Books for International Literacy Day whoo! Recommended for anyone who likes books and especially great writing. In no particular order.
1. The Kite Runner, Khaleid Hosseini: An unforgettable moving portrait of modern-day Afghanistan, it follows one man’s quest for redemption and forgiveness after witnessing the brutal rape of his childhood friend…and standing aside. Interweaving themes of class differences and religious intolerance, Hosseini’s novel shows the humanity of Afghanistan’s people - and the capacity to love and hate inherent in all of us. A gem of a book.
2. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Süskind: Set in late 18th century Paris, this follows the tale of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born with an extraordinary sense of smell…and an extraordinary lack of empathy. Fueled by an obsession to make the greatest perfume the world has known, he kills young Parisian maidens and steals their scent, drawing police and whole communities on his tail. A beautifully written meditation on the power of scent and the essence of humankind.
3. Life of Pi, Yann Martel: After surviving a catastrophic storm that sank his ship and his family with it, an Indian boy Pi Martel is trapped in a lifeboat with 200-pound Bengal tiger Richard Parker in this riveting allegory on the power of stories and the meanings we give them. Vividly realized and incredibly effective.
4. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire: You’ll never see Oz the same way again after reading this dark, revisionist tale of young green girl Elphaba Thropp who grows up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West. An unforgettable epic of fantasy made real, Maguire strips away the fairy tale mythos of Oz and delivers us a flesh-and-blood Oz peopled with flawed characters capable of greatness and tragedy both.
5. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbra Kingsolver: The Heart of Darkness for the 20th century, the story follows the Price family on a missionary trip to the Congo: only to realize that far from bringing the word of God to the Congo, the Congo would change them in ways they did not foresee. Narrated by daughters Leah, Adah, Rachel, and Ruth May, the novel interweaves themes of religious intolerance, political corruption, and economic exploitation in one of the poorest and most God-forsaken places on earth.
6. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez: The grand saga of the Buendía family living in the fictional town of Macondo, where maidens flying off to heaven and deluges that lasts four years happen alongside economic and social upheavals and civil war. A wry, deadpan take on superstition and myth and how they form people’s perceptions, this is a masterpiece of magical realism. My all-time fave.
7. The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann: A visit by Hans Castorp to a European sanatorium in the Swiss Alps stretches from a few months to seven years in Thomas Mann’s engrossing epic on a closeted community filled with quirky characters from various walks of life and philosophies. A must-read for anyone who wants to feel like they’re in another world.
8. Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli: High school student Leo Borlock falls for sweet, nonconformist Stargirl, a recent addition to Mica High, and so unique she is beyond description - but when the students at Mica High turn against her, Leo is forced to make the choice between his love for Stargirl and his need to fit in. Short, sweet, and powerful.
9. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck: The most beautifully-written book on the Great Drought and the mass migration of farmers from Oklahoma to California, following the plight of a single family, the Joads, in their journey to seek work and make an honest living - and the systematic, socio-political obstacles in their way. Heartbreaking, incredibly moving, just all-around consciousness-raising book.