This piece has been reposted from The Nation Institute.
Talal Ansari, Los Angeles, California
The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri
My interest in this book came initially from my fascination with the Naxalites in India, a Marxist guerrilla group that controls much of the tribal regions of India known as the "Red Corridor." They control a substantial chunk of the country. Much of that land also happens to be mineral-rich and extremely poor–an unfortunate combination. Lahiri’s story of two brothers, one who joins the Naxals, and another who leaves for the United States, brings to light much of India's troubled history with Communism and class inequality.
Aaron Braun, Brooklyn, New York
The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy
Finally got a chance to read Arundhati Roy's first novel. It's insanely beautiful and deeply historical. My favorite moment involves, so far (I'm almost done), involves a small plaque that reads "Work Is Struggle. Struggle Is Work."
Naomi Gordon-Loebl, Brooklyn, New York
Corona, by Bushra Rehman
Coronais the coming-of-age novel that New Yorkers — born or transplanted — have all been waiting for. Expertly told in a non-linear form that reflects the layered narrative, it tells the story of Razia, a queer Desi woman growing up in Corona. It's as much a love letter to Queens as it is a book about identity and self-possession. And if you're anything like me, you'll find yourself thinking about it long after it's over.
Edward Hart, Kansas City, Missouri
What It Takes, by Richard Ben Cramer
Richard Ben Cramer, who died last year, wrote what's widely considered to be the quintessential book about American political races through his detailed reporting from the trail of the 1988 presidential campaign. His book is magisterial in its scope, and many of his observations are just as applicable to today's political climate. But the book, for all its detail, never becomes tedious (granted, though, I'm only halfway through its 1,000+ pages).