Embracing the back-to-school time of year, this month’s topic for the Monthly Recommendations group (check them out on Goodreads here) is required reading!
I actually have a pretty short list for this one because I’m taking it seriously as far as what books people need to read and generally tried to include books that I think will make us better people, though I do have an exception. As much as I love and recommend the fantasy, romance, and historical nonfiction books that I gravitate towards, I generally wouldn’t consider them must-reads for everyone (though it could be fun to do genre-specific required reading lists).
Putting this list together was interesting, though, because there are a lot of books on my TBR that I think I will eventually consider required reading, but I can’t recommend them yet because I haven’t actually read them myself! Which kind of makes me question why I haven’t picked them up yet and is a good motivator for me to move them up my TBR list.
Anyways, on to the list!
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists has deservedly gotten a ton of hype, but I actually thought Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions was even better. It’s a short read, but it does an excellent job pointing out a lot of the small ways that feminist matters play out in our everyday lives. People might insist that they’re feminists while failing to realize they’re engaging in un-feminist acts, but Dear Ijeawele maps it all out for you and shows you how we’ve internalized gender inequality and perpetuate it in raising our children. It provides a lot of advice on how to promote gender equality, but it does so in a common sense and easy-to-understand manner that makes it accessible to everyone. I can’t stress enough what an important read Dear Ijeawele is and highly recommend that everyone read it. And at 63 pages in total, there’s really no reason not to.
An Imperfect Offering by James Orbinski
I actually bought An Imperfect Offering in college when the author visited, and then proceeded to leave it on my shelf for years. When I finally picked up a year or so ago, I couldn’t put it down. An Imperfect Offering is a memoir written by James Orbinski, who was the head of Doctors Without Borders when it accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.
Anyone who is interested in humanitarian work absolutely needs to read this book, but what I was so drawn to was Orbinski’s personal account of what he saw during the Rwandan genocide. It’s horrifying and I can’t believe that people can do to one another what they did during the Rwandan genocide, though the reality is that it’s nothing new and has happened again since then. But it’s important to see some of the worst of humanity and remember that we’re all people. And An Imperfect Offering helps bring light to a war that I knew very little about before picking it up. It was such an impactful read for me, and I think everyone should have to read it.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
So I put in my introduction that I want to pick books that make us better people, but that actually wasn’t what I had in mind when I picked Harry Potter (and it’s not just fangirling, either!). I actually think everyone should pick up Harry Potter because it has become such a global phenomenon. No other series has brought people together from around the world like Harry Potter has or inspired an entire generation of readers. Whether you like the series or not, its impact cannot be ignored. It’s become such an integral part of modern culture that I think everyone should pick these books up, both to enjoy the magic of the series and to appreciate its role in modern culture.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Bad Feminist has gotten a lot of hype, and it’s beyond well deserved. It’s a collection of essays written by Roxane Gay that touch on an array of topics, from Sweet Valley High to Chris Brown to The Help, all centered around feminism.
More than an academic theory or a part of the past, Gay brings feminism into the modern world and makes it relevant to today’s pop culture. She addresses finding some of her favorite things in today’s culture problematic from the perspective of a women as well as how today’s feminist movement is overwhelmingly white and doesn’t address and include the problems unique to women of color. She just hits so many topics that people in today’s world need to be conscious of and address, which makes this a must-read for me. Plus she manages to do this while being relatable and funny, making Bad Feminist an enjoyable read in addition to a necessary one.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers made an appearance in my August Oldies post, but I think it deserves a mention here as well. For those who aren’t familiar with it, Outliers tells the story of success and how there’s a lot more to it than simply hard work, as American culture might have you believe. Gladwell looks closely at a number of people, including Bill Gates and the Beatles, to show how oft-overlooked factors contributed to their success.
The reason I think this is a must-read is because it really challenges you to reexamine the world around you and question what you think you know. Gladwell takes something you thought you already knew and then turns it completely on its head. And he does it over and over again to really drive it home and show you that there’s more to the world around you than what you might think. Plus he does all of this in such an engaging way. He really is a masterful storyteller and I enjoy his storytelling, in addition to learning a lot from reading his books.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? What would you want to make required reading? Let me know in the comments!