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Mid-Year Check In

We are halfway through 2024 and I wanted to share my favorite books that I've read so far! These are my five star reads that I think everyone should be reading!


Synopsis: Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, in the 1990s, Hanif Abdurraqib witnessed a golden era of basketball, one in which legends like LeBron James were forged and countless others weren't. His lifelong love of the game leads Abdurraqib into a lyrical, historical, and emotionally rich exploration of what it means to make it, who we think deserves success, the tension between excellence and expectation, and the very notion of role models, all of which he expertly weaves together with intimate, personal storytelling. "Here is where I would like to tell you about the form on my father's jump shot," Abdurraqib writes. "The truth, though, is that I saw my father shoot a basketball only one time."


There's Always This Year is a triumph, brimming with joy, pain, solidarity, comfort, outrage, and hope. No matter the subject of his keen focus--whether it's basketball, or music, or performance--Hanif Abdurraqib's exquisite writing is always poetry, always profound, and always a clarion call to radically reimagine how we think about our culture, our country, and ourselves.


Brief Review: I am floored by how beautiful this book is. Abdurraqib can write. There's a reason this is my favorite book I read all year and it's number on this list.



Synopsis: When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others' emotions.


Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith . . . and a startling vision of human destiny.


Brief Review: Parable of the Sower is THE classic book you have to read this year. Originally released in 1993 and takes place in a dystopian 2024. Post-apocalyptic and hauntingly truthful.



Synopsis: As global solidarity for Palestinian liberation grows, the desire for Gaza-centered texts makes this book a seminal one. As an anthology of Palenstinian writers and artists, it also lends itself to the collective effort to organize and center Palestinian voices in the ongoing struggle. Sara Roy's Unsilencing Gaza, and Natasha Marin's Black Imagination have done well as political discourse shifts toward futurism as a means of reimagining a better way of living not confined by the violence and limitations of colonialism.


Brief Review: This short book carries a lot of weight. A wide ranges of stories and voices will lead you through the streets of Gaza.



Synopsis: Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle's death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. They converge and collide on one fateful day at the Big Oakland Powwow and together this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American--grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism


A book with "so much jangling energy and brings so much news from a distinct corner of American life that it's a revelation" (The New York Times). It is fierce, funny, suspenseful, and impossible to put down--full of poetry and rage, exploding onto the page with urgency and force. There There is at once poignant and unflinching, utterly contemporary and truly unforgettable.


Brief Review: The ability to differentiate 12 voices and characters in this short novel was incredible. This story is unforgettable.



Behind You is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Synopsis: Funny and touching, Behind You Is the Sea brings us into the homes and lives of three main families--the Baladis, the Salamehs, and the Ammars--Palestinian immigrants who've all found a different welcome in America.

Their various fates and struggles cause their community dynamic to sizzle and sometimes explode: The wealthy Ammar family employs young Maysoon Baladi, whose own family struggles financially, to clean up after their spoiled teenagers. Meanwhile, Marcus Salameh confronts his father in an effort to protect his younger sister for "dishonoring" their name. Only a trip to Palestine, where Marcus experiences an unexpected and dramatic transformation, can bridge this seemingly unbridgeable divide between the two generations.

Behind You Is the Sea faces stereotypes about Palestinian culture head-on and, shifting perspectives to weave a complex social fabric replete with weddings, funerals, broken hearts, and devastating secrets.


Brief Review: A beautiful collection of stories. These characters are so real and full of life.



Down the Drain by Julia Fox

Synopsis: Julia Fox is famous for many things: her captivating acting, such as her breakout role in the film Uncut Gems; her trendsetting style, including bleached eyebrows, exaggerated eyeshadow, and cutout dresses; her mastery of social media, where she entertains and educates her millions of followers. But all these share the trait for which she is most famous: unabashedly and unapologetically being herself.


This commitment to authenticity has never been more on display than in Down the Drain. With writing that is both eloquent and accessible, Fox recounts her turbulent path to cultural supremacy: her parents' volatile relationship that divided her childhood between Italy and New York City and left her largely raising herself; a possessive and abusive drug-dealing boyfriend whose torment continued even from within Rikers Island; her own trips to jail as well as to a psychiatric hospital; her work as a dominatrix that led to a complicated entanglement with a sugar daddy; a heroin habit that led to New Orleans trap houses and that she would kick only after the fatal overdose of her best friend; her own near-lethal overdoses and the deaths of still more friends from drugs and suicide; an emotionally explosive, tabloid-dominating romance with a figure she dubs "The Artist"; a whirlwind, short-lived marriage and her trials as a single parent striving to support her young son. Yet as extraordinary as her story is, its universality is what makes it so powerful. Fox doesn't just capture her improbable evolution from grade-school outcast to fashion-world icon, she captures her transition from girlhood to womanhood to motherhood. Family and friendship, sex and death, violence and love, money and power, innocence and experience--it's all here, in raw, remarkable, and riveting detail.


More than a year before the book's publication, Fox's description of it as "a masterpiece" in a red carpet interview went viral. As always, she was just being honest. Down the Drain is a true literary achievement, as one-of-a-kind as its author.


Brief Review: Julia Fox has lived a hell of a life. There are so many times this does not feel like a biography because of how outrageous the situations she gets in are.


Honorable Mentions:



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