All that being said, I read some pretty good books this year. Here are the ones I found particularly noteworthy:
5. A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe: I probably enjoyed this funky book more than most because it was set in Atlanta and I read it right after reading #4 on my list. I got a kick out of reading about characters driving past 10th and Piedmont (an intersection I cross every day) and dealing with Freaknik, a city wide spring break extravaganza for HBCs in the 90s (that has since been discontinued). But I also thought the characters were compelling and well drawn, even if the story itself was a little bananas by the end. It definitely didn't turn out how I expected it would.
4. Atlanta Rising by Frederick Allen: Since moving into Atlanta proper, I have become increasingly interested in Atlanta history. Much of it is fascinating and it is fun to get a new perspective on my city. This book (along with Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn, another Atlanta history book that I love, but haven't been able to finish yet) do a good job of charting the civil rights movement in Atlanta and how it differed from the debacles in other southern cities, like Little Rock and Birmingham. In short, Atlanta had a much more peaceful and progressive integration because Atlanta's white business leaders, like Coke President Robert Woodruff (incidentally, an alum of my high school), and politicians, like Bill Hartsfield and Ivan Allen, Jr., realized that racial strife was bad for business (this balance was made possible in no small part by black voting activists like John Wesley Dobbs, who fought for the electoral power and rights for black Atlantans that made the election of men like Hartsfield and Allen achievable).
3. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card: Much has been said about the irony of Card's works. This installment in his famous series is another exhortation for empathy above judgment. It was a good read, and I appreciate his message (even if the author doesn't do so himself).
2. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay: Gay's collection of essays is fantastic, each one bringing something different to the table. From hilarious stories about competitive Scrabble tournaments and biting and amusing reviews of pop culture to poignant stories about what it is like to be a black woman in academia and America, Bad Feminist has stories that will make you think and make you laugh.
1. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward: This is one of the two I actually reviewed, so I'll direct you to that summary, but this is still one of the most affecting books I have read in quite some time. Since I read/reviewed it (after the death of Mike Brown, but before the grand jury announcement in his and Eric Garner's cases, etc.), its lessons have become even more important to me. It is so hard but so important for white people (like me) to really listen to and learn about POC's lived experiences in this country, because it is becoming more and more clear that we have no idea what their lives are like, and that ignorance can be deadly. As was suggested in a comment on my original post, it is very sad, but I still recommend it.