Some books are better together, and in recent weeks on the blog we’ve been purposefully pairing favorite books that benefit from being read as companions.
So far in this series, we’ve covered the following:
For today’s list, we’re pairing books that approach similar topics from completely different perspectives. When read together, this practice allows you to get more out of your reading experience because you can more fully understand the themes, topics, and the world we live in.
I hope you find something YOU love today. Happy reading!
Mbue’s novel details how two families’ lives become intertwined in 2007 Manhattan. Family #1 is that of immigrants from Cameroon: a dishwasher, his wife, and their young son. Their lives are changed when the husband scores a job as a chauffeur for wealthy family #2. But in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession, there’s plenty of trouble to go around for both families.
The perils of missing immigration papers links this with De la Cruz’s YA novel. When Jasmine wins a big-deal college scholarship, her immigrant parents are forced to reveal the truth they’ve been hiding: their visas expired years ago, and they’re staying in California illegally. To keep things interesting, de la Cruz throws a cute boy in Jasmine’s path, as well as some best friend drama.
Click here to buy Behold the Dreamers: Amazon | B & N
Click here to buy Something in Between: Amazon | B & N
Literary Sliding Doors
In Barnett’s imaginative novel, Eva and Jim’s relationship plays out in three alternate versions, each interesting and believable, exploring the ramifications of a single decision Eva makes after running over a rusty nail with her bicycle in a Cambridge street.
Reid’s romance is similarly plotted but decidedly more light-hearted. When Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles, she spends a night on the town with an old friend. The decision she makes at the end of that night changes her life, and in alternating chapters, we find out exactly how.
Click here to buy The Versions of Us: Amazon | B & N
Click here to buy Maybe in Another Life: Amazon | B & N
Black Lives Matter
Thomas’s 2017 work has been called “the Black Lives Matter novel,” for good reason. At age 16, Starr Carter has lost two close friends to gun violence: one in a drive-by; one shot by a cop. The latter is the focus of this novel: Starr is in the passenger seat when her friend Khalil is fatally shot by a police officer. She is the sole witness.
Magoon’s 2014 novel chronicles the aftermath of another racially charged shooting: a 16-year-old African American is shot and killed, with the shooter claiming self-defense. In THUG, we experience the story through Starr’s eyes; in this novel, Magoon unfolds her story in multiple—and sometimes conflicting—perspectives.
Childhood in South Africa
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais
In his recent memoir, The Daily Show star does a masterful job of alternating the deathly serious with the laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes even combining the two, in his collection of coming-of-age essays about his South African childhood. His mischievous childhood and unconventional youth provide wonderful fodder for sometimes scandalous and always entertaining stories. (Bookish PSA: Trevor Noah is phenomenal on audio.)
In Marais sets her novel in 1970s Johannesburg. In this time and place, race is everything, yet two people who are completely incompatible in apartheid-ruled South Africa—a young white girl and an older black woman—are thrown together following the 1976 Soweto Uprising and develop an unlikely and meaningful relationship.
Click here to buy Born a Crime: Amazon | B&N
Click here to buy Hum If You Don’t Know the Words: Amazon | B&N
Egan’s new novel opens with a twelve year old girl accompanying her father to visit an important man on Brooklyn’s Manhattan Beach. As a teen, her father disappears without a trace. Years later, when her path again crosses with this successful (and shady?) man, she realizes he may be connected to her father’s mysterious disappearance, and resolves to untangle the mystery.
Lawhon’s historical novel is based on a real-life unsolved mystery: the 1930 disappearance of a New York Supreme Court judge, and the three women he left behind when he vanished. Lawhon cooks up an interesting (and page-turning) theory to explain what really happened—and what each woman knew about his fate.
Click here to buy Manhattan Beach: Amazon | B&N
Click here to buy The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress: Amazon | B&N
Secrets and Second Wives
Adebayo’s debut Stay With Me is a powerful, emotional debut about love, family, and marriage set against the backdrop of the turbulent political climate of 1985-2008 Nigeria. The story begins with Yejide’s mother-in-law arrives at her door with a guest in tow: her husband’s second wife, that she didn’t know he’d married.
In her third novel set in Atlanta, Jones writes about the link between two African-American half sisters, one legitimate and one secret, only one of whom knows the other exists. That is, until the secret of their father’s second marriage starts to force its way into the open.
Quinn’s historical novel opens in 1947, with society girl Charlie St. Clair setting off on a desperate hunt to find her beloved cousin Rose, who mysteriously vanished during the war.Her inquiries lead her to Eve, a cranky old woman, who Charlie soon discovers has intimate ties to the first female spy network, and who may have personal and professional reasons for tracking down Rose—and getting revenge in the process.
Wein’s historical novel (marketed as YA, but a good read for all) begins when a British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France; the two women on board are best friends. Wein’s first-in-a-series is a moving, wonderfully written tale of female friendship, heroism, and wartime. Read carefully: there’s more than a little mystery here, and more going on than meets the eye.
Love Your Town, Make It Worth Loving
Because of her career as a touring musician, Dar Williams has visited lots and lots of towns. In this prescriptive, story-driven book she shares what she’s learned from three decades of touring about building communities: how government, local business, and the arts can work together to make a town work. (Or not.)
Warnick’s research-based and story-driven book addresses the same topic from a different angle: you live where you live. Now what? Her premise is that when it comes to loving the place you live, you have a lot more power than you probably realize. People who love their communities don’t just live in great places, they’re also extremely proactive about the ways they engage in their communities—and Warnick provides a practical, actionable list for you to put into practice in your own town.
Click here to buy What I Found in a Thousand Towns: Amazon | B&N
Click here to buy This Is Where You Belong: Amazon | B&N
Which pairing are you most excited to read? Can you think of any great match-ups to add to this list? Please tell us about them in comments!