A Year in Reading: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

December 20, 2018 | 2 2 min read

Often it seems everything is terrible, but it is essential, I think, to remember the magic all around us. I recently did a talk in which the brilliant Mychal Denzel Smith reminded us that, “There can be no revolution without joy.” Here are some of the books that made me feel joy and wonder and hurt and left me feeling reminded of the magic in the world.

Red Clocks, by Lemi Zumas, is a stunning novel of women in a far too imaginable America, one where abortion has been made illegal. The different narrators feel in perfect concert with each other and it feels like an essential read right now.


Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi, is another piece of fiction that is totally unlike anything I’ve ever read. It is the kind of book that will save lives in the legitimacy it lends to existences so often neglected in Western thought. The novel accumulates a kind of epic energy as we learn to understand just how much we don’t understand.


There’s There There, by Tommy Orange—have you heard of it? Of course you have. ’Cause it’s amazing. As is Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson, a collection of stories so smart and funny I will teach them for years to come.


Marcus Wicker’s Silencer, Terrance Hayes’s American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin, Solmaz Sharif’s Look, Chris Kennedy’s Clues from the Animal Kingdom, Wendy Chen’s Unearthings and Grady Chambers’s North American Stadiums were some poetry collections that shook me all the way through.

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is the New York Times-bestselling author of Friday Black. Originally from Spring Valley, New York, he graduated from SUNY Albany and went on to receive his MFA from Syracuse University. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Esquire, Literary Hub, The Paris Review, Guernica, and Longreads. He was selected by Colson Whitehead as one of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" honorees.