By Braeden Pelton
With everything going on in the world right now, I have found books to be a lovely escape from all of the chaos. I’ve compiled a list of books from different Grand Rapids Community College staff and students, and two books from myself to start. Audiobooks can be a great way to get reading done while doing other tasks, so I’ll be linking to each book’s Amazon page and Audible if there is one available. For those who want a free, e-book version, a Libby copy will be linked if offered as well.
Neil Gaiman has so many different stories. “Coraline,” “Good Omens,” and “Lucifer” (yes that Lucifer) are all great, but my favorite by far is one of his earlier series, DC´s “The Sandman.” This series follows Dream of the Endless, and how he and his six siblings affect the universe around them. Each of the Endless have to fulfill the responsibility of their name and its flipside, therefore Dream is in charge of both his namesake and reality.
I adore how intricate the stories are. These issues will have an established plot that can pay off several volumes in the future. There´s mythology, history, references to other DC continuities, and so much more. Not to mention an extensive amount of representation for different groups, especially for a comic that started in the late 1980’s. There’s a Netflix adaptation coming within the next year.
We have made so many astounding advances in science and medicine in the last century: modern cancer treatment, cell division, the COVID-19 vaccine. All of which can be attributed to one woman at its source. More specifically her cells. Rebecca Skloot explains in her book ¨The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks¨ who Lacks is, and everything her cells’ legacy has done for humanity. Along with this, it explains who she was and how her family has severely struggled to get her recognition within the scientific community.
In picking up this book I had no clue what it would be about. My mind was blown at how much this woman has impacted my own life and yet I never learned a lick about her in a science class. Lacks’ cells are able to divide outside of her body continuously and have been for more than 70 years. There is a pretty good movie adaptation by the same name on HBO Max. Please read up on her, or go see the Henrietta Lacks Traveling Museum if it comes back to west Michigan.
Jarrod Steele, 33, Grand Rapids, GRCC staff member
Disney movies are a favorite for many people, and their books hold up just as well. Steele recommends “Part of Your World (A Twisted Tale)” by Liz Braswell, one of the fiction novels part of the A Twisted Tale book series. Like the other installments in its line, Part of Your World follows what could have happened if the story had a different outcome. In this case, Ursula the sea witch defeated King Triton and took hold of the kingdom. While Ursula discovers her happy ending isn’t quite what she wanted, Ariel plots to take back the kingdom.
Steele mentioned enjoying books similar to this where the villain’s perspective is shown, or the hero doesn’t win. Seeing where the world would be in these scenarios really catches his eye.
Tayeauanna Hatter, 21, Grand Rapids, GRCC student
Art has been present for millenia and learning the stories behind the pieces and their makers is sometimes just as interesting (if not more) as the works themselves. “Living With Vincent van Gogh” by Martin Baily is a biography describing both Van Gogh’s life and artworks in great detail, giving us facts on where he had lived, painted, worked, etc…
With the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit coming to the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Hatter feels like more people in the community should read this. The book even taught Hatter a few interesting facts that she would not have otherwise known about such as how and when Van Gogh painted his most famous work, “The Starry Night”.
Cynthia Browne, 53, Grand Rapids, GRCC staff member
“Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler follows an interacial couple living during the eve of America’s bicentennial celebration. Dana continues to be mysteriously transported back in time to antebellum Maryland to save a plantation owner’s son whenever he gets into a life threatening situation. He is her ancestor so she needs to make sure she can protect her own existence. But being a black woman in a 19th century slave state causes problems.
Having a story that is science fiction, but still shares actual American history really peaks Browne’s interest. Browne mentions Dana watching her ancestor grow up and become a terrible person being one of her favorite parts of the book. After all, he does commit some heinous actions.
Emily Thill, 22, Kent City, GRCC staff member
Who doesn’t love a good mystery? If you’re anything like Thill, you may enjoy the Confession Series by James Patterson. The series follows Tandy Angel and her confusing and messed up life. At the start of the series, Angel wakes up to her parents dead, and has to figure out what exactly happened to them. The story unfolds and gains more mysteries throughout the series.
Thill herself enjoys intrigue in books. She enjoys other series such as the ever popular Harry Potter series, as well. She brings up being interested in how Angel in the Confession Series slowly uncovers pieces of her own past, such as things her own parents would do to help her increase her abilities.
Available on Audible.
Malachi Robinson, 21, Grand Rapids, GRCC student
With the stories of celebrities like Freddie Mercury, Aretha Franklin, and others being popularized, it’s become very common for other performers to share their own lives with the public. “This Bright Future” by Bobby Hall, who is also known by his stage name, Logic, is a great entry to this genre. Like most other books in this category, Hall describes his younger days, beginning career, and where he’s gotten himself. Hall shares his early life and the struggles he faced growing up in an abusive household, running away from home, and trust trying to survive.
Many people have gone through horrible situations like Hall. Robinson finds relatability in Hall’s school age issues such as growing up as a person of mixed race, not being Black enough for one side, and being too white for the other.
If any of you readers have any book recommendations, please don’t be afraid to share them in the comments.