5 Must-Read Books By Chicago Humanities Festival Speakers

The Chicago Humanities Festival has created and supported a variety of events for almost 30 years. Highlighting arts, ideas, and current topics, notable authors are regularly featured in the festival programs. Check out these five new releases by authors who appeared at the recent fall 2019 festival.

“The Water Dancer”

Ta-Nehisi Coates

"The Water Dancer" by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This National Book Award-winning author’s debut fiction novel has been met with high praise. The atmospheric language and magical elements among the historical novel have earned a spot on the bestsellers list. The story begins with Hiram Walker, a young man born into slavery and living on a plantation in Virginia. Hiram was separated from his mother when she was sold and taken away from the plantation. As Hiram grows, he recognizes a special talent in himself: a photographic memory — nearly everything he sees he can perfectly recall, except for his mother. After a dramatic event, Hiram discovers a new ability that gives him the courage to escape his plantation. In his journey to freedom, he encounters new movements and radical ideals for humanity amidst the struggle.

“She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement”

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

"She Said" by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists who published the New York Times article that exposed the truth about Harvey Weinstein have written a book detailing their story. The article finally brought the rumors of sexual harassment and abuse surrounding Weinstein to the surface. In doing so, the story paved the way for other victims to come forward and stories were unearthed from every industry, from all over the world. Best known as the Me Too movement, the authors connect with Christine Blasey Ford about her brave decision to testify about her assault in the case against Brett Kavanaugh. Sharing the overwhelming response, good and bad, the authors speak to their hopes for the future.

“Year of the Monkey”

Patti Smith

Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith

Award-winning author and musician Patti Smith invites readers into her journey, wandering alone along the coast, in this new memoir. Guided by signs that appear in many forms, Smith travels from California without an agenda or destination in mind; she lets life lead the way. Throughout her travels, she encounters friends, new and old, embraces challenges, and revisits old memories. Reading like a diary with heartbreak and poetic whimsy, Smith details her journey and recounts her hope for the world.

“Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over”

Alison Roman

Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman

Acclaimed columnist for the New York TimesFood section, Alison Roman is back with a delicious new release that is part cookbook, part advice, encouraging everyone to enjoy the experiences of sharing your space with friends and family and to not focus on the “fuss” of it all. With approachable, irresistible recipes, she focuses on textures and flavors that will by easy to put together and even better to share with others.

“Notes from a Young Black Chef”

Kwame Onwuachi

Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi

This inspiring memoir written by talented chef and recent recipient of the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef Kwame Onwuachi details his journey of fierce determination to follow his culinary dreams. As a young boy, he was sent to Nigeria from his hometown in the Bronx to learn from his family and stay away from trouble. When he returned, he fell into some negative behaviors, but his passion for food and cooking led him to pursue a career in the culinary world. Through his experiences and challenges, he has achieved great success.


Meghan Odegard is a librarian living in Wisconsin. She proudly supports Barn Sanctuary, a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and caring for farm animals in need.