Thursday, April 7, 2011


My sister, also a language arts/social studies teacher and avid reader, asked what books I would want a college bound high schooler to have read. A delightful question, fun to think over. Mine is a quirky list. I don't read much fiction, so only a few. And perhaps you will discern a thematic connection of those novels to the topics of the non-fiction selections. These are not the best books, by any stretch of the imagination. They cover topics, themes and places that I would like my own children to at least know about, and that I always wanted my political science undergraduates to think about. And they cover them in a fashion readily accessible to a good high school reader.

Feel free to answer back, add to the list, etc.

Elias Chacour, Blood Brothers (A fascinating account of a Palestinian Christian priest who tries to make and live at peace with his Israeli neighbors)

Timothy Garton-Ash, The File (the review of his own E. German secret police file and interviews with those who spied on him)

Timothy Garton-Ash, The History of the Present (Overview history of the late Cold War and the Soviet collapse)

Philip Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You Tomorrow we will be Killed Along With our Families (A penetrating analysis of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994)

Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers
(Political Economy philosophy overview)

John Hersey, Hiroshima (Eyewitness account of the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing)

Peter Hessler, River Town
(China, through the eyes of a Peace Corps English teacher--That's the one of the three to start with. Then go to Oracle Bones and Country Driving.)

The Hitchens Brothers debate about Faith and Atheism--
Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great (An explanation of the author's atheism)
Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God (An explanation of the author's faith)

Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Comprehensive, if a bit overly-descriptive biography of Bonhoeffer's extraordinary life)

Neil Postman, Techopoly (An evaluation of technology and culture)

Harvey Sachs, The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824 (A discussion of the genius of Beethoven's 9th symphony and of the times)

Jonathan Schell, The Unfinished 20th Century (a philosophical treatment of the international politics of the 20th century)

Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone (Detailing the decline of social capital in the United States)

Elizabeth Neuffer, The Keys to my Neighbor's House (About Apartheid in S. Africa)

Fiction...I don't have much to add to the 'standard list'
Eugene Burdick and William Lederer, The Ugly American
William Golding, Lord of the Flies

Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon
George Orwell (Every list has to have one, right? I prefer), Animal Farm (I like it better than 1984. I can't bring myself to put Brave New World or Fahrenheit 451 on, either. Animal Farm is the best of the bunch, to my mind)
Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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