10 Books to Read before you Die

  1. Helen Keller’s Teacher by Margaret Davidson– I read this book as a child and though I had read Helen Keller’s autobiography, the heartbreaking insight this book gave me, was priceless. This book tells you the story of a woman who made a deaf, mute, and blind girl the center of her universe. Anne Sullivan is the lesser known heroine of Keller’s story. And this book is about her. Order it here HelenKeller's Teacher
  2. The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank by Willy Lindwer– Everyone who knows me is aware that this book single-handedly changed my life. Almost every child above the age of 12 has either heard of Anne, or read her autobiography, The Diary of a Young Girl. That book is considered a classic in children’s literature. It discusses Anne’s life while her family was in hiding. But this other book by Willy Lindwer tells the story of Frank and her sister, Margot after they were captured and taken to the concentration camp. Through the accounts of six women who knew them during their captivity, Lindwer’s book tells the reader the entire heartbreaking story of Anne Frank. Order it here 51w-fpltHiL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_
  3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini– This critically acclaimed work is well known and well loved around the world. And my list would be incomplete without it. Hosseini said he wrote this book because he had always wanted to write a mother-daughter story. Interestingly, this book tells the story of four mothers and their daughters against the backdrop of the Afghan Civil War, with the story of the unlikeliest duo of Mariam and Laila taking the centerstage. As the wives of the main antagonist of the novel, their journey is one of  pain, heartbreak, hope, and recovery. This book is a must read for everyone who has ever wondered about the lives of women through the last 40 years in Afghanistan. Order it here 713ZoQHz4mL
  4. Freedom’s Mother by Anisul Hoque– This is a relatively little known novel about the 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh. Somewhat similar in themes to Maxim Gorky’s Mother, this book discusses the choices and sacrifices made by Safia Begum, the gentle heroine of the story, also the mother of a revolutionary. Read this book for its sensitive, compelling storytelling that will force you to reexamine your view of freedom, conflict, and the dream that forces young men to take to revolution. Order it here 41iDPaEi0-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  5. Always to Remember by Lorraine Heath– This book is normally listed as a run-of-the-mill paperback romance that you pick up at an aisle in the grocery store while waiting to check out. However, there is so much more to it. The story of a conscientious objector tormented by his townsfolk for refusing to fight on the side of the confederacy, this book is a valuable insight into the idea of military pride that drove countless young men from the south to join the war against the Yankees. Not all of them believed in slavery. Not all of them were racists who didn’t want the status quo to change. So many of them fought simply because “that’s what a man does. He fights when he’s asked to.” Read this book for its brilliant characterization and thought-provoking narrative that is invaluable in today’s turbulent times. Order it here 692985.jpg
  6. Wings of Fire by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam– Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was the 11th president of India. Born to a simple Muslim family in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, he grew up to became one of the most brilliant nuclear scientists of the country. This book is his autobiography, an amazing story about faith, opportunity, hard work, and homecoming. Considered by many the sweetest, humblest president in Indian history, Dr. Kalam passed away in July 2015 at the age of 83. His writings are all that we have now. Order this book here Wings_of_Fire_by_A_P_J_Abdul_Kalam_Book_Cover.jpg
  7. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin– No list of mine can ever be complete without mentioning this gem. Charles Darwin is arguably the father of evolutionary thought. This treatise of his is based on the observations that he made on his five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle. Much of how we understand the natural world comes from Darwin’s work. This book is also an answer to the unscientific beliefs propounded by religion. It is tough to argue with logic and this book proves it. Also, if you believe that Hitler and others like him borrowed from Darwin to justify their actions, I urge you to read this. This book is a total slap on the concept of Social Darwinism, an idea completely antithetical to the actual theory of natural selection and evolution. Order it here22463.jpg
  8. My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit– It is easy for some to take sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Occupation, Oppression, Colonization are a few of the words that come into the mind when one thinks simplistically about the situation. However, there is history that must be accounted for. A history of anti-semitism, the Holocaust, the persecution of Jewish people, and the continuing debate of whether or not they are a race. Israel is the product of centuries of discrimination, bigotry, and violence faced by Jews. And while the state’s policy on dealing with Palestine is definitely debatable, we must be careful to keep our criticisms from falling into the old trap of anti-semitism. Unfortunately, it is too easy to do so. Read this book to gain perspective through the eyes of this Israeli author who understands the plight of Palestine and grieves with them without disregarding the history of his people. Order it here51iPLdbV4jL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_
  9. In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio by Phillipe Bourgois- How many times have we been told that crackheads don’t deserve our kindness, that their misfortune is their own fault. Unfortunately, the answer is too complex to truly ease the conscience with a statement like that. This book is a brilliant, heartfelt, and honest analysis inner-city America through the story of Puerto Rican immigrants living in East Harlem in the 80s and the 90s. As one of the roughest neighborhoods in the country, drug-peddling happens openly on the streets and violent crime (including sexual assault) is common. The result? Addicted single mothers, babies addicted from birth, addicted fathers, and a whole generation of people victimized by a system that chooses to abuse them, curse them, but never really help them. Order this book here71kn1ctzyML
  10. Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment by João Biel– I thought long and hard about the last item on my list. I have read too many good books to actually have a real favorite. But ultimately, I chose this one. Zones of social abandonment are common in Brazil. The old, the sick, the infirm, the forgotten; these are the unwanted of modern Brazilian society, dumped here to wait till they are ready to die. Even though the book makes its point through a deeply moving and disturbing series of scenes and images from one such zone, the ideas it harkens back to are those of Michael Foucault. Bare life- that’s what the inmates of these places are reduced to. But they are so much more. However, they cannot be seen as more, because if they were, it would be impossible to shut them out of society. Read this book for the difficult questions it asks. Order it here41WfJBA29yL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

I have a hundred thousand more recommendations. But I cannot fit them all in one list. While you go and order your choices from this selection, I’m off to unwrapping my copy of Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth. I am almost certain it will be on the next list. Let me know if you read any of these books and feel free to comment if your review is different from mine. Life is boring without dissent, after all!

 

One Comment Add yours

  1. Megala says:

    Great share ! Nice to see you including my fav. Wings of Fire in your list !

    Like

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