Updated: May 18, 2020
I’ve compiled a list of memoirs, self-help books, financial inspiration books, dystopian novels, romance novels, guilty pleasure books, and stories that shed light on the plight of Americans. This list is recommended for anyone with a 9th grade reading level or above. Some topics may be unsuitable for anyone under 15. I’ll be releasing a suggested reading list of kids’ books later, so keep watching for that! This list is not in any ranked order, please enjoy them all! While finances are tight and Covid-19 has us all staying home (or you should be!), all the books in this list are available through the Libby App by Overdrive. If you have a Sacramento or San Joaquin-Stockton Public Library card, you can download Libby and access each library’s digital catalog, from the comfort of your phone, web, or Kindle/tablet.
I mention below that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently did a video interview with the Sacramento Public Library regarding her new memoir. If you scroll to the bottom of this post, you’ll be able to watch the hour and fifteen minute interview. And yes, her memoir happens to be on this list!
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah Trevor Noah is the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, and this book talks about his upbringing, being born to a black woman and a white man in apartheid South Africa. He was indeed “born a crime”, and this book is a collection of stories from his youth, and sheds light into how a young boy can become a stand-up comedian with his own Netflix special, the host of The Daily Show and much more. Born a Crime gets a spot on my list in part due to the hilarious voice tone throughout the book, while bringing to light some of the apartheid effects we may not know, or have chosen to ignore.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k by Mark Manson Manson’s critique of positive and uplifting self-help books is especially poignant of our Coronavirus times. Manson argues that the struggles we face in life give us meaning. It sheds light on the fact that we will face struggles, life will be a challenge, but in order to harness your own success, you must learn to live through this. Not give a f***k about things outside of your control. It’s definitely a no b.s. book, and you’ll either hate it or love it.
Rise and Grind by Daymond John You know him as a shark on “Shark Tank”, and Daymond John is a successful entrepreneur. If you, like me, are struggling to get out of bed or off your couch watching Netflix while stuck at home, this will surely motivate you! Rise and Grind provides insight, helpful tools, and most of all a story of success by which to learn. So if you’re thinking of starting a new hobby, opening a business, going back to school, or any number of things, check out Rise and Grind.
1984 by George Orwell If you weren’t assigned this book in college or high school, you are missing out. Yes, you’ll have to learn the meaning of “dystopian”, and maybe get a little literary vertigo while reading. But if you feel like the world’s ending, technology is taking over (Hello, Alexa), or are currently scouring the internet for Coronavirus conspiracy theories, this book will provide either comfort or torture, take your choice. George Orwell’s novel predicts what the world would be like in 1984. We might be 30+ years later, but hey, tell me it’s not accurate?
Hillbilly Elegy A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance Hillbilly Elegy was recommended to me by a friend a couple years ago, and it brings to light something mainstream media, some conservatives, and most “elite liberals” don’t understand: the plight and changing landscape of poor, white Americans. J.D. Vance articulates his experience of a declining social, region, and class felt like. It’s a memoir, but it’s also so much more. If you are at all interested in sociology or some political science topics, you’ll find this extremely intriguing. At the end of the day, poverty is an equalizer, and it’s different for all races, but we see profound similarities with drug & alcohol addiction, access to food stamps and other assistance, healthcare, and education. If you’ve got an aunt, uncle, or grandparent who hears the term “white privilege” and says “well I might be white, but I’m not privileged”, this book is for you, them, and will explain that sentiment. We need to take care of our fellow human beings, and make sure that everyone has a chance for success.
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory Unlike most all the other books on my list, this is a pure guilty-pleasure novel. There is nothing I love more than grabbing some infused water, a blanket, curling up on my couch, and sticking my nose in a book all day long during quarantine. This book is just the ticket. Writer Nikole is dating an actor, goes to a baseball game, and gets a scoreboard proposal from her boyfriend of five months. Her name isn’t even spelled correctly! Of course, another hero steps in and I won’t spoil the ending, but it is a romance novel for a reason. What comes to light is a woman faced with social media backlash, public scorn, and disappointed baseball fans. Instead of caving to pressure, she takes the hard road and stands up for herself, facing it all. Many young women may feel a desire to be married or proposed to at a certain age, but I encourage you to follow Nikole’s path--and your heart.
