Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.
Misty Copeland has long championed diversity and inclusion in ballet by deed (her free Be Bold, an initiative of The Misty Copeland Foundation, will train underrepresented youth; a Little Island, NY performance that gathered Black dancers from American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, and Dance Theatre of Harlem) and word (she is the NYT-bestselling author of Black Ballerinas and children’s picture book Firebird, among other titles). Her latest, The Wind at My Back (Grand Central Publishing) recounts her friendship with mentor and trailblazer Raven Wilkinson.
Copeland’s own storied career has been well-documented, a 13-year-old ballet student living with five siblings and a single mother in a motel who became the first African-American principal ballerina at the ABT. She made her movie debut in Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, the first full-length ballet she performed onstage and one she’s danced numerous times over the years.
The New York-based Copeland was on President Obama’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition; was on Time’s 100 Most Influential People list; is a co-founder of Greatness Wins athletic wear line; has been a Jeopardy! answer at least twice; collaborates with Breitling; inspired two Barbie dolls; produced and stars in Flower, a short art activism film on the Bay Area housing crisis; is an ambassador for MindLeaps, an arts education nonprofit headquartered in Rwanda for at-risk youth in developing countries; and became a mom this year.
Where she’s danced: Atop Prince’s piano, during Taylor Swift’s performance at the AMAs, in a Drake video, on Mariah Carey’s Christmas Special, at the Grammys alongside students from Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy, in Disney Junior’s animated Eureka!, and in a viral Under Armour ad. Likes: cooking and baking, Japan, bubbly, orchids. Dislikes: coffee.
The book that…
…I recommend over and over again:
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. The lessons in this book never get old and are worth revisiting every couple of years.
…I swear I’ll finish one day:
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. This is such a fascinating story, I just need to find the time to finish it!
…I read in one sitting, it was that good:
The Meaning Of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey. Her story is inspiring and her career is iconic!
…currently sits on my nightstand:
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
…I’d pass on to my kid:
Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’d pass this book on to my son once he’s old enough because Ta-Nehisi’s voice and perspective are so important especially for a Black man in America to hear and read.
…I’d give to a new graduate:
Barefoot Contessa Back To Basics by Ina Garten. Every new graduate needs some cooking skills!
…made me laugh out loud:
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. The way he tells stories about his life are told in such a genuinely candid and hilarious way.
…I’d like turned into a Netflix show:
Luster by Raven Leilani. It’s an interesting, provocative and sexy novel that would be hard not to watch.
…I last bought:
A Visible Man by Edward Enninful. His career is incredibly inspiring.
…has the best title:
The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I love the juxtaposition.
…has the greatest ending:
Atonement by Ian McEwan. Well, if you’ve read it you know why it has the greatest ending. It’s brilliant and not at all expected.
…features the most beautiful book jacket:
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter because the cover is the Italian Coast, and it’s STUNNING!
…everyone should read:
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. It’s an incredible story touching on race in such a nuanced way
…that holds the recipe to a favorite dish:
Dada Eats Love to Cook It by Samah Dada. Caramelized Onion Savory Oatmeal is healthy, delicious, and unique.
Bonus question: If I could live in any library or bookstore in the world, it would be:
The New York Public Library For The Performing Arts. There’s access to work from artists that is not offered everywhere, and it’s practically in my backyard.
Riza Cruz is an editor and writer based in New York.