Saturday, December 26, 2015

One of the Best Books I Read in 2015: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I'm just now concluding my third -- yes, third -- consecutive listen to the audiobook Between the World and Me, written and read by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The book has been receiving a lot of sometimes-controversial buzz and some big awards ever since its publication in July of this year, and it is now popping up on all sorts of year-end "Best of" lists. I decided I better check it out, but I was wholly unprepared for its enormous impact on me.

The book is written in the form of a letter from the author to his 15-year-old son Samori, and its subject is living in a black body in a country built on slave labor and too often disposed toward the destruction of those bodies. Coates grew up in a gritty neighborhood of Baltimore, where the streets, his family, the police, and even the schools inculcated in him a pervasive sense of fear. A curious young man, he set out to "interrogate" his situation, turning to books, professors, poetry, and his own journalistic writing to make sense of the world. And what a stunning job he does of the making-sense.

Learning to write is learning to think, Coates contends, and his mastery of both is evident on every page. This book is so very intelligent -- and honest, sad, perceptive, poetic, profound, and radical. Its 176 pages are suffused with one thoughtful 40-year-old man's meticulously-examined life and hard-won wisdom. It is not a hopeful book, but it is not despairing either. What it is is truly counter-cultural and these days that's so rare.

~Ann, Adult Services 

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