In no particular order . . .
1 / All the Kremlin’s Men by Mikhail Zygar
If you’ve been reading the news lately, then you know it’s time to do your homework. This book explores in depth Putin’s identity, rise to power, and those who work alongside him. Increasingly relevant.
2 / The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan
When people ask me who my favorite artist is, Shaun Tan always comes to mind. His clay models illustrating classic fairytales feel uncomfortable—simple yet off-kilter somehow. You don’t want to inhabit his world, but there’s something that draws you to it. A new favorite on my shelf.
3 / Hag Seed by Margaret Atwood
Mostly because I’m about a third of the way through it and I want someone to talk about it with.
4 / Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Have you read Jane Eyre. Good, but it’s time to read it again, isn’t it? Especially for the moment when Rochester calls Jane his “mustard seed.”
5 / I Capture the Castle by Dowdie Smith
If I could pick a book to read for the first time again, this is it. An eccentric father, uneasy sister relationships, and writing that makes you want to think like the central heroine, these characters will stay with you long after you finish reading the last page.
5 / Nigella Lawson Express
This is the woman who has taught me how to cook. I don’t mean just make food; I mean cook. She’s one who will embrace the chocolate cravings, delight over the midnight snack, and get tremendously excited over good cheese and mulled wine. Her writing is just as decadent as her recipes and is the perfect remedy for any midwinter depression.
6 / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket
In preparation for the Netflix adaption. The rest feel a little bit repetitive to me but are deliciously terrible just the same.
7 / Silence by Endo
One of those books you really must read before you see the movie. The writing here is slow and doesn’t gloss over the intense and terrible torture Christians endured in sixteenth century Japan. During a time where it seems as if all of us have dug down and built up walls around our ideals, this novel shows us how shortsighted such actions are in a global society.
8 / Poetry by Rumi
Rumi’s poetry has always had a quiet yet powerfully spiritual presence. His spare writing gives space for his ideas and images to grow and inspire. For all those who need some quiet this year.
9 / A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
You see the world one way, Bryson will make sure that you never see it the same way again. By asking the question “how do we know what we know?” Bryson takes us from the ends of the universe to just beneath our feet in an exploration of the cosmos and the scientists who study it. (Warning: filled with meteors, dinosaurs, and sudden earthquakes.)
10 / Pax by Sarah Pennypacker
You’ve probably seen this on every kid’s lit booklist of the past year, and it deserves a place on this list as well. Two strong voices intertwine in this very mature middle grade novel, both facing changing selves in a changing world. Gorgeous illustrations by Jon Klaasen are gently spread throughout.
11 / Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
A huge movement in the kid’s book world has been graphic novels, and they shouldn’t be dismissed. This is one of my favorites, not only for the vibrant characters throughout, but for its mature handling of the topic of death. Growing up, I wish someone had given this book to me, and it makes me happy that I can recommend it now.
12 / The Koran
Almost two billion people follow the teachings of the Koran. It has been a shaping factor in world history and in the current affairs of today. I’m a global citizen, and I want to read like one.