Book Recommendations, part 1.
Of the books I have read so far in Indonesia, I recommend the following:
The Soul of Politics by Jim Wallis
Jim Wallis is a Christian community activist who writes about four main problems in US society: racism, poverty, gender discrimination and consumerism. He does an excellent job of connecting each of these areas, and analysing the very serious social problems that stem from these different areas. Published 15 years ago, it is sad to see that we’re still dealing with a lot of these problems in our country. Very good, and very hopeful view of how people coming together in community at the local level can really push for change at the national level.
The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan
I’ve had opinions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for a long time, and have studied it some, but this book was really helpful in filling in a lot of history that I was missing. Starting before World War II, the book follows two families – one Jewish and one Palestinian – who lived in the same house in different periods of the conflict. It is a historical narrative that really opened my eyes to a lot of the underlying problems and brokenness in the region, and it really made me think about my stance on the issues and the possible solutions.
Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides
This is a novel about a hermaphrodite who is raised as a girl but later in life identifies as a man. In his forties, he writes his memoir, starting with his Greek grandparents who escape violent conflict in Turkey in 1922, and follows the ups and downs of his family with all of it’s complicated relationships. Loved the author’s writing style, very interesting storyline.
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
This is a story about a very sad and sometimes pitiful little boy whose best friend is a chicken. The boy has a very unique childhood and grows up mostly around adults and also around a prison for many years, all of which have a big impact on his development and the way he sees the world. Having been bullied when he was very young has a big impact on his outlook too, as does his relationship with his nanny. All of this takes place in South Africa during apartheid, and race adds a lot of tension to the plot and relationships. It’s quite good.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
This is a good one, too. While the Kite Runner focuses on two boys, A Thousand Splendid Suns follows the lives of two women living in Afghanistan set in the current political turmoil there. It’s a great story although pretty unrealistic at times. The domestic violence was a tad graphic, but that was one thing that I thought actually made it a little more realistic. It’s tragic at times, but, such is life.
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
We love Barbara. Not quite as excellent as I remember The Poisonwood Bible being, but still a good read. I thought I would include it in the list because it’s pretty different from the other books I’ve read in the past four months. The story takes place in the Southwestern US in a small town that has allowed their natural resources to be exploited, and now they’re paying the price. At the same time the main character is thinking about that, she’s having family issues with her aging father and missing her sister who went off the save the world. It’s good.
Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
I laughed so hard. I feel like I am getting to know David pretty well at this point, having read four of his six books (these are the best so far). He writes essays about his life, family and observations, and they are magnificent. See quotes from Me Talk Pretty One Day from a previous blog post: https://mesarosa.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/david-sedaris-love-him/
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wall
My Sister’s Keeper by Jody Picoult
Anything written by Isabel Allende