1. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates Using James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time as a template, Coates writes a letter to his son that’s both a bitter memoir of growing up black in Baltimore and a warning to offspring and country.
2. The Meursault Investigation, by Kamel Daoud The younger brother of the nameless Arab killed by Meursault in Albert Camus’ The Stranger relates a mysterious tale that picks at colonial scabs.
3. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro As an elderly couple rambles through post-Roman Britain in search of a lost son, their epic becomes a tale of memory and forgetting, both personal and cultural.
4. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard The British historian explains how Rome became a city, a colonial power and eventually an empire, embedding itself in Western culture at every step.
5. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough The surprisingly captivating siblings venture to Kitty Hawk, Washington, D.C., and Paris, first solving the problem of powered flight and then marketing their triumph.