5 books that will make you think about what it means to be human

Boulder Book Store in Boulder, Colorado. Credit: Boulder Book Store

It's been a rocky week, at home and abroad. Bomb threats were made against Jewish community centers and schools. More controversy over Russia's role in the 2016 elections engulfed Congress and the White House. Russia and China vetoed new sanctions  on Syria. Deadly tornadoes ripped across the Midwest. And the country's opioid epidemic kept getting worse.

At the arts desk, we often turn to books for refuge, insight and perspective. Last month, after the new administration took office, we asked our local bookstore Politics & Prose for the best books to read on politics. This time, we went to independent book seller Boulder Book Store for their thoughts on what to read now. Here are five recommendations, in the words of the staff, that focus on books that explore joy, inclusivity and the human condition.

Credit: Vintage

1. "We Should All Be Feminists" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Everyone should read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "We Should All Be Feminists." In Sweden, every high school sophomore gets a free copy. This little book is deeply personal, yet searing in its universality, and paints a picture of a feminism that is inclusive and benefits all. Based on Adichie's TEDx talk, it can be read in under an hour but will keep you thinking long after you finish.  A really great read for everyone.


Credit: Chelsea Green Publishing Company

2. "Born on Third Baseby Chuck Collins

Written by a former member of the one percent, this book presents a nuanced analysis of America's super rich. It does a thorough job of documenting what Collins describes as wealth defense systems: the myriad ways the super rich protect and grow their fortunes through political influence, tax dodges, manipulated charities and off-shore accounts. The book also shows the psychological toll that can come with isolating themselves from the larger commonwealth in gated estates. But he does not paint the super rich with a broad brush, and cites many who have used their riches for good. We liked that this book avoids the 'us vs. them' posturing usually used to characterize this economic divide. It is more a thoughtful invitation to the rich: rejoin American society and be happier for it.

Credit: Counterpoint Press

3. "The Blue Hourby Laura Pritchett

In this deeply emotional and sensual novel, Pritchett reminds us that we can go on in bleak times and that even in dark moments there are sparks of joy and renewal. The residents of Blue Moon Mountain are reeling after the beloved but troubled community veterinarian kills himself during a snowstorm. Each character gets their own chapter and together their stories form a tapestry of a community blessed with love, compassion and humanity. Some people come together in lustful trysts, others accept familial obligations and still more forge bonds that may see them to the end of their days. Pritchett's book will help you forget the turmoil in the world around us, and luxuriate in the glory of what it means to be simply and beautifully human.

Credit: Scholastic Press

4. "George" by Alex Gino

George is transgender and wants the world to see her as she is: a girl. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George is able to play Charlotte in the fourth-grade class performance of Charlotte's Web. This play lets her feel whole and real, and share her true self with her friends and family. Inspiring and moving, "George" is a timely coming-of-age story.

Credit: Deckle Edge

5. "Earning the Rockies" by Robert D. Kaplan

Kaplan posits an intriguing theory, via a road trip across the U.S., on the profound impact our continent's unique geography has on the American past, present, and future. A key element of his discussion focuses on several mid-twentieth century authors, most notably Bernard DeVoto and Wallace Stegner, whose works remain pertinent today. Kaplan's journey across America sheds light on the diversity of our country, its geography, politics, prosperity and perspective.


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