Between his 2014 cover story for The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations” (an argument he reiterated at a House of Representatives hearing this year) and Between the World and Me, his 2015 National Book Award–winning book in the form of a letter to his son about being black in the U.S., Ta-Nehisi Coates’s perspective on race in America has already rippled through the discourse. This year, he channeled his ideas into fiction with his debut novel The Water Dancer, in which Hiram Walker breaks free of bondage and works for the Underground Railroad in the fight for freedom—with sometimes superheroic skills. (Familiar territory, as Coates has also written recent editions of the Black Panther comics.) The Water Dancer, a bestseller, was the first book selected for Oprah’s Book Club in its new incarnation with Apple this fall.
Buy now: The Water Dancer