Hi, Guys! As we wrap up 2019, I’ll share year-end posts to commentate the year 2019. To start, I want to review one of my favorite past times—READING! I read so much that I cannot list it all. I do want to share eleven books that made an impact on me or my circle of influence in 2019.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

This story is both chilling and entertaining. It follows the tale of four students (African and African American) as they study to learn more about spiritual powers, free agents, and how to stop a magical career criminal who uses his powers for selfish gain. The main character, Sunny, is a little late to the game in realizing and understanding her powers. She is also African born, American raised, and has recently returned to Nigeria to live. She’s a little out-of-the box being fluent in her native tongue, having an American accent, and being an albino. Throughout the narrative, she learns more about herself and her history as she accepts her calling of a free agent magician. I have coined this story as the Black Harry Potter with better writing and little more edge. I plan on reading the next book in the series, Akata Warrior. I cannot praise Nnedi enough for such excellent writing and storytelling. #Blackgirlmagic

History Note: It is believed that the word “akata” is originates with the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria to refer to African Americans specifically.

Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel

I am mostly a non-traditionalist when it comes to relationships and I really enjoy peering into what romantic relationships looks for each pair (ore more) as well as the order by which they exist. Perel is not shy about bringing to light the traditional or societal norms that we hold in relationships and sharing with us how they either help or hinder sex, love, romance, security, and togetherness. Her work always brings me back to my undergraduate studies where psychology and human behavior fascinated me (though it still piques my interest today). Plus, I love when women intentionally decide to think out-of-the-box and challenge tradition in many ways, but especially in relationship-type structures. This piece gave me new language to describe relational or romantic nuance I could identify, but could not quite articulate.

The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by Bell Hooks

I was gifted this book for my 34th birthday and I spent the next day devouring this read. I stewed over it all summer as I become enamored with this woman’s ability to discern between Black issues and non-Black patriarchy. As a mother of only Black sons, this book changed me.  I am remembering a friend of mine who once said to me “you have an appreciation for masculinity that I have never seen on a woman before.” In reading this work, I began to appreciate his sentiment. As a Black woman, this book gave me the language to the feelings and ideas that I knew existed in me, but that I never stopped to identify-particularly my notion on masculine nurture. Interestingly enough, I read this Perel’s book immediately behind Hooks. For some reason, reading both back-to-back gave me insight I am not sure I would have gleaned as isolated, independent reads. Normally, I approach content with the eat-the-meat-and-spit-the-fat ideology and while still true in this case, I must admit that Hooks’ positions gave me much more meat than I thought it would. I look forward to reading more of her work.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

I was in the mood for some self-reflection and decided to pick this gem up again. It’s a book I am sure I read at least once a year. I am huge on self-governance and  the agreements outlined in this guide commits a wonderful job in teaching how to manage yourself alone. It also assists in teaching how to get over yourself too. 😊 Daily, I check myself by filtering my thoughts and words through these four agreements and it has proved very fruitful. This book is surely a jewel in the treasure chest to have on the Journey called Life.

MC Means Move the Class by Shaun Woodly

Another gift, a dear friend of mine thought I’d appreciate this brother’s approach because my life’s work has been dedicated to education and specifically teaching Black students. This book is more like a how-to for newbies who may not be used to teaching Black children. In that way, I did not need the book. Already understanding Black people in general and how to identify and meet the needs of Black students, I found myself agreeing with the author as I could relate more than I could learn anything new. I appreciated his zeal and his metaphoric use of hip-hop vernacular imposed in modern-day academia. Not only did it keep the information fluid from page-to-page, it also gave the content a beat and rhythm to made reading easy and entertaining. This is a great read for non-Black educators who are teaching Black students or for new teachers in general. However, if you’re a Black educator who just wants some quick and easy to ready, pick this up. Woodly is like to offer a fresh perspective if you’re in need.


