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Best Books to Read for Gaining Perspective

Reads for Gaining Perspective
August 13, 2019

New book, new you. Here are your reads to go back in time and stay up to date on the current issues.

"My Dark Vanessa" by Kate Elizabeth Russell

"My Dark Vanessa" by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Buzzy book meets publishing world controversy meets a story made for the #MeToo era. It follows at 15-year-old student (Vanessa) who enters into an affair with her 42-year-old English teacher. 17 years later, as the #MeToo movement is unraveling, Vanessa untangles the complicated feelings about her past relationship. It’s explosive and timely and is one of those books that’ll definitely come up at the dinner table.

"The Girl with the Louding Voice" by Abi Daré

"The Girl with the Louding Voice" by Abi Daré

This propulsive debut novel follows a 14-year-old Nigerian girl who is sold into marriage and runs away to becomes a domestic servant. She will do anything to get out of her situation and get educated. But to make it happen, she has to use her “louding” voice.

"Such a Fun Age" by Kiley Reid

"Such a Fun Age" by Kiley Reid

This debut novel follows a young black woman who’s accused of kidnapping the white child she’s babysitting. This sets off a complicated chain of events that delves into themes like race, privilege, and feminism. It will leave you on the edge of your seat...both while reading and later while watching. It's so good that Lena Waithe already picked up the film and TV rights.

"Red at the Bone" by Jacqueline Woodson

"Red at the Bone" by Jacqueline Woodson

This one's a Brooklyn-based saga about two families brought together by an unexpected pregnancy. Spanning multiple generations, it goes deep into race, class, sexuality, ambition, disappointment, and parenthood with prose that'll leave you breathless.

The Nickel Boys

"The Nickel Boys" by Colson Whitehead

It’s a serious look at the harrowing, tragic, events from a juvenile reform academy in Jim Crow-era Florida. The novel follows two boys as they navigate the horrors of the school built off of abuse and corruption. It’s based on a real story and is as devastating as it sounds. 


"Inland" by Téa Obreht

Put on your boots and bring this book. The author of "The Tiger's Wife" takes you back to Arizona in the 1890s. There’s Nora: the frontierswoman and mother. And then there’s Lurie: the outlaw, who sees ghosts, and is always on the move. Anddd then there's the point where their paths cross. Read it to find out.

Ask Again, Yes

"Ask Again, Yes" by Mary Beth Keane

Paging “Little Fires Everywhere” fans. This one’s set in a 1970s town north of Manhattan, and there’s plenty of drama on the block. You’ll follow NYPD rookies as they become neighbors, and see their lives unravel—marriage, children, tragedy, and all.

Daisy Jones & The Six

"Daisy Jones & the Six" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

"Almost Famous" and "A Star is Born" had a baby and her name is Daisy Jones. This oral history about a fictional rock band reads like it actually happened. And you’re going to see it happen on screen—Reese Witherspoon is turning it into a series for Amazon.

That Kind of Mother

"That Kind of Mother" by Rumaan Alam

This will give you all the feels. A white mom gets some motherhood help from a black woman. She changes her life. In more ways than one.

Anatomy of a Miracle

"Anatomy of a Miracle" by Jonathan Miles

This is a novel that reads like a true story. It's about a US veteran whose paralysis from the War in Afghanistan is miraculously cured. Cue a media frenzy and you finishing this story in days.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

"Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist" by Sunil Yapa

A biracial teens gets involved in a mass protest in Seattle. Turns out, his estranged dad is the police chief on the other side of the barricades. This one's all about family, justice, and when the relationship between the two gets complicated.

Elbow Room

"Elbow Room" by James Alan McPherson

This collection of short stories explores race relations. In one, parents disapprove of an interracial marriage. In another, a white lawyer and black client struggle to understand each other. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1978, making McPherson the first black author to ever win the award.

Lost Children Archive

"Lost Children Archive" by Valeria Luiselli

A family of four takes a summer road trip from New York to Arizona. Except it's no joy ride. Their trip happens as thousands of children are trying to cross the border into the US. And the road to a solution is far from straightforward.

Trust Exercise

"Trust Exercise" by Susan Choi

Think of the most dramatic theatre student from your high school. Then put dozens of them together...and you get some real drama. This one's set at a performing arts high school in the 1980s. And there's a plot twist that flips the script in more ways than one.

