The best books I read this year (or your new Christmas wish list)

by Gigi Griffis

Looking for your next great read or a handful of Christmas gifts? Look no further. Here are the best books I’ve read this year. I recommend every one of them wholeheartedly.

(Please note that links below are affiliate links, which means if you click through and purchase something, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

(Books marked with an * were written by a writer from a marginalized group. By supporting these authors, you’re telling publishers we want more books from underrepresented authors. Yet another win-win situation.)

Iron Widow*

Why I loved it: This villainous feminist romp was one of the most fun reads of my year. I LOVED Wu Zetian (the main character) and how true to character she stayed throughout the book. This feels like a villain origin story for the ages and the most unapologetically feminist YA I’ve read possibly ever.

Description: The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected – she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way – and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

The Weight of Our Sky*

Why I loved it: WOW. First off, this is the most accurate representation of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) I’ve ever seen on the page. Second, this is a piece of history I knew nothing about and I was on the edge of my seat – by turns sick, sad, angry, and terrified for the main character. This book is incredibly well-written and compelling. 

Keep in mind that the book deals with racist violence, loss/grief, and other heavy topics. Go into it with the right headspace.

Description: Melati Ahmad looks like your typical movie-going, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

A trip to the movies after school turns into a nightmare when the city erupts into violent race riots between the Chinese and the Malay. When gangsters come into the theater and hold movie-goers hostage, Mel, a Malay, is saved by a Chinese woman, but has to leave her best friend behind to die.

On their journey through town, Mel sees for herself the devastation caused by the riots. In her village, a neighbor tells her that her mother, a nurse, was called in to help with the many bodies piling up at the hospital. Mel must survive on her own, with the help of a few kind strangers, until she finds her mother. But the djinn in her mind threatens her ability to cope.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find*

Why I loved it: Do humans deserve to survive a planet-destroying climate crisis we created? This is the question at the heart of this gorgeously-written, well-plotted YA novel. Set in the future, it follows two sisters as one tries to find her way back to the other and the other tries to find out what has happened to the first – all against the backdrop of a world rendered nearly uninhabitable.

Description: Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: She has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.

STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The Metropolis – Earth’s last unpolluted place – is meant to be sanctuary for those committed to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most.

The Girls I’ve Been*

Why I loved it: When three teens are held hostage by bank robbers, they’ll need to outsmart their captors if they want to survive. On its face, that’s what this book is about, but as the layers of the teens’ histories are revealed, the story digs deeper. It’s really a book about abuse. Survival. Coming to terms with yourself.

I loved the storytelling. I resonated strongly with the deeper storyline. And I adored the characters, every single one of them worth fighting for. 

Description: Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when her mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape. 

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter the bank, two guys start robbing it. 

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage….

Bad Witch Burning*

Why I loved it: If you haven’t heard me screaming about this book, you’ve been living under a rock. This is, hands down, one of the best books I’ve read in my entire life. The plot is intense and fast-paced. The characters are incredible. And it’s the best damn depression representation I’ve seen ever. If you don’t have a copy, stop reading this list and just go get one. You’ll thank me later.

Description: Katrell can talk to the dead. And she wishes it made more money. She’s been able to support her unemployed mother – and Mom’s deadbeat-boyfriend-of-the-week – so far, but it isn’t enough. Money’s still tight, and to complicate things, Katrell has started to draw attention. Not from this world – from beyond. And it comes with a warning: Stop, or there will be consequences. 

Katrell is willing to call the ghosts on their bluff; she has no choice. What do ghosts know of having sleep for dinner? But when her next summoning accidentally raises someone from the dead, Katrell realizes that a live body is worth a lot more than a dead apparition. And, warning or not, she has no intention of letting this lucrative new business go.

Only magic isn’t free, and dark forces are coming to collect. Now Katrell faces a choice: resign herself to poverty, or confront the darkness before it’s too late.

When No One Is Watching*

 Why I loved it: My favorite mystery/thrillers are the character-driven ones, and this book was absolutely that. It wasn’t about a crime as much as it was about the people and how the sinister thing that is happening behind the scenes impacts them. The audiobook is fantastic if you’re looking for a good listen.

