It’s officially November, and autumn is quickly transitioning into the frigid Wisconsin winter that we all know and love. Students are starting another round of midterms, and many are preparing to go home for the holidays. Holiday breaks are a great time to catch up on all the things that have gotten pushed to the side during the busy semester, including books you’ve been meaning to read but just haven’t gotten around to yet. You might want to pick up a book on a niche topic that a professor mentioned during a lecture, a book recommendation from a friend or maybe your favorite author just published a novel. However, if you are at a loss for leisure reading material, I’ve compiled a list of some distinctive November reads to fill your holiday break.
“Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood” — Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah — host of The Daily Show — chronicles his unconventional childhood growing up during aparthied in South Africa while being mixed race. This novel consists of 18 stories, all told with the unshakable sincerity and lively humor that characterizes Trevor Noah’s narrative style. This book tackles themes that are present in most coming-of-age memoirs but complicates them by placing them in a tumultuous environment ripe with political instability and inequality. This is a strikingly relevant novel for many reasons, one of which is that Nov. 6 is the day that the United Nations first condemned the apartheid regime in 1962 — it would take nearly 31 years for apartheid in South Africa to officially end in 1993.
“The Red Fast Road: A Plainsong” — Stephen Graham Jones
Thanksgiving is a holiday that has traditionally, and problematically, been associated with a celebratory feast between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. In recent years there has been a lot more discussion about the injustices that Indigenous people have faced, and continue to face, in this country. However, current Native American cultural contributions are still often overlooked. “The Red Fast Road: A Plainsong” draws heavily on Native American culture and juxtaposes it against a very modern setting. If you’re looking for a fiction novel with a lot of action and a bit of surrealism, then this is definitely a book you should consider reading. Stephen Graham Jones masterfully crafts a novel that feels like a post-apocalyptic imitation of the western genre, while still remaining culturally relevant.
“Know My Name: A Memoir” — Chanel Miller
One of the most anticipated memoirs of 2019, “Know My Name” is a touching story of pain, reclamation and hope. This novel is written by Chanel Miller, whose anonymous victim statement regarding her sexual assault by Brock Turner went viral in 2016. Miller is an extraordinary writer who intertwines her own story with the broader failings of the justice system when dealing with sexual assaults
This book is a collection of essays, drawings and recipes, from 31 acclaimed writers. It examines how food shapes our lives and relationships, and does that through personal anecdotes from talented literary figures. The novel includes stories from very diverse writers, ranging from stories of family dinners in Persia, to learning to feed yourself as a single 20 year old in America. The recipes reflect this diversity, they include everything from a recipe for brownies that involves sitting on the floor and eating the brownie mix out of the bag, to a long, detailed recipe for Tahdig — a traditional Persian dish. A perfect book for the food-centered Thanksgiving holiday, this novel will give you plenty to talk about, and cook, when with family.
“The Yellow House” — Sarah M. Broom
Sarah M. Broom chronicles the nearly 100-year history of her family in East New Orleans; this novel is, in a sense, the historical memoir of a home. Broom tackles the historical struggles of wealth and power divisions in New Orleans, then moving to the present and dealing with her own relationship to her family home. This book is a wonderful analysis of family and tradition within the culture of New Orleans, making it a captivating read for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Raynee Hamilton is a literature columnist for The Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.