Summary: Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, shares his remarkable story of growing up in South Africa, with a black South African mother and a white European father at a time when it was against the law for a mixed-race child like him to exist. In a country where racism barred Blacks from social, educational and economic opportunity, Trevor surmounted staggering obstacles and created a promising future for himself, thanks to his mother’s unwavering love and indomitable will.
Review: You may have already read the award-winning Born a Crime, but I highly recommend listening to Noah read his work. He does the various accents from South Africa, making the audiobook much more enjoyable. I think listening to a memoir read by the author makes the story come to life in a way that is hard to replicate with the written word. Hearing about his difficult upbringing also made me appreciate his creative and entertaining show so much more. He makes us laugh while also making us think about race and racism in his native South Africa. Noah’s book has one of the best endings I’ve ever read.
The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet by John Green
Summary: The Anthropocene is the current geological age, in which human activity has profoundly shaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his groundbreaking podcast, John Green reviews facets of the human-centered-from the QWERTY keyboard and Staphylococcus aureus to the Taco Bell breakfast menu-on a five-star scale. John Green’s gift for storytelling shines throughout this artfully curated collection that includes both beloved essays and all-new pieces exclusive to the book.
Review: John Green’s reviews of seemingly mundane things in our lives made me think about the things I take for granted, whether it’s a sunset or the keyboard I’m using to communicate right now. I also enjoyed learning a little about Green as a person, since I mostly know him as a writer of teen books, but I don’t follow any of the vlogs or YouTube videos he’s done with his brother. But I’ve watched enough of Green’s TikTok videos to see and hear his excitement for the wide variety of topics he’s interested in and his intensity comes out in these essays.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Summary: Reveals the history of racist ideas in America from 1415 to the present while explaining their capacity for being discredited.
Review: While this audiobook is written for teens, it is accessible for adults, too. This “not-a-history book” comes to life through Jason Reynolds’ passionate and empowering voice. Stamped attempts to explain our current historical moment by examining our past, starting with the “world’s first racist” and quickly moving to the American colonies. The authors bring together events so listeners can understand how systemic racism continues to affect our daily lives. I can’t stress enough how great Reynolds is as a narrator; in fact, I’ve listened to most of his books and I would recommend any of them. Stamped has a way of making American history come to life with the stories of individuals that made it happen, making it perfect for a road trip audiobook for the whole family.
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
Summary: The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo van Gogh shaped both brothers’ lives. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Heiligman draws on the letters Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime to weave a tale of two lives intertwined as Theo supported Vincent’s struggles to find his path in life.
Review: I admit I didn’t know much about Vincent van Gogh, beyond his famous paintings and his ear. But this fascinating biography connects his story to his brother and sister-in-law. Without Theo, Vincent wouldn’t have had the emotional or financial support to paint. And Theo’s wife, Jo, made sure that the paintings were widely seen after Vincent’s death in 1890. Listening to the letters between the brothers was like taking a trip back in time to Vincent’s studio; the letters add a lot of detail and richness to the story, especially being read aloud. And it was so interesting to learn about van Gogh’s friendship with Paul Gaugin, who doesn’t come off well in the book at all. I recommend listening to this biography to hear the proper pronunciation of the Dutch and French names, too. Although this book is written for teens, anyone interested in van Gogh can enjoy it.