Description: Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block – her neighbor, Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other – or themselves – long enough to find out before they too disappear?

The Last Flight

Why I loved it: WHEW this book was a tense page-turner. I couldn’t put it down and it was the one book I read in text format that I sped through at warp speed this quarter.

Description: Two women. Two flights. One last chance to disappear.  

Claire Cook has a perfect life. Married to the scion of a political dynasty, with a Manhattan townhouse and a staff of 10, her surroundings are elegant, her days flawlessly choreographed, and her future auspicious. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he’s not above using his staff to track Claire’s every move, making sure she’s living up to his impossible standards. But what he doesn’t know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish.  

A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets – Claire taking Eva’s flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. They believe the swap will give each of them the head start they need to begin again somewhere far away. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it’s no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva’s identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden.  


Why I loved it: This is one of my go-to re-reads. This was probably the fourth time I’ve read it and it never disappoints. If you like morally gray characters, superhero stories, and quirkiness at every turn, this one’s for you. The basic idea is this: Most superhero stories assume that when people get powers, they’d use them for good. But what if the most toxic dudes in your university got those powers. What then?

Description: Victor and Eli started out as college roommates―brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find―aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge―but who will be left alive at the end?

The Other Black Girl*

Why I loved it: This had a slow-burn creepy tension that kept me listening (and I loved the audiobook narrator). The story is about a young Black woman in publishing. She’s the only Black girl in the editorial department, so she’s thrilled when another Black girl gets a job there. Except…something’s not quite right and she can’t tell if the new girl is friend or enemy. 

If you liked When No One Is Watching, this one has some similar themes (though this one is slower-burn).

Description: Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

The List of Unspeakable Fears*

Why I loved it: I love J. Kasper Kramer. Her middle grade historical fiction (for readers in 3rd – 7th grades) is always a great balance of adventure and history. Her first book was set in Romania under dictatorship. This one takes us to NYC’s North Brother Island in 1910 – the era of Typhoid Mary. It’s part ghost story, part mystery, and part exploration of grief. If you’re looking for smart fiction for kids, this is it. (And bonus: enjoyable for adults as well.)

Description: Essie O’Neill is afraid of everything. She’s afraid of cats and electric lights. She’s afraid of the silver sick bell, a family heirloom that brings up frightening memories. Most of all, she’s afraid of the red door in her nightmares. 

But soon Essie discovers so much more to fear. Her mother has remarried, and they must move from their dilapidated tenement in the Bronx to North Brother Island, a dreary place in the East River. That’s where Essie’s new stepfather runs a quarantine hospital for the incurable sick, including the infamous Typhoid Mary. Essie knows the island is plagued with tragedy. Years ago, she watched in horror as the ship General Slocum caught fire and sank near its shores, plummeting 1,000 women and children to their deaths. 

Now, something on the island is haunting Essie. And the red door from her dreams has become a reality, just down the hall from her bedroom in her terrifying new house. Convinced her stepfather is up to no good, Essie investigates. Yet to uncover the truth, she will have to face her own painful history – and what lies behind the red door.

The Downstairs Girl*

Why I loved it: The voice in this book, my lord! I loved learning about a slice of history I knew nothing about and I loved the character, with her just-contained anger, her pushback against the injustices around her, and her humorous take on a dear abbey-style column.

Description: By day, 17-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie”. When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender.

While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.


Why I loved it: As someone who grew up in a rather cult-like religious tradition and who vividly remembers the end-times prepping panic of Y2K, this book struck a chord. It pushes past the boundaries of the prepping I was introduced to as a child, but the main character’s frustrations and desperation at being trapped in something she doesn’t believe made my heart ache for her. 

Description: Always be ready for the worst day of your life.

This is the mantra that Becca Aldaine has grown up with. Her family is part of a community of doomsday preppers, a neighborhood that prioritizes survivalist training over class trips or senior prom. They’re even arranging Becca’s marriage with Roy Kang, the only eligible boy in their community. Roy is a nice guy, but he’s so enthusiastic about prepping that Becca doesn’t have the heart to tell him she’s planning to leave as soon as she can earn a full ride to a college far, far away.

