I get it: you want some good reads to add to your list, but don’t necessarily have the time to read reviews at the moment. I’ve got just the right thing for you! In no particular order, here is a diverse list of 10 books that never fail me. There are so many more books I would love to recommend, but I tried to get a mixture of genres and authors.
Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
Quote: “Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”
Goodreads Summary: In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life—the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.
Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde
Quote: “You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other. I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same. What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order for us to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.”
Goodreads Summary: A collection of fifteen essays written between 1976 and 1984 gives clear voice to Audre Lorde’s literary and philosophical personae. These essays explore and illuminate the roots of Lorde’s intellectual development and her deep-seated and longstanding concerns about ways of increasing empowerment among minority women writers and the absolute necessity to explicate the concept of difference—difference according to sex, race, and economic status. The title Sister Outsider finds its source in her poetry collection The Black Unicorn (1978). These poems and the essays in Sister Outsider stress Lorde’s oft-stated theme of continuity, particularly of the geographical and intellectual link between Dahomey, Africa, and her emerging self.
Wretched of the Earth, by Franz Fanon
Quote: “The basic confrontation which seemed to be colonialism versus anti-colonialism, indeed capitalism versus socialism, is already losing its importance. What matters today, the issue which blocks the horizon, is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity will have to address this question, no matter how devastating the consequences may be.”
Goodreads Summary: A distinguished psychiatrist from Martinique who took part in the Algerian Nationalist Movement, Frantz Fanon was one of the most important theorists of revolutionary struggle, colonialism, and racial difference in history. Fanon’s masterwork is a classic alongside Edward Said’s Orientalism or The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and it is now available in a new translation that updates its language for a new generation of readers. The Wretched of the Earth is a brilliant analysis of the psychology of the colonized and their path to liberation. Bearing singular insight into the rage and frustration of colonized peoples, and the role of violence in effecting historical change, the book incisively attacks the twin perils of postindependence colonial politics: the disenfranchisement of the masses by the elites on the one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other. Fanon’s analysis, a veritable handbook of social reorganization for leaders of emerging nations, has been reflected all too clearly in the corruption and violence that has plagued present-day Africa. The Wretched of the Earth has had a major impact on civil rights, anticolonialism, and black consciousness movements around the world, and this bold new translation by Richard Philcox reaffirms it as a landmark.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Friere
Quote: “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
Goodreads Summary: First published in Portuguese in 1968, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was translated and published in English in 1970. The methodology of the late Paulo Freire has helped to empower countless impoverished and illiterate people throughout the world. Freire’s work has taken on especial urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is increasingly accepted as the norm. With a substantive new introduction on Freire’s life and the remarkable impact of this book by writer and Freire confidant and authority Donaldo Macedo, this anniversary edition of Pedagogy of the Oppressed will inspire a new generation of educators, students, and general readers for years to come.
The History of Mary Prince, by Mary Prince
Quote: “I heard immediately after, the cracking of the thong, and the house rang to the shrieks of poor Hetty, who kept crying out, ‘Oh, Massa! Massa! dead. Massa! have mercy upon me–don’t kill me outright.’–This was a sad beginning for me. I sat up upon my blanket, trembling with terror, like a frightened hound, and thinking that my turn would come next.”
Goodreads Summary: The first black woman to escape from slavery in the British colonies and publish a record of her experiences, Prince vividly recalls her life in the West Indies, her rebellion against physical and psychological degradation, and her 1828 escape in England. A straightforward, often poetic account of a struggle for freedom.
So Long A Letter, by Mariama Bâ
Quote: “Friendship has splendors that love knows not. It grows stronger when crossed, whereas obstacles kill love. Friendship resists time, which wearies and severs couples. It has heights unknown to love.”
Goodreads Summary (it’s so short!): This novel is in the form of a letter, written by the widowed Ramatoulaye and describing her struggle for survival. It is the winner of the Noma Award.