7 Books that made my Reading List for 2017
Every year I promise myself to read more books than the year before and for some reason or another I fail. So this year, I decided to instead keep the number of books low by carefully selecting interesting books that I know I will read. This year will be more about the quality of books rather than quantity. I chose the lucky number "7" instead of "17" for 2017, again quality over quantity. This way, if I exceed the number of books on the list, then I would have "overachieved" my reading goal for the year. I'm looking forward to reporting back on the 'Book Mark' series on which of these books I love.
In no particular order, here are the 7 books on my 2017 reading list.
1. Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Helene Cooper
Summary: The harrowing, but triumphant story of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, leader of the Liberian women’s movement, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the first democratically elected female president in African history.
When Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the 2005 Liberian presidential election, she demolished a barrier few thought possible, obliterating centuries of patriarchal rule to become the first female elected head of state in Africa’s history. Madame President is the inspiring, often heartbreaking story of Sirleaf’s evolution from an ordinary Liberian mother of four boys to international banking executive, from a victim of domestic violence to a political icon, from a post-war president to a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Why it Made My List: First, I'm a huge fan of Cooper's writing and her unique style of storytelling. I also read, "This Child Will Be Great" by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a memoir written by the Madame President Sirleaf. While I enjoyed the historical context and the accounts of her life, in many ways the book was also written as a political tool to gear up for a second term. Therefore, I'd like to see how Helene Cooper will tell this story as a Liberian, who's own personal story is a catalyst for the rise of Madame President Sirleaf.
2. Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed
Summary: At twenty-six, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's rapid death from cancer, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America - from the Mojave Desert, through California and Oregon, and into Washington state - and to do it alone. She had no experience of long-distance hiking and the journey was nothing more than a line on a map. But it held a promise - a promise of piecing together a life that lay in ruins at her feet.
Strayed's account captures the agonies - both mental and physical - of her incredible journey; how it maddened and terrified her, and how, ultimately, it healed her. Wild is a brutal memoir of survival, grief and redemption: a searing portrayal of life at its lowest ebb and at its highest tide.
Why it Made My List: This book made the list because it came highly recommended by good friend and avid reader Susanna. Not to mention it made Oprah's Book Club and was turned into a motion picture.
3. I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
Summary: With over 500,000 readers a month at her enormously popular blog, AwesomelyLuvvie.com, Luvvie Ajayi is a go-to source for smart takes on pop culture. I'm Judging You is her debut book of humorous essays that dissects our cultural obsessions and calls out bad behavior in our increasingly digital, connected lives. It passes on lessons and side-eyes on life, social media, culture, and fame, from addressing those terrible friends we all have to serious discussions of race and media representation to what to do about your fool cousin sharing casket pictures from Grandma's wake on Facebook.
With a lighthearted, razor sharp wit and a unique perspective, I'm Judging You is the handbook the world needs, doling out the hard truths and a road map for bringing some "act right" into our lives, social media, and popular culture. It is the Do-Better Manual.
Why it Made My List: I'm a fan of Luvvie. She's a Nigerian-American who's made a name for herself from her funny, brutally honest blog. Her successful first book has been picked up for a pilot TV show by the queen of television Shonda Rhimes.
4. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Summary: Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.
Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African-American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.
Why it Made My List: I had the privilege of attending the London Premiere of Hidden Figures. Although I enjoyed the movie, I could tell that a lot of information was missing from the story that the movie couldn't portray. I received a copy of the book in the gift bag and thought I'd read it.
5. The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla
Summary: How does it feel to be constantly regarded as a potential threat, strip-searched at every airport?
Or be told that, as an actress, the part you’re most fitted to play is ‘wife of a terrorist’? How does it feel to have words from your native language misused, misappropriated and used aggressively towards you? How does it feel to hear a child of colour say in a classroom that stories can only be about white people? How does it feel to go ‘home’ to India when your home is really London? What is it like to feel you always have to be an ambassador for your race? How does it feel to always tick ‘Other’?
Bringing together 21 exciting black, Asian and minority ethnic voices emerging in Britain today, The Good Immigrant explores why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that doesn’t seem to want you, doesn’t truly accept you – however many generations you’ve been here – but still needs you for its diversity monitoring forms.
Inspired by discussion around why society appears to deem people of colour as bad immigrants – job stealers, benefit scroungers, undeserving refugees – until, by winning Olympic races or baking good cakes, or being conscientious doctors, they cross over and become good immigrants, editor Nikesh Shukla has compiled a collection of essays that are poignant, challenging, angry, humorous, heartbreaking, polemic, weary and – most importantly – real.
Why it Made My List: In a time where there is a lot of opposition against the immigrant, I think this might be a good book that doesn't tell a single story of the immigrant. Also as a first generation American-Liberian and one who emigrated from America to the UK and is essentially an immigrant in London.
6. Democracy in Black by Eddie S. Glaude jr.
Summary: A powerful polemic on the state of black America that savages the idea of a post-racial society America's great promise of equality has always rung hollow in the ears of African Americans. But today the situation has grown even more dire. From the murders of black youth by the police, to the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, to the disaster visited upon poor and middle-class black families by the Great Recession, it is clear that black America faces an emergency--at the very moment the election of the first black president has prompted many to believe we've solved America's race problem. Democracy in Black is Eddie S. Glaude Jr.'s impassioned response. Part manifesto, part history, part memoir, it argues that we live in a country founded on a "value gap"--with white lives valued more than others--that still distorts our politics today. Whether discussing why all Americans have racial habits that reinforce inequality, why black politics based on the civil-rights era have reached a dead end, or why only remaking democracy from the ground up can bring real change, Glaude crystallizes the untenable position of black America--and offers thoughts on a better way forward. Forceful in ideas and unsettling in its candor, Democracy In Black is a landmark book on race in America, one that promises to spark wide discussion as we move toward the end of our first black presidency.
Why it Made My List: I've heard great reviews on the book on NPR and elsewhere. As a history/political junkie, I'm very interested in reading this.
7. My Voice: A Memoir by Angie Martinez
Summary: Angie Martinez is the “Voice of New York.” Now, for the first time, she candidly recounts the story of her rise to become an internationally celebrated hip hop radio icon.
In her current reign at Power 105.1 and for nearly two decades at New York’s Hot 97, Angie Martinez has had one of the highest rated radio shows in the country. After working her way up as an intern, she burst on the scene as a young female jock whose on-air “Battle of the Beats” segment broke records and became a platform for emerging artists like a young Jay Z. Angie quickly became known for intimate, high-profile interviews, mediating feuds between artists, and taking on the most controversial issues in hip hop. At age twenty-five, at the height of the East Coast/West Coast rap war, Angie was summoned by Tupac Shakur for what would be his last no-holds-barred interview—which has never aired in its entirety and which she’s never discussed in detail—until now.
Why it Made My List: As a hip fan of the 90s to early 2000s, the beefs, lyrics, culture, and everything about it, Angie Martinez was at the forefront of it all. This book has also been picked up to be developed into a mini series.