Announcing the 2024 One Maryland One Book Top Ten

January 16, 2024
by Eden Etzel, Program Assistant for Maryland Center for the Book

Image that says "2024 One Maryland One Book Top 10" with images of the covers of the following books: “Friday Black,” stories by Nana Kwame Adeji-Brenyah; “What Storm, What Thunder” by Myriam J.A. Chancy; “Behind You is The Sea,” a novel by Susan Muaddi Darraj; “’The Office of Historical Corrections,” a novella and stories by Danielle Evans; “How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures” by Sabrina Imbler; “How Beautiful We Were,” a novel by Imbolo Mbue; “How High We Go In the Dark,” a novel by Sequoia Nagamatsu; “Noor” by Nnedi Okorafor; “The World Doesn't Require You,” stories by Rion Amilcar Scott; and “The Immortal King Rao,” a novel by Vauhini Vara. For all the books here designated with a genre or type, the cover includes that genre.

  • Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adeji-Brenyah
  • What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J.A. Chancy
  • Behind You is The Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj
  • The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans
  • How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler
  • How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
  • How High We Go In the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
  • Noor by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The World Doesn’t Require You: Stories by Rion Amilcar Scott
  • The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara

We’re thrilled to announce the Top Ten Titles for our 2024 One Maryland One Book program!

Working from the theme of Restorative Futures, our Maryland Center for the Book staff and selection committee members have worked hard to narrow a list of over 230 title submissions down to ten. Whichever book is picked, readers will go on a journey of exploring how people deal with uncertain futures, posit better ones, and what actions readers can take to  assuage today’s anxieties.

This year, we’re excited that three of our Top Ten authors are Maryland-based: Susan Muaddi Darraj, Danielle Evans, and Rion Amilcar Scott. 

Darraj’s Behind You Is the Sea is a novel, released later this month, that features chapters told from the points of view of members of Baltimore’s Palestinian American community. The book follows three families –the Baladi’s, Salamehs, and Ammars – and their journeys as one man from the Salamehs goes to Palestine for the first time, and others face impacts of decisions made generations ago. Stereotypes of Palestinian culture are faced head-on as the community experiences funerals, weddings, broken hearts, and devastating secrets. Darraj lives in Baltimore and teaches at Harford Community College and Johns Hopkins University. 

Evans’ short story collection The Office of Historical Corrections follows characters with their various coping strategies regarding large topics such as race, history, and culture. The title novella readers will get to follow a Black scholar as she is entangled with a historical mystery that puts everything in her life on the line. Other characters struggle with the difference between lust and love, getting overwhelmed by grief, and being ousted on social media. Evans also teaches at Johns Hopkins University. 

Scott’s The World Doesn’t Require You takes place in the fictional town of Cross River, Maryland. Cross River was established by the leader’s of America’s only successful slave revolt in the mid-1800s. Readers will experience the perspectives of the town’s residents through decades and even species. Scott has created a world of magical realism where fantasy and reality are always at odds. The book has characters described by some as “the most memorable in contemporary American fiction.” Scott lives in Annapolis with his family. 

Two novels on our list take place far away from Maryland, but still capture the intensity of the theme of Restorative Futures. These novels make readers across the state relate to the struggle that many go through after natural disasters and the generational impact of colonialism. 

Myriam J.A. Chancy’s novel What Storm, What Thunder is set in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, following the characters before and after the 7.0 magnitude event hits the nation’s capital. Despite their circumstances in the aftermath, the characters shine through in the ways they are able to help one another. 

Imbolo Mbue’s novel How Beautiful We Were takes place in the fictional African village of Kosawa, where characters are ravaged by the environmental impacts of an American oil company. Kosawa’s farmlands have become infertile and children die from drinking toxic water. The story is told through a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula who goes on to risk everything in order for her people to be free.  

One of the books on the list that dips into the science fiction and dystopian genres is Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s collection of short stories. Adjei-Brenyah takes his characters and puts them into extraordinary situations. He throws the violence and injustice that Black people go through every day in this country into sharp relief. The prejudice of the justice system and the horrors of consumerism are some of the topics explored in this collection. Roxanne Gay says of Friday Black: “This book is dark and captivating and essential. This book is a call to arms and it is a condemnation.” 

Another book on our list that goes into sci-fi and dystopian genres is The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara. In a future where the world is run by a Board of Corporations, Rao’s daughter Athena reckons with his legacy both literally and figuratively as readers come to acknowledge how we have reached the stage of technological capitalism and wonder what could come next. 

The next science fiction title on our list is How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu. The characters in Dark tell their story centuries after mankind is trying to survive in the aftermath of a climate plague. The journeys the characters go through cross centuries and continents and shows readers the resilience of the human spirit.

From Africanfuturist Nnedi Okorafor comes the science fiction novel Noor, a story about a Nigerian woman named Anwuli Okwudili (or AO), who has always thought of the initials AO to mean Artificial Organism. AO ends up being on the run and bumps into a man named DNA. In this world everything is streamed, so AO and DNA’s journey is available for all to see. Just as the characters in the novel, readers should expect the unexpected. 

There is one nonfiction title on our list this year: How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler. They are a queer, mixed-race writer and a science and conservation journalist. Imbler has always been interested in the sea and the creatures who live in its hostile or remote environments. Each essay in the collection delves into one of the said creatures, whether it’s an octopus or the Bobbitt worm. These are stories of adaptation, survival, sexuality, and care, and expertly interwoven with stories from Imbler’s life. This will read as an inspiration to expanding the mind to see the ways in which we all can live.

We hope you have enjoyed learning about the titles in our top ten for this year! There are certainly some fascinating and thought provoking books on the list. Check back with us in February to see the Top Three!