Everyone has heard about the talented, super-smart teachers who work for the Teach for America program. But why do many of these new teachers only stay for a year or two and then move on?
In Reading with Patrick, compelling and emotionally resonant memoir, Michelle Kuo, a Harvard-educated Asian American, relates her two years teaching in poverty-torn Helena, Arkansas, a delta town close to the Mississippi state line that has lost nearly all of its industry. Kuo also describes her parents’ great expectations for her career, and their deep disappointment when she takes a low-paying position in education. Read more about Reading with Patrick
Did you ever dream of being in a tsunami? As a college freshman I did, repeatedly over a course of a couple of months. Luckily, I lived in the mountains then, a few hundred miles from the sea.
Richard Lloyd Parry, an English journalist, who spent over a decade in Japan, did six years of research for this excellent book. In one chapter, he recounts Teruo Konno’s experience being swept and tossed for hours in the great tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. Konno’s tale reads like a thriller.
As a city employee, Teruo opened the doors to evacuees at a city hall branch office next to the Kitakami River, fifteen feet above sea level and inland from the ocean. Everyone in the building survived the severe shaking, but the building lost power. No one knew that officials had revised the tsunami warning to 120 feet. Read more about Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone
If you've followed the news reports about Day Zero in Cape Town, South Africa, you might understand what happens to people who live in a place with little or no water. In Dry, a fast-paced thriller set in Kiewarra, Australia, everyone goes crazy when lack of access to water threatens their livelihood.
It's the second year of massive drought: thirsty blowflies enter people’s eyes and stick to open wounds; farmers struggle to find any water in their wells, many shooting their starving livestock. Friendship between neighbors turns to distrust and paranoia, and fences no longer only mark property lines—they serve as dire warnings not to enter. Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to this dried-up part of Australia after reports that a farmer has gone berserk and killed his wife and son, then himself. Only one-year-old Charlotte has survived the killings—could that be because she can't talk? Read more about The Dry
The story of a man's life always includes his father—and even more so when the father takes his own life. In this moving memoir, a poet and professor describes growing up in a big Catholic family in Seattle during the 1960s. Read more about My Father Before Me: A Memoir
Even if you seldom follow sports, this story of the 1936 Olympic rowers will excite you and touch your heart. Eight young men—most tall and scraggly, nearly all from poor, working-class backgrounds—beat the elite British, the powerhouse Germans, and the determined Italians to win gold as Nazi hysteria took over Berlin. But even though we know who wins the 1936 Olympics from the beginning, Brown ups the ante with dramatic descriptions of the racing with a filmmaker’s eye for visual details, practical rowing crew experience, and extensive interviews and research.
The book brims with history: personal, cultural and factual. It begins with the author’s neighbor, Judy, inviting the author to meet her father, Joe Rantz, one of the Olympic winners who, with only a few months to live, is in hospice. Over many interviews, he shares his story, but insists that Brown also write about all the men on his crew who, working as one, bring home the gold against impossible odds. Read more about The Boys in the Boat
War, it is said, tears families apart and brings strangers together. In this compelling WWII novel, two German widows of Nazi-resisters and a third woman, a refugee from the East, move in together, along with their children. They help each other with child-rearing and preparing meals, despite the privations of rationing. Most importantly, they give each other deep emotional support, as good families do.
The novel opens on a grand harvest party in a castle, ramshackle and falling apart, near a small town in Bavaria. Marianne, the main character, plays host for its ailing owner, Countess von Lingenfels, her husband Albrecht's aunt. Marianne brings to hosting the skills of someone who has an eye for beauty and taste—and particularly the complicated dynamics of relationships between people. She greets, cajoles, and introduces strangers with the flair and manners of a great lady. Read more about The Women in the Castle