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The Books That Hooked Us In 2019

If you’re looking for suggestions for page-turners to read by the fire — or you’d simply like to learn a little more about some of the people who get the news on the radio and web every day — please enjoy these 5 book recommendations from KERA journalists. 

For the full list of books recommended by the KERA News team, go to Art&Seek.

Krys Boyd, KERA Think Host

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi / Essay collection

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This was the most influential book I read this year. In this wise and incisive collection of essays, Kendi upends the idea that the opposite of racist is “not racist.” It challenges all of us to strive for the higher standard of actively working to dismantle the systems that have failed to create a truly level playing field for all Americans regardless of race.

How to Be an Antiracist helps us come to terms with the ways our silence on race — including our misplaced faith in “colorblind” attitudes — might be part of the problem.

The book also invites us to imagine how amazing America could be if we all chose to recognize and reject our own biases.

Learn more about Krys and follow her on Twitter. Listen to Krys's interview with the author. 

Courtney Collins, Senior Editor of Projects (and occasional guest host for KERA Think)

Paper Ghosts: A Novel of Suspense by Texas thriller-writer Julia Heaberlin / Psychological thriller

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My favorite book of 2019 was actually a novel I read for Think!

Paper Ghosts is an interesting, fast-paced read that tells the story of a woman whose sister disappeared as a teenager. Now an adult, our narrator thinks she knows who nabbed, and likely killed, her older sister; a well-known photographer who claims to have dementia. Pretending to be his adult daughter, she coaxes him into a road trip that she hopes will illuminate what happened all those years ago.

Heaberlin has clearly done her research on both Alzheimer’s and photography and tells a lively, suspenseful story that takes place on a cross-Texas journey.

Learn more about Courtney and follow her on Twitter. Listen to Courtney's interview with the author.

Rick Holter, Vice President/News

Evvie Drake Starts Overby Linda Holmes / Contemporary romance novel

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Linda Holmes, NPR critic and host of the podcast “ Pop Culture Happy Hour,” delivers a delight — what might be the perfect summer novel (or the perfect guest-bedroom guilty pleasure during a holiday week with the in-laws).

It’s a small-town New England love story between a widow and a baseball pitcher who’s lost his stuff. The mostly-sunny tone is tinged with some pretty deep themes of gender, relationships and mental health. Plus, there are curve balls, lobsters and a puppy!

Learn more about Rick and follow him on Twitter.

Gabrielle Jones, Digital News Editor

Thick And Other Essaysby Tressie McMillan Cottom / Essay collection

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My favorite book of the year is Thick And Other Essays. (Full disclosure, I know the author.) It was a National Book Award finalist. It’s an exploration of race, culture and womanhood that is unapologetically black and feminine but is still able to speak for everyone who pushes up against societal norms simply by existing.

The essays cover so many things: racism, beauty standards, sexual violence, public policy, infant mortality.

She frames these issues through settings almost everyone can relate to: popular music and TV, social media, political rallies.

KERA Thinkhost Krys Boyd discussed Thick with the author in October. You can listen to the interview here. It’s truly one of the best books I’ve ever read and one of the few I know I’ll read over and over again through the years.

Learn more about Gabrielle and follow her on Twitter.

Hady Mawajdeh, Guns & America Reporting Fellow (and former Art&Seek producer)

God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star Stateby Lawrence Wright / Autobiography + literary nonfiction

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I haven’t been a very good reader in 2019. I’ve started several novels, but haven’t stuck with a single one. But I did read a few biographies. My favorites were God Save Texas and Empire of the Summer Moon.

They’re terrific books by terrific authors about the most terrific state in the country – Texas.

Wright’s book takes a look at the lore of Texas – it’s wide open skies, quirky little towns and people – and it reflects upon our state’s capitalistic soul. He writes about income disparities, the rural-urban divide and all of the contradictions that make this state so unique.

The book also inspired me to take a trip back home to San Antonio to bike the Mission Trail. It’s beautiful. And the people who lived in those missions were the dumbest, bravest people. Think about it. They were outsiders who plopped themselves into the middle of a field near the region’s best resources. Then they alienated the native people in pretty much every way possible. And the only protection they had were stone walls and the churches! How any of those people survived is a trip.

See more of our staff's favorite book experiences at KERA's Art&Seek.

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