Recommendations

  • The Fire Next Time

    The Fire Next Time

    The Fire Next Time

    James Baldwin
    Political Science
    4.5 (74,949)

    An official Oprah Winfrey’s “The Books That Help Me Through” selection A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation, gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement—and still lights the way to understanding race in America today. "Basically the finest essay I’ve ever read. . . . Baldwin refused to hold anyone’s hand. He was both direct and beautiful all at once. He did not seem to write to convince you. He wrote beyond you.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two "letters," written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as "sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle...all presented in searing, brilliant prose," The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of literature.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Basically the fines essay I've ever read. It's technically two essays but it feels like one. Baldwin refused to hold anyone's hand. He was both direct and beautiful all at once. He did not seem to write to convince you. He wrote beyond you.

     — Source

  • The Country Between Us

    The Country Between Us

    The Country Between Us

    Carolyn Forche
    Poetry
    4.23 (2,519)

    The book opens with a series of poems about El Salvador, where ForchÉ worked as a journalist and was closely involved with the political struggle in that tortured country in the late 1970's. ForchÉ's other poems also tend to be personal, immediate, and moving. Perhaps the final effect of her poetry is the image of a sensitive, brave, and engaged young woman who has made her life a journey. She has already traveled to many places, as these poems indicate, but beyond that is the sense of someone who is, in Ignazio Silone's words, coming from far and going far.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Another book of poetry that taught me what the form was. Forch has a beautiful sense of rhythm. I teach her famous poem "The Colonel" in essay and nonfiction classes. It's all about what you don't say.

     — Source

  • Sweet Soul Music
    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    History of soul music, told in profiles. I read this is as young man really trying to understand what journalism and history meant. Spent a lot of time meditating on Sam and Dave after this one.

     — Source

  • Postwar

    Postwar

    Postwar

    Tony Judt
    History
    4.36 (10,252)

    Provides a history of contemporary Europe, covering thirty-four countries over a span of sixty years, and includes discussion of the region's economic development, culture, and politics.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    A book that deeply informs my journalist sense. Writers-particularly American writers-constantly feel the pull of soulutionism, the desire to assure their readers that there is a way out, even when there isn't.

     — Source

  • The Thirty Years War
    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    God, I love this book. It's the history of an utterly depressing war with no real nobility, that ultimately descends into cannibalism. Right up my alley.

     — Source

  • The Age of Innocence

    The Age of Innocence

    The Age of Innocence

    Edith Wharton
    Fiction
    3.95 (146,816)

    Edith Wharton's acclaimed novel of love, duty, and half-known truths in Gilded Age New York society, with a foreword by bestselling author Elif Batuman. A Penguin Vitae Edition Dutiful Newland Archer, an eligible young man from New York high society, is about to announce his engagement to May Welland, a suitable match from a good family, when May's cousin, the beautiful and exotic Countess Ellen Olenska, is introduced into their circle. The Countess brings with her an aura of European sophistication and a hint of perceived scandal, having left her husband and claimed her independence. Her worldliness, disregard for society's rules, and air of unapproachability attract the sensitive Newland, despite his enthusiasm about a marriage to May and the societal advantages it would bring. Almost against their will, Newland and Ellen develop a passionate bond, and a classic love triangle takes shape as the three young people find themselves drawn into a poignant and bitter conflict between love and duty. Written in 1920, Edith Wharton's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a time and place long gone by--1870s New York City--beautifully captures the complexities of passion, independence, and fulfillment, and how painfully hard it can be for individuals to truly see one another and their place in the world. Penguin Classics presents Penguin Vitae, loosely translated as "Penguin of one's life," a deluxe hardcover series featuring a dynamic landscape of classic fiction and nonfiction that has shaped the course of our readers' lives. Penguin Vitae invites readers to find themselves in a diverse world of storytellers, with beautifully designed classic editions of personal inspiration, intellectual engagement, and creative originality.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Again, I like this book for its willingness to embrace the tragic. No happy endings. The book is a defense of elitism, something I guess I oppose. But I found it credible, here.

     — Source

  • Battle Cry of Freedom

    Battle Cry of Freedom

    Battle Cry of Freedom

    James M. McPherson
    History
    4.35 (28,133)

    Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War. James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War--the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry--and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself--the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson's new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union's victory. The book's title refers to the sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually, the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the war--slavery--and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim. This "new birth of freedom," as Lincoln called it, constitutes the proudest legacy of America's bloodiest conflict. This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing "second American Revolution" we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    The definitive history of the Civil War. One of the greatest works of history I've ever read and arguably the best one volume history in existence.

     — Source

  • Neon Vernacular

    Neon Vernacular

    Neon Vernacular

    Yusef Komunyakaa
    Poetry
    4.2 (1,691)

    An award-winning poet’s testimony of the war in Vietnam.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Probably my favorite living poet. No on else taught me more about how important it was to think about how words make people feel. It's enough for people to know something is true. They have to feel it's true.

     — Source

  • The Waterworks

    The Waterworks

    The Waterworks

    E.L. Doctorow
    Fiction
    3.44 (2,957)

    “An elegant page-turner of nineteenth-century detective fiction.” –The Washington Post Book World One rainy morning in 1871 in lower Manhattan, Martin Pemberton a freelance writer, sees in a passing stagecoach several elderly men, one of whom he recognizes as his supposedly dead and buried father. While trying to unravel the mystery, Pemberton disappears, sending McIlvaine, his employer, the editor of an evening paper, in pursuit of the truth behind his freelancer’s fate. Layer by layer, McIlvaine reveals a modern metropolis surging with primordial urges and sins, where the Tweed Ring operates the city for its own profit and a conspicuously self-satisfied nouveau-riche ignores the poverty and squalor that surrounds them. In E. L. Doctorow’s skilled hands, The Waterworks becomes, in the words of The New York Times, “a dark moral tale . . . an eloquently troubling evocation of our past.” “Startling and spellbinding . . . The waters that lave the narrative all run to the great confluence, where the deepest issues of life and death are borne along on the swift, sure vessel of [Doctorow’s] poetic imagination.” –The New York Times Book Review “Hypnotic . . . a dazzling romp, an extraordinary read, given strength and grace by the telling, by the poetic voice and controlled cynical lyricism of its streetwise and world-weary narrator.” –The Philadelphia Inquirer “A gem of a novel, intimate as chamber music . . . a thriller guaranteed to leave readers with residual chills and shudders.” –Boston Sunday Herald “Enthralling . . . a story of debauchery and redemption that is spellbinding from first page to last.” –Chicago Sun-Times “An immense, extraordinary achievement.” –San Francisco Chronicle

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    What a strange and beautiful book. The story of a postbellum American newspaper editor investigating the undead. Doctorow's most underrated work.

     — Source