by Uzodinma Iweala, 2005
Some books exist to give insight into another part of the world. Some books exist to give insight into another culture. Some books exist to give insight into another way of life. Beasts of No Nation exists for all three, but mostly it exists to tell the horrifying story of a young boy caught up in the middle of a war.
by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, 2012
I don’t remember where I ran across this book, but its title and subject matter immediately caught my eye. You see, I grew up at White Sands Missile Range, a place whose large territory encompasses the Trinity testing site. Nuclear weaponry is part of our specific narrative as New Mexicans and it’s as common to learn about this in history class as it is to learn about the presidents. I wouldn’t say nuclear science is a particular area of my interest, but the idea of the area’s history told in graphic form was something I hadn’t seen before and the WSMR school child in me just had to get her hands on it.
Based on Kim Barker’s memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) is the story of a television journalist’s assignment as a war correspondent in Afghanistan. Kim (Tina Fey) is unhappy with her stagnant career, has a boyfriend who’s frequently traveling for his job, and has little excitement in her life. Kim and a group of her colleagues are asked if they’re willing to report out of Afghanistan, not because of their talents, but because they are single and childless. Immediately we know that this story is as much about Kim’s escape from being an undervalued employee to something of a media star. In some ways it’s a makeover story, but about personality instead of looks.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Laura Hillenbrand, 2010) is the biography of Olympic distance runner and World War II prisoner of war survivor Louie Zamperini. It is both an enthralling action story and harrowing account of the strength of men, and a trove of history for people (like me) who have the luxury of not really knowing what happened during that dark time in our world. It is an utterly compelling book whose pages beg to be turned while being overwhelmingly heartbreaking. I could not put it down.