TOP TEN TUESDAY: Back To School

This weekly meme was created by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme is  Back To School Freebie — anything “back to school” related like 10 favorite books I read in school, books I think should be required reading, Required Reading For All Fantasy Fans, required reading for every college freshman, Books to Pair With Classics or Books To Complement A History Lesson, books that would be on my classroom shelf if I were a teacher.

I decided to create my list of Books to Complement a History Lessons. I believe that the best books to complement history lessons are biographies or memoirs of survivors of some of the most horrific events in history. Such books will stay with you forever; those books will shake you and show you the history through the eyes of regular people. Those books will show you a number of pain people went through to survive. We need to read their stories, to remember. Reading such memoirs will shake you more than the dry text of history book, with those books you will experience the horrors of wars, rebellions, dictatorships, and you will remember that those things happened.


Testament of Youth
by Vera Brittain

374388HISTORY LESSON: Word War I

Pub Date: 1933

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Much of what we know and feel about the First World War we owe to Vera Brittain’s elegiac yet unsparing book, which set a standard for memoirists from Martha Gellhorn to Lillian Hellman. Abandoning her studies at Oxford in 1915 to enlist as a nurse in the armed services, Brittain served in London, in Malta, and on the Western Front. By war’s end she had lost virtually everyone she loved. Testament of Youth is both a record of what she lived through and an elegy for a vanished generation. Hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as a book that helped “both form and define the mood of its time,” it speaks to any generation that has been irrevocably changed by war.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
by Jung Chang

41kihwcactl-_sy346_HISTORY LESSON: China’s Cultural Revolution

Pub Date: 1991

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The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author.

An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a “barefoot doctor,” a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history. 

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
by Loung Ung

nonfiction | memoir | history

4373HISTORY LESSON: Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodian genocide

Pub Date: 2000

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Until the age of five, Loung Ung lived in Phnom Penh, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official. She was a precocious child who loved the open city markets, fried crickets, chicken fights, and sassing her parents. When Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army stormed into Phnom Penh in April 1975, Ung’s family was forced to flee their home and hide their previous life of privilege. Eventually, they dispersed in order to survive. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans while her other siblings were sent to labor camps. Only after the Vietnamese destroyed the Khmer Rouge were Loung and her surviving siblings slowly reunited.Bolstered by the shocking bravery of one brother and sustained by her sister’s gentle kindness amid brutality, Loung forged ahead to create a courageous new life. Harrowing yet hopeful, insightful and compelling, this family’s story is truly unforgettable.

Night (The Night Trilogy #1)
by Elie Wiesel

 

13458984HISTORY LESSON: Holocaust

Pub date: 1958

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Night is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945, at the height of the Holocaust and toward the end of the Second World War. In just over 100 pages of sparse and fragmented narrative, Wiesel writes about the death of God and his own increasing disgust with humanity, reflected in the inversion of the father–child relationship as his father declines to a helpless state and Wiesel becomes his resentful teenage caregiver.

Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne Frank, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

Kolyma Tales
by Varlam Shalamov

109812HISTORY LESSON:  Soviet forced labour camp systems during the Stalin regime, from the 1930s until the 1950s.

Pub Date: 1978

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It is estimated that some three million people died in the Soviet forced-labour camps of Kolyma, in the northeastern area of Siberia. Shalamov himself spent seventeen years there, and in these stories he vividly captures the lives of ordinary people caught up in terrible circumstances, whose hopes and plans extended to further than a few hours

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah

43015HISTORY LESSON: Sierra Leone Civil War

Pub Date: 2007

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This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them.

What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived.

In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.

This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War
by Gioconda Belli

61030HISTORY LESSON: Nicaraguan Revolution

Pub Date: 2000

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An electrifying memoir from the acclaimed Nicaraguan writer (“A wonderfully free and original talent”—Harold Pinter) and central figure in the Sandinista Revolution.

Until her early twenties, Gioconda Belli inhabited an upper-class cocoon: sheltered from the poverty in Managua in a world of country clubs and debutante balls; educated abroad; early marriage and motherhood. But in 1970, everything changed. Her growing dissatisfaction with domestic life, and a blossoming awareness of the social inequities in Nicaragua, led her to join the Sandinistas, then a burgeoning but still hidden organization. She would be involved with them over the next twenty years at the highest, and often most dangerous, levels.

Her memoir is both a revelatory insider’s account of the Revolution and a vivid, intensely felt story about coming of age under extraordinary circumstances. Belli writes with both striking lyricism and candor about her personal and political lives: about her family, her children, the men in her life; about her poetry; about the dichotomies between her birth-right and the life she chose for herself; about the failures and triumphs of the Revolution; about her current life, divided between California (with her American husband and their children) and Nicaragua; and about her sustained and sustaining passion for her country and its people.

Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege
by Amira Hass

210062HISTORY LESSON: Israel-Palestine Conflict

Pub Date: 1999

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In 1993, Amira Hass, a young Israeli reporter, drove to Gaza to cover a story-and stayed, the first journalist to live in the grim Palestinian enclave so feared and despised by most Israelis that, in the local idiom, “Go to Gaza” is another way to say “Go to hell.” Now, in a work of calm power and painful clarity, Hass reflects on what she has seen in the Gaza Strips’s gutted streets and destitute refugee camps.

Drinking the Sea at Gaza maps the zones of ordinary Palestinian life. From her friends, Hass learns the secrets of slipping across sealed borders and stealing through night streets emptied by curfews. She shares Gaza’s early euphoria over the peace process and its subsequent despair as hope gives way to unrelenting hardship. But even as Hass charts the griefs and humiliations of the Palestinians, she offers a remarkable portrait of a people not brutalized but eloquent, spiritually resilient, bleakly funny, and morally courageous.

Full of testimonies and stories, facts and impressions, Drinking the Sea at Gaza makes an urgent claim on our humanity. Beautiful, haunting, and profound, it will stand with the great works of wartime reportage.

The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows
by Brian Castner

13414795HISTORY LESSON: war in Iraq

Pub Date: 2012

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Brian Castner served three tours of duty in the Middle East, two of them as the commander of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit in Iraq. Days and nights he and his team—his brothers—would venture forth in heavily armed convoys from their Forward Operating Base to engage in the nerve-racking yet strangely exhilarating work of either disarming the deadly improvised explosive devices that had been discovered, or picking up the pieces when the alert came too late. They relied on an army of remote-controlled cameras and robots, but if that technology failed, a technician would have to don the eighty-pound Kevlar suit, take the Long Walk up to the bomb, and disarm it by hand. This lethal game of cat and mouse was, and continues to be, the real war within America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But The Long Walk is not just about battle itself. It is also an unflinching portrayal of the toll war exacts on the men and women who are fighting it. When Castner returned home to his wife and family, he began a struggle with a no less insidious foe, an unshakable feeling of fear and confusion and survivor’s guilt that he terms The Crazy. His thrilling, heartbreaking, stunningly honest book immerses the reader in two harrowing and simultaneous realities: the terror and excitement and camaraderie of combat, and the lonely battle against the enemy within—the haunting memories that will not fade, the survival instincts that will not switch off. After enduring what he has endured, can there ever again be such a thing as “normal”? The Long Walk will hook you from the very first sentence, and it will stay with you long after its final gripping page has been turned.

Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
by Immaculée Ilibagiza

71447HISTORY LESSON: Rwandan Genocide

Pub Date: January 25, 2005

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Immaculee Ilibagiza grew up in a country she loved, surrounded by a family she cherished. But in 1994 her idyllic world was ripped apart as Rwanda descended into a bloody genocide. Immaculee’s family was brutally murdered during a killing spree that lasted three months and claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans. Incredibly, Immaculee survived the slaughter. For 91 days, she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor while hundreds of machete-wielding killers hunted for them.
It was during those endless hours of unspeakable terror that Immaculee discovered the power of prayer, eventually shedding her fear of death and forging a profound and lasting relationship with God. She emerged from her bathroom hideout having discovered the meaning of truly unconditional love—a love so strong she was able seek out and forgive her family’s killers.
The triumphant story of this remarkable young woman’s journey through the darkness of genocide will inspire anyone whose life has been touched by fear, suffering, and loss.


Anything from my list that you found interesting? Did you read any of those books? What books would you add to this list – recommendations always welcome!


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13 thoughts on “TOP TEN TUESDAY: Back To School

  1. bookstogetlostin says:

    I would have loved to read books like those for history class. Sadly we only really learned about germany’s Nazi history (which is very important, don’t get me wrong) but even that was done poorly, because a lot of things were silenced like how not only Jews were victims of the nazis.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ola says:

      This is so true! We don’t learn about a lot and lot of stuff in school, and stuff we do learn is not even the whole story. Taking for example the Nazis – I didn’t know about Pink Triangles for so long, I just learned about them because I picked up a magazine in gay bar that had article about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. TeacherofYA says:

    Great books…the only one I hesitate to read would be the one about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because lately there’s a lot of books that seem slanted against Israelis, and Israel as a whole, and I’m very pro-Israel. But the others…there’s a ton of books that seem like ones to add to the never-ending TBR!! lol!
    The movie Hotel Rwanda is good if you want to see more about that conflict…painful but great movie!

    Like

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