Sister Outsider

Audre Lorde

More than three decades after this collection was first published, it remains as critical, as relevant, as unremitting as ever.

The New Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander

“We have not ended racial caste in America, we have merely redesigned it,” writes Michelle Alexander, in her damning history of mass incarceration.

The Left Hand of Darkness

Ursula K. Le Guin

A human envoy arrives on a planet known as “Winter.” His solitary mission is to welcome the people of Winter to a collection of planets, but to do so he must first find welcome himself.

The Peripheral

William Gibson

Drones, haptics, ocular implants, virtual reality, climate change, nanotechnology, celebrity: like all of Gibson’s novels, The Peripheral is a novel of the future that’s entirely about the present.

Naomi Klein’s newest book has a singular and irrefutable claim: responding to climate change requires nothing less than dismantling capitalism from the ground up.

“I never set out to write this book,” Mary Ruefle begins. And yet, she did write it, and that contradiction is the first of many.

Lilith’s Brood

Octavia E. Butler

In Scatter, Adapt, and Remember, Annalee Newitz argues that humans will need to build cities on the Moon and elsewhere if we are to survive. Octavia Butler’s fiction repeatedly turns to that potential future, and nowhere more provacatively than in this collection of novels.

The Sixth Extinction

Elizabeth Kolbert

From frogs to bats to megafauna and the Great Barrier Reef, Kolbert’s tale is a terrifying and fascinating travelogue.

Writing Machines

N. Katherine Hayles

This short book, a collaboration between literary critic Katherine Hayles and designer Anne Burdick, has a lot not to like. But even ten years after publication, the book’s exploration of the material nature of writing is interesting and as yet incomplete.

Angelmaker

Nick Harkaway

Perhaps my favorite novel in recent years. Part noir, part old-school Bond thriller, part apocalyptic science fiction tale, and completely magnificent.

Working

Studs Terkel

Terkel interviewed people of all walks of life (though mostly the working kind) about what they do and how they feel about it. The result is a massive collection of failed dreams, despair, hope, and pride.

The Solid Form of Language

Robert Bringhurst

Bringhurst’s short essay meanders through the history of scripts and their varied forms, touching on the origins of their physical shapes as well as the political and social forces that impacted them along the way.

Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes

Almost certainly the greatest novel ever written, and an early precursor to postmodernism.

A Reader on Reading

Alberto Manguel

A series of essays from the author of A History of Reading that explores the reader’s perspective.

The Gift

Lewis Hyde

The original subtitle of this book defined it as “Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property,” which hints at the real message better than the revision: that real art, no matter the price, is always a gift from the artist to the audience.

The Elements of Editing

Arthur Plotnik

“The editor, not the author, best understands the readership,” Plotnik says. “Authors know their subject. Editors specialize in knowing the audience.”

Bird by Bird

Anne Lamott

Personal musings on the life of the writer. Lamott is primarily a novelist, but I find her writing advice to be just as relevant to nonfiction.

The Form of the Book

Jan Tschichold

A collection of essays written between 1949 and 1974, the year of Tschichold’s death.