198 Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS

blackflagsby Joby Warrick, 2015

One of the things committing to reading prize-winning books has done is force me to read books on subjects I would normally overlook. I would have never picked up the Wayward Children series because it’s fantasy, and I doubt I would have ever gotten around to reading Evicted, even though the subject matter does interest me. Black Flags is another book I would have never endeavored to read, were it not for its having won the Pulitzer Prize, but, in this case, I think I would have been just fine not having picked this one up. Call me an ignorant American, but I only have a certain amount of mental and emotional energy to spend on the world’s ills and ISIS is not close enough to me to make the cut. Don’t get me wrong – to say they’ve committed terrible acts would be an understatement, but I’m more worried about someone walking into the school where I work and shooting up the joint. That’s just the world I live in at the moment. (Is that privilege? Yes. Yes it is.)

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184 The Sympathizer

sympathizer

by Viet Thanh Nguyen, 2015

Man, I really wanted to enjoy this book. There is a certain disappointment in picking up a much lauded book only to find yourself struggling through it every step of the way. In this case, I wasn’t necessarily disappointed in the book – I was disappointed in myself. I’m certain The Sympathizer contains a fair amount of genius within its pages, but, either because I did not have sufficient background knowledge of the Vietnam War, thus exposing my own ignorance, or because I could not follow the stream-of-consciousness narrative, calling into question my English Master’s degree, I clawed my way through every page. You guys…this book made me feel dumb.

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123 Beasts of No Nation

beastsby 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.

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30 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

wtfBased 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.

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