What I Know for Sure, by Oprah Winfrey, collects pearls of wisdom and life lessons from more than 14 years of her columns in O, The Oprah Magazine. These brief essays on finding joy, clarity, power, and possibility will empower and uplift readers. Though there is most definitely only one Oprah, Everybody’s Got Something, journalist Robin Roberts’ memoir of a battle with cancer, is similarly inspiring, and as filled with important lessons on how to make the most of the time you’ve been given.
The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell, is nearly incomparable, blending familiar elements of literary fiction, sci-fi, dystopian fantasy, and metafictional, self-referential narrative tricks into a heady brew that is entirely unique and entirely Mitchell (and par for the course from the author of Cloud Atlas). Still, his fans might find similar appeal in Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, an eerie, ethereal postapocalyptic novel set in a world ravaged by a killer plague, in which a disparate group of survivors attempts to preserve some semblance of societal order through performances of Shakespeare. Though more linear than Mitchell’s work, Mandel’s debut carries the same metaphorical heft and leaves the same emotional impact.
We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas, is a multigenerational Irish-American family drama following the rising and falling fortunes of the Learys of Woodside, Queens. At its center is Eileen, who was born just as the U.S. was entering World War II and grew up in the shadow of conflict, caring for her alcoholic parents and dreaming of an escape to a better life. She thinks she’s found it when she meets Ed, a brilliant scientist, but he’s more dedicated to the pursuit of scientific truth than a house in the suburbs. The struggle to make do with what life has given you while striving always for something better is the engine that drives the book. Dissident Gardens, by Jonathan Lethem, is another New York–set story covering 35 years in the lives of an Irish-American family and two women who battle ceaselessly against the status quo.
Personal, by Lee Child, is the latest in his pulse-pounding, mega-popular Jack Reacher series. Finding a character that can go toe-to-toe with a guy like Reacher is tough, and not just because the dude is 6’5—Child’s series provides a perfect blend of mystery, thriller, and action. If you’ve already torn through all of them, however, you might want to try Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels. Like Reacher, Bosch is a former military man who isn’t afraid to question authority in pursuit of justice (even if he is only 5’9). The series starts with The Black Echo, and book 14, The Burning Room, comes out in November.
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe, isn’t afraid to broach those delicate subjects. Like, what would happen if you dropped a T-Rex into the Sarlacc Pit from Return of the Jedi? How many arrows would it take to blot out the sun like in that battle scene from 300? The cartoonist behind the popular webcomic xkcd answers these queries and more. For more utterly useless but indispensable information delivered via cartoons, you can’t go wrong with The Oatmeal, another web comic known for its elaborate graphs and flow charts. Choice cut: “Hammer Pants vs. Hipsters: A Visual Comparison.” (That one’s from Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants.)
What books have you recommended lately?