2017 Reading List

Earlier this month, I got into a testy professional conversation with an online colleague who was bemoaning how colleges/universities are no longer permitted to teach the dead white guy literary canon because diversity, or something equally stupid. It pissed me off. Not only is that claim patently untrue, but it also denigrates the many brilliant writers who don’t happen to be white males (dead optional). So next year’s personal reading will be an all-female and POC affair. I asked my Facebook friends, a blend of lifelong friends, writers, former students, and teacher colleagues if they had suggestions. Boy howdy, did they! Some of these I’ve read, some of these I teach, but many of these are new to me. I’m fortunate to have so many well-read friends. Here are their suggestions, divided by author names and specific titles. Names may appear on both lists. Hope you find something you’d like to try next year as well!


Chiminanda Ngozi Adichie
Margaret Atwood
Claire Battershill
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Octavia Butler
Ally Carter
Edwidge Danticat
Lawrence Hill
Langston Hughes
Beverly Jenkins
Tayari Jones
Maxine Hong Kingston
Jhumpa Lahiri
Vincent Lam
Gabriel García Marquez
Sharyn McCrumb
Toni Morrison
Bharati Mukherjee
Haruki Murakami
Joyce Carol Oates
Heather O’Neill
Louise Penny
Marge Piercy
Lee Smith
Zadie Smith
Amy Tan
Kim Thuy
Miriam Toewes
Alice Walker


After by Marita Golden
Almanac of the Dead, by Leslie Marmon Silko
Americanah by Chiminanda Ngozi Adichie
The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich
Art by Yasmina Reza
Ash by Malinda Lo
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The Back of the Turtle 
by Thomas King
The Bean Trees
by Barbara Kingsolver
Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures
by Vincent Lam
Blue Highways
by William Least Heat-Moon
The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
Brick Lane
by Monica Ali
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
by Dee Brown
Chronicle of a Death Foretold
by Gabriel García Marquez
by Claire Battershill
A Complicated Kindness
by Miriam Toewes
Death Comes for the Archbishop
by Willa Cather
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
Flowers from the Storm
by Laura Kinsale
The Flying Troutmans
by Miriam Toewes
Fugitive Pieces
by Anne Michaels
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott
Green Grass, Running Water
by Thomas King
Half of a Yellow Sun 
by Chiminanda Ngozi Adichie
Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headmaster’s Wager
by Vincent Lam
His Wives’ Cats
by Mahmoud Shukair
The House of the Spirits
by Isabel Allende
The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros
The Illegal
by Lawrence Hill
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America 
by Thomas King
Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Island of Eternal Love by Daína Chaviano
Itchy Brown Girl Seeks Employment by Ella DeCastro Baron
Joplin’s Ghost by Tananarive Due
The Jumbie Bird by Ismith Khan
by Banana Yoshimoto
Law of Love
by Laura Esquivel
Leaving Atlanta
by Tayari Jones
Like Water for Chocolate
by Laura Esquivel
Lime Tree Can’t Bear Orange
by Amanda Smyth
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill
The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland
The Mists of Avalon
by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Mordechai’s Mustache by Mahmoud Shukair
Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat
Purple Hibiscus by Chiminanda Ngozi Adichie
A Rage in Harlem
by Chester Himes
Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
Ru by Kim Thuy
Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai
The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
So Far from God by Ana Castillo
Spirits of the Ordinary: A Tale of Casas Grandes by Kathleen Alcala
The Stars Change by Mary Anne Mohanraj
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Sweetness in the Belly
by Camilla Gibb
Swing Low: A Life by Miriam Toewes
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
To Sir, With Love by E. R. Braithwaite
The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative 
by Thomas King
The Way the Crow Flies
by Anne-Marie MacDonald
The Wedding
by Dorothy West
The Well-Dressed Ape
by Hannah Holmes
Unaccustomed Earth
by Jhumpa Lahiri
Who Fears Death
 by Nnedi Okorafar
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
You Learn by Living
by Eleanor Roosevelt

La Lettre by Abraham Solomon, 1843


  1. My reading goes in cycles: not many books in the last few years. Maybe I’ll read more in 2017. Which 5 from your list should I tackle?

    I am rereading Sweet Thursday. Got the new Grisham for Ch-mas.

    • Many of these titles are new to me, but of the authors and titles I’ve read before, try these:

      The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
      Sharyn McCrumb is a terrific Appalachian writer. Try one of the Ballad series (they all have titles of traditional ballads) or the McPherson mysteries (Scottish-flavored).
      Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon is the Arthurian legend from a decidedly feminine POV.
      Any of the Earthseed books by Octavia Butler, or Kindred.
      Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Absolutely gorgeous prose, and she’s from Eatonville.
      Everyone should read Toni Morrison’s Beloved, but fair warning–it’s one of the great reads of the 20th century and should be approached with respect.

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