20 Must-Read Power Books for 2017

2016 has been a hurricane of emotions. When I’m feeling like I need some me-time or need to be inspired, I often read a book. Diving into a good story can help me escape, understand the world more or just get my groove back. If you’re looking for some books that will help you get through the funk that is 2016 (going on 17), here are some suggestions:

  1. “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead: Set during the time of The Underground Railroad, Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, who lives a horrifying, yet all too familiar life. Urged by Caesar, a newly arrived slave from Virgina, the two set out to escape. In her journey, Cora sees many different types of worlds, all touched by slavery in some way.  This book will make you think about the past, present and the future.
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  2. “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly: Whether or not you’ve seen the movie, this is a must-see for anyone interested in black people’s role in math and NASA.
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  3. “The Princess Diarist” by Carrie Fisher: Pay tribute to this queen by reading the diaries that Fisher kept while filming the first Star Wars movie. With humor and honesty, Fisher discusses what happened behind the scenes, the ups and downs of celebrity life and growing up among Hollywood royalty.
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  4. “You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things
    I Still Have to Explain” by Phoebe Robinson: If you love 2 Dope Queens, you will love this book. Robinson talks about what it means to be a black woman in America, where the personal is political.
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  5. “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson: Woodson weaves a beautiful story told through poetry about her life, growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, during the Civil Rights Movement. Though written for younger readers, there’s probably a little bit of something for everyone here.
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  6. “Another Brooklyn” by Jacqueline Woodson: Another need-to-read by Jacqueline Woodson! August and her friends grow up in Brooklyn, a place where they thought the future belonged to them. But they soon discover another Brooklyn that is dangerous and frightening. This is a story about growing up.
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  7. “The Queen of Katwe” by Tim Crothers: In a slum of Uganda, known as Katwe, life is excruciatingly hard. One day, nine-year-old Phiona Mutesi follows her brother to a dusty veranda to meet Robert Katende. Katende is a war refugee turned missionary who hopes to empower the local children by teaching them chess. Using just the dirt around him to create a chessboard, he begins to teach them. Though many come for the free food, many stay because of the love of the game. Phiona becomes a junior champion by age eleven, then a national champion. Even if you don’t like chess, you’ll enjoy her story as she overcomes challenges both on the board and off.
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  8. “Poor Your Soul ” by Mira Ptacin: This book is beautifully written and is full of love, pain, strength and loss. The author, Mira Ptacin, combines her story of her pregnancy and the loss that follows with her mother’s story -of emigrating from Poland to the US and losing her son to a drunk driver. The tragedies they face help them find strength within themselves and each other.
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  9. “The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian
    Enslavement in America” by Andrés Reséndez: There are stories devoted to African slavery, but very few on Native American slavery. This is a history of a slave system that was practiced in secret for centuries.

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  10. “Swing Time” by Zadie Smith: A novel about two brown girls who want to be dancers but while one has the talent, the other has “ideas”. Their friendship ends abruptly and the two go on to live entirely different, but complex lives.
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  11. “Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey” by Elena Ferrante: If you don’t know Elena Ferrante, you should! She writes beautiful, rich stories with complex characters. This book reflects on her own writing, her choice to let her books live “autonomous lives” (possibly as she writes under a pen name?), her relationship with her family, feminism and much more.
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  12. “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman” by Lindy WestThis highly empowering, sharp-witted and thought-provoking book is about Lindy West’s life as a fat acceptance activist. Shrill is part call-to-action, part memoir, and part informational. It will make you laugh out loud, and change the way you look at yourself and the world around you.

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  13. “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls: An intimate look into the life of a dysfunctional family and how one women escaped this turbulent life.
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  14. “Behold the Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue: Jende Jonga is an immigrant from Cameroon, who comes with this wife and son to America in search of a better life. He soon finds a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy client who works for a global financial firm. Though the job presents plenty of opportunities, it also gives him and his wife a view into the troubling secrets behind power and privilege. Set against the backdrop of a real financial crisis, this story gives a glimpse into one immigrant families’ life.
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  15. “The Wangs vs. The World” by Jade Chang: A funny story about a rich Chinese-American family who lose everything and decide to take a road trip across the United States. A great book about family and what it means to belong to America.
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  16. “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi: Two sisters are separated. One is sold into slavery, the other is married to a British slaver. What follows is the story of their families, where they travel and the role slavery plays in our history.
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  17. “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern: A fantastical tale about a circus that arrives unannounced and only performs at night, two magicians in competition and how they fall in love.
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  18. “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion: This gripping memoir is a testament to the resiliency of the human body, mind and soul.Renowned writer Joan Didion walks readers through a tragically and unimaginably difficult year of loss and uncertainty in her life, sparing no gritty detail.
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  19. “Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit: This book of essays is full of mansplaining, feminism and hilariousness.
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  20. “Salt” by nayyirah waheed: Even if you’re not poetry fan, this book will hit you straight in the heart. Her poems are short, but to the point and beautiful, yet powerful in their simplicity.
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