Top Books for November
It’s time to give thanks for family and friends by sharing great food and amazing books, including: Comedian and writer Phoebe Robinson’s new You Can’t Touch My Hair, Patrick Ness’ satirical take on the fantasy genre, the award-winning memoir of Malala Yousafzai, a quietly affecting novel from Kazuo Ishiguro, and a medical examiner’s memoir.
You Can’t Touch My Hair
David: I became a fan of Phoebe Robinson when I started listening to 2 Dope Queens, a podcast she co-hosts with The Daily Show alumni Jessica Williams. It’s a show that covers a lot of ground but, for me, it’s the best way to find new and emerging talent in the world of comedy. Sure, there are several podcasts that are comedy focused, but few have the same commitment to diversity as 2 Dope Queens. That’s why I was immediately excited to hear that Robinson would be releasing a collection of essays that focus on race, gender, and pop culture. It’s called You Can’t Touch My Hair, and it’s a book that’s full of wit, wisdom, and even better, perspective. Available on Scribd as an audiobook and read — no, performed — by Robinson herself, You Can’t Touch My Hair is a must-listen for anyone who’s ready to get real.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Ashley: Patrick Ness’ satire of the “Chosen One” trope is the cutting commentary our culture needs in 2016, as the Potterverse keeps expanding, superhero movies continue to multiply, and the presidential election drags on. Each chapter of The Rest of Us Just Live Here begins with a brief paragraph about the “indie kids” — those who have magical powers and get involved with supernatural creatures (romantically, fatally, and otherwise) — before delving into the meat of the story: the anxieties of the everday kids.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a humorous, heartbreaking examination of how we’re all the main protagonists of our own stories but seemingly have little control over our personal destinies. Reflecting on the tragedy of teenage years, main character Mikey says, “This is the part of your life where it gets taken over by other people’s stories and there’s nothing you can do about it except hold on tight and hope you’re still alive at the end to take up your own story again.” It’s a powerful reminder that we may not have powers (super, political, or otherwise), but we’re far from powerless.
Also available in audio.
I Am Malala
Alex K.: Destined to become a classic memoir, I Am Malala tells the story of an Afghan girl who stood up to an international terrorist organization. Emboldened by a belief that children everywhere should have equal rights to education, Malala Yousafzai fiercely fought to attend school amidst fear in a war-torn northwest Pakistan. Her struggle — met first with disapproval from her elders, then targeting from the Taliban, an assassination attempt, and a painful recovery — and her willingness to share her trials with the world would make her the youngest Nobel laureate in history.
Her words — powerful, sharp, and inspiring — will resonate with anyone who thirsts to learn and would do anything to have that thirst quenched and protected.
The Remains of the Day
Alex P.: Kazuo Ishiguro has made a name for himself as an author of quietly affecting novels. As a longtime fan of Never Let Me Go, I can’t quite account for what took me so long to pick up The Remains of the Day, Ishiguro’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel; now that I finally have, the oversight feels inexcusable.
Where Never Let Me Go depicted the dystopian underbelly of a seemingly utopian future, The Remains of the Day is consumed with questions of the past. Stevens is a proper English butler who, having reached middle age in the middle of the 20th century, is struggling to come to terms with the deconstruction of the class rules and etiquette that have governed his life. As he embarks on a road trip across England in hopes of reconnecting — and, ostensibly, rehiring — the housekeeper he worked with twenty years past, questions of the decisions and nondecisions he’s made over the course of his life interweave with philosophical questions of the meaning of service and dignity, of agency and loyalty. Despite Stevens’ obsequious manner, apparent even in narration, and his longing for a world few would prefer to return to, it’s impossible not to feel empathy for a man inspired to reflect on his long-held beliefs and find them — and the life that resulted — wanting.
Niree: For CSI fans, biology buffs, and anyone who’s ever wondered what happens in a city morgue, Working Stiff is the memoir for you. Judy Melinek, M.D., was a New York City medical examiner from 2000 to 2002, where she saw no shortage of bodies brought in from the surrounding hospitals, streets, and even the East River. As a newbie forensic pathologist, Melinek learned to navigate the constellations of bruises and burns in tandem with blood work and other lab results to tell each body’s unique — and official — death story. While death may be a macabre subject, Melinek handles it with all the polite curiosity and objective grace of a scientist. The stories centering around the more mundane ways people die elicit fascination, while the what’s-the-worst-way-to-die stories may make you rethink walking beneath construction cranes or near manholes. However, Melinek hits her emotional stride with the 9/11 section, which focuses on the immediate aftermath of the national tragedy and highlights the dedication of the coroners and examiners as well as the firefighters and other volunteers who worked tirelessly to identify the victims, bringing some small sense of peace amidst the chaos. (Psst—this title is available in November’s Scribd Selects!)
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