A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
The book that made me question everything and propelled me to demand to know the truth. Zinn’s exhaustive account is an accurate telling of our nation’s brutal history of oppression. It is not the history of our school textbooks.
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
When we think of Genghis Khan, we think of one of history’s most violent pillagers and rapists. But in actuality, Genghis Khan was a great democratizer. His Mongol Empire conquered more territory in 25 years than the Romans did in 200. His strategy was to kill off the aristocracy and envelop the lowest members of society into his army. He allowed former servants to rise in rank and gain status in his empire.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
This emotional journey compelled me to want understand the past of my own Taiwanese mother better. It is the story of four Chinese-American women in San Francisco and how their mothers’ struggles in the Chinese homeland made them who they were. It is a highly emotional and exceptionally beautiful story.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louise de Bernieres
This delicious novel is part war story, part love story. Set in the beginning of World War II, it tells the story of Italian Captain Antonio Corelli of Mussolini’s Army as they invaded Greece. On the island lives Pelagia, the daughter of a Greek doctor with whom Captain Corelli begins an affair, despite her engagement to a fisherman who is headed to join the Greek forces. It is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read.
News of a Kidnapping by Gabriel García Márquez
A journalistic account of ten notable Colombians kidnapped by Pablo Escobar’s Medellín drug cartel. It is a harrowing window into the chaos that ensued in Colombia during the ’90s and how no one was immune to its grip.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Rushdie combines historical reality and mythical fiction to deliver a magnificent and magical account of India’s transition to independence and partition. It tells the story of a young man born along with hundreds of others at the very moment India becomes independent and through these new lives come hopes, dreams, curses, and complication.
The Girl in the Picture by Denise Chong
As a journalist, I was so impressed by how extensively Denise Chong researched this work of nonfiction. This is the story of the young girl who was photographed running naked in horror after her village was napalmed during the war, and who came to symbolize for the world its utter disaster and devastating toll. It is a moving story of love, perseverance, and belief.
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch
If you want to know why the genocide in Rwanda happened in 1994, this is a must-read. This meticulous account is told from both the Hutu and Tutsi perspectives and is impressively comprehensive. It is so well told, in fact, that I felt like I was there experiencing the horror with my own eyes.
The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
So often we feel the need to travel far to find treasure — that’s what Santiago, the shepherd boy protagonist in The Alchemist, believes he needs to do. After an exhaustive, yet richly colorful journey, he finds that the greatest treasure can be found inside. This simple little book contains hugely profound meaning.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
As a child of humble means, this book allowed me to believe that I could go anywhere and do anything. It reminds us that along life’s journey, things inevitably will go wrong and we will have setbacks. But the world has too much to offer and one should be open to whatever experiences avail themselves.