Books I Read to Educate Myself

Lately, I've been saving my book discussions, recommendations, and reviews, for YouTube. However, in light of which has been happening in the world, I keep on wanting to shove books into people's faces. I want to say "You don't get why people feel this way? READ THIS." From what I can tell, for the most part the people who read my blog aren't necessarily the ones who watch my YouTube channel and may not have heard me talk about these books yet. 

I know, I have a lot to learn. I'm a privileged white, straight, cis, Christian, woman. While I've had my own trials and struggles, I know there are groups of people who I know nothing about and will never know what it is like to walk in their shoes. Which is why reading books and seeking out stories about people who aren't like me, is important. I want to educate myself, because I have a long way to go.

These are some of my favorites which I've read. Please note, this is not a complete/definitive/perfect list. These are simply ones I have learned from, but also genuinely enjoyed. (Don't think that just because you're learning, it's not a fun/entertaining book!) I know there are other people who probably have better lists, and I highly encourage you to seek them out!

Also, yes, a lot of these book are Young Adult. Maybe it's because I do tend to be in touch with the YA more than other genres, but I truly have found that YA has stepped up their game in releasing books dealing with tough issues and diversity more than adult books have. PLEASE do not count out a book, just because it is young adult. We grown ups can learn a lot from them too!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

  • Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
  • Themes: Black Lives Matter, Family, First Love, Identity, Friendship

If you only read one book on this list - READ THIS ONE. It is Thomas' debut novel, it already has a movie deal, and has been on the NYT Bestseller list basically since it was released earlier this year. 

It follows Star who lives in the "ghetto" but goes to school in a wealthier neighborhood and is one of the few black students there. One day, she is at a party with her friends and on her way home, one of them is shot by a police officer. (Not a spoiler, it's on the book description and it happens in the first couple of chapters.) It is essentially racism and Black Lives Matter 101. Beyond that, it also has all of the dynamics you would love if you enjoy other contemporary novels. I'm in love with Star's family, the dynamics with her friends, and her sweet love story. 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

  • Genre: Adult Historical/Literary Fiction
  • Themes: Family, Slavery, History, Racism

This is another debut, and it was released last year. It was wonderful! I'm not usually one for literary fiction, but I truly enjoyed this book. It starts with two half sisters from 18th century Ghana and follows their family lines through 300 years. One sister is sold into slavery, the other marries an Englishman. What truly stood out to me was seeing how much the past influences the future. There are so many time we say "But that was back then, things are different now." Which... yes, some things may be different now. But that doesn't mean what happened several centuries ago doesn't stiff effect up today. 


The Diary of Anne Frank

  • Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Diary
  • Themes: WWII, Haulocaust

You know... I never would have thought I'd have to say this, but people need an education on "NAZIS ARE BAD." Let's give this book a refresher, shall we?

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

  • Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
  • Themes: 9-11, Acceptance, Hate, Dealing with Anger, Grief, Islam

This book too me by surprise last year. It follows the timelines of two sixteen year old girls. One, being a white girl in the present day whose brother died during the 9-11 attacks. The second going back to 2001 and following a Muslim girl who was in the towers on 9-11. This book brought out feelings about 9-11 I didn't even know I had! 


If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

  • Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
  • Themes: LTGBQ+, School, Friendship, First Love, Family, Identity

If The Hate U Give is racism/Black Lives Matter 101, If I Was Your Girl is transgender 101. It follows the story of a girl entering her senior year of high school who has transitioned from male to female. Due to experiences with bullying, she decides to move in with her dad and transfer to a new high school. Yes, a big part of the book is about being transgender. But, a majority of it is also dealing with everyday high school issues. Making friends, going to the school dance, first love, and navigating family relationships.


Lock In by John Scalzi

  • Genre: Adult Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller/Near-Future
  • Themes: Disability, Illness, Gender, Race

To be perfectly honest, I can't remember a single thing about the actual plot of this book other than it's a crime/mystery book. What stood out to me though, is the commentary and thoughts on disability. The premise is that it is the "near future" and a strange illness has swept the world leaving people "locked-in" their own brain. They are fully conscious and have brain activity, but cannot use their bodies. Medical technology has created a type of robot or avatar where people who have been effected by the illness can use to upload their consciousness into. I found the way he was able to build the world and address views on the illness was fascinating. I also mention gender and race into the themes because the main character, Chris, we are not told if they are a male/female or their race until late into the book. (I know for sure we learn their race later on, I can't recall about gender.) If I remember correctly, it is meant as a way to reflect on how people automatically assume certain things about characters unless we are told otherwise. 


Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

  • Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
  • Themes: LGTBQ+, Family, Friends, First Love, Bullying, Identity

It's no secret this was one of my favorite books of last year. I might have read it four times, and I've met the author. Simon is not openly gay yet, but has made a friend online from his school who is also gay ("Blue"). Neither of them knows who the other is. One day, a classmate reads Simon's emails him and blackmails him about keeping the secret. Chaos and romance ensue. It sounds like this would be an intense book, but it's not. It's wonderful, happy, and delightful. Yes, there are moments you get the "feels," but this is an overall happy book. I love how relateable it is, no matter your age, or sexuality. And it's going to be a movie!


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sanenz

  • Genre: Young Adult Historical
  • Themes: LGTBQ+, Identity, Second Generation Immigrants, Friendship, Family, First Love, Communication

First, I want to say, if you are a Hamilton fan, you might want to pick up the audio book for this one because Lin-Manuel Miranda narrates it. You're welcome.

I feel odd saying this book is historical, but it does take place in the 1980s so... technically it is history. It's about two teenage Mexican-American boys, Aristotle and Dante, growing up in Texas. I love these two characters an obscene amount. It's beautiful, and heartbreaking while also being heartwarming. Please go read it! It deserves all of the awards you see on the cover!

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

  • Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
  • Themes: LGTBQ+, Christianity, Family, First Love, Identity

I'll be perfectly honest, but I haven't read many books focusing on F/F romances, but I wanted to be sure I got one in here! What really stands out about this book, is how it discusses Christianity and LGTBQ+ issues without demonizing Christians. It's about a girl who's dad is a preacher, but she's a lesbian. It's completely wonderful and the love story is super cute. 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

  • Genre: Adult Graphic Novel/Memoir/Non-Fiction
  • Themes: Extreme Islam, Middle-East, Family, Identity

Usually, graphic novels aren't my thing, and as far as personal enjoyment goes, this book is a little further down on my list. But, I can definitely say I'm glad I read it and learned A LOT from Marjane's story. 


Kindred by Octavia E Butler

  • Genre: Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy
  • Themes: Slavery, Interracial Relationships, Time Travel

This is one of my favorite books I've read this year. It was published in 1979, Butler is the first black woman to publish a sci-fi/fantasy, and it is still relevant today. It is about an interracial couple in the 1970s who are thrown back in time to her ancestors in Maryland. They go back periodically without prior knowledge and never know if they'll be there for a couple of hours, or several months. I loved the dynamics with the married couple, the struggle they have with slavery and life on the plantation, and their life in "present" time. 

Again, this is not a complete or definitive list. I know there are A LOT more books out there, and some which are probably even better! However, these are the ones I personally have enjoyed and learned the most from!