Finding the time to read is difficult with all of the other forms of media bombarding us. I decided to share 12 books – one for each month of the year – that stuck with me in one way or another. Some I have read numerous times and love more every time I finish it. While others I have only read once but they have had a profound influence on me.
The books listed were carefully selected to go along with each month based on the content within them or the feelings associated with them. There’s a mixture of fiction and non-fiction; children’s books, and comics; as well as classics to modern hits.
January – Blankets by Craig Thompson (2003)
Start your year off with this lengthy comic memoir about Craig Thompson’s coming-of-age experiences. The majority of the plot unfolds after Craig meets Raina at a winter church camp, but you don’t have to be religious or from the Midwest to connect with Thompson’s poignant narrative. For those of you who aren’t comic fans, fear not because the stark black and white art is beautiful and his prose is very fulfilling. It may be long, but you’ll be able to devour this fairly rapidly.
February – Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
The Atlantic writer’s letter to his teenage son was inspired by a similar work of non-fiction by James Baldwin. Coates discusses what it means to be black in such a turbulent time in America. The short book is very lyrically written as it covers an abridged autobiographical account of the author’s life. If this book strikes a chord with you, then perhaps you’d be interested in 2008’s The Beautiful Struggle, which goes deeper into his upbringing in Baltimore during the Age of Crack. Together the both novels check in around 400 pages; so, in reality, they can be viewed as one book.
March – A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)
Be warned: this is a behemoth of a novel that will make you hurt. The characters go through so much heartache that the plot will reach out and punch you right in the heart. At the center of the novel are four friends from a small college and how their lives crash into one another and drift apart through the rest of their lives. As the novel progresses their tragedies unfold as hidden pasts come back to haunt each of the core members. Yanagihara reaches into the darkest corners of life and finds profoundly moving moments that will stick with you for a long, long time.
April – Columbine by David Cullen (2009)
Most of the things you know from this horrific tragedy are probably wrong in one way or another. Cullen, a journalist who was first on the scene nearly two decades ago, unravels the mysteries surrounding everything from the Trench Coat Mafia to the boys’ hatred for jocks. While this book deals with an obvious heavy topic, Cullen finds the beauty that was shattered in April 1999 and reveals that Columbine was more than a school shooting. He explores the community before and after the event as well as the two shooters’ private lives leading up to that fateful day.
May – Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam (1998)
I first read this memoir when I was 10, just after I saw October Sky. If you’re a fan of the Jake Gyllenhaal film but haven’t read this book, you’ll still find a rich story of boys and their dreams for something bigger. Hickam writes about so much more than boys building rockets; he easily transports readers into life in the rural 1950s. He touches upon familial relationships, social status, and cultural events that shaped America. Not only is this an interesting and educational book, it’s also very warm and uplifting.
June – The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011)
The sound of the ball against the bat is extraordinary. For a single moment of stillness, the hopes of more than just a pitcher and a batter, of more than the players on the field, hangs in the balance. That moment is captured time and time again in this story about a young man’s evolution at a small college in Wisconsin. Yet, it’s about so much more than baseball. Sincerely. Baseball fades into the background for the majority of Harbach’s book as he explores sexuality, Moby Dick, confidence, and so much more.
July – Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)
Historical fiction – in this case about the Nigerian Civil War (1967-70) – is truly eye opening when it’s done well. Adichie’s book explores the effect the war had on Nigerians through the eyes of a variety of characters. From a plotting perspective, the author effortlessly shifts time periods to give a broader perspective on life in Nigeria. This is one of the handful of books that made me want to learn more about the subject. And not just read the Wikipedia article. I dove deep into the war, as well as the country’s history.
August – Different Seasons by Stephen King (1982)
Up until December 2015, this was the only King I’ve ever read (since then, I’ve tackled 11/22/63 and The Shining), but I read two of the four novellas at least a dozen times. “Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body” a/k/a “Stand By Me” are two of my favorite stories of all time. “The Body” is the type of coming-of-age story that will forever sit at the pinnacle of that genre. Every adult has that group of friends that they’ll never forget. King perfectly captures that twilight of adolescence that we all miss every day of our lives, but are grateful they even happened.
September – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling (1997)
Chances are you have already stepped onto Platform 9 3/4 and taken the journey on the Hogwarts Express. The perfect time to do it is, of course, the first of September. Maybe this is where you diverge from this list I’m writing and just devour the entire series written by Rowling. But, wait, maybe you somehow haven’t read this magical book. “I don’t get all the hype about Harry Potter.” Well, you should most certainly give Harry’s first year at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to give yourself a chance to be captivated by this modern children’s classic.
October – And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939)
Credit to Mr. Rumsey, my 8th grade Language Arts teacher for recognizing my passion for literature and handing me this book. Christie’s book has the perfect set up for a murder mystery: a group of strangers go to an isolated location and start getting picked off one by one. Even though this was written so long ago no other writer has captivated readers as strongly as she did. The book is sharply written and has a smart ending. It’s still fresh after nearly 80 years.
November – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016)
This debut novel earned the author a spot on the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honorees in 2016. It’s a deep exploration into generations that follow two sisters who are separated and sent onto two drastically different paths. One is sold into slavery while the other is married off to a British slave owner. Gyasi’s breathtaking and eye-opening novel follows the sisters’ descendants through generations. This was one of the best books I read in 2016, and plan on re-reading it again in November with you all.
December – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis (1950)
This book feels like Christmas. While it could be read year-round, it is the perfect book to divulge during a winter snowfall. I’m sure you’ve read it before, but cozy up with the Pevensie children, Aslan, Mr. Tumnus, and the rest of Narnia for a magical adventure. Reading this always transports me back to my childhood time and time again. It’s probably the perfect book to end what hopefully is a magical 2017.