The best books on the magical power of our shared humanity

Mina Javaherbin Author Of My Grandma and Me
By Mina Javaherbin

Who am I?

Growing up in Iran, I never thought I would one day become an author in a language other than my mother tongue, and live clear across the world from my birthplace. An eclectic assortment of literature, representing core human themes of thinking, love, laughter, and science are subjects that help me bond with my fellow humans. Books have constantly reassured me of our similarities and encouraged me to make connections. The magical threads of our shared humanity are tools which help us thrive in our global village. They remind us we are more similar to one another than we may think.

I wrote...

My Grandma and Me

By Mina Javaherbin, Lindsey Yankey (illustrator),

Book cover of My Grandma and Me

What is my book about?

While Mina is growing up in Iran, the center of her world is her grandmother. Whether visiting friends next door, going to the mosque for midnight prayers during Ramadan, or taking an imaginary trip around the planets, Mina and her grandma are never far apart. At once deeply personal and utterly universal, Mina Javaherbin’s words make up a love letter of the rarest sort: the kind that shares a bit of its warmth with every reader. Soft, colorful, and full of intricate patterns, Lindsey Yankey’s illustrations feel like a personal invitation into the coziest home, and the adoration between Mina and her grandma is evident on every page.

This beautiful ode to family celebrates small moments of love that become lifelong memories.

The books I picked & why

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The Little Black Fish

By Samad Behrangi,

Book cover of The Little Black Fish

Why this book?

In The Little Black Fish, our hero is the black fish who observes, thinks, and decides to do things his or her way. The picture book was banned in Iran because the author of the book, a beloved school teacher and thinker, spoke up passionately to advocate for children. When I lived in Iran, the country was managed by one person, the king. When one king or one idea rules with absolute power, people have minimal or no say in the way their country and lives are managed. Rulers at the top are happiest when people do not read, think, or protest the ways that their society is run. This gorgeous book encourages thinking, analyzing, speaking up, and action.

(Mina Javaherbin has read Little Black Fish in its original text, Persian. She has informed us of numerous translations of this book in English and numerous languages. This particular translation is picked by Shepherd.)

The Ugly Duckling

By Hans Christian Andersen, Bernadette Watts (illustrator),

Book cover of The Ugly Duckling

Why this book?

Growing up and finding our ways in the world is a lifelong process of trials and errors. There are moments of despair and joy. Hopes can be crushed. New Dreams are born. This beloved story is one that I still think about when I see how I’m judged by all sorts as I simply mind my own life and try to find my way. In the hands of the great storyteller, Hans Christian Anderson, the metaphor of an ugly duckling becoming a gorgeous swan, tells us how overcoming our adversities will indeed help us become a beauty. Thank you Hans!

The Selfish Giant

By Oscar Wilde, Jeanne Bowman (illustrator),

Book cover of The Selfish Giant

Why this book?

Wilde suggested this story be read aloud. My father, ever the storyteller, obliged. He adored Wilde’s other writings as well. I remember borrowing other Oscar Wilde’s books, as a young adult, from my father’s library. However, my dad had modified the ending of The Selfish Giant by eliminating the nail and blood part. I only found out about the actual ending years later, but somehow he had managed to keep the essence of the story regardless of his change to the ending. The Selfish Giant, is a vast story with all the beautiful seasons and all the tender love a human needs. I will cherish this story in my heart, forever.

Now Everybody Really Hates Me

By Jane Read Martin, Roz Chast (illustrator),

Book cover of Now Everybody Really Hates Me

Why this book?

This hilarious picture book makes me laugh out loud every single time I read it, even when I had to read it consecutively to my children during their bedtime. I think humanity is nothing without laughter. Do animals make jokes and laugh? Sometimes we think writing and learning from the accumulation of knowledge is one of the most important human traits, but what about laughter? What about not taking ourselves seriously? What about the ability to poke fun at ourselves and our crazy actions and thoughts? Einstein was definitely a genius and we are all in awe of him, but I think people who can make us laugh are also brilliant. I’m grateful for laugh creators.

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

By Merlin Sheldrake,

Book cover of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

Why this book?

I became familiar with this book last year and started reading and re-reading it. My children, in and out of their universities due to the pandemic, call it, Mom’s Mushroom Book. I carry the book and re-read a bit of it here and there because I’m not a science major and it takes me a while to understand books with scientific subjects. This book about fungus and how mushrooms shaped our lives is fascinating. It gives me hope that fungus will have an impact on the continuum of our earth and its species. The book opened an optimism window in my mind. I think science is the magical wand humans possess and reading scientific books is learning about the new magic spells.

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