While flying to my parents house in Louisville for Thanksgiving, my mind filled with news stories of late, I was reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon, a story about war-torn Chechnya, and found myself thinking about how little I actually know about the struggles of mankind. I may know some overarching themes about global conflicts, but I realized those don’t carry the same weight without understanding the lives of the people living there. Locally, there have been moments of flipping through news stations the past few weeks when my jaw hit the ground as people tried to turn people’s lives and loss into a theory about taxes or the choosing to look only for political theory in the pain of others.
The more I thought, the more I realized how thankful I am to the authors who have shared the stories of people I probably won’t have the opportunity to meet. Reading fiction (or narrative non-fiction) has enabled me to go inside the life and mind and emotions of characters whose life experience is completely different from mine. This has changed my life. Literally.
So, I decided to revisit some old posts and make a list of the books I’ve read over the years that helped me to see the world beyond my day-to-day concerns, to meet other humans who struggle, to know lands and conflicts that helped me understand, even if just a little bit more, the pain people face in our world. These are some of the stories that have stayed with me (some go pretty far back and it was interesting to see how much I’ve changed since I wrote some of these posts–I was just 26 when this blog journey started). I’d love to hear others you would recommend–I’m hoping to spend some time in 2014 intentionally reading the world–which would actually be a great book club.
Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
A Fine Balance by Rohinton MIstry
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
What is the What by Dave Eggers
Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Young Adult books (important for adults who wish to broaden their understanding of teenagers, and for teenagers to feel like they have allies in life)
I am J by Cris Beam
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Everyday by David Levithan
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Sold by Patricia McCormick