Five best books to read

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In an homage to Barnes and Noble, I have showcased my favorite books by turning them sideways on my bookshelf. The decision to showcase Between the World and Me was an easy one, as it has been the best book that I’ve read this year. Photo: Kyle Cooke

 

by Kyle Cooke–

5. The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls is Cline’s debut novel and it explores, via flashbacks, the teenage life of Evie, a woman who was once a member of a Manson-like cult in California during the 1960s. Cline is only 25 years old, but has a very interesting story. I’m anticipating her future work.

4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Diaz had critical success with his earlier work, but none like his success with Oscar Wao, which landed him the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2008. This story follows Oscar, a first generation Dominican-American in his quest to lose weight, become a great writer and – most importantly – meet girls.

3. A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Also a Pulitzer Prize winner (this one in 2011), Egan’s Goon Squad is 13 chapters long, and each chapter can be read as an individual story. Many of them were short stories in The New Yorker before becoming a book. It is the most unique books I’ve ever read. For example, one chapter is written entirely with slide shows, yet it is the most emotional chapter in the book. 

2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Plath was already an established poet by the time The Bell Jar was published, so people could recognize that the novel was a loose autobiography of the author. Unfortunately, Plath committed suicide in 1963 and The Bell Jar remains her only album. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, because this one is perfect.

1. Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates is about as successful as they come in the journalism world. At age 40, Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, he won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2015 for Between The World and Me and he is a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant. Between the World and Me is structured as a letter to Coates’ son, who is 15 years old. It details Coates’ youth, but mostly focuses on what his son can expect as a black man in America. It is often sad and at sometimes infuriating, but Coates’ poetic prose makes it all worth it. I have to agree with Toni Morrison when she calls it “required reading.

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