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Sarah Brady | June 14, 2019

Looking for an interesting read this summer? Take a look at some book recommendations from World View staff.



Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (240 pages; 2017)

Recommended by Sarah Brady

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—fiercely independent Nadia and restrained Saeed. When their city turns familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

(This is a great work of fiction, and it speaks to the refugee experience in a very personal and intimate way.)


Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz (304 pages; 1992)

Recommended by Daniel McNeal

Midaq Alley brings to life one of the hustling, teeming back alleys of Cairo in the 1940s. From Zaita the cripple-maker to Kirsha the hedonistic cafe owner, from Abbas the barber who mistakes greed for love to Hamida who sells her soul to escape the alley, from waiters and widows to politicians, pimps and poets, the inhabitants of Midaq Alley vividly evoke Egypt’s largest city as it teeters on the brink of change.


Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey by GB Tran (288 pages; 2011)

Recommended by Holly Loranger

GB Tran is a young Vietnamese American artist who grew up distant from (and largely indifferent to) his family’s history. Born and raised in South Carolina as a son of immigrants, he knew that his parents had fled Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. But even as they struggled to adapt to life in America, they preferred to forget the past—and to focus on their children’s future. It was only in his late twenties that GB began to learn their extraordinary story. In telling his family’s story, GB finds his own place in this saga of hardship and heroism.


The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara (496 pages; 2014)

Recommended by Sarah Brady

It is 1950 when Norton Perina, a young doctor, embarks on an expedition to a remote Micronesian island in search of a rumored lost tribe. There he encounters a strange group of forest dwellers who appear to have attained a form of immortality that preserves the body but not the mind. Perina uncovers their secret and returns with it to America, where he soon finds great success. But his discovery has come at a terrible cost. The People in the Trees is an anthropological adventure story with a profound and tragic vision of what happens when cultures collide.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (320 pages; 2017)

Recommended by Olivia Howes

The story begins in Ghana with the birth of two half-sisters who are separated at birth. Their parallel paths through life depict the lasting effects of slavery on those who participated in the enslavement of their own people and on those who were enslaved. While one sister marries a white Englishmen, the other is captured in her village and sold into slavery. The novel follows the two sister’s families through eight generations and various different historical events, with a recurring theme that underlines the constant challenge West Africans and African Americans face as they live with the troubled legacy of slavery.


Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (304 pages; 2012)

Recommended by Daniel McNeal

Toru, a preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, an introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent young woman.


The Girls by Emma Cline (368 pages; 2017)

Recommended by Sarah Brady

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park. Soon, Evie is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.

(Based on the Manson murders, this book is a deep dive into someone impacted by a cult and how it affects her years later.)



Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall (320 pages; 2016)

Recommended by Holly Loranger

All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. In “one of the best books about geopolitics,” now updated to include 2016 geopolitical developments, journalist Tim Marshall examines Russia, China, the US, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan, Korea and Greenland and the Arctic—their weather, seas, mountains, rivers, deserts and borders—to provide a context often missing from our political reportage: How the physical characteristics of these countries affect their strengths and vulnerabilities and the decisions made by their leaders.



The Mzungu Boy by Meja Mwangi (152 pages; 2006)

Recommended by Julie Kinnaird

Through the eyes and voice of Kariuki, a young boy, we engage in daily life and adventure in a small Kenyan village during the 1950s. During this time period, Kenya was under British Colonial rule and tension was rising between Kenyans and British settlers. This book shares the story of Kariuki’s blossoming friendship with Nigel, the grandson of a ruthless white landowner who is also Kariuki’s father’s boss, and the tension that develops from the Mau Mau Rebellion. This book is recommended because it shares a wonderful, yet tragic, story of an unlikely friendship through the eyes of a Kenyan boy and promotes a greater understanding of the legacy of racism started by colonialism in Africa.


The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw (240 pages; 2016)

Recommended by Holly Loranger

Yuriko is happy growing up in Hiroshima when it’s just her and Papa. But while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan’s fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden from its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and air raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the atomic bomb hits Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror. Based on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s first-hand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding readers that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.

(Kathleen Burkinshaw resides in Charlotte, NC and is available for classroom visits and/or Skype chats.)