City of Girls

"City of Girls" by Elizabeth Gilbert

Your favorite “Eat, Pray, Love,” author is back. This time it’s fiction and set in the NYC theater world in the 1940s. You’ll follow 19-year-old Vivian Morris after she gets kicked out of college and becomes a NYC showgirl. Pairs well with a cocktail...or two.

Mrs. Everything

"Mrs. Everything" by Jennifer Weiner

The author of “In Her Shoes” takes a time machine to the 1950s in this story about two sisters growing up in Detroit. You’ll laugh and cry (into your beach towel). Par for the Jennifer Weiner course.

The Great Believers

"The Great Believers" by Rebecca Makkai

This novel moves between Chicago in 1985 and Paris in 2015. No ticket or time machine necessary. You'll learn about the AIDS crisis, art world, cults, and more. It was nominated for the National Book Award and Skimm HQ understands why — one HQ'r finished it in a weekend.

Love and Ruin

"Love and Ruin" by Paula Mclain

About a 28-year-old journalist in Spain who unexpectedly falls in love with Hemingway. As in, Ernest. And she has to decide between her job and her relationship. The struggle is real.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree

"Fruit of the Drunken Tree" by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Pablo Escobar. Female friendship. A secret. Check, check, check. This book – set in Colombia in the late '80s and '90s – follows two girls who form an unlikely friendship during the rising violence brought on by drug lord Pablo Escobar. Think: "Narcos" meets "Little Women."

Lost Roses

"Lost Roses" by Martha Hall Kelly

From the author of "Lilac Girls," this novel follows three women from Russia to Paris and New York during WWI. As the war threatens the safety of two of the women, one is forced to try and save them from all the way across the Atlantic. Frequent flier miles sold separately.

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win

"Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win" by Jo Piazza

Tis the season for politics. In this novel, a woman leaves her Silicon Valley job to run for Senate in a highly contested state. The race is suspenseful and so is the book. You'll get into it if you're missing the midterms and you'll still get hooked if you're fatigued.

Heads of the Colored People

"Heads of the Colored People" by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

This collection of stories touches on different aspects of black identity and culture. Some will make you laugh (see: moms exchanging notes through their kids' backpacks) some will make you cry (see: gun violence in America). All will keep you glued to your seat over Thanksgiving.


"Queenie" by Candice Cart-Williams

This one is all about a British Jamaican woman working at a newspaper in London. Post-breakup, she struggles to answer casual questions like "what am I doing with my life?" Relatable.


"Patsy" by Nicole Dennis-Benn

A character named, yep, Patsy, comes to NYC from Jamaica and leaves her daughter behind. This novel beautifully depicts the struggle of an undocumented immigrant in the US and a mother-daughter relationship that gets more complicated with distance.

Lot: Stories

"Lot: Stories" by Bryan Washington

This novel is about Houston's diverse neighborhoods and the different people who live there. Affairs, hustlers, and hurricane survivors included. You might be sick of us saying spring is all about reflection but...time to reflect.

When All is Said

“When All Is Said” by Anne Griffin

Maurice Hannigan is an 84-year-old man sitting in a hotel bar. This takes place entirely over the course of one night as he toasts the five people who’ve made the most impact on his life. Think: "The Five People You Meet In Heaven” meets a trip down memory lane. Through his toasts, you’ll learn all about his secrets, his loves, his joys, and regrets. This one’s a soul-bearing novel that will make you think twice about the people in your life and the choices you make daily.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

“On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" by Ocean Voung

This is a fictional love letter from a 20-something son to his illiterate mother, touching on everything from their family history in Vietnam to the challenges faced by working-class immigrant families. Critics loved it and the title doesn't lie (hint: it's gorgeous).

Waiting for Eden

“Waiting for Eden” by Elliot Ackerman

This novel is about an Iraq War veteran. And it presents a nuanced look at how the sacrifices made by military members affect their families.


"Spring" by Ali Smith

This is the third novel in her seasonal quartet. Translation: they're separate but interconnected stories, tied to times of year. 'Tis the season to spring for it.


PS: These are editorially selected, but if you purchase, theSkimm may get something in return. Thanks.

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