When I was little, my mom used to limit the number of hours I was allowed to read a day during the summer. Even though I don’t read as non-stop as I used to, it’s still one of my favorite past times. The past few years I’ve been focused on expanding my horizons to new topics and genres, including some hard-core social justice works.
This is the first post of book suggestions/reviews for those of you who love to be inspired/challenged/heartbroken/revitalized within a couple hundred pages.
ALSO! If you have any book suggestions for me, or for anyone else reading this post, please leave a comment on this post with those book titles. I’m always looking for more!
Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol
-Amazing Grace is an exposition into the lives of people living in the South Bronx, one of the poorest urban neighborhoods in the US. He explores the desperation of over-crowded schools, poor health care, drug violence, and families torn apart. But despite the darkness, he brings to light the lives of passionate teachers, ministers, and the children in this community who, despite all odds, exhibit transcending resilience. Amazing Grace is a book of hope in the middle of horrific brokenness.
When Invisible Children Sing by Dr. Chi Huang
-When Invisible Children Sing is a work by Doctor Chi Huang who worked as a physician in La Paz, Bolivia. His book is a collection of the stories and experiences he had while working with Bolivia’s street children. He writes with a such piercing clarity, painting the image of street life in an honesty that isn’t often portrayed. His book was the focus of a thesis paper I wrote my junior year, and I promise this book is worth every moment you have to spend on it.
*I should mention that he writes very honestly and graphically at times, so keep that in mind if you are sensitive to graphic material and/or crying while reading*
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
-The Help is a work of fiction paralleling the lives of African American women and families in the early 1960s. Kathryn Stockett writes with both humor and grit, to tell an honest story about strong and passionate women whose stories are often forgotten in American history classes.
*The movie is also a fantastic adaptation of the book, so it’s definitely worth watching. (Even though it made me cry)
Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle
-Tattoos on the Heart is a collection of stories and lessons from the work of Father Gregory Boyle and Homeboy Industries. Homeboy is a gang intervention ministry that offers new starts to gang members by providing job training, tattoo removal, and all kinds of other support. The stories and parables in this book will break your heart wide open with a new kind of compassion and understanding. I laughed and cried while reading Tattoos on the Heart which is something I rarely ever do when reading. Father Greg writes with such poignant elegance, painting everything in a clear and compassionate understanding. I can’t recommend it enough!! I should also mention that Homeboy Industries is located in LA, and that my housemates and I had the opportunity to tour the facility and hear the testimony of one of the incredible homies working at Homeboy. READ THIS BOOK! MULTIPLE TIMES AND REFER IT TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!!!
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
-Nickel and Dimed chronicles the year that Barbara Ehrenreich quit her job to experience what life is like for the minimum wage worker in the USA. Her stories are a painful eye opener to the realities of a broken system. Truth be told, I didn’t like the after-taste this book left for me because there’s no happy ending, or a solution, or any kind of breakthrough. Read this book if you want to feel uncomfortable and challenged. And then do something about the way it makes you feel, and don’t let yourself become comfortable with it.
Here’s your first 5! Get started on these because more are coming your way in the future. And if you need some more motivation to check these out, here are some fantastic quotes on why you should read:
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.”
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”
–Henry David Thoreau
“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”
Let the words and stories of passionate people spark the fire and passion inside you to change the world, or at least the way you see it!