Weekend reading

Al Woodworth on June 05, 2020
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Weekend reading

As people take to the streets of the 50 states and to cities all over the world to protest the death of George Floyd, readers have also called on books to help them understand race and racism in our country. Seminal books like Robin J. DiAngelo’s White Fragility, Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, and many others are at the top of Amazon Charts and other bestseller lists this week.

Like so many readers, the Amazon Books editors are turning to the power of literature this weekend—from award-winning books and trusted standbys, to buzzy new novels of black lives publishing this summer.


Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

I’ve been reading Claudia Rankine’s award-winning Citizen: An American Lyric, which is filled with vignettes of racial aggression in poetic, yet damning, prose. The moments she recounts are both slighted innuendo and grossly overt. From passive verbal comments in airplanes to physical abuses in the subway, Rankine presents a chilling portrait of individual moments of hatred that comprise a black person’s experience in this country. Her book is urgent, it is unflinching, and it feels necessary, now and forever.—Al Woodworth


Luster by Raven Leilani

I picked up this novel (publishing August 4th) because I had read a very positive blurb from Zadie Smith. I didn’t really know anything about Luster, or the author, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Raven Leilani’s sentences practically vibrate on the page. Within a few lines you’re in her world, and in her words. Plus, she’s funny and surprising. So far, so great.—Chris Schluep


How to Argue With a Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don’t) Say About Human Difference by Adam Rutherford

The publisher (rightly) pushed up the publication date of this book from February 2021 to August 11, and I couldn’t be happier. I enjoyed and learned a lot from Adam Rutherford’s A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, which delivered insights into humanity’s shared genetics with a hearty dollop of humor. Now Rutherford focuses on the science that debunks the pseudoscience around race. It’s funny (though not in a ha-ha way) that lots of people get their science “facts” from retweets on Twitter these days. I prefer to rely on Adam Rutherford.—Adrian Liang


Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

When the copy describes a book as "Like Ocean’s Eleven meets Drive, with a Southern noir twist," that's a powerful hook, so Blacktop Wasteland is what I'm reading this weekend. That is, if I can wait 'til the weekend to finish it. I'm about 100 pages in, and completely besotted with this novel. Beauregard “Bug” Montage has $1,000 in his pocket, he’s $800 short on the rent on his auto body shop, his son needs braces, and he's hoping a road race will double his $1,000 and get him financially back on his feet. But in Red Hill County, the odds are stacked against a black man trying to win at the game of life. As his foothold on security slips, the siren song of Bug's old life—as the best getaway driver on the east coast—promises a way out of poverty if only he can buck the odds and stay alive long enough to go back to being the hard-working family man his own father never was.—Vannessa Cronin


SOUL: A Chef's Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes by Todd Richards

In times of stress or worry I tend to head for the kitchen. Cooking gives me comfort, and as we look for ways to express our feelings around the importance of Black Lives Matter, I’ve been thinking about all the Black chefs whose cookbooks are on my shelves, and whose food I love. Todd Richards’ cookbook, Soul, was a best of the year in 2018, and my copy is spine-cracked and splattered—and that’s the one I’m gravitating to right now. In his introduction, Richards talks about how food brings people together, and how honoring one another’s culinary heritage “…enriches our lives, our communities, and, hopefully, opens minds so that we can begin to appreciate what we all bring to the table.” That’s exactly what we need right now. Along with a tall glass of Richards’ Blueberry Sweet Tea to make today a little brighter.—Seira Wilson


Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

Will Schwalbe believes that reading can make us better, more compassionate, well-rounded human beings. (Me too!) In Books for Living he asks why we choose to read what we read—and expounds on the almost uncanny way the books we’re drawn to can help us answer our deepest questions. I revisit Books for Living every so often, and it came top of mind again this week as I’m reminded of the meaning of books in my life, and their power to entertain, educate, inspire, and comfort. —Erin Kodicek


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