Then a devastating accident rocks Becca’s family and pushes the entire community, including Becca’s usually cynical little sister, deeper into the doomsday ideology. With her getaway plans thrown into jeopardy, the only person Becca can turn to is Roy, who reveals that he’s not nearly as clueless as he’s been pretending to be.

When Roy proposes they run away together, Becca will have to risk everything—including her heart—for a chance to hope for the best instead of planning for the worst.

A Study in Scarlet Women*

Why I loved it: A surprising and charming take on the question: What if Sherlock Holmes was a woman? I loved the voice, the pacing, and every hilariously logical choice the main character made. I also think the character is meant to be neurodivergent and that was refreshing to me.

Description: With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper-class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old, but in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent*

Why I loved it: This deep dive into caste across several countries was a thought-provoking read. I couldn’t stop talking about it while I was reading and I’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come. If a deep dive on what India, the US, and Nazi Germany’s caste systems have in common intrigues you, read on.

Description: In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people – including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others – she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

Minor Feelings: An Asian-American Reckoning*

Why I loved it: This smart, thoughtful non-fiction book reads like memoir and think piece wrapped up together. It inspired a thoughtful conversation or two with friends and was well worth the read.

Description: Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative – and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world.

Binding these essays together is Hong’s theory of “minor feelings”. As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these “minor feelings” occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality – when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity. Minor feelings are not small, they’re dissonant – and in their tension Hong finds the key to the questions that haunt her. 

Confident Women: Swindlers, Grifters, and Shapeshifters of the Feminine Persuasion

Why I loved it: Y’all know I’m a history nerd, especially when that history focuses in on women. So you probably already know that I was destined to enjoy this book of lady con artists. If you’re looking for some fun, educational non-fiction, this is the pick. 

Description: From Elizabeth Holmes and Anna Delvey to Frank Abagnale and Charles Ponzi, audacious scams and charismatic scammers continue to intrigue us as a culture. As Tori Telfer reveals in Confident Women, the art of the con has a long and venerable tradition, and its female practitioners are some of the best – or worst.

In the 1700s in Paris, Jeanne de Saint-Rémy scammed the royal jewelers out of a necklace made from 647 diamonds by pretending she was best friends with Queen Marie Antoinette.

In the mid-1800s, sisters Kate and Maggie Fox began pretending they could speak to spirits and accidentally started a religious movement that was soon crawling with female con artists. A gal calling herself Loreta Janeta Velasquez claimed to be a soldier and convinced people she worked for the Confederacy – or the Union, depending on who she was talking to. Meanwhile, Cassie Chadwick was forging paperwork and getting banks to loan her upward of $40,000 by telling people she was Andrew Carnegie’s illegitimate daughter.

In the 1900s, a 40-something woman named Margaret Lydia Burton embezzled money all over the country and stole upward of 40 prized show dogs, while a few decades later, a teenager named Roxie Ann Rice scammed the entire NFL. And since the death of the Romanovs, women claiming to be Anastasia have been selling their stories to magazines. What about today? Spoiler alert: These “artists” are still conning.

Laziness Does Not Exist*

Why I loved it: The title really says it all here. If you think you’re lazy, think again. If you think others are, think again again. This book is an exploration of the idea of laziness, what’s really behind it, and why we all need to extend ourselves (and others) a lot more grace.

Description: Extra-curricular activities. Honors classes. Sixty-hour work weeks. Side hustles. 

Like many Americans, Dr. Devon Price believed that productivity was the best way to measure his self-worth. Price was an overachiever from the start, graduating from both college and graduate school early, but that success came at a cost. After Price was diagnosed with a severe case of anemia and heart complications from overexertion, they were forced to examine the darker side of all this productivity. 

Laziness Does Not Exist explores the psychological underpinnings of the “laziness lie”, including its origins from the Puritans and how it has continued to proliferate as digital work tools have blurred the boundaries between work and life. Using in-depth research, Price explains that people today do far more work than nearly any other humans in history yet most of us often still feel we are not doing enough. 

