A Few of My Favorite Books

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

An instant favorite. Chaim Potok is an incredibly gifted writer and captured emotions throughout the book that I don’t think I have ever experienced in writing before. A beautiful story full of pain, heartbreak, love and friendship. To write about friendship and the relationship between men and their sons in such a way that it is applicable to anyone’s life is a feat not many authors could master as well as Potok has done here. This book is a treasure; rich with insights about true friendship painted on a historical background left me emotionally affected. I can’t wait to begin reading some of Potok’s other works.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is an author whose stories evoke an emotional response; his words sunk into my heart and, at times, tore it to shreds. Framed as a letter to his son, it read like an intimate portrayal of his struggles, wisdom, pain, fears, and at a few points, his hope. Not so thinly veiled throughout the book is his plea for black America. More than that, a plea for the protection of his sons body. And in his son, the reflection of every darkly complected male living in the America so many of us have come to fear.

I read this book with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart because I also remember Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and the countless others who have lost their lives because of a dangerous system. I too, have spent hours reading articles with tears sliding to my keyboard because people, children, are being murdered by our system. A system many call color-blind, fair, just. A system that consistently reminds me that my own brother’s life is expendable. Read this book. Take a break from it and then read it again. Consider your circumstances and consider the pain and the experience written on these pages. I know that I, for one, will be ruminating over these passages and pieces of wisdom for a very long time.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

The writing is okay, but not particularly magnificent. It’s the words and message that are so incredibly important. This is yet another book that will be on my mind for a very long time. Shortly after finishing it I realized that the strong emotions I had from just spending several hours immersed in the stories of these inmates is only a fraction of what Bryan Stevenson must be experiencing on a daily basis. The affect of such close proximity to so much brokenness is evident in the pages of this book. I cried and mourned as Bryan told some of these stories. I found myself hesitant to get too excited about a potentially positive outcome for a case because this book quickly strips back the layers of humanity and a terribly unfair system, leaving you wondering if good really can, or will, prevail over evil in the end.

This book is one I would recommend for anyone trying to understand the plight of African Americans trying to live as equals in our 21st century America. An America that has oppressed people of color and underprivileged communities for so long that the traumatic treatment of entire communities has resulted in a psychological ripple affect that will continue to have real and unavoidable consequences for these communities. The work of EJI and Bryan Stevenson is admirable, impressive, and incredibly heartening. While not terribly uplifting, this book is a reminder that racial reconciliation, while difficult and complex, is possible. We all have to do better, and this book convinced me of that.

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

I didn’t expect a book focusing on marital love and relationship and then subsequently, loss, to have such a profound impact on me. This book examines humanity and spirituality in a way that is so clear, yet also fraught with hard questions. Sheldon Vanauken faces the inevitable difficulty that comes with the mystery of faith and having to believe without concrete assurances. I will recommend this book to everyone I ever discuss book suggestions with. I foresee reading it again and again throughout my life and finding different insights in it every time.

 Little Bee by Chris Cleave

This book is a masterpiece of storytelling. The human and emotional depth is especially impressive given the vast cultural difference the author also had to include and make understood. There is nothing funny about this book. What makes it so good is the depth of honesty and pain that the author doesn’t shy away from. One of the best books I’ve read this year.
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