As we bring the semester to a close and prepare for three weeks of holiday vacation, I’d like to recommend that you guys check out NPR’s recommendations for this year’s best books. I enjoy looking through this list each year – to see how many of these ‘year’s best’ I’ve already read, and to see what I need to put on my list for the next few months.

Click here to access the list. 

Remember, the only way you can truly improve at literary and rhetorical analysis, at identify allusions and text connections, and at understanding the larger significance of literature is to read more. And then read some more again. I’ve taken to liberty of pulling a few of the books from the NPR list for 2016 that I have read and personally enjoy, and a few I’ll be adding to my own ‘to do’ list – so feel free to talk to me about these books if you do (or have) read them!

Mrs. Pierce’s Recommendations

“I read and loved each of these books – and since I’m obviously an authority on books, you should take my advice and read these books too! 😉 No, but really – read these books ya’ll.”


Fiction – Alternate History

Thomas Jefferson Dreams Of Sally Hemings: A Novel By Stephen O’Connor

“Everyone knows the story — or thinks they do — of Thomas Jefferson and his enslaved paramour, Sally Hemings. Stephen O’Connor gives us a vision of how that relationship began and, given the obvious inequities in the relationship, grew into something approaching a meeting of minds.”




american-cake-from-colonial-gingerbread-to-classic-layer-the-stories-and-recipes-behind-more-than-125-of-our-bestloved-cakesNon-Fiction: Recipes/Food History

American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread To Classic Layer, The Stories And Recipes Behind More Than 125 Of Our Best-Loved Cakes
By Anne Byrn

“If you like cakes, you’re not alone. For 250 years, Americans have been making whatever cake they could with whatever they could find. Anne Byrn’s impressive, big-hearted, historical tribute to the genre is a must-have for its dizzying diversity. (You surely haven’t heard of Oregon prune cake, Texas sheath cake or Scripture Cake, have you?) You can trace America’s gastronomic evolution and geographic expansion from cornmeal and molasses to Hershey bars and pineapples. Both the cakes and their stories are obscure, unexpected, delightful and worth getting to know, one sweet slice of history at a time.”


white-trash-the-400year-untold-history-of-class-in-americaNon-Fiction: Cultural/American History

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History Of Class In America
By Nancy Isenberg

“As a British-born American citizen, I bought wholeheartedly into one of America’s founding myths: That Americans, through some rare good fortune, escaped the burdens of class that plagued mother England. In her brilliant new book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Nancy Isenberg shatters the illusion that, at least if you were white and male, you could achieve whatever you wanted in this vast new land of opportunity. Instead, Isenberg introduces us to the “lubbers,” the “clay-eaters,” the “crackers” — all the marginalized people who were shipped off to the Colonies, “simply to throw down manure and die in a vacuous muck.” Isenberg tells a fascinating story of the troubling pervasiveness of class throughout American history, and it’s a must read for anyone who wants to understand the role classism still plays in today’s politics.”


highly-illogical-behaviorFiction: Young Adult Novels

Highly Illogical Behavior
By John Corey Whaley

“An ambitious high school junior decides to befriend a former classmate and “cure” him of his agoraphobia as a way to secure the scholarship she needs to the college of her choice; emotionally fraught high jinks ensue. That’s the kind of plot summary that makes you raise both eyebrows, and not necessarily in a good way. But in the hands of John Corey Whaley, it becomes a book that will make you laugh out loud, full of characters that, while highly comic, never lack nuance or feel less than real — a book just heightened enough to crackle with fun, but grounded enough to keep you fully invested in its oddballs.”


march-book-threeGraphic Novel:

March: Book Three
By John Lewis, with Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell

“The third and final installment of Congressman John Lewis’ retelling of the civil rights movement is genius. Even if you already know the story well, March: Book Three is well worth the reminder of the African-American struggle to register to vote. Nate Powell’s masterful brushwork swirls and carries you through the years of struggle, loss and pain all the way from 1963 Birmingham, Ala., to 2009 Washington, D.C. Once you’ve read it, you will want to pass it on.”



Mrs. Pierce’s Reading To-Do List

“I desperately want to read these books…. if you read them before me, please don’t spoil them!”

