Back-to-School Reading List Toolkit

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Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
The Los Angeles Times
calls Hayes’ new collection, “The right poetry collection for right now.” A MacArthur Fellow, Hayes won a National Book Award for Lighthead in 2010. His newest work is nothing short of stunning.

Ada Limón, The Carrying
In her most autobiographical work yet, The Carrying is Limón’s fifth book of poetry and it explores the interwoven societal elements of womanhood, motherhood and power. Limón was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry for Bright Dead Things, which was also named one of the Top Ten Poetry Books of the Year by the New York Times. Watch PBS Books’ interview with Limón at the 2018 AWP Bookfair.

Tracy K. Smith, Wade in the Water: Poems
Our current United States Poet Laureate and a former Pulitzer Prize winner in 2011 for Life on Mars, Smith’s newest book of poems, Wade in the Water, offers profound insight into our country’s past, and finding a way forward with compassion and love. Watch Smith's interview from the 2018 National Book Festival. 



Karin Slaughter, Pieces of Her
Slaughter delivers yet another heart stopping, suspenseful thriller featuring a daughter who discovers in an astonishing instant that her mother is not the woman she thought she knew. A well-crafted suspense story with complicated and deeply engaging characters that will, like so many of Slaughter’s previous novels, leave you wanting more.

Luis Alberto Urrea, The House of Broken Angels
Urea’s 5th novel is an abundant homage to the pleasures of family, passion, joy, heartache and humor. As Urrea himself describes it, The House of Broken Angels is “the story of an American family—one that happens to speak Spanish and admire the Virgin of Guadalupe. Imperfect and glorious, messy and hilarious, sometimes heroic.” Urrea, who also writes poetry and nonfiction, is a member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame and a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist in nonfiction for his book, The Devil’s Highway. Watch Urrea’s interview with PBS Books at the 2018 L.A. Times Festival of Books.

Leni Zumas, Red Clocks: A Novel
Zumas’s book imagines a not-so-distant dystopian future where women no longer have self-determination. It’s chilling, sometimes funny, relevant and beautifully written. Red Clocks was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, an Indie Next pick, and one of Esquire's Most Anticipated Books of 2018. Watch Zumas’ interview with PBS Books at the 2018 AWP Bookfair.



Michael Eric Dyson, What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America.
In 1963 Attorney General Robert Kennedy sought out James Baldwin to explain the rage that threatened to engulf black America. Baldwin brought along some friends, including playwright Lorraine Hansberry, psychologist Kenneth Clark, and a valiant activist, Jerome Smith. Georgetown professor and ordained minister Dyson brilliantly examines the dynamic of that meeting and its effects—and especially the concept of speaking truth to power that is as relevant today as it was in 1963.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Leadership: In Turbulent Times
The renowned presidential scholar’s newest work draws from Goodwin’s in-depth studies of Presidents Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Johnson, providing an illuminating exploration of the age old question: What does it take to be an effective leader? Goodwin has won the Pulitzer Prize, the Carnegie Medal, the Lincoln Prize and is a New York Times #1 bestselling author. Watch Goodwin's interview from the 2018 National Book Festival. 

Jon Meacham, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels
Meacham’s new book goes back to critical times in our nation’s history when hope overcame division and fear. The historian and presidential scholar shows that our current climate of partisan fury is not new, and what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature” have repeatedly won the day. Watch Meacham's interview from the 2018 National Book Festival. 



Tomi Adeyemi, Children of Blood and Bone
An instant #1 New York Times bestseller, the first in a trilogy, Children is a gorgeous YA fantasy novel set in West Africa. This is a heroine’s journey set out to fight injustice for her people, an adventure that journeys throughout the magical land of Orïsha, deeply infused in West African folklore and influenced by more contemporary racial issues. One of the most explosive new writers in years, the 25- year-old Adeyemi is poised for a huge writing career.

Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak: The Graphic Novel, artwork by Emily Carroll. Anderson’s original novel, the New York Times bestseller Speak, is re-imagined in a powerful graphic novel format. The images are stunning and highly effective, telling the survival story of a young woman who was sexually assaulted. Wit, courage and ultimately triumph are on full display. Watch Anderson’s interview with PBS Books at the 2018 L.A. Times Festival of Books.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 20th Anniversary edition of the U.S. publication illustrated by Brian Selznick
Rowling’s classic novels have new editions, with lush and beautiful cover illustrations by worldwide bestselling author and Caldecott Medal-winning artist, Brian Selznick. Whether you’re new to the world of Harry Potter or looking to revisit this classic, you’ll be delighted with the brand new renderings of the Wizarding World and all its colorful characters. Watch Selznick's interview from the 2018 National Book Festival. 


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