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. Here’s a list of the books that Ward has fallen in love with and the titles she can’t wait to read next.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
When thirteen-year-old Joe’s mother is attacked on a reservation in North Dakota, he seeks the truth and justice. With his trusted friends, Joe starts at the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. With a mystery at its core, this novel is a powerful coming-of-age journey that explores family, history, and culture.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
After the Civil War, Captain Kidd is tasked with returning a young orphan of the Kiowa back to her relatives. The captain and ten-year-old Johanna slowly form a bond as they make the 400 mile journey south. But when they reach their destination, Captain Kidd realizes the reunion is not a happy one, and he is faced with a terrible choice.
The Art of the English Murder by Lucy Worsley
Over time, a fascination with murderous crimes entered the realm of art, inspiring plays, novels, poems, paintings, and journalism. This book explores the art of this type of crime and investigates the fixation we have on it.
Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler
These imaginative stories are parables that mirror the modern world. This collection includes an introduction by Jesmyn Ward who says Butler “writes her way to hope”.
A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
This novel follows three generations of a Black family in New Orleans and how they create a life for themselves despite political and societal forces working to undermine them.
What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
This collection of short stories examines the connections between parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends, all with one another and the places they call home.
What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
Thandi always feel caught between black and white, American and not. When her mother dies of cancer, Thandi learns to live without the person who shaped her existence as the novel follows her through life.
Counting Descent by Clint Smith
These brilliant and lyrical poems explore the meaning of blackness, black joy, black life, and black love in a world that doesn’t unapologetically celebrate black humanity.
Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
Award winning poet Danez Smith imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police where they are surrounded with the safety, love, and longevity that was taken from them on Earth. Smith then moves into themes of desire and mortality, creating a collection of ambitious and confrontational poems.
Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing by Charif Shanahan
In this collection of poetry, Charif Shanahan, who is queer and mixed-race, addresses the challenges of living in a divided world. The poems explore intimacy, love, human separation and connection, cultural inheritance, and identity.
This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jenkins
With brutal honesty, Morgan Jenkins narrates what it’s like to be a black woman in the United States. She details the history of black female oppression while also tackling the history and continued existence of a white, male-dominated world.
So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Ijeoma Oluo guides people of all races through subjects centering around race, including police brutality, cultural appropriation, and the model minority myth while describing how racism affects all aspects of American life with intellect and honesty.
The Unnatural World by David Biello
This book journeys around the world and introduces an array of people working towards repairing the planet and the disastrous consequences of global warming. Biello points out mankind’s negative impact on Earth and discusses what to do in the future to keep Earth habitable.
Who Rules the World? by Noam Chomsky
Noah Chomsky examines U.S. politics post-9/11 and how the nations rhetoric of freedom and human rights often contradicts with its actions. Chomsky also addresses the election of Donald Trump and what that says about American society.
Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood
Chantel cares more about her magic than she does about learning how to be a proper lady. This attitude usually gets her in trouble at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. But when Miss Ellicott goes missing, along with other sorceresses, it’s up to Chantel and her friends to save the kingdom.
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.
photo by Tony Cook