Favorite Books

Books on display for sale on a bookstore stand
Photo by Elliott Paige

Here are some of my favorite books that I recommend you read too.

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

I have promised myself to re-read this book or any of her books at least once yearly. The theme of "Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of individualism, capitalism in its purest form, and the pursuit of rational self-interest. The novel presents a dystopian world where productive and innovative individuals are burdened by excessive government regulations, collectivism, and the belief in the sacrifice of the individual for the "common good." In my case, my interpretation is a world where individuals, incompetent in their skills and burdened by strange beliefs like racism and political favoritism, depend on workhorses embodied in those that are efficient by taken advantage of. In response, these exceptional individuals withdraw from society, leading to its collapse. Through the story, Rand argues for the importance of individual rights, personal ambition, and the freedom to create and innovate without hindrance. The novel promotes the idea that individuals should be free to pursue their own happiness and that the success of society depends on respecting and protecting the achievements of exceptional individuals. It's controversial for sure, but you can hear some of the people you work with, or even family members in the voices of various characters in the book.

Atlas Shrugged

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Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

The star is a young woman who wins a green card lottery which takes her to the USA. We follow her through the twists and turns as she maneuvers American culture and deals with race in all its forms. It's not just about race, but she touches on everyone, even us Caribbean people. I, personally, felt naked when she talked about how Caribbean people hide their blackness by declaring their Caribbean-ness more than their American-ness because of how people that look black are treated in America. The author is correct! The protagonist writes a blog, much more controversial than mine, and talks about her experiences. It's an intense book on feminism, love, including intraracial love, and everything else. I adore all her books, but this one is my favorite. I am amazed how Chimamanda can observe us so keenly, and I hope to meet her and become her friend someday. Seriously! CNA, did you see this?

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

I first read this book as a requirement in my literature class in high school in Antigua. "Tis the blue and the grey..." The Pilgrim High School — I have to write a post about that, too, since I have an axe to grind. But I stray from the theme. I really enjoyed this book as a teenager. It helped mold my viewpoint in ways I could not imagine until I read it again as an adult recently. Of course, I did all of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Julius Caesar, among others, but the two books that left an impression on me were this and A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul. But I love Things Fall Apart because, well, I, too, come from a former colony. Anyone from a colony which took time to appreciate their culture and way of life can vouch for the deterministic devastation caused by colonialism and Christianity as a duo in conquering other lands and peoples. I also want to read Mr. Biswas to see how I feel about them as an adult.

A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James

I finally finished this book. It's almost 700 pages. But it's a challenging book to put down. It's violent. That's an understatement. Avoid this if you are squeamish, hate foul language, and are a bit of a prude. It's a rugged look at Jamaica, Miami, and New York gang culture that includes the typical role of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) all axled around "the singer." It fictionalizes the circumstances leading to the attempted assassination of Bob on December 3, 1976. While it's a very adult and fierce cultural microscope into the minds of people around this event, it burns your mental ears by not pulling punches at anyone — every character seems justifiably flawed — it weaves such an intricate web of details, it feels like a documentary. My opinion did not change by the end of the book. It's a good read for mentally strong people who can appreciate the historical and political landscape that formulates gang and drug culture in Jamaica, the US, and other countries.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

I have read all his books because, as one of my classmates points out, I am a proud nerd. Recently, I got a gift of all his books that fit together like a puzzle. They are worth reading repeatedly because you find new insights every time. Talking to strangers discusses what happens when you put strangers together, often one with power over another, and the likely abuse. Some of the answers seem obvious, like police officers, as a policy, should only police areas where they live or spend lots of time as civilians. A stranger police officer can become stranger-danger if unfamiliar with the neighborhood culture, people, and customs. Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath. You hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. The audiobook is worth it because you hear many voices as it's told in the Gladwellian style of his podcast, Revisionist History.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

I have not recently read this, but I remember it in some detail. I love books that do that to me, leaving lingering thoughts of unresolved issues. Without many spoilers, it addresses the issues of power and what happens when given to people who previously had very little of it. You guessed it. All hell breaks loose! It's a good read, especially for girls and women or men who believe treating women humanely and adequately is a good way for them to be. They have recently made a series out of it showing on Prime, so I look forward to watching that too.

Economic Racism - Memoir of a Heroic Nonconformist, by Martin Kush

This is a fascinating take on race issues in America told from the perspective of a new immigrant. Kush deep dives into the reasons for the invention of race. He looks at institutions and laws as an entire society that supports bigotry, not because racists are inherently evil people but because of economics. Booklife Prize said, "Timely and important, Kush's Economic Racism provides an in-depth examination of the numerous ways in which American society has internalized white supremacy, with a specific focus on the ways in which our economic system favors white Americans, including thoughtful suggestions on how we can begin to correct these wrongs." The need to capture and hoard resources is the core of all the conquering and race issues discussed in other books in this list. It's a novel take on the subject. Martin makes an economic argument for ending racism. It's a complex read, and he believes that at some point, policymakers will read his book and see the needed action. He forgets that policymakers like what they have now because it keeps them in power. But I get that he has hope for people to believe in the planet's longevity rather than their beliefs.

The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanaguhara

When I started to read this book, I was really agitated by the voice I heard. Then I realized that was the point. I was supposed to feel agitated by the main character. So, this is about colonialism as well. I read other stuff, so I must also list them before people think I am a one-trick-poney. Like in Things Fall Apart, this book is about what happens to a culture and its people as colonial infiltration occurs.

American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins

Have you ever thought about what it's like to cross the Mexican-American border as you run from a gang bent on killing you and your family? Suppose you could do it as a tour or a strong-man contest? Would you? Neither me. But the details in this book by Jeanine Cummins illustrate what that life could look like. I have a newfound respect for anyone who makes that trip and survives.

Homo Deus - A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari

I have read everything that Harari has produced. I even went to a Vipassana course like he did to learn to get clarity of mind and inner control of my sub-conscience to alleviate aversions and cravings. I am always interested in human behavior. In economics, we learn humans are rational and operate in their long-term self-interest. Thus we create incentives to make them behave a particular way. However, humans are often irrational. We have a vast expanse of land in our front and backyard covered with grass instead of food. We feel closer to whatever royal family we aspire to become when our homes resemble their castles. Harari can put the world and our human behavior into such a small observable ball that it fascinates us why we behave this way. That was Homo Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind, his earlier book. This book, Homo Deus, is about the future. Ironically, we are seeing some of this future today. Debates rage about how to repopulate countries with aging populations. What happens when what you do is replaced by an AI that can make faster, more informed, and less judgmental decisions than its human counterpart? What happens now that AI can write code to improve itself? His is a must-read to help you figure out your future role in this rapidly changing world.

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

I read this earlier this year after watching the series on Hulu. I wanted to see how close to the script it was. It's an excellent and unorthodox story. We only now slowly see these realistic dramas coming to the screen. Watch one of my favorite scenes below.

Little Fires Everywhere - Elena and Mia, S1, Ep4

The 1619 Project, created by Nikole Hannah-Jones

I finally finished this book, and it was totally enlightening. It reframes the narrative of American history by placing the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in 1619 at the center of the American story. It highlights the lasting impact of enslavement and its role in shaping various aspects of American society. The project comprises various contributors' essays, articles, and artistic works. I can't say which is my favorite, but the chapter on why Atlanta has such terrible traffic makes perfect sense.

Key themes explored include the contributions of black Americans to democracy, the economy, and culture, as well as the ongoing legacy of systemic racism. It challenges traditional historical narratives by emphasizing the centrality of enslavement and racism in shaping America's development and institutions. The project also examines how the fight for racial equality and civil rights continues today.

The 1619 Project has sparked debates and conversations about the interpretation of history and the role of enslavement in shaping the United States. This is good to have people thinking about how history guides their behavior today. It has garnered praise and criticism, with some praising its efforts to confront uncomfortable truths while others who suffer from guilt have raised concerns about specific historical interpretations. Ultimately, the project seeks to deepen understanding of America's complex history and prompt critical reflections on the ongoing struggle for racial justice. Everybody should read this, and I hope many more books and other media like this become available.

The 1619 Project

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Photo by Kadarius Seegars / Unsplash