Nerd that I am, I am a devotee of Goodreads.com, a Facebook style website for all things book and literary. There, using “shelves” I’ve created and labeled by year or topic, I keep track of all the books I’ve read, want to read, and are currently engrossed in. I make a booklist every year, usually by theme but not always, although, one year for kicks I read a biography on every American president (took me 2 years), and once I read the Bible cover to cover, along with four other books on world religions. My head reeled for weeks!
My goal is 36 books a year. I usually make it to 24, sometimes more, if I’m not doing research for one of my own novels. And I have to admit that I do not adhere strictly to the list. I create the list in December but eleven months later, I have added titles I’ve come across in the Sunday Times Book Review,Writer’s Digest, Entertainment Weekly, or through recommendations, and subtracted books that I suddenly find uninteresting or simple aren’t in the mood for. As everyone knows, the muse can be a fickle mistress.
Anyway, below, in the spirit of giving, the HWG and Harlem Writes would like to share with you some of the book that left us teary, cheering, terrified, or thoughtful throughout the year. Pick up a copy at your local library (we hope you support your local library!), download one for your Nook or Kindle, or buy a copy for your bestie at an independent bookshop (ditto). However you roll, get your book on and stuff someone’s stocking, heart and mind with a good book! Happy Holidays & Happy New Year!
K.C. Washington, author of Mourning Becomes Her & the new Harlow Ophelia Jackson Mystery series
My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme: I was able to indulge my deep love of all things Paris, food, travel, and history. Julia’s voice is charming, honest, funny, and smart. By the end of the book, I almost booked my ticket on Air France!
Winnie Mandela by Nancy Harrison: I confess, although I am a huge admirer of Winnie, I have never read a book about her. After re-reading Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, I tackled this slim volume. Written in a clear and concise voice, full of admiration yet balanced, I came out of Winnie Mandela filled with gratitude for the Mother of the Nation and her struggle and sacrifice. She was everything I had hoped and suspected she would be. She is her own woman.
Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy: Journalist and crime beat writer Leovy tells the story of the brief lives and horrifying deaths of African American men in South Central, Los Angeles as experienced through a white homicide detective John Skaggs and Wallace Tennelle, a highly respected black detective whose son is murdered steps from his front door. As we follow their gripping story of hard work, empathy, luck, and justice for one unfortunate family, we also learn about how black men are killing one another and why Los Angeles and the country at large allows it.
Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett: Ivoe Williams, the precocious daughter of a Muslim cook and a metalsmith from central-east Texas, first ignites her lifelong obsession with journalism when she steals a newspaper from her mother’s white employer. *From book jacket* And then all unexpected hell breaks loose!
Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press by James McGrath Morris:James McGrath Morris brings into focus the riveting life of one of the most significant yet least known figures of the civil rights era—pioneering journalist Ethel Payne, the “First Lady of the Black Press”—elevating her to her rightful place in history at last. *From book jacket*
Ruby by Cynthia Bond: Haunting, beautiful, exhausting, the grandchild of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”. Everyone should read it but don’t blame me if you can’t sleep for days. Lovely.
Minnette Coleman, author of The Blacksmith’s Daughter
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Beautifully written. About a wealthy and very Catholic Nigerian family, the story as told by the daughter. Her rich but supposedly 'godly' father funds the local church, pays for hospital and schooling for many in their community but won't allow his father in his home because he is a heathen. Also, he beats, tortures and abuses his family when they don't act 'godly enough'. You wonder how someone can love a parent like this who pours scalding water over your feet for lying and then cries because he had to do it. "This is what it feels like to walk in sin" he tells her and her brother. Very interesting book.
Judy Andrews, author of An Ocean of Jewels
Trust: Mastering the 4 Essential Trusts: Trust in God, Trust in Self, Trust in Others, Trust in Life,by Iyanla Vanzant.