Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
This book made me want to curl up inside myself until I disappeared. I've never read anything that has made me so ashamed. The systematic extermination of all American Indian tribes is something that's can't be believed until read. The lies, the corruption, the murder and the hate dealt out to tribes across the country is sickening and unsurpassed, and I doubt if anything on the same scale will - can - ever happen again. As the new Americans push further and further west, they meet tribes whose land they want, and will have - no matter what. Countless deals are struck and broken by the Americans, whether it be through outright deception and lies, or ruthless government back-pedalling and u-turns, all of which leave the natives broken, starving and in the end, eager for revenge.
Today, pushed into reservations long ago, Indians are still treated as second class citizens. It's impossible to wonder what might have happened if only the white man had respected the natives. A heartbreaking book about a proud and beautiful people.
Wave: Life and Memories after the Tsunami
The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami was horrific. Sonali Deraniyagala, Sri Lankan born and British wed, lost her husband, her parents and her two sons to the tsunami in a single devastating moment. What scared me the most was that there was never a moment of separation - they weren't all huddled together when the wave hit, they were all doing their own things, in their own rooms, and outside. It just happened, and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.
It's hard book to read. It feels immensely personal, which of course it is; what gives us the right to look inside the heartbreak, pain, and anger of this woman? I still don't know how she survived, not so much physically, although that too is something of a miracle, but mentally. How she went back to the UK and coped with friends and with a world that just kept on moving, I just don't know. It's our worst nightmares made real, and an inevitably uncomfortable yet riveting read.
World War Z
Ah, zombies. That's a bit more like it. Now if you've seen the film, forget it. It's got nothing on the book.
Set after the war, the book is split into interviews, each with a different person, and each offering a new perspective and experience on the war. It's extremely well written, and quite different from your average zombie tale in that while it does have an overarching storyline, it tackles this with the individual stories, giving the book a far more effective and powerful narrative.
Far from the Hollywood spew featuring Brad Pitt saving the world, World War Z is tale of desperation, human mistakes, shady governments, and politics. An absolute must for any fan of zombies (and fans of great books).
Forgotten Voices of The Somme
There are many Forgotten Voices books (a series made by The Imperial War Museum), and to be perfectly honest, I'm not completely sure if this is the one that left the biggest impression on me. They're all horrific war stories held together by tales of friendship and brotherhood. All the books are direct transcripts of interviews with people who survived the 20th Century wars in which the British were involved, and all bring home, with remarkable frankness and in some cases humour, the reality of war.
I find the stories told overwhelmingly emotional, particularly, of course, when they talk of fallen friends. To hear these men talk about what they saw, what they did and why they did it, is shocking and humiliating. Any of the series is well worth checking out.
I'm a huge John Wyndham fan, and had a hard time picking between his books, but I think - think - I've got it right with Chocky.
The book is written from a father's perspective, and centres around his son, Matthew, who starts to have an imaginary friend. It soon becomes obvious that the imaginary friend is far more than what he appears to be. I'm not sure how much to say as I don't want to spoil it, suffice to say it's a little bit sci-fi, and a little bit slow churning drama. The fact that it doesn't end with world dominance or intergalactic war is what makes it stand out, and the innocence of Matthew makes it quietly terrifying.
Like most of his books, read now it's also unintentionally funny. The sexism and some of the language is just fantastic.