Some folks have been making a commitment to spending a year reading books written by anyone but white men. I love this idea, though it’s not a commitment I can make right now because I’m a student and most of my reading is done for classes. However, I did want to take the opportunity to recommend some of my favorite books for those who are looking for some recommendations!
However, unlike many other people doing this, I read mostly non-fiction. It’s not that I don’t like fiction but I’m incredibly picky about what I do like. I tend to read young adult fiction when I do read fiction at all, and that field is FULL of work from women. In fact, sometimes there is little difference between YA science fiction and fantasy and adult science fiction and fantasy except that female authors get relegated to YA. It’s a thing.
So if you want fiction recommendations I’ll send you back to the favorites of my childhood (A Wrinkle in Time, Bridge to Terabithia) or some good modern YA (Harry Potter, Hunger Games) and leave it at that. I promise that this is not because there are not tons of wonderful fiction written by people of color and people who are not men, but because I’m just not really that into fiction outside of my very narrow preferences.
Instead this list will focus on non-fiction, which is most of what I read and listen to. A lot of these might also interest readers of this blog because my reading preferences tend to focus on social justice and science, topics close to the heart of Queereka readers. These are my top several in no particular order, but I definitely can add more if people ask!
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander is an outstanding primer on the impacts of incarceration and the war on drugs in American black communities. It’s an absolute must-read.
Midway by Mitsuo Fuchida and Masatake Okumiya. This one may only be of interest to people (like me) who really like war history stuff, but it is an account of the naval battle of Midway during World War II from the perspective of two Japanese naval aviators. Perspectives on WWII far too often ignore the experiences of anyone outside of Europe, and this book is a good corrective.
Stiff by Mary Roach. Honestly, everything by Roach is worth reading. She’s just plain fun for any science enthusiast. I particularly like Stiff though, because it deals with something I had almost never thought about before – dead bodies. Look up all of her stuff, she’s great.
Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. If you like games, this book is for you. If you don’t, read this book to change your mind. I particularly want to give this book to all of the people who keep saying that playing games is BAD for people, because McGonigal really shows how games can be used to make the world a genuinely better place.
Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog. This memoir is really extraordinary. Crow Dog’s voice is intense and incredibly direct. She tells the story of her life, her activism in the American Indian Movement, and her participation in the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation. This book ends in 1977 and is followed by Ohitika Woman which I intend to read as soon as I get a chance.
Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman. This is a history of the Church of Scientology from it’s founding through about 2011. It’s well researched and Reitman’s writing style is engaging. If you find Scientology interesting but don’t know a lot about it, this book will give you a strong foundation and fulfill a lot of your curiosity.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. This is two stories, beautifully interwoven. One is of the clash of cultures between a Hmong family and the American medical system in the 1980’s. The other is the journeys of many Hmong families to reach the United States after the destruction and loss of their homeland. Both stories are important and Fadiman’s writing is powerful.