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Six books you need to read this year

January 23, 2020

Six book recommendations from the 826 Boston team

We love books here at 826 Boston: publishing books with students, editing books with volunteers, sharing books with our community. We love to read books an awful lot, too. So we asked some of our staff and service members for recommendations on what to read this year, and here are a few of their favorite picks…

Orange World by Karen Russell
The book I loved the most this year was Orange World, the most recent short story collection by Karen Russell. I’m a short story writer myself, and Russell is one of my personal heroes. Even when the settings and scenarios Russell writes about are at their most surreal, her characters never feel entirely unfamiliar. Orange World is a must-read for anyone who loves a truly mesmerizing short story!
-Erin, High School Publishing and Programs Specialist, AmeriCorps VISTA

American Born Chinese and Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang
I would highly recommend American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. It’s one of my favorite books because it’s a series of interconnected stories that reflect the Asian American experience through comic/graphic novel form and most importantly, that focus on finding one’s identity. It has a lot of humor, some mythology, and carries some aspects that I definitely can relate to. I would also like to recommend Gene Luen Yang’s Superman Smashes the Klan. The art is done by one of my favorite comic artist groups, GuriHiru. The story takes place around the ’50s, depicting Asian Americans in a way that I personally haven’t seen before, particularly their experience with racism. It’s a story that represents Asian Americans well.
-Marcus, High School Program Specialist, AmeriCorps

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My go-to book to recommend is Neil Gaiman’s dark fantasy novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. My older sibling first leant me their copy of this book when I was in the tenth grade, and I was instantly struck with the historical, nostalgic tone that the novel took on. The fairy tale story—told from a man who experienced magic and monsters as a boy—makes for a heart-wrenching but ultimately gorgeous tale about trauma, finding oneself, and the break that happens from childhood to adulthood. As someone who was halfway through high school and only two years away from leaving my parents and making my own journey, this book above all others really stuck with me. It’s a must-read for anyone who remembers childhood with all of its terrifying wonder.
-Cassandra, Boston Teachers Union School Writers’ Room Intern

Overstory by Richard Powers
Overstory, by Richard Powers, is a phenomenal novel that braids together nine people’s stories with the complex and inspiring ecology of trees. The father of a family in Antebellum, New York, a teenage activist in the Redwood Summers of the 1990s, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, an introspective science writer, and my personal favorite character—a man subjected to dehumanization as a participant in the famous Stanford Prison Experiment—grow together in a story of activism, resistance, and self-discovery. As a fellow tree lover and environmental justice organizer, this captivating book revealed a misunderstood and deeply rooted dependence between people and trees.
-Naomi, K-8 Program Specialist, AmeriCorps

Electric Arches by Eve Ewing
I recommend reading Electric Arches by Eve Ewing. It is light-hearted at times, serious in others, and is the perfect mix of poetry and creative prose. There is a piece in there for everyone: Ewing touches on topics ranging from Prince, to Lebron James, to the 1919 Chicago race riots. I never walk away from reading it feeling as if I truly completed it, or I am actually done—her writing feels ongoing, hidden with gems we as readers must unearth.
-Sherell, Community Engagement Coordinator


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