Hell and Other Destinations by Madeleine Albright Okay, let’s get this out of the way right now. Madeline Albright is a personal hero of mine, from her boss vibes, ardent pursuit of justice, diplomacy skills, and her stint as the first female Secretary of State for the United States of America. Now that my fangirling is out of the way……...the title for Hell and Other Destinations is a take on Madeleine Albright’s famous quote “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women”. This latest memoir is a collection of stories around the globe of her time as a diplomat with the United States, the United Nations, and other opportunities. Her ability to weave a story is also incorporated by her ability to put things into a historical context, helping the reader understand why certain decisions were made at times. This book is perfect for anyone who loves history, politics, law, diplomacy, or just wants to learn something new. Madeleine Albright recently gave an interview via video call with the Sacramento Public Library. At the very end she gives a few book recommendations herself (one is included down below). To watch her interview, scroll to the bottom of this page.
The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye This is my other pure fiction novel/guilty pleasure read on the list. Going back 100 years, author Lyndsay Faye brings us the Prohibition-era, a heroine with experience battling the New York Mafia, 50k in illegal cash, bullet wounds, a missing child, and the Jim Crow city of Portland, OR. I mean really, I want this made into a Netflix movie! But most importantly, it entertains while showing the struggles of African-Americans in Portland with the KKK moving into town, and their cross-burning, official-electing, newspaper-infiltrating reign of terror. With the rise of MAGA, and certain sentiments in the real world over 100 years later, this book serves as a reminder to everyone. Focus on humanity, helping, not hurting.
Educated by Tara Westover WOW! This memoir has all the feels. Tara Westover writes in 3 parts about her life growing up in the mountains of Idaho with no formal education, abusive family members, being taught the “rhythms of the mountain”, and a father who was sad when the Y2K apocalypse didn’t happen. With a curious mind and a need to escape some abusive treatment, Tara takes the ACTs and is admitted into Brigham Young University. Throughout her education in the U.S., and at Cambridge, her family consistently tries to discourage her from studying history, politics, art, etc. Torn between the new world she is discovering and her family’s life in Buck’s Peak, we travel this emotional journey with Tara. Eventually, Tara receives her Ph.D., discovers feminist ideals, and realizes that Buck’s Peak is not her home. With a rift between herself and her father, her family mostly takes her father’s side, and it’s still evident when Tara visits for her grandmother’s funeral some years later. Tara perfectly demonstrates the dangers of not receiving education, and what it can do when generations are consistently not exposed to education and open-minded thoughts. If anything, I hope after reading this you and your children/family/friends pick up a book to learn and read something new. Or join me in advocacy work.
Becoming by Michelle Obama I don’t have to say much on this book for you to know that it’s awesome. Another memoir, it gives insight into a first lady that we haven’t seen before. Becoming also provides a role model for young girls to know that someone who “looks like them” can be somebody. The Obama’s recently signed a deal with Netflix and you’re now able to watch the documentary Becoming on Netflix as well. Just like with the Harry Potter series, I encourage you to read the book before watching the documentary.
The President is Missing by James Patterson As promised, here is one of Madeleine Albright’s book suggestions! I’ll confess that I haven’t read it yet, and am waiting for my e-book hold from Sacramento Public Libraries. However, the story is set over 3 days with a threat so big that even the President of the United States is a suspect at one point, and goes missing from public view. There is nothing quite as a great as a James Patterson mystery novel in my opinion, having two of his other novels on my bookshelf here at home. But The President is Missing is actually co-authored by former President Bill Clinton, and will be sure to provide enough intrigue to keep you on the edge of your seat……..oh who am I kidding? You’re probably lounging comfortably on the couch while reading this!
Go forth to Read, Dream, & Succeed,
Madeleine Albright's interview with Sacramento Public Libraries