This is the book I recommend more than any other — I can barely hold onto a copy of it because I am always giving it away to anyone who I think needs something that will blow the top of their skull off. On one level, it is the engaging, creepy, and extraordinary story of a family of purposely designed circus freaks, as told by the hunchback albino dwarf sister. On another level, it is a story about identity and belonging: How do you define yourself in terms of your family? Your culture? Your body? Your religion? How do you know what or who you really are?
One afternoon while talking with a friend about books, I wondered how to best describe my experience of reading Disgrace, and this is what I came up with: it's like a finely crafted, very sharp knife resting gently against your skin. The uneasiness and suspense are there from the beginning, made all the more powerful by Coetzee's control and use of spare language, and you never really take a deep breath until it's all over. Set in modern South Africa, the book explores what it's like to personally confront deep prejudices. Prejudices of gender, sexuality, class, and race. Far from being a politically correct diatribe, this novel is about how we cope, how we survive as humans, and it forces the reader to reflect upon what seems at first a very twisted reality. For each of the characters in this astonishing novel, redemption is attained through what becomes the very reshaping of their souls.
No author encapsulated and celebrated the American Southwest more engagingly than iconoclast and raconteur Edward Abbey. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness — now nearly a half-century old — is a classic of environmental writing. In this autobiographical work, Abbey chronicles his time as a park ranger and reflects on landscape, culture, politics, tourism, environmental disregard, and degradation — doing so with a unique blend of ornery charm and breathtaking description. Though set in his beloved Southwest, Desert Solitaire beautifully and brashly captures the essence of the American outdoors, replete with disdain for those who'd seek to spoil its natural wonder.
We're taught to think of love as something that happens to us. It's a magical but altogether passive experience. In her deeply personal and emphatic All about Love, renowned social activist and feminist bell hooks asserts that, in fact, love is a choice we must all make and it's not nearly as abstract or elusive as many of us have come to believe. The book not only explores the role of love in our lives and the ways our culture has distorted its meaning, but guides us — with clear definitions and examples — toward a better understanding of how to cultivate it. If you've ever wondered why some relationships stand the test of time while others crumble, you should read this book.