We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A thoughtful collection of essays that examines the sobering reality of modern America: where the unprecedented election of a black president is followed by the election of a white man who, as Coates argues, would not be president were it not for this fact.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

A 300-page alternate-history novel that forces one to look at how much — or indeed, how very little — things have changed since the horror of the transatlantic slave trade.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

A rare tour de force of historical research that examines the crucial legacy of class structure in America and how this legacy gave rise to a permanent, often-overlooked underclass of Americans: the poor whites.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

The first book by an American author to win the Man Booker Prize, The Sellout uses the viciousness of satire to question the absurd idea of a “post-racial America."

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo is an unusual but astounding feat of the imagination that explores the story of Willie Lincoln, the eleven-year-old son of Abraham Lincoln, who tragically dies of typhoid fever one year into the American Civil War. After passing, Willie finds himself stuck in the Bardo ­— a Tibetan term for “transition” between the moment of death and whatever comes next.

Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau

An eccentric but hauntingly relevant meditation on nature and simple living, Walden is an American classic that recounts the experiences of a hermit who spends two years of his life in an all but lonely Massachusetts cabin.

My Struggle (Books 1–6) by Karl Ove Knausgård

“Why would you read a six-volume, 3,600-page Norwegian novel about a man writing a six-volume 3,600-page Norwegian novel? The short answer is that it is breathtakingly good and so you cannot stop yourself and would not want to.” — Leland de la Durantaye, New York Times book review

Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Fifteen invaluable suggestions for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman.