Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward is a serious reader. When she’s not writing her next bestselling book, you can find her with a book in hand. In a recent New York Times interview, Ward revealed the books that she has fallen in love with and the titles she can’t wait to read next.

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist

“It’s an essential book for anyone who seeks to understand the America we live in now.”

In this non-fiction read, historian Edward E. Baptist enlightens readers on the influence of slavery on the evolution and growth of the United States. This retelling of history uses slave narratives as well as carefully researched information not many have seen before. This historic read brings slavery into our modern history and explains how it still impacts our world today.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

“…it’s good in the best of ways: full of adventure and compelling characters and mystery and surprisingly poetic language.”

Jesmyn Ward doesn’t shy away from any book genre and this children’s book is one she loves. In The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Xan is a good witch who takes the babies that are sent to her as sacrifices and places them in safe and loving homes. When she accidentally grants one baby magical powers, she’ll raise the girl to become a strong woman, ready to fight those who are trying to destroy her.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

“The richness of her characters was so impressive and instructive. I loved that they had such complicated interior lives and poetic vision, but then spoke to each other in language that was real and true.”

A book that tackles many difficult subjects, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is an eye-opening read about the world in which we live. With a cast of characters who all experience loneliness in their own way, this classic novel is a touching story about people who simply want someone to listen to them.

In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker

“It was a beaten-up paperback in 1999, and it’s even more battered now.”

This collection of nonfiction is chock-full of stories and essays every feminist can appreciate. From political to personal, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens brings about shocking stories and research into the way society has represented women throughout history.

To learn more about Jesmyn Ward and her top book picks, check out the full interview here.

photo by Tony Cook