5 Books To Read Over The Long Fourth Of July Weekend

Laze around with a good story

With any luck, you’ll be spending this long Fourth of July weekend stranded on some beach or soaking up the sun in a hammock, sipping on something fruity. But even if your body’s being lazy, you can occupy your mind with words by some of the smartest, most interesting writers in recent memory. Here are five books that will make fantastic reads for your luxurious days off.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah

Even if you don’t recognize her name, you may recognize Adichie’s voice—it appears, quite prominently, on Beyoncé’s 2014 hit, “Flawless”, which samples Adichie’s now-iconic Ted Talk, “We Can All Be Feminists”. And soon, you’ll be able to watch one of her most popular novels, Americanah, on the big screen, in a film adaptation starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo. The novel is about a young Nigerian immigrant to the U.S. who is forced to “learn” what it means to be black in America.

Mat Johnson’s Loving Day

Johnson’s endlessly hilarious novel—which he refers to his “coming out as a mulatto”—tells the story of Warren Duffy, a biracial man who passes as white and discovers he has a teenage daughter named Tal, who never knew her father was black. "My daughter is a racist, I think. I adjust that to, My daughter is mildly racist,” he narrates. Duffy moves back to Philadelphia, home of his childhood and his newfound daughter, and enrolls her at the Mélange Center, a nontraditional school for mixed-race kids. The book is a frequently touching rumination on race identity in the U.S.

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric

The centerpiece of Rankine’s wildly celebrated book of poetry and essays—which was recently adapted for the stage—is a powerful chapter dedicated to the legacy of tennis star Serena Williams. “For Serena, every look, every comment, every bad call blossoms out of history, through her, onto you,” Rankine writes. “To understand is to see Serena as hemmed in as any other black body thrown against our American background.” Rankine would later have the opportunity to profile Williams in a stunning piece for the New York Times Magazine.

Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House

Flournoy’s debut novel is receiving high praise from all corners of the literary world. It tells the story of the Turner family, who have occupied a dilapidated house in Detroit’s East Side for more than 50 years. The house, they discover, is only worth a minor fraction of the mortgage they have to pay—and it’s haunted. With the Turners—and their house—as her protagonists, Flournoy tells the story of a great American city and its devastating decline.

Tony Tulathimutte’s Private Citizens

New York Magazine called Tulathimutte’s first book “the first great millennial novel.” It tells the stories of four millennial characters, recent Stanford grads, who are nervously grappling with their induction into a flailing economy and fragmented social conditions in 2007 San Francisco. Their trials and tribulations are heightened and embellished to the point of comedic satire, but ultimately Tulutimutte paints an oddly familiar portrait of young adulthood in contemporary America.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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