top of page
  • Writer's pictureMiriam Grobman

These Books Will Help You Travel to New Places Without Ever Leaving Your Couch

Maya Angelou Autobiography, Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz, Exit West, Mohsin Hamid

As the year is coming to its end, I have been reflecting about my favorite nonfiction professional books. The truth though is that my favorite genre has always been and will always be fiction. I also discovered in recent years that reading fiction helps me get into the flow state; I get most of my creative business ideas while reading novels! More recently, I added (auto)biographies to the mix. Reading about the lives of pioneering women (like these here), gives me extra inspiration! Here are some of my favorite novels / (auto)biographies for 2018: 1. Maya Angelou's 7 autobiographic books, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and finishing with Mom & Me & Mom. Born in 1928, African-American poet, singer, dancer, writer and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, had lived an incredibly versatile and meaningful life. She and her brother were raised by her religiously devout grandmother in segregated Stamps, Arkansas and later moved in with her mother in San Francisco. Maya became a teenage mom, worked as a prostitute to support herself for a little while and then fought her way to get a job as the first African American woman streetcar conductor in San Francisco when she was just 16. She then trained as performer and travelled the world singing and dancing. Later, she got involved in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. She was married several times, lived in France, Egypt, Ghana, New York and LA, among rest. And all of the above is just a really small sample of what she had experienced and achieved in her lifetime. Angelou's story is fascinating and her writing is clear, clever and often humorous. She opens a window not only into her life but also into the historical periods she'd lived through. 2. Homegoing by Yaa Gayasi. Homegoing is a historical novel that follows the lives of several generations of an Asante family originating from present day Ghana. Each chapter tells the story of one generation. The book walks us through history of Ghana's colonization by the British, rivaling tribes selling each other into slavery, slaves being brought to the south of the United States, emancipation, former slaves trying to build their lives, living through segregation, etc. Aside from learning more about the culture and history of Ghana, a country I knew very little about, it was really interesting to understand the impact that slavery had on so many generations of families. Incidentally, as I finished Homegoing, I started reading Maya Angelou's 5th book, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes, which centers around the time she spent in Ghana, understanding her identity as a black but also American woman. 3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Jonut Diaz. Oscar Wao is an obese Dominican American science fiction nerd living in New Jersey. He's always falling in love, trying to date girls and failing miserably. As the reader, you both feel sorry for him and want to slap him out of his cluelessness and desperation. In parallel, the plot follows the family's history during Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship in the Dominican Republic ("DR") and gives us a glimpse into the good, bad and the ugly of those times. Oscar ends up finding his true love in the DR but it doesn't end the way we would expect. The story is funny, dramatic and complex. It's peppered with slang and Dominican cultural notes. 4. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. Nadia and Saeed are young adults in a conservative muslim country which is going through a civil war. Nadia is a strong woman who is living a humble public life but a more daring private life riding a motorcycle and smoking weed. Saeed is a loyal son and good employee and admires Nadia's courage. They fall in love and as the situation at their home country becomes worse, they decide to escape to the west through a secret portal. They then have to rebuild their lives and find their dignity as refugees in a western country. The story brings us closer to the lives of refugees who could have been people like us one day but all of the sudden find themselves torn between two worlds: one that doesn't exist anymore and one that is not exactly welcoming. What about you? Have you read any great books this year?

newsletter sign up

128 views0 comments
bottom of page