On Expanding My Reading

Erica Ezeifedi, Associate Editor, is a transplant from Nashville, TN that has settled in the North East. In addition to being a writer, she has worked as a victim advocate and in public libraries, where she has focused on creating safe spaces for queer teens, mentorship, and providing test prep instruction free to students. Outside of work, much of her free time is spent looking for her next great read and planning her next snack.

Find her on Twitter at @Erica_Eze_.

While I am someone who fully believes in low-stakes, fun reading, I have also set the “strictest” reading resolutions for myself this year. I’ve been way lax in the past with reading resolutions, so the word “strict” here is working kind of hard. In any case, I decided to do this because, though I read very diversely, I’ve noticed myself reading a lot of the same kinds of books. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy and graphic novels, mysteries and science fiction, and the list of books I read last year is full of them.

What it’s not as full of is nonfiction and romance (surprisingly). I think you should read what you like, of course, but I’ve also noticed that when I remind myself to step out of my usual, I really enjoy it. If you’re like me and would like to journey outside your usual genres, I’ve matched up popular, mostly fictional books to books in different genres to help you land on something you like.

If You Like this Greek retelling, Read this Poetry Collection…

covers of two books: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Tradition by Jericho Brown

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller —> The Tradition by Jericho Brown

In Brown’s award-winning third poetry collection, Greek mythology, Christianity, science, and art are offered up to show just how vulnerable the most vulnerable are. The history of Black bodies — especially those of queer, Black men — being both belittled and abused is explored through different scenarios, some personal and others historical. Brown even invented another poetry form in the duplex, which combines the blues, a sonnet, and a ghazal.

If You Like this Historical Novel, Read this Nonfiction Book…

coves of two books: The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese —and Built from the Fire: The Epic Story of Tulsa's Greenwood District, America's Black Wall Street by Victor Luckerson

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese —> Built from the Fire: The Epic Story of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, America’s Black Wall Street by Victor Luckerson

Built From the Fire expands on the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which is still not as widely taught as it should be, through the story of the Goodwin family and other community members. After the massacre killed an estimated 300 people, locals rebuilt the city into a Mecca. It housed a mix of Black people of differing socio-economic classes and occupations, and even attracted icons like W.E.B. Du Bois and Muhammad Ali. Ed, a son of the Goodwin family, ends up buying the newspaper The Oklahoma Eagle, where he tries to document the Greenwood neighborhood’s progress despite white racism. This is a personalized account of Goodwin’s family and a persevering community.

If You Like this Contemporary Novel, Read this Graphic Novel…

covers of two books: Maame by Jessica George and Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith

Maame by Jessica George → Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith

We follow Kim, Tanisha, Davene, and Cookie as they navigate their friendship and everyday lives in the Bronx. As the title suggests, the importance of wash day — when many Black women set aside time for self-care through hair maintenance — centers the friends’ story. Differing color palettes help set the mood, which is often cozy, as the women revel in their sisterhood. I could see myself spilling tea with the characters in the hair salon as we sang along to someone’s playlist.

If You Like this Mystery/Thriller, Read this Romance…

covers of two books: Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano and Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano → Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai

Mira is 35, an accountant, and just wants a chill life with someone to settle down with. If this sounds like a boring character to have as your main, it’s because Mira had all the excitement anyone could take in her past living with a family of Las Vegas swindlers. Once she turned 18, she moved to be out of that world. But now that her aunt Rhea has died and she has to return to Vegas to take care of her affairs, she’s suddenly thrust back in — she quickly finds out what her estranged father has been up to ($10 million diamond theft) once she’s kidnapped by a crime lord’s henchmen. But she’s not alone. Lawyer Naveen Desai, the lawyer handling Aunt Rhea’s affairs whom Mira dumped a while back, is kidnapped with her. The two have to work together if they’re to survive a night filled with heists, art thieves, hackers, poker games, and, yes, a little spice.

If You Like this Epistolary Nonfiction, Read this Fantasy

covers of two books: 84, Charing Cross Road and The Cat Who Saved Books

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff —> The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa, translated by Louise Heal Kawai

Here, a cat named Tiger pops up into socially withdrawn high schooler Rintaro’s life after his grandfather dies. As he’s in the process of mourning for his plain-spoken, book-loving grandfather, he’s also tasked with running his grandfather’s bookstore and preparing to go live with an aunt he’s never met. With Tiger, he goes on a quest that rivals those of mythological heroes and involves rescuing books from people who don’t seem to fully appreciate them. He learns some valuable life lessons along the way.

Here’s to expanding our reading in 2024! But to also keeping it chill. Chill is good, too.

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