I really like to read. Netflix can’t hold a candle to a good book. Because I read so much, a book has to be really, really good for me to rant and rave about it. Below are my favourite twelve books; books I would encourage you to drop everything for and read right now. If you do (or have!) read any of them, let me know what you think!
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing was a remarkably well-crafted and well-written novel. The book begins by telling the story of two half-sisters in 18th century Ghana, who are beginning two very different lives- one is sold into slavery, and the other marries a British slaver. Subsequent chapters of the book tell the story of each generation of the family, right up to the present day. This novel paints a vivid portrait of the impact of British slavery on Africa, and of the legacy of slavery today in North America. With each chapter telling the story of a different family member, the chapters could very easily feel disconnected from one another, but Gyasi does a fantastic job of weaving a thread between each chapter and each family member, and of keeping the reader emotionally invested.
- The Illegal by Lawrence Hill
I wasn’t able to put this novel down. A story of running, political violence, refugees, and ransoms, I was holding my breath throughout the novel and hoping Keita, the main character, would win races, reunite his family, and remain undiscovered. Stories about running always have a way of connecting with me, but the fact that Keita’s running was so dangerous, yet so necessary for his survival, made this novel even better.
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner was a New York Times bestseller when it came out in 2003 (yes, that long ago!), and been one of my favourite novels ever since. Set in Afghanistan during a time of ethnic, religious, and political tension, the novel tells the story of a friendship between a wealthy boy, and the son of his father’s servant- and the story of betrayal and redemption. The story was elegantly written and made you feel all the feelings. Even more, I greatly appreciated the insight the novel gave me into life in Afghanistan.
- A Little Princess by Frances H. Burnett
A childhood favourite, I have reread this book so many times I lost count long ago, and my copy is beginning to fall apart. Most of my love for this book comes from my love for the main character, little Sara Crewe. Regardless of what is happening in her life, whether she is rich, a pauper, or something in between, she always strives to act like she imagines a princess would- with kindness, grace, and goodwill. She was the fictional character I always wanted to be in real life.
- Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Today, this book is well-known and has received many accolades, but when I picked it up off the shelf years ago, I didn’t know any of that, and had zero expectations. I was then blown away. The book tells the story of a Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, documenting the changes in her life, the struggles she faces, and just how difficult it is to, quite literally, lose your mind. Lisa Genova is a fantastic writer, and my interest in neuroscience made this novel even more interesting to me.
- The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
A mother spends her life grieving for the daughter that died at birth. Her marriage deteriorates, and her son raises himself. Meanwhile, the daughter, born with Down’s Syndrome, is still alive, being raised by the nurse who was asked to take the baby to an institution. A story of the long-lasting impacts of a split-second decision, Edward’s spins a tale that will break your heart over and over again.
- A Sister to Honour by Lucy Ferriss
I picked up an advanced copy of this book at a conference I attended, and was blown away. Almost three years later, I’m still really confused as to why this novel isn’t being talked about. The novel tells the story of siblings from Pakistan who have come to study in America. When a photo surfaces of the sister holding hands with an American boy, the brother is ordered to perform an ‘honour killing’. A story of cultural clashes, family conflict, and navigating life in America, this novel will have you holding your breath on the edge of your seat.
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I would have loved this novel no matter what, but the fact that I work in higher education, and in first-year experience specifically, made it even better. The novel tells the story of Cath’s first year at university, through the lens of someone who is not into the whole party scene, and isn’t sure she wants to be there at all. This novel was even better for me because Cath is a writer, and absolutely terrible when it comes to romance.
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The story of a young Nigerian woman living in America, this novel is more than a novel, but also a commentary on the issues of race and immigration in America. The story is entertaining, the characters are real, and the issues are thought-provoking, to say the least.
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Get out your box of Kleenex, because John Green hit it out of the park with this tear-jerker. The YA novel tells the story of Hazel, a teenager with terminal cancer, and of Augustus, the guy she meets, and falls for, at her Cancer Kids Support Group. This is a story of illness, of living, and of love, without the “I can do it” attitude of so many books about illness. I have two copies of this novel on my bookshelf. It’s that good.
- Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
That’s right. Lisa Genova just landed on this list for the second time, this time for a story about a little boy with autism, and a mother in the midst of a divorce. The stories of the two mothers, one whose autistic son recently died, and other who recently separated from her husband, might be enough in themselves to make this novel great, but it’s the insight into the life of a little boy with autism that truly sets this book apart.
- The Break by Katherena Vermette
I had high expectations when beginning this book, and normally, high expectations correlate directly with being let down. But not in this case. The Break was everything it promised to be, and more. The novel tells the story of four generations of a Metis family in Winnipeg, and centres around a trauma/crime that has occurred. While parts of the book were hard to read due to the subject matter (the book starts with a trigger warning), the author made you understand what had happened, and really feel for the character, without going into graphic detail. The story is great, the inside glimpse of a contemporary Indigenous family and lifestyle is much needed, and the writing is unparalleled in its elegance and honesty. I can’t say it enough- this book is a must read, for everyone.