In a world that celebrates everything from “National Donut Day”, “International Cat Day”, or more absurd social holidays like “National Leave Work Early Day” and “Paperclip Day” we can’t help but utter a sigh of relief when something like “National Book Lovers Day” comes around.
That is one day we can certainly get behind, so we decided to offer some literary recommendations that we felt are worth adding to your queue.
by Alan Gratz
Recommended by Genta Guitron
When I visited the bookstore last week, I was immediately drawn to Refugee by Alan Gratz. I know, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. On the other hand, a picture of a child gripping the edge of a small fishing boat while the boat plays chicken with a raging storm makes a strong impression—I’m glad it did!
Refugee explores the lives of three children—Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud. Growing up in different periods in history, all three kids have one thing in common—they’re forced to flee their home countries. Despite being a work of fiction, Gratz’s talent for in-depth research into his subject matter allowed him to create a story that is too real to ignore. Every page is nail-biting, relentless, and echoes generations of headlines.
In addition to great storytelling, Refugee takes it a step further by providing information on how the reader can support individuals displaced by war, prejudice, or economic hardships. Gratz has also pledged a portion of the book’s proceeds to UNICEF.
This book should be “required reading” for young people and adults alike. It’s impossible to read Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud’s harrowing stories, and not have your empathy for others expanded.
Refugee received top praise from The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and People Magazine—to mention a few.
The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know
by Katty Kay and
Recommended by Andie Mills
I recently met a woman who told me that she envied my confidence. We barely knew one another 30 minutes, and had been talking about a mutual friend who was about to have a baby, so I was baffled at how she came to the conclusion about me.
I was additionally baffled, because I have always felt quite unsure of myself. I question my decisions and overanalyze my actions, even well after the fact. This woman got me thinking a lot about confidence, and I wanted to see if I was alone in this disparity between my reality and how others perceived me, so I opened my browser and started a search that lead me to one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a long time. The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.
So you’re a man? Doesn’t matter.
The information in this book is fascinating, relevant, and useful to anyone interested in the science of confidence and, ultimately, success. The authors interview some of the most successful women in the world only to find that they share many of the insecurities the rest of us possess. I was surprised and thrilled at how relatable these powerful women were! Then
Kay and Shipman interview scientists to delve into the anatomy and psychology of confidence, where they discover why even the most confident-seeming people (women, in particular) struggle with second-guessing themselves. It turns out social conditioning and external circumstances are only a piece of the equation. Anatomy and chemistry – which, it turns out, vary significantly between the brains of men and women – play a significant role in determining one’s confidence.
In reading this book I learned so much about myself, even on chemical and electrical levels!
It’s a nerd’s dream, and Kay and Shipman explain it in ways that are easy to grasp, even without a brain surgeon’s education. If you struggle with confidence, you might find some of the reasons why in these pages, along with some ideas of how to conquer that battle. At least enough to keep a lack of confidence from getting in the way of your own happiness and success. In this day and age of social media life comparisons, it’s good to have something on your side helping you take control and boost your confidence, rather than tearing it down.
Creek Mary's Blood
by Dee Brown
Recommended by Siria Contreras
I’ve been in a bit of a reflective mood this week given the current state of sociopolitical affairs and witnessing how scores of children are being impacted, displaced, and psychologically traumatized as they face having their foundations shaken up and destabilized at such an important time in their formative years—a time when security and stability matter most.
Character-defining moments are typically reserved to describe challenging or life-altering events that occur on our adult journeys, but I would be willing to argue that the moments that most define our characters, in actuality, take place during our childhoods.
Childhood wounds that later send adults on soul-searching journeys in attempts to learn, heal, and better understand their own actions. Even those who grow up in the happiest of homes with the most supportive of families are not exempt to encountering these character-defining moments. While these moments can inflict the deepest wounds, they also likely make for the best stories.
I can still recall the required in-and-out of class reading that I did as a child, everything from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath , Shakespearean classics, as well as “historical fiction” like Johnny Tremain, and even some Edgar Allan Poe. Assigned reading which all featured character-defining moments for historical figures of various ages.
Somewhere along the way in elementary school I discovered on my own a book titled Creek Mary’s Blood by Dee Brown, of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee fame—his more well-known book that I would read much later, as even to this day I like discovering books on my own and tend to ignore bestsellers lists.
Creek Mary’s Blood left an impression on my young mind and more importantly opened my eyes to a very different group of people in history—stories of a disenfranchised yet courageous community that I had not been exposed to in such a real way in previous teachings in school. These people were always secondary or peripheral characters in the lessons that my teachers taught, but in this book they were not only front and center, but also ever-so-real.
The book follows the stories of five generations of Creek tribe descendants, via the facilitation of the grandson of the book’s primary character and namesake, Mary—the fearless matriarch and heroine of the story. Covering some familiar ground over the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries it touched on historical events that I’d learned about or would learn about in coming years including colonial unrest, American Revolution, Trail of Tears, the Civil War, etc. Cameos from the historical mainstays of the period included Sitting Bull, Tecumseh, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Crazy Horse among others. The unfamiliar ground perspective-wise that it covered was the part that I enjoyed the most—learning more about the Creek, Cherokee, and other tribes and roles they played at those times.
I’d love to say that at 10 or 11 years old I knowingly sought this book out to learn more about
our nation’s founding indigenous cultures and history, but in reality what drew me to it, beyond the book’s summary, was the welcome challenge of reading a nearly 500 page book (from the ages of about 10-12 years old I would always gravitate towards the thickest books on the shelves) .
Two welcome benefits of meeting this bibliophilic challenge were:
I discovered this book which, even with the fictional liberties it sometimes takes upon history, provided me with a new perspective on events within our country’s history where teachings had all been one-sided and rarely strayed from the “safe” into the struggles of that of the other important “peoples” in our nations. It left me wondering what else I wasn’t learning about in school.
It helped foster my love of historical fiction or fact-based written works, making me want to explore the stories and journeys of others and where they come from. While I get why others appreciate the genres of fantasy and science fiction and great success some of those series have had, those were never what I gravitated towards (you’d likely be surprised that I’ve actually never read Rowling, Tolkien, or Adams) as I was never looking for an escape when I read, instead my curious mind was looking for knowledge. That same curiosity remains to this day and powers much of what I do.
In my head, I consider this book a Young Adult book, but really that’s only because I read it as a youth. In reality, it is one that anyone of any age can likely return to and glean some knowledge and insight previously unbeknownst to them and to ingest a different perspective in regards to some of the struggles that still persist to this day for this group of citizens.