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September 7 2019

Woodson’s writing runs the gamut of literary genres—in the past few years alone, her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, won her the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature; the author also served as the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate and wrote the novel Another Brooklyn, a National Book Award finalist. Here, Woodson, whose latest novel, Red at the Bone, is out September 17 from Riverhead, recommends her favorite books of 2019—so far.

The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In real life, it’s been exactly 400 years since the first enslaved Africans landed in Jamestown. In Coates’s first novel, set on a plantation called Lockless, we meet the descendants of these people head on—bearing witness to all of enslavement’s heartbreak and savagery. The Water Dancer, out September 24, paints a surreal, real, and at times magically realistic picture of this brutal and unforgettable time in American history with love, honor, and absolute brilliance.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong

Vuong’s novel, published this summer, takes us on a stunning journey, and by the end of it we are completely changed. What more can I say about this book? It contains everything you ever need to know about how to write something beautiful.

The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander, with Illustrations by Kadir Nelson

Published last spring, this is a picture book that should be in the home of every young person, every parent, every grandparent—my list goes on.

The Water Dancer, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, and The Undefeated are all available at your local independent bookseller, or on Amazon.