Yaa Gyasi

“The need to call this thing ‘good’ and this thing ‘bad,’ this thing ‘white’ and this thing ‘black’... In her village, everything was everything. Everything bore the weight of everything else.”

I was amazed by this book in a way that I had forgotten was possible. To express it, I will look to one of its many vivid portraits: Marcus, a sociology student. With his research he wants to capture “the feeling of time, of having been a part of something that stretched so far back, was so improbably large, that it was easy to forget that she, and he, and everyone else, existed in it - not apart from it, but inside of it.”

This, I believe, is what Yaa Gyasi has accomplished with her own work. From the onset of slavery to its transition into the prison industrial complex and from coal mining to Christianity, she reminds us what we have never stepped out of.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Shirley Jackson

“In this village the men stayed young and did the gossiping and the women aged with grey evil weariness and stood silently waiting for the men to get up and come home.”

I read the last 34 pages of this book individually as they fell loose from the spine. It seemed perfectly fitting, considering the state of the castle. But I should tell you, the castle is only a house: with a harp in the mother’s old sitting room, Uncle Julian in his wheelchair in the garden, and a creek for Mary Katherine to run to. It’s a beautiful house, but one that the villagers both covet and fear. Although, I think people feel that way about Shirley Jackson too.


Maria Popova

“We are different people in different situations, each of our dormant multitudes awakened by a particular circumstance, particular chemistry, particular stroke of chance; each true, each real - a composite Master of our being.”

We are different people too after reading certain books, which is the case for me and Figuring. Some brilliant concoction of biography, queer studies, history, literature, science, and art… it reads like a master of all beings itself: from Emily Dickinson to Rachel Carson, Margaret Fuller to Ralph Waldo Emerson. At over 500 pages, it seems to freeze time - catching the intricacies of one million moments like a single snowflake from the sky.

The Delicacy and Strength of Lace

Leslie Marmon Silko + James Wright

“I guess I am still surprised at the feeling we had for him — to realize that without wanting to, without any reason to, he had been dear to us. We are told we should love only the good and the beautiful, and these are defined for us so narrowly. Monday I will be 31.”

All of this and more, written to a stranger, about a rooster. But what else is there to say for this brief and perfect collection? This collection written between writers who met only twice: first at a reading, and then a hospital bed? A punch to the gut that lands you flat on your back in a field of tall, soft grasses… that has you looking up at a red-jeweled sky.


Ling Ma

“Memories beget memories. Shen Fever being a disease of remembrance, the fevered are trapped indefinitely… But what is the difference between the fevered and us? Because I remember too, I remember perfectly.”

A year before the onset of COVID-19, Ling Ma made her literary debut with this satirical science fiction masterpiece. Set during a global pandemic that originated in China, Severance was the author's answer to the classic immigrant novel. Edgy and comedic, eerie and award-winning, she chose instead to pen something entirely unexpected - a new brand of zombie apocalypse novel, a millennial prophesy.