When I first had my children, I had a hard time looking at the state of the world around me. Call it hormonal, call it denial — I referred to it as self-preservation. I’ve talked about my love for Fluff Reads before and there is a time and place for a book that just makes you smile. But I have been feeling more and more recently that I need to wake the hell up and take a good look at the world outside my bubble. I noticed that this year, Jackie and I have both tackled books that have some hard-hitting material. I feel that my social consciousness has been elevated everytime I read a book with tough subject matter.
**This post contains affiliate links which will result in a small commission should you make a purchase.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is fantastic and incredibly relevant young adult novel that tackles the Black Lives Matter movement. Starr is straddling a line between two worlds. She attends a prestigious prep school where she is one of 2 black children in her grade but she lives in the poor neighborhood 40 minutes down the road. She switches her personality so that she can fit in wherever she is, never truly being her whole self. When she witnesses her unarmed childhood best friend get killed by a policeman her entire life changes. She needs to decide what to tell and to whom because her words can have dire consequences for her family and her community.
What struck me the most about this story – which again is aimed at teenagers – was how well the author puts us in Starr’s head. Her emotions and inner thoughts are our guide into just how difficult a life she leads. The choices she has to make every day and the way she has to constantly adjust and adapt to her surroundings are inspiring and humbling at the same time. I found myself more thoroughly understanding the Black Lives Matter movement and its complications because of the book. Angie Thomas gave me insight into an issue I thought I already understood. The story had me watching the news in a different light.
The Hate U Give should be required reading in high school across the country. Frankly, it should be required reading for the population as a whole. This book is so relevant and so important RIGHT NOW. That is what makes it so special and so worth the read.
In that regard, we have compiled a list of 11 more of our most thought-provoking reads of the year. They are not all easy reads, but they are powerful stories relevant to our world and society today. Our hope is that you too will be enlightened by these stories and more aware of the world around you.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon looks at interracial teenage love and immigration. We follow the two main characters through a single day together as they meet, fall in love and explore each other’s culture.
Push by Sapphire is a look at life in the poverty-stricken streets of Harlem in the eighties. The main character is an illiterate 16-year-old pregnant with her second child by her father. The commentary on a life of poverty and the struggles to get out of her situation are horrific but inspiring.
Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais– This amazing book takes place in apartheid South Africa in 1976. When a 10-year-old white girl and a black woman have their lives thrown together, the story is unforgettable.
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead– This surreal novel about slavery is haunting and memorable. The real Wanted ads from newspapers interspersed throughout bring the reader back to the reality of this country’s history.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood– A love story at heart, this book has more controversy surrounding it than any other book that I have read. If a man falls in love with a minor is he a pedophile? This question lingers long after the last page is finished.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid– This book takes a surrealist look on the Syrian refugee crisis. Nadia and Saeed have no choice but to flee their war-torn country. They step through door after door to take them to a better life. This is a story about courage, loyalty, and love that is so relevant to today’s society.
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance– I was reluctant to read this one, but it was not what I expected. An honest look at life and hardships in working-class America. This memoir opened my eyes to the crisis our country is facing. I’ve been thinking about this story since I finished.
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong– A comedic and heartfelt look at the hardships of life with a parent who has Alzheimer’s that got me thinking about the difficulties of everyone out there facing the same struggles.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is a story set in World War 2 and told from three perspectives. What makes this story different from most Holocaust books is that one of the perspectives is from a German Doctor turned concentration camp worker. Hearing her inner monologue was chilling.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot– The HeLa cells are at the heart of medical advances for decades and yet, who has the rights to these cells? Henrietta Lacks is the woman behind these cells and never received any compensation. This true story delves into the heart of medical rights.
Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne– Cyril Avery is adopted as an infant and yet, is never sure who he is. This is a coming of age story like no other. It examines being Irish, Catholic and Homosexual through AIDS epidemic of the 80’s.