Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo (Riverhead, $25). An intelligent, lyrical reimagining of the slave trade by one of the most unusual writers of our time. Evaristo’s thought-provoking novel presents a world in which white Europeans are enslaved by black Africans. It challenges fundamental perceptions of race and culture by constantly asking “what if?”
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (Harper, $15). If any book comes close to perfection, this is it. It tells the story of the Buendía family over several generations, and of a manuscript that lies undeciphered for many years. Márquez’s prose is delightful, and his characters are drawn amazingly well. If I could marry a book, I’d have married this book a long, long time ago.
Beyond the Devil’s Teeth by Tahir Shah (out of print). This is a brilliantly written chronicle of the writer’s journey to three parts of the Paleozoic-era supercontinent Gondwana (India, Africa, and South America), and of all the interesting characters he comes across. Shah’s prose is lucid and laced with a lot of humor. A travel book like no other.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Simon & Schuster, $8). A great introduction to literature that takes in all the great themes: love and lust, commitment and betrayal, life and death. The writing is beautiful. I have never read a more elegant account of a woman throwing herself into the path of a train.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Harper, $13). Lee creates a deeply moving, compassionate tale of injustice, racial prejudice, and one good man’s determination to redress the imbalance. When a black man is accused of raping a white woman, a white lawyer defends him, well aware of the difficulties he’ll have to endure. An unforgettable book.
I Love Dollars and Other Stories of China by Zhu Wen (Penguin, $14). This slim collection contains stories about contemporary China that are darkly comical. The characters live on long after we have read the last page.
—Chika Unigwe is an acclaimed Nigerian-born Belgian author whose first English novel has just been released in the U.S. On Black Sisters Street, about the plight of four African women who emigrate to Europe, is published by Random House.