Happy new year! Today, I thought I’d share a list of books I’ve enjoyed reading in recent years. I last posted about my favorite books in 2019 and I’ve read more books since then, so here are some more of my recommendations. I hope you find something you also enjoy reading from the list.
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - A retelling of Homer’s Iliad, it’s a captivating love story set in Greek mythology. The characters, dialogue, story arc, and pace are all well-executed to tug at your heartstrings. In addition, on a meta level, the book implicitly questions the common practice of portraying LGBT figures from history to be strictly heterosexual.
- The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells - This is a light-hearted and hilarious sci-fi series of (mostly) novellas. The protagonist is a robot that calls itself “Murderbot.” Murderbot is one of the most humorous and endearing protagonists I’ve ever come across. But it’s not just the compelling protagonist – across the series, the world-building is fleshed out well and the plots are consistently solid.
- The Three-Body Problem trilogy by Cixin Liu - A sci-fi trilogy featuring excellent world-building, with highly interesting, thought-provoking, and believable sci-fi elements about extraterrestrial civilizations. The first book is set in recent Chinese history, shaped in particular by the Cultural Revolution, but the series rapidly expands the world, story, and scope in fascinating directions. My personal favorite in the trilogy was the second book (The Dark Forest), but the entire trilogy is noteworthy.
- The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee - An urban fantasy trilogy featuring a tense conflict between rival clans. It’s written a bit like a young adult novel, as an easy to follow and entertaining read, but it still has narrative depth, with many well fleshed-out characters to root for and storylines to follow.
- Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - A story about a mentally disabled man who becomes superintelligent. It’s a touching and well-told story from start to finish.
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson - A memoir about a lawyer’s experiences helping wrongfully convicted people. This book features some absolutely heartbreaking stories that will likely shape your views on our broken justice system in America. It was also adapted into a Netflix move in 2019 (which I have not watched, but have heard was good as well).
- I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy - A memoir by a former child actress about her relationship with her abusive, controlling mother and the consequences of that. The book gets quite heavy and dark in certain chapters, but the author tells her story unflinchingly.
- How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee by Bart D. Ehrman - I found this to be a fascinating read about who the historical figure of Jesus was. The parts about how scholars do this – what are the research techniques used by academics to reconstruct a historical figure from heavily biased source material? – were especially interesting.
- Shoe Dog by Phil Knight - I wasn’t sure about the premise of the book before I read it – how interesting can a story by the founder of Nike really be anyway? But this is a story that begins when Nike was nobody and just a plucky upstart trying desperately to raise money. That entrepreneurial journey, as it turns out, makes for a pretty interesting story!
- The End of Burnout: Why Work Drains Us and How to Build Better Lives by Jonathan Malesic - The author has some very insightful ideas about the causes of burnout, why the popular discourse surrounding burnout is misguided, and what are some possible alternatives in light of this. Part-memoir, part-sociology/philosophizing (and much less of a self-help book than the title might suggest), I found it to be a thought-provoking and reflective read.
- Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond - The author follows and tells the true stories of people struggling with poverty and facing eviction in Milwaukee.
- Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen - In each chapter, the author revisits a topic from American history and critiques how it is taught and told in textbooks.
- Lost & Found: Reflections on Grief, Gratitude, and Happiness by Kathryn Schulz - A wonderfully written memoir about the author losing her father and meeting the woman she falls in love with.
- We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson - A young adult novel with surprisingly deep themes drawing from mental health, love, and grief, packaged with some interesting sci-fi elements.
- You’re Paid What You’re Worth: And Other Myths of the Modern Economy by Jake Rosenfeld - The author presents an argument for how your salary is determined by historical policies and systemic forces that go far beyond your individual value.