10 Books for Your 2011 Summer Reading List

July 27, 2011

Looking for a good book to add to your summer reading list that won’t bore but will also educate you about human rights? We asked our bloggers and staff members to recommend fiction and non-fiction titles published in the last year that do just that.

So behold, our list of 10 books (in no particular order) to add to your Kindle, Nook, or library queue right now. If your favorite didn’t make the list, please share your recommendations in the comments area below.

1. Then They Came For Me by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy
Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek journalist, tells the story of his imprisonment and mistreatment in Iran for four months in 2009. His own story is weaved into that of his father and sister, who were also imprisoned for political reasons in earlier years. This book makes both for a gripping memoir and an introduction to the history of human rights in Iran. To learn more about human rights in Iran after reading this book, visit our website.

2. Oil on Water by Helon Habila
When the wife of a British oil executive is kidnapped, two journalists are sent to find her. A novel set upon the landscape of the oil rich Nigerian delta, Oil on Water gives the reader both a high-paced, skillfully told story and a venue through which to consider corporate responsibility and human rights. When you’re done reading this book, you can take action for corporate accountability in the Niger Delta.

3. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
And for a lighter “beach read” that also tackles serious human rights themes, try writer Suzanne Collins’ hugely popular Hunger Games trilogy. Imagine shades of Shirley Jackson’s disturbing short story “The Lottery” transplanted into today’s media-saturated, reality-show culture, and you have the story of heroine Katniss Everdeen, a young human rights defender in a future post-apocalyptic America. You’ll find this dystopian adventure series in the young adult section, but Collins’ fast-paced telling of Katniss’s battle with a cruel, arbitrary dictatorship will rivet readers of all ages.

4. Hope and Despair: My Struggle to Free My Husband, Maher Arar by Monia Mazigh
Monia Mazigh tells of how her husband, Canadian citizen Maher Arar, was kidnapped at JFK airport in New York by US officials and sent to Syria to be tortured, as part of the US “extraordinary rendition” program. This is a remarkable story of personal courage, and of an extraordinary woman who lets us into her life so that others can understand the denial of rights and the discarding of human rights her family suffered. After reading this book, join us in asking the US government to apologize for the treatment of Arar.

5. Undaunted: my struggle for freedom and survival in Burma by Zoya Phan, with Damien Lewis
Zoya Phan, a human rights activist in Burma (Myanmar), shares her story in this memoir, which illustrates the persecution experienced by the Karen people. After her family’s village was bombed by government troops in 1995, her family spent the next decade migrating between refugee camps. Since her father’s assassination in 2008, Phan has become an outspoken advocate for human rights in Myanmar/Burma. Visit our site to learn more about human rights in Myanmar.

6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Henrietta Lacks, a poor African American migrant from Virginia, died from an aggressive cancer at the age of 30 in 1951. Without her knowledge or consent, a sample of her cancerous tissue was taken, which led to some of the most important advancements in modern science. As lives were saved because of her cells (known as “HeLa cells”), Henrietta’s family continued to live in poverty and frequently poor health, and only decades later learned about her contribution to science. Skloot tells the story of Henrietta’s legacy and that of her family, creating a book that addresses dignity, social and economic justice, and the complicated nature of memory and human legacies. When you’re done reading, learn more about economic and social justice at our website.

7. Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer
On January 12, 2010 a massive earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands of people. From his own firsthand experiences, as well as stories from both fellow volunteers and earthquake survivors, Paul Farmer recounts the struggle and resilience of the Haitian people he encountered. He deconstructs the social and economic disparities that contributed to the destruction wrought by the earthquake. Haiti After the Earthquake is both an inspiring story of human survival in the face of disaster as well as a testament to the imperative need for social and economic justice worldwide. Visit our website to learn more about human rights in Haiti.

8. Can Intervention Work? by Rory Stewart
This is the second book in the Amnesty Global Ethics Series, published in partnership with Norton. Rory Stewart and Gerald Knaus distill their remarkable firsthand experiences of political and military interventions into a potent examination of what we can and cannot achieve in a new era of “nation building.” Delving into massive, military-driven efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, and elsewhere, the authors reveal each effort’s enormous consequences for international relations, human rights, and our understanding of state building.

9. Family of Shadows by Garin K. Hovannisian
This memoir, by an Armenian-American author, tells a family history over three generations, spanning the Armenian genocide to post Soviet democratization. He recounts the personal histories of his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father and places them within the context of Armenian history over the past century. It is an engaging read for anyone interested in human rights history from a personal perspective. Learn more about human rights in Armenia at our website.

10. The Cage: The Fight for Sri Lanka & the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers by Gordon Weiss
Weiss was the UN spokesperson in Sri Lanka during the final months of the war, when both the government forces and the opposition Tamil Tigers committed massive human rights abuses, including war crimes. He provides a gripping, behind-the-scenes account of how international aid workers struggled to provide help to civilians trapped in the war zone and delves behind the propaganda from both sides. Learn more about human rights in Sri Lanka and take action at our website.

Note: All links lead to Amazon.com, and if you click through and buy a book, a small portion of the proceeds go to Amnesty. Inclusion on this list does not imply endorsement by Amnesty International.