This section will include books that I am currently reading, and that I have read since arriving. Hopefully I can transform some of my inevitable periods of solitude, into opportunities to expand the way that I think, and maybe inspire others to keep the culture of reading alive. If you have any book recommendations, please send them on!
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
February 1862. With the Civil War less than one year old, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven year-old son, Willie, lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body. From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story that breaks free of its realistic framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm, deploying a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices – living and dead, historical and invented – to ask a timeless question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Set in an exotic Eastern landscape peopled by magicians and talking animals, Haroun and the Sea of Stories is the tale of a twelve-year-old boy and his adventure to restore his father’s gift of storytelling by reviving the poisoned Sea of Stories. In this wondrous delight for readers of all ages, Salman Rushdie gives us an imaginative work of extraordinary power and endearing humor that is, at its heart, an illumination of the necessity of storytelling in our lives.
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother – a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang – and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the North Korean state soon recognize the boy’s loyalty and keen instincts. Considering himself a “humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do rises in the ranks. He becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”
Logavina Street by Barbara Demick
“Logavina Steet was a microcosm of Sarajevo, a six-block-long history lesson. For four centuries, it existed as a quiet residential area in a charming city long known for its ethnic and religious tolerance. On this street of 240 families, Muslims and Christians, Serbs and Croats, lived easily together, unified by their common identity as Sarajevans. Then the war tore it all apart.
As she did in her groundbreaking work about North Korea, Nothing to Envy, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick tells the story of the Bosnian War and the brutal and devastating three-and-a-half-year siege of Sarajevo through the lives of ordinary citizens, who struggle with hunger, poverty, sniper fire, and shellings.
Logavina Street paints this misunderstood war and its effects in vivid strokes – at once epic and intimate – revealing the heroism, sorrow, resilience, and uncommon faith of its people.”
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
“Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and soul-stirring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles in his path. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.”
The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
“In 1973, Peter Matthiessen and field biologist George Schaller traveled high into the remote mountains of Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and possibly glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard. Matthiessen, a student of Zen Buddhism, was also on a spiritual quest to find the Lama of Shey at the ancient shrine on Crystal Mountain. As the climb proceeds, Matthiessen charts his inner path as well as his outer one, with a deepening Buddhist understanding of reality, suffering, impermanence, and beauty.”