The best books about defying gravity and breaking out of the way we are taught to think

Sohaila Abdulali Author Of What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape
By Sohaila Abdulali

Who am I?

My book is ostensibly about rape. But it’s mostly about breaking out of the way we are taught to think, about turning things inside-out and checking out the hidden parts, about joy and rage and unexpected twists. So I am attracted to anyone who does this: defies gravity, finding monsters in clouds, and salvation in birds.

I wrote...

Book cover of What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape

What is my book about?

After surviving gang-rape at seventeen in Mumbai, Sohaila Abdulali was indignant about the deafening silence that followed and wrote a fiery piece about the perception of rape--and rape victims--for a women's magazine. Thirty years later, with no notice, her article reappeared and went viral in the wake of the 2012 fatal gang-rape in New Delhi, prompting her to write a New York Times op-ed about healing from rape that was widely circulated. Now, Abdulali has written What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape--a thoughtful, generous, unflinching look at rape and rape culture.

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The books I picked & why

My Sister, the Serial Killer

By Oyinkan Braithwaite,

Book cover of My Sister, the Serial Killer

Why did I love this book?

Murder and mayhem in Africa, but turned on its head. This novel is set in Nigeria, and who could argue with the mad charm of traffic jams, family dynamics, a young woman who simply can’t help killing the men in her life, and her long-suffering sister who keeps helping her clean up the mess? Every page vibrates with wackiness and warmth, while the blood keeps flowing. Gravity-defying because it should be grim but you find yourself chuckling before the first corpse is cold.

By Oyinkan Braithwaite,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked My Sister, the Serial Killer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sunday Times bestseller and The Times #1 bestseller

Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2019
Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019
Winner of the 2019 LA Times Award for Best Crime Thriller
Capital Crime Debut Author of the Year 2019

'A literary sensation'

'A bombshell of a book... Sharp, explosive, hilarious'
New York Times

'Glittering and funny... A stiletto slipped between the ribs and through the left ventricle of the heart' Financial Times

When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber…

Mozart's Starling

By Lyanda Lynn Haupt,

Book cover of Mozart's Starling

Why did I love this book?

I picked up this book when I was writing my book about rape and was immediately reminded about the joys of music and art and birds and all the unlikely connections life has to offer. Mozart wrote music inspired by a starling, and the author, inspired by a baby starling in her own life, followed his story to Europe and back. Most unexpected, most illuminating. Gravity-defying because the Muse follows no earthly laws.

By Lyanda Lynn Haupt,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mozart's Starling as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On May 27th, 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart met a flirtatious little starling who sang (an improved version of!) the theme from his Piano Concerto Number 17 in G to him. Knowing a kindred spirit when he met one, Mozart wrote "That was wonderful" in his journal and took the bird home to be his pet. For three years Mozart and his family enjoyed the uniquely delightful company of the starling until one April morning when the bird passed away.

In 2013, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Crow Planet, rescued her own starling, Carmen, who has become a part of her…

H is for Hawk

By Helen Macdonald,

Book cover of H is for Hawk

Why did I love this book?

Her father died. She adopted a goshawk named Mabel and immersed herself in falconry. But of course. Grief works itself out in the damnedest ways, and I can totally relate to the connection between a parent’s death and entering into a relationship with a fierce and foreign species. As an added bonus, MacDonald is a magnificent writer. Gravity-defying because you can open your heart and let grief fly out.

By Helen Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked H is for Hawk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the Year

ON MORE THAN 25 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR LISTS: including TIME (#1 Nonfiction Book), NPR, O, The Oprah Magazine (10 Favorite Books), Vogue (Top 10), Vanity Fair, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle (Top 10), Miami Herald, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Minneapolis Star Tribune (Top 10), Library Journal (Top 10), Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Slate, Shelf Awareness, Book Riot, Amazon (Top 20)

The instant New York Times bestseller and award-winning sensation, Helen Macdonald's story of adopting and raising one of…

Book cover of The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds

Why did I love this book?

Everything about this book is wonderful. It is science and philosophy and joie de vivre and sarcasm and a mad appreciation for nature’s vagaries and human foibles, and if you have a garden or a terrace or even a window in your life, you need it. The sky will never be the same. Gravity-defying because…well, just look up.

By Gavin Pretor-Pinney,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Cloudspotter's Guide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now in paperback: the runaway British bestseller that has cloudspotters everywhere looking up.

Where do clouds come from? Why do they look the way they do? And why have they captured the imagination of timeless artists, Romantic poets, and every kid who's ever held a crayon? Veteran journalist and lifelong sky watcher Gavin Pretor-Pinney reveals everything there is to know about clouds, from history and science to art and pop culture. Cumulus, nimbostratus, and the dramatic and surfable Morning Glory cloud are just a few of the varieties explored in this smart, witty, and eclectic tour through the skies.


Book cover of Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

Why did I love this book?

If I’d read this book as a teenager, I might have been compelled to learn to be a pilot. I love the way Vanhoenacker is so passionate about his craft. Along with talking about flight, he comes up with concepts like “place lag” rather than “jet lag,” putting into words those emotions all of us who have sometimes gone bewilderingly far, whiplash-inducingly fast have felt, but could never express. Gravity-defying because you can choose to soar away from bad weather, boredom, or the tyranny of time and place.

By Mark Vanhoenacker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Skyfaring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Sunday Times Bestseller**
**Book of the Week on Radio 4**

'One of the most constantly fascinating, but consistently under-appreciated aspects of modern life is the business of flying. Mark Vanhoenacker has written the ideal book on the subject: a description of what it's like to fly by a commercial pilot who is also a master prose stylist and a deeply sensitive human being. This is a man who is at once a technical expert - he flies 747s across continents - and a poet of the skies. This couldn't be more highly recommended.' Alain de Botton

Think back to when…

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