I adore looking at book covers, which is one of many reasons I prefer 50 Book Pledge to its mainstream counterpart Goodreads (but of course I have accounts with both). NPR put out a “best of” list of books from 2016, and it does not disappoint. You’ll find a multitude of represented genres here, from romance to kid lit. You’ll likely recognize many famous names. Maybe you have even had the pleasure of reading some of these gems.
Included below is my review of Colson Whitehead’s genius work The Underground Railroad: A Novel, first featured on CALS Bibliocommons (a great site, but one which you have to have a library card with Central Arkansas Library System to use):
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead uses a premise we’ve likely all imagined: that the underground railroad consists of real trains, deep in the earth, helping slaves to escape their bondage and forge ahead to better lives in the free states. While this elegant metaphor is sustained throughout the novel with a light hand and to poignant affect, there is nothing else fanciful about this book. Whitehead doesn’t turn away from the ugly evils of southern history. We see the cruelty of white slave-owners, the hatred and fear of lynch mobs, the insidious racism of whites who pity blacks for perceived deficiencies. But we are able to bear all this because of the courage and determination of our main character, Cora, who never gives up. We find in her the best of human goodness and a heroine we can be proud to believe in. Woven into and throughout our protagonist’s tale, we spy glimpses of generational narratives in family lines, grandmother to mother to daughter and father to son. In a time when people are treated like things, do we apologize to our children for bringing them into this awful world, or do we continue our lines in defiance of that wickedness, and toil toward, even give our lives, for a better tomorrow? In light of recent violence against people of color, too often resulting in fatalities, this book is extremely well-timed. Whitehead is master writer, and this book should be required reading in high schools nationwide.
J. Jobe (Central Arkansas Library System, Encyclopedia of Arkansas)