I won’t be so dramatic as to say that these books completely changed my life. That’s high praise that I bestow rarely – thus far only on Harry Potter, but with a couple of close runners up. So no, I’m not a changed human for having read these books, but some of my thoughts, opinions, and perspectives have changed.
The following five books changed my view of loss, grief, faith, race, human connection, and human suffering viewed through the lens of the media.
Blurb: “From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage – and a life, in good times and bad – that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.”
Blurb: “Kate Bowler is a professor at Duke Divinity School with a modest Christian upbringing, but she specializes in the study of the prosperity gospel, a creed that sees fortune as a blessing from God and misfortune as a mark of God’s disapproval. At thirty-five, everything in her life seems to point toward “blessing.” She is thriving in her job, married to her high school sweetheart, and loves life with her newborn son. Then she is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Frank and funny, dark and wise, Kate Bowler pulls the reader deeply into her life in an account she populates affectionately with a colorful, often hilarious retinue of friends, mega-church preachers, relatives, and doctors. Everything Happens for a Reason tells her story, offering up her irreverent, hard-won observations on dying and the ways it has taught her live.”
Blurb: “Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities by a centuries-long struggle.”
Blurb: “How does the spectacle of the sufferings of others (via television or newsprint) affect us? Are viewers inured – or incited – to violence by the depiction of cruelty? In Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag takes a fresh look at the representation of atrocity – from Goya’s The Disasters of War to photographs of the American Civil War, lynchings of blacks in the South, and the Nazi death camps, to contemporary horrific images of Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Israel and Palestine, and New York City on September 11, 2001. In Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag once again changes the way we think about the uses and meanings of images in our world, and offers an important reflection about how war itself is waged (and understood) in our time.”
Blurb: “Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxane Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening – until a band of gun-wielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds, and people from different continents become compatriots. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion….and cannot be stopped.”