Ain’t I a Woman? – I read this book a year or so out of college and it helped shape my perspective on both gender and race. Bell Hooks is a legend and all of her writing is backed up by facts and a full life of firsthand experiences. Chicago rapper, Vic Mensa, made waves last year by citing this book as the catalyst for his mental shift away from violence and introduction to feminism. I encourage everyone to read this book–man, woman, black, white, and everyone in between–as it provides so much historical context to the current state of affairs for black women and America as a whole.

An American Marriage – This was a pick from my book club. The well-developed characters had some of us divided along and against gender lines! This is a good fiction read that makes you think about romantic relationship dynamics you might have never considered.

Becoming – My #ForeverFLOTUS’ memoir was the best-selling book of 2018 for a reason. It’s a an intimate and engaging look into her life from childhood in Chicago up to present day. I was excited to get my hands on this book but, admittedly, did not read it quickly. I can’t really put into words how validating and motivating it is to be able to identify with the life story of someone of her caliber–from being a gifted and talented student with parents who emphasize education above all else, to maintaining relationships, to navigating predominately white colleges, to progressing in corporate America. If you haven’t read this one yet, do it. You can also hear the story in Michelle Obama’s voice via an audiobook

Children of Blood and Bone – The title of this book didn’t initially draw me in but the fact that the author is a talented young Nigerian woman did. It’s always helpful when you can identify with the creator, right? Tomi Adeyemi beautifully mixed fantasy, drama, and culture into a story I could not get enough of. The setting provides historical nods to a West Africa uninterrupted by colonialism but seems like it could be anywhere in the past or future, time-wise. I devoured this book in five days and cannot wait for the sequel to drop in March. Best believe it’s already pre-ordered.

Homegoing – I read this book a year or two ago and have recommended it to all of my friends and family members. Since y’all are important to me, too, it’s your turn to hear about it! I’ve actually mentioned Homegoing a couple of times on the blog before but, to summarize, it’s a book that follows the generations of descendants of two sisters separated by the trans-Atlantic slave trade from that time period to present day. It’s so well written and filled with historical and cultural references that fully flesh out the characters and settings and make it hard to tell whether this is fact or fiction. I promise, it’s one of those novels you won’t be able to put down.

How to Win Friends and Influence People – I got this book during a business class in college and it took me a long time to read. I would start and stop and have to go back and re-read parts quite a few times. A lot of what’s in this classic seems like common sense but, as the saying goes, common sense ain’t so common. We think we know many of these things but often let our short-term self interests, ego, and even laziness get in the way of building mutually beneficial relationships. This book is very helpful in building business relationships.

If Beale Street Could Talk – Anything by James Baldwin is worth your time. I saw this novel come to life as a movie when it premiered one week ago on Christmas day. After seeing the trailer for it at a theater, I knew I needed to pick up the book. It’s centered around a young, black couple in 1970’s Harlem so I knew it wouldn’t exactly be a fairytale but, as Beyonce once sang, Who wants that perfect love story, anyway? This story is set up against the issues of race and economics in America. If you want a realistic and wrenching romance that makes you think a bit, this is your book.

Living Beyond Your Feelings – This is faith-based self help that basically reads you for filth. We can all be set in our ways to some degree and this book helped me be more aware of when I’m letting my emotions run me over. Joyce Meyer illuminates the corners of your personality you might want to keep covered up in a way that is challenging but also compassionate because she has been there and not perfect, either. I am someone who likes scripture-based evidence and Joyce provides that, as usual. If you’re looking to build greater self-awareness in 2019, this one is for you!

Milk and Honey – You’ve probably seen lines from this book across social media. That’s how I was introduced to Rupi Kaur’s work. Her words are wrenching, relatable, and so beautiful–exactly what poetry should be. This is the first of two collections of poems she has released and a good place to start. When you finish this one (and have lit some candles and maybe deleted a few folks out of your phone) move on to The Sun and Her Flowers. I can’t wait for more. 

The Four Agreements – I’m in the midst of this book currently but might be done by the time this post goes live. 🙂 The Four Agreements comes so highly recommended by many of my friends that I can’t believe I’m just now getting around to it. This book basically provides four guiding principles that make up a kind of code of conduct for living on your own terms.

I mentioned in this post a couple of months back that reading more frequently is a goal I hope to turn into a habit. If you’re on the same wave, I hope these suggestions have been helpful to you. Have you read any of these? What books do you highly recommend? Please let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!