As we envision the future of our country, we’re seeking out brilliant and diverse voices to help us understand the challenges that we face—to understand what problems need solving, and what we can do to help make peoples’ lives better. These 12 books show just a sliver of American experiences and history, but they are resources that we as citizens—and our newly elected leaders—can turn to. They help us to understand how we’ve gotten to where we are today and grasp the consequences of how decisions made today will shape our future.
With the days getting shorter and the nights getting longer, winter is the perfect time to sit by the fire and lose yourself in a deliciously long book. From epic fantasy to searing romance, these 13 books are some of our extra-long favorites to enjoy while waiting for spring!
Paul Kalanithi recounts the story of his own mortality with the precision of a surgeon and the poeticism of a gifted writer—because, of course, he was both.
But his uncanny ability to inhabit two seemingly disparate worlds does not end here; his narrative also straddles the divide between doctor and patient, caretaker and cared for, lackadaisical philosopher and man of reason. At the heart of this reckoning is the battle that consumes his days: “to pursue death: to grasp it, uncloak it, and see it eye-to-eye, unblinking.” WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR is the beautiful, heartbreaking exploration of this very inevitability that we all fear—but that few dare to look straight in the eye.
President Obama has made it clear over the past 8 years that books are a big part of his life—whether he’s shopping on Small Business Saturday or releasing his vacation reading list. (Plus, he did an impressive interview with author Marilynne Robinson, which you can listen to here. Cross your fingers for a post–White House podcast!) A bestselling author himself, our reader-in-chief has followed his predecessors in recommending some great nonfiction titles, but has surprised us all by being a particularly prolific fiction reader as well. Here are some of the books he’s picked up during his time in office.
When I look back at my teenage self, with my ill-advised bangs and strange affinity for glittery blue eyeliner, I remember both the highs and lows of growing up. There were hilarious adventures with friends and moments of intense loneliness in which I felt unsure of who I was. I’ve done my fair share of growing up since then, and I still have a little way to go, but reading Caitlin Moran’s coming-of-age story HOW TO BUILD A GIRL instantly brought back all the memories that I had somehow managed to forget.
As I sit in my windowless room in my Brooklyn apartment and realize just how many episodes of “Tiny House Nation” I’ve streamed in a row, I wonder whether it would be better to turn my obsession with houses to the page. Surely fiction allows us to explore houses with secrets in the attics, walls steeped in history, homes to unclaimed orphans—and even a ghost or two? For those moments when HGTV’s French-windowed balconies and sweeping ranchland views become a little too much to bear, satisfy your “house-hunger”—with all its attendant views and buried secrets—with these novels.
Whether they’re in the zoo, the wild, or our living room, animals are all around us. We recognize their smarts and savvy, but how much do we really know about what they know? Here are 14 books that explore the hearts and minds of our furry, gilled, and four- (or eight-) legged friends.
When you attend a dinner party, you buy-in to an unspoken social contract: as the fantastic dinner party guest that you are, you bring a gift for the hostess (aka wine, please bring us wine) and you agree to be more or less well-behaved throughout the course of the evening.
As we fantasized about our dream dinner party guests, some of our favorite fictional characters inevitably came to mind. We’d be thrilled to wine and dine with these 15 characters all evening long.
When we meet Bobo, who is Alexandra Fuller’s younger self in her memoir DON’T LET’S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT, it is very late, or very early, and she is in the loo. Her older sister Van is there with her, holding a candle, on the lookout for spiders, snakes, and scorpions, while Bobo pees. Bobo is maybe five, and has woken her sister instead of her parents to accompany her, because waking her parents might mean being mistaken for a “terrorist” and getting shot.
Telling our own stories gives life momentum and allows us to reflect on both the incredible and the awful moments we experience. What makes memoirs so crucial is their ability to help us understand the world and the people around us. While these 8 memoirs range from heartbreaking to hilarious, they all share in the idea that we can learn from each other’s mistakes, traumas, and fortunes—and that there is incredible power in perseverance and redemption.