The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
An action movie packed into a book, this is the tale of an unjustly imprisoned man who escapes and seeks revenge in early 19th-century France. A corrupt political system thwarts his plan to win justice—and happiness.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Part soap opera and part family history, these 16 stories explore the dynamics between a set of Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters. Heartbreaking and hilarious, the members of this club clash and connect on ideas of migration, identity, and motherhood.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Can a rich family weather scandal and war? Set in World War II England, this saga traces the harrowing consequences of a young girl’s lie. It is a fast and fantastic read on how we hold onto history versus memory, and the effects of war on social class.
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
How does a teenage girl endure an epidemic? A deep base of primary-source research guides this narrative of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, elegantly showing how to blend archives with imagination.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
I think about this book a lot, and I highly recommend listening to Maya Angelou’s many readings of her work. That voice! Autobiographical in nature and eloquent in addressing racism, her account of African American girlhood shifts from joy to pain, and loss to renewal, as she steers her story.
Sara Georgini, Ph.D., is the Series Editor for The Papers of John Adams, part of The Adams Papers editorial project based at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Sara is the author of Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family (Oxford Univ. Press, 2019), and she writes about early American history for Smithsonian. Follow her on Twitter: @sarageorgini