The Meditations: An Emperor’s Guide to Mastery by Marcus Aurelius

Most everyone who knows me knows I am a history buff and part-time nerd. However, what may come as a bit of a shock is my interest in classical thinking and stoicism. I am a major fan of reason, rhetoric, and rhyme. I really dig content that serves a guide for people who hold elite roles. I know Proverbs 31 gets loss in the “Virtuous Woman” sauce, but really it’s a guide from a royal mother to her one-day coming king son where she teaches him what kind of woman he should seek after (and also what kind of man he should be). Like so, The Meditations are similar. Lots of wisdom and practical knowledge is packed within twelve books teaching emperors (or anyone, really) how to self-govern and rule.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Like Four Agreements, this is an annual read. The story is so impactful and self-reflective. The author’s historical detail, word choice, and ability to make the words come alive on the page makes the story reading that much sweeter. It’s a story of a desert boy in search of his Personal Legend. On the journey, he connects with himself—his god, his strength, his beliefs, his doubts, and with love. My favorite line in the entire novel is, “When you want something, all the Universe conspires to help you achieve it.” Ah, how comforting and telling is that? Each year, there is something else to glean in Coelho’s story. This year, I learned to fiercely follow my dreams. So much so, that my 2019 tagline became: I’m just out here trying to make my dreams come true each time I successfully accomplished or mastered another task on this year’s goal list.

Jesus of Israel by Marchettee Chute

Okay, so…Confession Box, shall we? About every 12-18 months, I become borderline obsessed with learning more about Jesus outside of the Christian rhetoric. For me, there is Historical Jesus and Biblical Jesus and they are not the same person. I fancy Historical Jesus and seek to learn more about this figure when the bug bites. In this text, Chute offers a comparative survey of the gospels. I’ve read my fair share of gospel comparisons, but this one was probably the smoothest read. She sheds light on the fourth gospel that donned on me in a way no other text has. If you can handle historical inquiry, political landscape, and other then-contemporary texts included in learning about the life of Jesus, you’re likely to enjoy this one (and I still cannot get over how easy it was to read.)

The Messiah Texts by Raphael Patai

Speaking of my borderline obsession, ergo The Messiah Texts. I am all for thinking outside of the box and being a critical thinker—but this book right here! This is a text where you must already have a certain about knowledge (and roughly know where you stand on it) before approaching. I had done that, y’all. Neither a messiah, Jesus (in whatever view), ancient languages or texts, or even sages of Judaism were lost on me, yet this text still shut my whole brain down at times. I read it and put it down. I read it and threw it across the room. I read it and gave myself a good, necessary break. Then, I finally finished it. I challenged me in ways I thought I could not even be prodded at again. Patai selects an array of words from mostly canonized literature that easily spreads across three centuries to introduce messianic ideology and unpacks this concept from its start in the Bible to modern-day understandings. To start, he explains the “Messiah Myth” and the Talmudic understanding of what is translated as the “footprints of the Messiah.” I think I enjoyed the textual timelining the most. And at some point, I am sure I will read it all over again.


How To Read A Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren

This is a classical text that I tend to read about once a year too. I believe I discovered this read as an undergraduate, but I really do not remember now! What I do know is that I’ve been teaching children how to read for a long time and this book is a great tool for teachers to have in teaching beginner readers and later serves as a reference (for both teacher and students) as the learner progresses to fluent reading. The book is divided into 4 main parts, and I will discuss the first 3. Part 1 is good info for any reader to absorb and definitely for people who are teaching others how to read. Part 2 moves beyond phonetically reading the words off the page and teaches how to critically comprehend what is being read. I read both parts annually as a refresher for each new round of students in my tutelage. Part 3 is the most referential portion for me. I use it in my personal reading, and I have students refer to it anytime they begin to read a new genre of literature to remind them of how it should be read. It has been very successful and meaningful. How To Read A Book is a text that I believe should be on everyone’s must-read list before graduating from high school.

The Art of Manliness by Brett and Kate McKay

A friend of mine placed this book in my hand and told me I should give it to my son to read. As a mama, I decided to read it first. I cannot tell you how much I love this book as a boy-mom. First, my oldest son is a gentleman’s man so this book appealed to him greatly. Also, it’s full of what-to-dos and how-tos laced in honor, chivalry, and man-code. It has an old-school quality that can easily be expressed in the 21st Century to have your son stand-out from the norm but also fit in with the times. When my oldest son and I were applying to schools, he received a save-to-date with an official invitation that followed. In that invitation, he was asked to RSVP. The term was new to him and he asked me several questions. I explain the term and its typical practice. Then, I wondered if the book had any “gentlemanly advice”, and it did. My son has an appreciation for proper-ness, so he ate the book’s advice up. He followed it almost to a tee in his response back to the school. A day later I received a personal note from the Admissions Director saying that my son’s email stood out as it was the finest and sweetest response they had received. They finished with “such a gentleman.” Needless to say, this book serves as a reference too. As he matures into young man, we have and will continue to refer the McKays.


Which books did you read in 2019 that made an impact on you/your circle?

~Love, Light, and Books

Alezah Jae