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To celebrate National Read a Book Day, we sent out a mass email to Californians for Justice staff and gathered a list of the most impactful books we’ve read. Here are our Top 15 books, and why we love them so much!

Signed, your local activists.

1. Hunger by Roxane Gay

This books is about pain and trauma manifesting. it illuminates the intersectional impact of our society not being equipped to support survivors and being super equipped to hate fat bodies. This book developed a new awareness for me about accessibility and shame. 

2. Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemison 

This book is amazing. I already made the Fresno staff sit through a presentation of my appreciations for [N.K. Jemison] and the way she’s taking back sci-fi from sad white boys. The way she writes and develops her characters is so natural, empowering and strangely healing. She’s writing about the end of the world, but there’s still time to challenge societal norms and unpack years of generational trauma. 

It is amazingly written and a refreshing change from typical sci-fi. 

3. SAGA Graphic Novel series  by Brian K. Vaughan, artwork by Fiona Staples

Fiona’s artwork is beautiful. I love her style and it’s what initially drew me to the series. The central story of a family being hunted across the stars for who they are and who they love is haunting.

4. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

The first book I fell in love with was 100 Years of Solitude–Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a master at magical realism and what drove me to pursue a masters’ degree in Spanish. I especially love the descriptions of Macondo as an intersection of the very real realities of what people face in Latin America with the magic that speaks to our culture. 

5. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

I never saw Democrats the same again after reading this. I cried like a baby learning how fucked up our whole system is. This was probably one of a series of books that turned me from a reformist to a revolutionary. 

6. The Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo

This book is probably my absolute favorite series ever ! (yes, I like it even more than the Witcher Series and A Song of Ice and Fire). It’s Victorian era London, meets Ocean’s eleven with a touch of magic. It is much more character driven, told from 5 different POV’s and all the main characters are developed beautifully. 

7. The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

A special shout out to all of Isabel Allende’s work. She also is a master of magical realism, but her stories center strong female characters in them. The Stories of Eva Luna is a collection of short stories told by the protagonist of a previous novel of hers, Eva Luna.  The stories will captivate you from the very beginning and center strong and wise Latinas who are not afraid to confront societal expectations. 

8. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

This book made me want to quit my job, move to Paris and run a bookstore out of a boat on the Seine. The concept is of a literary apothecary who “prescribes” you medication (the perfect book to help you heal from what you’re dealing with). It’s amazingly written and a fast read.  

9. Kindred by Octavia Butler

Sci-fi. time travel putting you in the horrors of American slavery. This book grapples with the generational impact of slavery, interracial relationships across time, and our mutual relationship with ancestors, the good and the bad. (Butler was a science fiction writer and badass who birthed prophetic sci-fi that resonates with marginalized communities and centers Black women- if you haven’t read any of her work I highly recommend)

10. Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

Not your typical story of migration. Hilarious and sad all at once. This is one of my all time favorite books and I have basically forced any reader in my life to read it!

11. Damnificados by J.J. Amaworo Wilson

I’ve had 3 people read it and not to brag, but they’ve all loved it! Set in Venezuela and woven in with magical realism, it is based on the true story of community members typically seen as outcasts who occupy a high rise and create a community all their own. 

12. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

I first read this in high school and will forever be obsessed with Borges’ description of the Library of Babel. It’s a nightmare and a dream all at once. 

13. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi 

This book is superb. I recommend this book to everyone. It is a fast moving plot told from 3 character perspectives. It is similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender in my opinion but set in an African inspired fantasy world. 

14. This is a Bust by Ed Lin

Fast gritty and intense read of post-Vietnam era NYC. The novel follows a Chinese Veteran who is a cop. Layers upon layers of commentary on race, war, with awesome character development. 

15. The Golden Compass and His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman

I read this series as a kid and it has had such a lasting and profound impact on how I view relationships, justice, families and religion. It’s targeted towards kids but as I’ve returned to it over the years, there are still so many lessons and ideas to unpack as an adult. 

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