Fiction – Alternate Histories



Underground Airlines
By Ben H. Winters

“Ben Winters’ work of alternate history imagines the Civil War never happened. Instead, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated before he took office and, in an act of compromise, four states were allowed to maintain slavery. The other states all agreed that any escaped “Persons Bound to Labor” must be returned to their corporate plantation. That’s where Victor comes in: He’s a bounty hunter who’s adept at his job because he’s black. ”



the-underground-railroad-a-novelThe Underground Railroad: A Novel
By Colson Whitehead

“What if the Underground Railroad, rather than being a metaphor, had been a sooty, clanking reality running through a network of tunnels dug by enslaved people? That’s the premise of Colson Whitehead’s brilliant Underground Railroad, surely the novel of the year. As he did in his singular 1999 debut, The Intuitionist, Whitehead imagines an alternative past that hews close to historical facts, but also ingeniously riffs on them. The plot focuses on Cora, an escaped slave who takes a series of harrowing rides on the Underground Railroad, only to find herself traveling further away from freedom and deeper into the mystery of American racism.”



Non-Fiction: Recipes/Food History

the-indian-cooking-courseThe Indian Cooking Course
By Monisha Bharadwaj

“Here we have the best — and maybe the only — book currently aiming to teach Indian cooking in a systematic way. (Author Monisha Bharadwaj runs an Indian cooking school in London.) Just as you’d expect, The Indian Cooking Course has recipes for rice, dals, vegetables, meats, chutneys, flatbreads, vindaloos, kormas and samosas. But it’s not just recipes; the reference material goes wide and deep, from colorful street shots and essays on regional foodways to step-by-step demo photos and instructions. The package is equally lyrical and technical, and a pleasure to use.”


Non-Fiction: Cultural/American Histories

all-the-single-ladies-unmarried-women-and-the-rise-of-an-independent-nationAll The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women And The Rise Of An Independent Nation
By Rebecca Traister

“All the Single Ladies begins with a milestone statistic: For the first time in the U.S., single adult women now outnumber married adult women. From there, the book takes a celebratory look at women’s hard-fought independence and the realities (both good and bad) of being a woman on your own. Author Rebecca Traister effortlessly bridges the gap between Susan B. Anthony (who predicted an “epoch of single women” back in the 1870s) and Carrie Bradshaw, highlighting the lives and choices of single women past and present. As Traister writes, “The story of single women is the story of the country.” Now put your hands up!”


imbeciles-the-supreme-court-american-eugenics-and-the-sterilization-of-carrie-buckImbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, And The Sterilization Of Carrie Buck
By Adam Cohen

“Though most Americans are familiar with Nazi Germany’s horrific eugenics program, it’s less well known that, in 1927, Oliver Wendell Holmes, a polymath and justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, championed forced sterilization as a way to “protect” the U.S. gene pool. In Imbeciles, author Adam Cohen details the landmark high court decision that led to the state mandated sterilization of up to 70,000 Americans. Connecting the dots from Charles Darwin, to faux science, to misguided immigration anxiety, Cohen recounts the compelling tale of Carrie Buck, the plaintiff in the court case, who was sterilized after the state of Virginia deemed her “feebleminded.” The Nazis borrowed from the U.S. eugenics program, Cohen warns, and, to this day, Buck v. Bell has never been officially overturned.”


Graphic Novels:

monstress-volume-1-awakeningMonstress Volume 1: Awakening
By Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda

“This epic fantasy graphic novel tells the story of Maika, a teenage heroine who struggles with a hungry monster living inside her, set in a magical world torn apart by war. The book isn’t an easy read, especially if you don’t like gore, but it’s a worthwhile one. With the help of Sana Takeda’s lushly detailed art, Marjorie Liu has created a story full of gods and monsters that’s ultimately about the violence of dehumanization, the brutality of racism and what it means to be human.”



the-white-donkey-terminal-lanceThe White Donkey: Terminal Lance
By Maximilian Uriarte

“Over the past few years, American veterans of the war in Iraq have published quite a few works of fiction that focus on the moral quandaries of soldiers and their struggles for redemption. Maximillian Uriarte’s graphic novel, The White Donkey, stands out from the rest in that it is told from the perspective of a simple infantryman, explores the psychological costs of combat, and confronts the discomfort that comes from encounters with civilians in an occupied country. The artwork is clean and sober, with a distinct color palette for different places and times. A fresh and affecting book.”