Dr. Price offers science-based reassurances that productivity does not determine a person’s worth and suggests that the solution to problems of overwork and stress lie in resisting the pressure to do more and instead learn to embrace doing enough. Featuring interviews with researchers, consultants, and experiences from real people drowning in too much work, Laziness Does Not Exist encourages us to let go of guilt and become more attuned to our own limitations and needs and resist the pressure to meet outdated societal expectations.

Black Against Empire*

Why I loved it: Have I mentioned before how mad I am that my historical education failed me so badly? Because I had only the vaguest notion of the Black Panthers until a few years ago. After getting some foundational knowledge in the past few years, this year I finally grabbed an audiobook and dug deeper. And I encourage you to do the same. 

Description: In Oakland, California, in 1966, community college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton armed themselves, began patrolling the police, and promised to prevent police brutality. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement that called for full citizenship rights for blacks within the US, the Black Panther Party rejected the legitimacy of the US government and positioned itself as part of a global struggle against American imperialism. In the face of intense repression, the Party flourished, becoming the center of a revolutionary movement with powerful allies around the world.

Black Against Empire is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party. The authors analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence.

I Hate Men

Why I loved it: This is the book that took France by storm – in a scandal! Some man got horribly offended by the title and tried to get it banned. Instead, as you might expect, the proposed ban made everyone want to read it. And so this long, charming essay on feminism and misandry blew up, gaining way more attention than the publisher expected and being translated and published in multiple other countries, including the US. The essay was by turns funny and thoughtful and I have a feeling I’ll go back and listen again soon.

Description: Women, especially feminists and lesbians, have long been accused of hating men. Our instinct is to deny it at all costs. (After all, women have been burnt at the stake for admitting to less.) 

But what if mistrusting men, disliking men – and yes, maybe even hating men – is, in fact, a useful response to sexism? What if such a response offers a way out of oppression, a means of resistance? What if it even offers a path to joy, solidarity and sisterhood? 

In this sparkling essay, as mischievous and provocative as it is urgent and serious, Pauline Harmange interrogates modern attitudes to feminism and makes a rallying cry for women to find a greater love for each other – and themselves.

Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s “Girl Stunt Reporters”

Why I loved it: This very readable exploration of the history of women in journalism left me both cheering and screaming in anger. I’d heard of some of these women (Nellie Bly and Ida Wells, in particular), but many were new to me. And not only were their stories fascinating, but it’s also easy to see the through-lines from then to now, determining what is “serious” writing and what’s fluff – based on who was writing it. 

Description: In the waning years of the 19th century, women journalists across the United States risked reputation and their own safety to expose the hazardous conditions under which many Americans lived and worked. In various disguises, they stole into sewing factories to report on child labor, fainted in the streets to test public hospital treatment, posed as lobbyists to reveal corrupt politicians. Inventive writers whose in-depth narratives made headlines for weeks at a stretch, these “girl stunt reporters” changed laws, helped launch a labor movement, championed women’s rights, and redefined journalism for the modern age. 

The 1880s and 1890s witnessed a revolution in journalism as publisher titans like Hearst and Pulitzer used weapons of innovation and scandal to battle it out for market share. As they sought new ways to draw readers in, they found their answer in young women flooding into cities to seek their fortunes. When Nellie Bly went undercover into Blackwell’s Insane Asylum for Women and emerged with a scathing indictment of what she found there, the resulting sensation created opportunity for a whole new wave of writers. In a time of few jobs and few rights for women, here was a path to lives of excitement and meaning.

After only a decade of headlines and fame, though, these trailblazers faced a vicious public backlash. Accused of practicing “yellow journalism”, their popularity waned until “stunt reporter” became a badge of shame. But their influence on the field of journalism would arc across a century, from the Progressive Era “muckraking” of the 1900s to the personal “New Journalism” of the 1960s and ’70s, to the “immersion journalism” and “creative nonfiction” of today. Bold and unconventional, these writers changed how people would tell stories forever. 

Past Mistakes: How We Misinterpret History and Why it Matters

Why I loved it: I have some very strong feelings about how utterly trash my history education was. Slavery was whitewashed. Women were near-nonexistent. Queerness? Bah, that was invented two years ago!

