Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Recommendations

I love to read. I particularly love to read books that are entertaining and based on history as it sparks my interest to learn more about the subject. I also tend to read books that are lesser-known, or at least when I read them they are. I'm excited to know many of the books I've read years ago (such as Sarah's Key) are now popular best sellers! I also tend to pass books along to others. I know one set of books I read a few summers ago have since made it through at least five people, maybe more. Love.

Anyway, I thought I'd share a few that I particularly enjoyed over the past few years. Be warned; some cover difficult subject matters, but they are all based in history and cover fictionalized stories of actual events.
1. Trudy's Promise by Marcia Preston
Takes place during the Cold War. A woman is separated from her son after the Berlin wall is erected as he is trapped in East Berlin.

2. Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
Split novel focusing on the "present" day and World War II, unfolding the story of a German woman's life as she strives to protect her daughter from the Nazis.

3. The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff
Another World War II novel about a Polish Jew who escapes the ghetto and lives as the girlfriend of a Nazi Kommandant to save her life.

4. The Diplomat's Wife by Pam Jenoff
This is the sequel to The Kommandant's Girl, except it is told from the perspective of a minor character from the first novel. It takes place during the Cold War. I can't say much more without giving away too much from the first book. I'll just say I read both of these in the span of about a week. :)
5. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
I just read this one and found it very thought-provoking as well as entertaining. It is told from the perspective of a Chinese American boy during World War II who lives in Seattle and befriends a Japanese American girl. The Japanese family is sent to an internment camp. It really made me think a lot about racial prejudice that is still widely prevalent today.
6. The True Story of Hansel and Gretel
Another World War II one! Two Jewish children are sent to live with an elderly woman living in the woods of Poland as Gentiles. I loved how it tied the old fairytale to a fictionalized account of real events.
7. Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosney
Another split story taking place in "present" day Paris and World War II France. Just trust me on this one, it's good.
8. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Ancient China following the lives of two young girls as they progress through foot-binding and arranged marriages. I learned a lot about practices during that day that I was not familiar with.
9. Slave by Mende Nazer
Memoir of a girl who is about the same age as me. She was kidnapped from her village in Africa at the age of 11-ish and taken to be a slave for an Arab family in the city until she escaped in her twenties. Incredibly powerful, particularly as I reflected on my life while she was in captivity.

10. The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
Takes place in Iran during the Iranian revolution as a man is imprisioned for being too "westernized." While not the same at all, it has a similar feel to Khalid Housseni's books The Kite Runner and Thousand Splendid Suns in that it shows a different era in Iran and how it shifted to more closely align with what we know now.
11. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Another memoir of a young boy from Sierra Leone who is captured and forced to live as a boy soldier. Very hard to read, but incredibly powerful since it is a true story. Like Mende, Ishmael is about the same age as me. I cannot imagine.

12. The Poet of Bagdad by Jo Tatchell
I'm reading this now, but so far am captivated. It's based on the life of Nabeel Yasin, a poet from Bagdad who writes against the oppression in Iraq during Saddam Hussain's rein. Nabeel eventually has to escape the company to avoid harsh punishment. I feel like it'll be a good one, so wanted to include it. :)
That's it for now. Happy reading!