Summer and vacation reads are easy and fun, and they’re entertaining, but are they always enough? However you pick your books, what’s important is that occasionally you read something inspiring or out of your comfort zone. Book clubs do this all the time; it’s part of why they’re so popular. Not only does variety keep boredom from setting in, but you may stumble upon something that shakes up or changes your perspective; and when this happens, it feels good.
By now you’ve probably noticed that I do this a lot. And I’m not claiming that my lists are perfect – but the good news is they’re well researched and varied. Below you will find books that will provoke you – stirring up your feelings and mixing up your emotions. Some will make you angry, and some are pure inspiration. All show a different side of human nature.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Why It’s Special: The topics covered in this book are timely and complex. The author shows us how the Islamic terrorists recruit young people. She opens the discussion on mistakes youth make and talks about loyalty as it relates to both country and family. And she provides insight on the difficulties faced by Muslims in Britain and the United States.
The Alienist by Caleb Carr
Why It’s Special: The below quote from the beginning of the novel speaks to the compelling nature of this book.
“Prior to the twentieth century, persons suffering from mental illness were thought to be ‘alienated,’ not only from the rest of society but from their own true natures. Those experts who studied mental pathologies were known as ‘alienists’.”
Although this unique view of the mentally ill was not shared by all, it points to the heart of the book. This story of early psychological profiling and tracking down serial killers explores insanity and violence, and their causes.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Why It’s Special: A beautifully written and complex story about a hermaphrodite born and raised as a girl and eventually transitioning to living life as a man. The book raises questions of gender identity and not fitting in. It also looks at how family, culture, genetics and life experiences shape a person’s identity and beliefs.
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Why It’s Special: Set in North Korea, the book looks at some disturbing parts of life in a country that oppresses its people. It highlights living in a police state, where prison camps, torture, and corrupt leaders, are unfortunatley all too common. The take away from this story is one of love and trust.
Why We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Why It’s Special: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, effectively tackles feminism in today’s world. She looks at the way we raise and treat girls, contrasting it to how we raise and treat boys. She deals with the negative connotation associated with the word feminist. She talks about the gender divide. This short essay – the book is about 65 pages – will allow you to see a better more equal world.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
Why It’s Special: This is a story about a Professor with a memory span of 80 minutes and the Housekeeper who helps him. This elegantly written novel looks at relationships and love. But even more, this unique story is all about what it means to live in the present moment. Its poignancy will leave an impression on you.
Push by Sapphire
Why It’s Special: A powerful story of how the system fails certain classes of society. Precious is an illiterate, neglected teenager who is abused and mistreated in ways too horrible for words. As tough as this story is to read, it will heighten your awareness of the shortcomings of Government programs, and the importance of the educational system – especially reading and writing. The way Precious questions why she was born to her family will make you think about how a family impacts and shapes a person.
The Nix by Nathan Hill
Why It’s Special: This is a satire on American culture. Nathan Hill takes an in-depth look at a lot of topics, philosophizing about them, and putting his personal very witty spin on everything. He covers it all, from politics, consumerism and war – to social media, the gaming industry and cable news. He also offers insight on love, friendship, sexual abuse and family.
The Curios Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Why It’s Special: Christopher is a genius when it comes to math and science, but suffers from a condition similar to autism or Aspergers which makes him logical to a fault. Telling the truth is pathologically necessary for him, and he is very literal, missing subtleties, therefore missing the real truth. This book will draw your mind to prejudices, truthfulness, thinking more inclusively and becoming more accepting of other people’s differences.
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarity
Why It’s Special: This is a story of friends. It takes a look at relationships, marriage, parenting, and being a good neighbor or friend. It makes you realize life can change quickly and without warning. It explores the downside of judging too quickly.
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