This is some bullshit, and I’ve spent a lot of time in my thirties seeking out untold stories and hidden truths. And so I was delighted at every turn by the way this book broke down a series of misconceptions we have about history, why they matter, and how they’ve shaped the world we live in today. The book also happens to be compulsively readable (which is not always the case for history texts). Please go grab yourself a copy.

Description: The stories we tell about our past matter. But those stories have been shaped by prejudice, hoaxes and misinterpretations that have whitewashed entire chapters of history, erased women and invented civilisations. Today history is often used to justify xenophobia, nationalism and inequality as we cling to grand origin stories and heroic tales of extraordinary men.

Exploring myths, mysteries and misconceptions about the past – from the legacies of figures like Pythagoras and Christopher Columbus, to the realities of life in the gun-toting Wild West, to the archaeological digs that have upset our understanding of the birth of civilisation – David Mountain reveals how ongoing revolutions in history and archaeology are shedding light on the truth.

Full of adventures, and based on detailed research and interviews, Past Mistakes will make you reconsider your understanding of history – and of the world today. 

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?

 Why I loved it: She covers everything from corpse farts to what a mummified body might smell like. What’s not to love?

Description: Every day, funeral director Caitlin Doughty receives dozens of questions about death. The best questions come from kids. What would happen to an astronaut’s body if it were pushed out of a space shuttle? Do people poop when they die? Can Grandma have a Viking funeral?

In Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, Doughty blends her mortician’s knowledge of the body and the intriguing history behind common misconceptions about corpses to offer factual, hilarious, and candid answers to 35 distinctive questions posed by her youngest fans. In her inimitable voice, Doughty details lore and science of what happens to, and inside, our bodies after we die. Why do corpses groan? What causes bodies to turn colors during decomposition? And why do hair and nails appear longer after death? Listeners will learn the best soil for mummifying your body, whether you can preserve your best friend’s skull as a keepsake, and what happens when you die on a plane.

The Death of Democracy

 Why I loved it: My knowledge of Weimar Germany (pre-Nazi Germany) was pretty woefully small before I read this book. It was a very interesting look at how progressive things actually were before the Nazis came into power and how complicated their journey into power was. This is another very readable history text (not too dense) and I recommend the audiobook in particular.

Description: Why did democracy fall apart so quickly and completely in Germany in the 1930s? How did a democratic government allow Adolf Hitler to seize power? In this dramatic audiobook, Benjamin Carter Hett answers these questions, and the story he tells has disturbing resonances for our own time.

To say that Hitler was elected is too simple. From the late 1920s, the Weimar Republic’s very political success sparked insurgencies against it, of which the most dangerous was the populist anti-globalization movement led by Hitler. But as Hett shows, Hitler would never have come to power if Germany’s leading politicians had not tried to coopt him, a strategy that backed them into a corner from which the only way out was to bring the Nazis in. Hett lays bare the misguided confidence of conservative politicians who believed that Hitler and his followers would willingly support them, not recognizing that their efforts to use the Nazis actually played into Hitler’s hands. They had willingly given him the tools to turn Germany into a vicious dictatorship.

Know My Name*

 Why I loved it: It’s as heartbreaking and enraging as you’d expect, but also beautifully, lyrically written. I loved how she wove in other, related tragedies to make her points about women’s safety. 

Description: She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral – viewed by 11 million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time. 

Now, she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. It was the perfect case, in many ways – there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life. 

Why Does He Do That?

Why I loved it: WHEW. This book should be required reading for every person. It breaks down not only a variety of forms of abusive, neglectful, or toxic behavior, but what it takes for man with these behaviors to actually change (hint: therapy might backfire and abuser programs are a better bet). 

Description: He says he loves you. So…why does he do that? You’ve asked yourself this question again and again. Now you have the chance to see inside the minds of angry and controlling men—and to change your life. In this groundbreaking book, a counselor who specializes in working with abusive men shows you how to improve, survive, or leave an abusive relationship. You will learn about:

  • The early warning signs
  • Ten abusive personality types
  • The role of drugs and alcohol
  • What you can fix, and what you can’t
  • How to get out of a relationship safely

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