Top Reads for January
Tackle your New Year’s resolutions with these reads, including: Michael Wolff’s insider account of Trump’s presidency, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s reflection on Obama’s presidency, one of Obama’s favorite books from 2017, a wintry post-apocalyptic tale, and more.
Fire and Fury
Alex P.: Well, you all knew this was coming, right? A review of Fire and Fury, I mean. Because I’m not sure anyone saw the book itself coming — the reaction in the media, and from the Trump team, has been practically apocalyptic. Sales have correspondingly been astronomical.
Many of the most salacious tidbits of the book have made the rounds in excerpts and interviews, including claims that Trump had no desire or expectation of winning the presidency, that Steve Bannon himself described Trump as “losing it,” and that his staff tends to think of him as a child. Trump has only fanned the flames with his less-than-presidential tweeted responses to the claims. Whether any of the accusations — some of which suggest obstruction, mental unfitness, and even treason — result in more than juicy gossip remains to be seen. In the meantime, chalk this up to one more twist in the reality TV show that has become the US presidency.
We Were Eight Years in Power
Katie: A “necessary ballast for this nation’s gravity-defying moment” according to The Boston Globe, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s newest book since his National Book Award-winning Between the World and Me grapples with race, culture, history, and politics during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency — as seen through the lens of the current Donald Trump presidency, which Coates asserts is a backlash to America’s first black president.
This “urgently relevant” collection includes eight essays originally published in The Atlantic (one from each year Obama was in office), along with new pieces reflecting on each essay and the author’s own intellectual development. The collection begins with Coates at an unemployment office in Harlem, and ends with him interviewing President Obama at the White House. Along the way he skillfully draws from James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Adolph Reed, Ida B. Wells, Nas, and Jay-Z. The result is sharp, lyrical, and profound.
This deeply moving collection, written by a MacArthur “Genius” award winner, is a must-read for anyone seeking an antidote to the tweets of “a very stable genius.”
Stephanie: James McBride is a master storyteller. In 2013, he won the National Book Award for fiction with the sweeping Civil War-era novel The Good Lord Bird, and his powerful debut memoir The Color of Water — a tribute to his fierce, selfless Jewish mother — is considered a modern classic by many, myself included. An accomplished jazz musician, McBride's writing often has an unforgettable musical quality, its own unique rhythm. With his new book Five-Carat Soul, he delivers on both style and substance. Recently named one of President Obama’s favorite books of 2017, this short story collection is full of memorable characters — a single-minded vintage toy collector, a young boy convinced his father is Abraham Lincoln, a lion grappling with life in a zoo — each of them with their own distinct point of view and on their own surprising journey. “The characters in this book — human and otherwise — feel real and beautifully drawn,” NPR raved. “Their stories are bound to stay with readers for a very long time.”
We’re Going to Need More Wine
Adia: At first it was difficult for me to read Gabrielle Union’s new book We're Going to Need More Wine. As engrossing as her story is, what initially gripped (and pained) me were the heartbreaking thoughts and feelings she experienced as a young black girl. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long before I became hooked.
This book is a poignant read. Whether describing joy or tragedy, Union interweaves humor and refreshing candor throughout the book. We're Going to Need More Wine introduces readers to a side of Union most didn’t know about and shows that she’s so much more than the star actress on Being Mary Jane, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Bring It On.
Union addresses everything from racism, colorism and “playing a part,” from sexual assault to thoroughly embracing one’s sexuality, from bullying to Hollywood, and much more. This book isn’t just for fans who want to know more about Gabrielle Union. It's for everyone who wants to follow her on her journey from being a deeply conflicted young black girl to blossoming into a brave, self-confident black woman. Above all, We're Going to Need More Wine is a story of growth, survival, empowerment, and celebration. Read this book and keep tissues handy (in case you cry tears of laughter, sadness, or both).
The Wolves of Winter
Ashley: If you often imagine what the world will be like after “fire and fury” has been unleashed, then this latest post-apocalyptic book is for you. (The dystopian boon will never die at this rate! Woo?) The official description of Tyrell Johnson’s debut says it’s Station Eleven meets The Hunger Games; that, coupled with a killer title like The Wolves of Winter, instantly sold me on this story.
It’s easy to feel the presence of those two works in Wolves — the main character, Gwendolynn (she prefers to go by Lynn, for obvious reasons), was taught by her father how to wield a bow with deadly accuracy (hey, Katniss). And Lynn’s trying to survive in a world ravaged by a man-made flu (what’s up, Station Eleven?). But the atmosphere of this is much more in line with a traditional thriller. It speaks to all our worst, overt fears in this moment — nuclear war with North Korea, a shady, trigger-happy government — and turns them into a gritty tale of survival. And of course, there’s no better time to read about the wolves of winter than right now, during one of the coldest winters on record. (Thanks, climate change.)
Instant Pot Cookbook
Tifa: Are you one of the BAZILLION people to get an Instant Pot over the holidays? Are you also aiming to eat healthier this new year? Well do I have the book for you. The Instant Pot Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide Plus 101 Delicious Recipes will get you cooking in no time. Your Instant Pot might seem a little intimidating at first, but this book not only offers a ton of easy recipes to get started, it also has helpful overviews of key features and safety tips. I heartily recommend the Kalua Pork. Yum!
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