A lot of ink has already been spilled over the unique character of 2020, a year that defied all of our expectations to deliver the best and the worst plot twists of our lives. And while it may be that we're living through a period in history that will be "super cool to read about," we woke up every day eager to read anything but the latest presidential Twitter rant or another lukewarm media condemnation of Far-right violence. At times reading felt impossible, at other times it felt like all we had.
So what books were we getting lost in between Zoom calls or stuffing into care packages for quarantined loved ones? With the world outside feeling strangely like fiction, we found ourselves both living and reading in the liminal space between nonfiction and fantasy. The books we embraced, from works of futurism to activist social science, contributed to a vision of our lives beyond carceralism, white supremacy, and ecological crisis.
It's not often we are able to read about history as it’s taking place, but that's what Roy has done in Azadi; providing us up to the minute commentary on world events… Arundhati Roy's Azadi is a collection of essays and speeches describing India's recent descent into totalitarianism that speaks to the heart and the mind. Intelligent and thoughtful and written with empathy, it brings the reality of the situation home in way few other writers can.
—Richard Marcus, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Deb Unferth's hilarious, off-kilter genius is on dazzling display in this novel. Come for the brilliant insights about our faltering civilization. Stay for the revolutionaries and the chickens. You are really really going to love these chickens…
—Jenny Offill, author of Weather: A Novel
This is the collection that so many of us have been waiting for, capturing the knowledge generated by grassroots experiments undertaken by bold, imaginative activists working to respond to and prevent violence. We will be using this as a reference book for building community responses to harm and violence for decades to come.
—Dean Spade, author of Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next)
This is the novel I've been waiting for. This is the novel we've all been waiting for. Everything's different now, with Black Sun. Different and better. Stands shoulder to shoulder with the very best fantasy out there. There's Martin, there's Jemisin, and now there's Roanhorse.
—Stephen Graham Jones, author of The Only Good Indians
Conjure Women is a beautifully written novel that explores bondage and freedom through the lives of vividly drawn women who will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page. Afia Atakora is a writer of extraordinary talent and depth, and this spellbinding debut is a must-read.
—Anissa Gray, author of The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
These accounts and reflections are stupendous. They empower us with evidence of something we already know, from somewhere deep: that we have the power to govern ourselves and our communities… In this book, we can study our chosen history, learn from and with our extended ideological family, admire the fierceness of the people’s imagination in the face of the State’s repression.
—Marieke Bivar, Fifth Estate Magazine
Empire of Wild is doing everything I love in a contemporary novel and more. It is tough, funny, beautiful, honest and propulsive—all the while telling a story that needs to be told by a person who needs to be telling it. The book feels like now, and we need more stories from Native communities to feel that way. She knows this community and this community will know she knows it when they read her, but it will resonate with so many more. Cherie Dimaline is a voice that feels both inevitable and necessary.
—Tommy Orange, author of There There
In Defense of Looting is a clear and damning indictment of the origins and evolution of property rights, race, and policing in the United States. Ultimately, Osterweil demands we not only overcome the respectability politics animating our desire for 'peaceful protests,' but that we ambitiously work to abolish the racial capitalist logics at the heart of American empire.
—Zoé Samudzi, coauthor of As Black As Resistance
A variety of Two-Spirit/queer Indigenous authors explore events during or after an apocalypse. Most of the stories share a sensibility rooted in the fact that for all Indigenous people, but for Two-Spirit and queer Indigenous people especially, there has already been a vast apocalypse… These stories are a welcome breath of fresh air in the often hyperindividualist, survivalist subgenre of postapocalyptic fiction, and are essential reading for anyone committed to the possibilities of sf as a means to create new and different futures.
—Nell Keep, Booklist
This work is personal, political, and practical. Lama Rod Owens is wildly generous in letting us see him wrestle his way through his own pain, rage, and arousal. He weaves us from his own story to ours, from his Blackness, gayness, his prophetic nature, to our collective need to feel, harness, and express anger. And then every other page offers practices, practical guidance on how to be in right relationship to anger, to understand the power and wholeness of rage. What a gift!
—adrienne maree brown, author of Emergent Strategy
Prison by Any Other Name sounds an alarm about the extension of the prison through ‘alternative to incarceration’ projects. It demonstrates that these ‘alternatives’ continue the work of imprisonment in different ways. It also points us towards a way out of criminalization. The book is an important addition to the new canon of work focused on mass criminalization in the U.S. READ. THIS. BOOK.
—Mariame Kaba, author of We Do This Til We Free Us
Stories, at their best, will break something old in you or build something new. Remarkably, Punching The Air does both. Zoboi and Salaam have created nothing short of a masterwork of humanity, with lyrical arms big enough to cradle the oppressed, and metaphoric teeth sharp enough to chomp on the bitter bones of racism. This is more than a story. This is a necessary exploration of anger, and a radical reflection of love, which ultimately makes for an honest depiction of what it means to be young and Black in America.”
—Jason Reynolds, author of Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks