not an option to everyone. It did not speak to me. I did not finish it.

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57 Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

by Susannah Cahalan, 2012download (5)

Imagine one day being consumed with paranoia. You snoop through your partner’s email, you’re certain others are saying hurtful things about you, you’re convinced those who love you no longer have your best interests in mind. This is part of what happened to journalist and author Susannah Cahalan.

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56 The Road

roadby Cormac McCarthy, 2006

There are those people who read for plot, for whom a book in which little happens is a bore. And there are those of us who read for style, for whom a book in which little happens, but is written beautifully, is a treasure. I am one of the latter and I loved The Road. If you’re one of the former, I’m going to say you don’t need to read this book, Pulitzer Prize winner or no. You won’t like it.

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