I love to read for all sorts of reasons, mostly it is a distraction or a chance to fall into another world even for just ten minutes. There are books I read now and I pick them up looking for that distraction and a bit of entertainment but then they surprise me and open my eyes to things I never even knew. I think about them long after I’ve finished reading, they stay with me, challenge my views and they make me see the world in a different way. Here are some of my favourite reads that have done just that – five books to open your eyes.
Orange Is The New Black – Piper Kerman
By now most people know of the TV series Orange Is The Black, we started watching it last year and loved it. I loved it so much my husband bought me the book it is based on for my birthday. I was surprised how good it was, nowhere near as dramatic as the show, a few less lesbian love affairs, but still fascinating. It really made me think about the politics behind the legal system; how the sentences can differ so drastically depending on a persons background, class or race. Piper Kerman is now involved in justice reform after seeing it from the inside and realising that there is little rehabilitation there. She was one of the lucky ones with a supportive family, money and people to turn to when she got out but so many women don’t have that. It is also tells some incredible tales about the strength of women, how resourceful they can be and how they fight for one another when they need to. I loved it.
The Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet – Jamie Ford
This is a fiction book, a beautifully written novel about a young Chinese-American boy who becomes friends with a Japanese-American girl. It is set in the US around the time of the second world war and throughout the story his friend is sent away to a Japanese internment camp that were being set up to contain citizens who were deemed a threat. The book is amazing, the story is just wonderful but I read the whole thing wondering how much of it was true. As it is outside my era and country I suppose I just hadn’t thought about things like that happening. The authors note explains that many of the events are in fact true, including the interment. He doesn’t place blame or judgement but tells it how it was, maybe hoping that people will read it and think to do better in the future.
Clandestine in Chile – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This is actually a real life story told by film director Miguel Littin who was exiled from his home country Chile. Years later he entered Chile in disguise to film the country under Pinochet’s rule and then told this tale to Gabriel Garcia Marquez who wrote it down and made it into this story told from Littin’s point of view. It is totally fascinating and despite it being incredibly dangerous for him to be there, some parts you almost laugh at. It not totally political, more a tale of adventure and a view into a country learning to live under oppression.
A Woman In Berlin – Anonymous
I read this book quite a few years ago now and there are still parts of it I remember so clearly. It is a diary kept by a woman who was living in Berlin in 1945 as the war was ending and Russian soldiers occupied parts of the city. The things she writes are incredible insights into the unimaginable. The diaries are written more as a recount then anything else and it is chilling how normally she describes the violence and things people are willing to do simply to survive. It is gripping and historically, it’s an important story to be told but not a particularity easy one to read.
The Country Under My Skin – Gioconda Belli
A friend lent this book to me and it is another I read without having any knowledge of the history behind it. It’s an autobiography by Gioconda Belli which follows her life in Nicaragua. She spent years as a guerilla fighter at war with a dictatorship and was forced to spend a lot of her life in exile. It also shows her personal life as a mother and as a woman and I thought it was fascinating to see it all from a woman’s perspective. She doesn’t hide her emotions whether talking about politics or romance and the way the two weave into each other makes it a compelling read. Even if you have no interest in the political side of it I would still recommend it as an interesting read following a woman’s personal struggles in love, war and motherhood.
I would love to hear if you have any read any of these or if you have any books to share that have opened your eyes!