“Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures” 
~ Jessamyn West

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”
~ Franz Kafka

From an early age, I talked to books.  And they talked back.  This dialogue represented my initial foray into the practice and experience of learning, assimilation, stimulation and distillation.  I began to “mark up” the books that I read (I still do!); I underlined, asterisked, made notes in the margins, highlighted, dog-eared furiously.  I layered my own thoughts and responses on top of the primary text.  I asked questions, drew conclusions, disagreed vehemently with the author’s points, exclaimed passionately in agreement.  There was no end to the churning that took place in my mind as I delved deeper and deeper into the world of the book.

When I read and mark up the text I use my hand in a different way than I do my eyes. The information is presented to me first through sight; it is then sifted through, analyzed, and interrogated through writing ~ not a sense, but as a discrete action, representative of an effort that extends beyond that of vision.  This is my “processor;” this method dictates the limit of my “processing speed.”  I can only assimilate the information in bits, as I unravel each line of text and translate it into something meaningful through my dialogic interaction with it.

To impose order on these selections presented me with several options. I could arrange the list by: year of publication, geography, genre, field of inquiry, the chronology of my own reading, or according to some sort of hierarchical order of preference. But none of these seemed appropriate to the task nor aligned with my intentions.

So here they are, beloved books and authors, in some semblance of order, sometimes. But mostly just materialized out of a vast chain of associations, hazy remembrances, vivid recall, and psychological imprint. These books and authors have inspired, surprised, amused, angered, depressed, and enlightened me. They have all moved me in way or another ~ and sometimes, in many directions all at once….

*I am extremely fond of poetry and short stories, but there are far more poems, poets, and short story titles to list on this page, so pardon the exclusion of most of them here. In addition, many of my books and reading journals are housed in a storage unit at the moment, so this list is of necessity fragmentary and loose.*

Michel de Montaigne, Essays

W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk and Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860–1880

Karl Marx

Friedrich Nietzsche

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish & Madness and Civilization

Malcolm X, “The Ballot or The Bullet” & The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley

David Harvey, Social Justice and the City & The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change & The Enigma of Capital

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground & The Brothers Karamazov

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Robin D.G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States

Robin D.G. Kelley and Earl Lewis, To Make Our World Anew

Stephen Pimpare, A People’s History of Poverty in America

William T. Vollmann, Rising Up, Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams

Langston Hughes

Richard Rodriguez, Brown: The Last Discovery of America

Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles & Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster

Frederick Douglass

Robert Hayden

Studs Terkel

Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid: An Illuminated Factor of Evolution

The Verso Book of Dissent: Revolutionary Words from Three Millennia of Rebellion and Resistance

Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr., Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party

Ericka Huggins and Stephen Shames, Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party

Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education

Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color

Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment

Naomi Klein, No Logo

Kate Rushin, The Black Back-Ups

Mark Strand

Terrance Hayes

Jim Harrison

Barry Lopez

Kimberle Crenshaw, Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement

Kimberle Crenshaw, Luke Charles Harris, and George Lipsitz, The Race Track: How the Myth of Equal Opportunity Defeats Racial Justice

Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Abolition Geography: Essays Towards Liberation

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, The Book of Hours, Duino Elegies

Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born

Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America & Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route

Stuart Hall

Shobha Rao, Girls Burn Brighter

Henry James

Kazuo Ishigiro

Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ‘Til The Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America

Imani Perry, South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon Line to Understand the Soul of a Nation

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What is Property? an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government

Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays & Living My Life

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse & A Room of One’s Own

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks & Alienation and Freedom

Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Abolition Geography: Essays Towards Liberation

Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Disturbances in the Field

Alice Koller, An Unknown Woman: A Journey to Self-Discovery

May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

Reverend William J. Barber II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear

Michelle Wilde Anderson, The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America

bell hooks, especially Teaching to Transgress and All About Love

Katherine Franke, Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition

Joyce Ladner, The Death of White Sociology: Essays on Race and Culture

Muriel Rukeyser

June Jordan

Gayl Jones, Corregidora

ntozake shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

Margaret Busby, ed., New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent 

Audre Lorde

Andre Malraux

Andre Gide

Paul Valery

Aime Cesaire

Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

George Lamming, In the Castle of My SkinThe Pleasures of Exile

Edward Said

J.M. Coetzee

Mary Oliver

Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta

Penelope Mortimer, The Pumpkin Eaters

Wendell Berry

Simone Weil

Yusef Komunyakaa

Lucille Clifton

Barry Lopez

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States

Rebecca Solnit

Dr. Seuss

Shel Silverstein

Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Bishop

Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

Jonathan Lethem, The Fortress of Solitude

Hannah Arendt

Derrick Jensen

Louis Althusser

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space

Paule Marshall

Derek Walcott

Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

Wallace Stevens

Flannery O’Connor

Jamaica Kincaid

Nikole Hannah-Jones, ed., The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story

Zora Neale Hurston

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water

Elizabeth Bishop

Scott Russell Sanders

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Emily Dickinson

Annie Proulx, The Shipping News

Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Raymond Williams, Culture & Society: 1780-1950

Hazel Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood

Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness

Phillip Brian Harper, Framing the Margins: the Social Logic of Postmodern Culture

Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution

Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch

Angela Davis, Women, Race, and Class

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

George Orwell, 1984 & A Collection of Essays

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Yaa Ngasi, Homegoing

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

Toni Morrison

Nancy Fraser

Sylvia Plath

Anne Sexton

Ralph Ellison

Gwendolyn Brooks

Anthony Doerr, The Shell Collector

Brian Evenson, The Wavering Knife

Haruki Murakami

Yusef Kumunyakaa

Harriet Doerr, Stones for Ibarra

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Keri Hulme, Bone People

John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

James Baldwin

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections

sonia sanchez, homegirls and handgrenades

David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

© Rachel Rosekind, PhD, MLIS