On The Shelf: Malala’s Favorite Reads

Malala epitomizes fearlessness. So it’s no wonder her favorite reads aren’t for the faint of heart. 

The protagonists in her picks mirror characters in her own life—a lionhearted hero, a daring daughter, maybe a lovable father or two. No matter the premise, Malala’s favorite reads invite readers into worlds culturally different than their own. They’re heartbreaking and heartwarming—and that’s just the first few pages.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

What makes up an identity? Is it who your parents are? Where you grew up? Your religion? The color of your skin? White Teeth makes this simple question a lot more difficult to answer by following the story of two very different London families. 

Archie Jones is a British veteran who just married his second wife—a Jamaican woman more than half his age and nearly twice his size. Samad Iqbal, also battle-scarred, is the father of two paradoxical twins. Now living in London, the men guide themselves and their often misguided children through a patchwork of culture, religion, and identity. 

It’s a tapestry of life’s many peculiarities that’ll have you laughing (and sometimes crying) at the absurdity of it all. 

Why this book is one of Malala’s favorite reads:

  • A family saga teeming with satire
  • Clever and bold dialogue that delights readers
  • Provides insight into Jamaican, Bangladeshi, and Indian identities
  • An honest portrayal of London life that sometimes sets your teeth on edge

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Middle school can be rough. And for a refugee fleeing a war-torn country, only to encounter the strange nuances of American culture? Well, that’s a whole other story.

When war breaks in Syria, Jude must leave her beloved brother and father behind—six thousand miles behind, to be exact—and the American movies she’s so fond of don’t match her new reality. Until she joins a school musical, that is. 

Warga’s charming coming-of-age saga sings with hope, humor, and heartache. And it’s sure to strike a chord with readers enamored by tales of bravery. 

Why this book is one of Malala’s favorite reads:

  • Exudes a sense of love, joy, and triumph
  • Poetic and powerful prose that sings
  • A peek into the immigrant experience 
  • An ode to the proverb, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”—although, this book’s cover is pretty darn cute 

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

To her mother, she’s the living embodiment of her greatest mistake. To her grandparents, she’s a stain on the family’s legacy. But after a childhood of unanswered questions and punishment, Asha Lemmie’s protagonist must take hold of her own narrative and define herself for herself. 

Noriko Kamiza—half Black, half Japanese—is a blemish on her family’s name. Locked deep inside her grandmother’s manor, the aristocrat’s daughter is subject to regular abuse—until she discovers an unlikely ally. As the novel hops through time, we see Noriko’s many lives as a friend, a geisha, a traveler, and a fighter. 

The Cinderella-esque tale of confinement, companionship, and courage teaches readers what it really means to live with honor. 

Why this book is one of Malala’s favorite reads:

  • A tale of grit, wit, and survival
  • Soap opera-worthy twists and turns
  • A hidden half-brother who offers fifty reasons to believe in love again 
  • Travels across many decades and continents

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

It’s the quintessential story of boy meets girl—but they’re not in love. At least not yet.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding, Dean has a minus one. Luckily, an elevator mishap introduces him to a beautiful mystery woman. What’s next? He proposes, of course. Well, kind of. His proposition? A rousing fake relationship that spans two cities.

Guillory’s lovebirds embark on a love-struck journey of will-they won’t-they’s that’ll keep lovers of rom-com at the edge of their seats. 

Why this book is one of Malala’s favorite reads:

  • A complex and charming interracial relationship
  • An adorable elevator meet-cute
  • Rom-com storytelling with all the favorite tropes
  • A delightful marriage between cute and risque that goes the distance

Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am by Julia Cooke

In the golden age of air travel, stewardesses reigned supreme. The stories they have are enough to fill a dozen, dozen books—which is why Come Fly the World absolutely soars

Journalist Julia Cooke soars high with her tales of the real women who served the country’s largest international air carrier. The novel shares the stories of a small-town girl, a Norweigan immigrant, and one of the first black stewardesses as they take on the world through flight. 

A little bit of drama, a little bit of history, and a lot of heart, this book will keep you company wherever you fly to. 

Why this book is one of Malala’s favorite reads:

  • Swoops into the glamorous world of 1960s air travel
  • Courageous jet-setting women that pass the Fearless test with flying colors
  • Behind-the-scenes insight into how to stop a highjacker
  • It’s plane entertaining! Simple as that.

Malala Yousafzai’s Fearless Book Club at Literati

For those looking to conjure up a bit of bookish girl power themselves, check out Malala’s monthly Fearless book box. It’s guaranteed to transport you to new worlds—and new heights, too.

On Key

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