In honor of Presidents' Day, we are offering 13 books of hard-hitting nonfiction and heartrending novels that we think everyone should read, including our leaders.
This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
This is an essential text on the future of our planet and the future of the global economy. Naomi Klein argues that climate change can be an opportunity to radically transform our broken economic and cultural priorities.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This beautiful, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set during World War Two follows a blind French girl and a young German boy attending a brutal academy for Hitler Youth. At its heart, this is a story about what it means to be human, to have empathy, and to be brave in the face of the most difficult choices.
The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
A tremendous memoir about growing up in poverty in Mexico, The Distance Between Us is a deeply personal perspective amid the intensifying arguments about immigration around the world. This is a story about love, family, and sacrifice that knows no borders.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written in the form of a powerful letter to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects on a series of revelatory experiences that helped him to understand America's racial history, its current inequalities, and his visions for the future.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
In this spellbinding novel, when a devastating flu pandemic brings civilization as we know it to an end, a small troupe of actors and musicians travel between the remaining settlements, dedicated to keeping the remnants of art, music, literature, and humanity alive.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This personal, eloquent, and unique essay offers readers a definition of feminism for the twenty-first century--and for the next generations--which is rooted in inclusion and awareness.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
When Malala was fifteen, she was shot by the Taliban for being an activist for girls' education in Pakistan. This memoir tells her story and shows the need to fight for gender and education equality on a global scale.
My Notorious Life by Kate Manning
A memorable novel inspired by a real midwife, Axie Muldoon, who became one of the most controversial figures of Victorian New York City by defying the law in the name of women's reproductive rights. This story is sure to further conversations about women's rights issues that have been the subject of debate for centuries.
The Terrorist's Son by Zak Ebrahim
Zak Ebrahim is an American boy who was raised by his terrorist father--the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Ebrahim dispels the myth that terrorism is a forgone conclusion for people trained to hate. He shows that hate is always a choice--but so is tolerance.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Legal scholar Michelle Alexander has written a dazzling and challenging book arguing that the U.S. criminal justice system of today serves as a system of racial control that relegates people of color to a permanent second-class status.
The Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers
In this beautiful and absorbing novel, a biracial American family raises three children who are coming of age in the Civil Rights era. This brilliant generation-bridging tale delineates the tragedy of race in America through the lives and choices of one family.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
This razor-sharp satire set in Texas during America's war in Iraq explores the gaping national disconnect between the war at home and the war abroad. This heartbreaking and important novel is about a reluctant hero and the effects of war.
Katrina by Gary Rivlin
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, journalist Gary Rivlin traces the storm's immediate damage and the efforts of New Orleans to rebuild itself. He recounts the storm's lasting effects on the city's geography and infrastructure, as well as on its psychic, racial, and social fabric.
More Recommendations from Off the Shelf: