15 of the Best Novels and Memoirs About World War One

15 of the Best Novels and Memoirs About World War One


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World War One is well known for its incredible cultural impact across a range of mediums. A great deal of important changes in art and literature came about because of the conflict, particularly the necessity of reflecting the brutal realities of the bloodshed. There is a wide canon of literature that spans the war and its aftermath, and below we have 15 of the best novels and memoirs.

First hand memoirs

1. Robert Graves – Goodbye to all that

Graves’ autobiography covers his World War One experience, in which he served as a lieutenant and then captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, alongside another literary giant, Siegfried Sassoon.

Goodbye to All That provides a detailed description of trench warfare, including the tragic incompetence of the Battle of Loos and the bitter fighting in the first phase of the Somme Offensive.

Dan Snow takes an emotional journey through the key battlefields of the Western Front, from the memorial parks at the Somme to the formidable defences around Ypres.

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2. Siegfried Sassoon – The complete memoirs of George Sherston

The trilogised ‘fictional autobiography’ draws on Sassoon’s own World War One experiences. The eponymous protagonist, George Sherston, was later claimed by Sassoon to only represent 1/5 of this personality.

It won high acclaim in its time, taking the Hawthorne Prize for Literature in 1928, and has endured as a classic representation of an individual’s experience of the war.

3. Vera Brittain – Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth has been acclaimed as a classic for its description of the impact of the war on the lives of women and the middle-class civilian population of Great Britain. The book shows how the impact extended into the postwar years.

It is also considered a classic in feminist literature for its depiction of a woman’s pioneer struggle to forge an independent career in a society only grudgingly tolerant of educated women.


North American novels

4. Timothy Findley – The Wars

The Wars tells the story of Robert Ross, a nineteen year old Canadian Officer who interprets the war as an escape from personal tragedy and an oppressive, static society. He calls his decision to join the war “a last desperate act to declare his commitment to life in the midst of death.”

5. Jeff Shaara – To the Last Man

A novel based on accounts of the arrival of American troops on the Western Front in 1917. It follows the experiences of various doughboys from General to Private, as well as profiling a new British recruit and two aviation aces – one German and one American.

6. Dalton Trumbo – Johnny Got His Gun

This anti-war novel follows the tale of Joe Benham, a young ex-soldier who has to come to terms with having lost his arms, legs, and all of his face (including his eyes, ears, teeth, and tongue). His mind functions perfectly, leaving him a prisoner in his own body.

7. Ernest Hemingway – A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms is a first-person account of American Frederic Henry, serving as a Lieutenant in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army.

It tells of a love affair between the expatriate American Henry and Catherine Barkley, set in among the social upheaval of the Great War, ranging from intense characterizations of cynical soldiers to sweeping descriptions of population displacement.

1917 is a new film directed by Golden Globe winning film maker Sir Sam Mendes. In this interview Dan sits down with the Academy Award winning director to talk about his familial connection to the movie's plot and the film's attention to historical authenticity.

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French and German works

8. Henri Barbusse – Under Fire

This novel is rather a series of journal-like anecdotes with which the anonymous narrator claims to be recording his time in the war. It follows a squad of French volunteer soldiers on the Western front in France after the German invasion.

It was one of the first novels to be published about the war and contains vivid descriptions of assaults in between broader descriptions of life in war-time France.

9. Ernst Jünger – Storm of Steel

A memoir of German Officer Ernst Jünger’s experiences on the Western Front. Jünger served as a Lieutenant in the German Army until 1923, and his recollections have been labelled as glorifying war.

In the preface to the 1929 English edition, Jünger stated that “Time only strengthens my conviction that it was a good and strenuous life, and that the war, for all its destructiveness, was an incomparable schooling of the heart..”

10. Erich Maria Remarque – All Quiet on the Western Front

The book describes the German soldiers’ extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these soldiers upon returning home from the front. In 1930 the book was adapted into an Oscar-winning film under the same name, directed by Lewis Milestone.

David Willey, curator at the Tank Museum, Bovington, discusses the development of tank warfare and the impact of tanks at the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.

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Post war novels

11. Ford Madox Ford- Parade’s End

A tetralogy described as “quite simply, the best fictional treatment of war in the history of the novel.” The novels chronicles the life of “the last Tory”, a wealthy and brilliant government statistician serving in the British Army during World War One.

Rather than depicting the real-time experiences of warfare, this novel instead focuses on its psychological and social aftermath.

12. Richard Aldington – Death of a Hero

Death of a Hero is the story of a young English artist named George Winterbourne who enlists in the army at the outbreak of World War One.

It presents an unfiltered picture of war, including graphic descriptions of sexual experiences alongside those of life in the trenches. It was widely censored in England and subjected to violent public criticism.


13. Michael Morpurgo – War Horse

First published in 1982, this novel tells the intertwined stories of Joey, a horse purchased to serve on the Western Front, and of his young owner Albert, who enlists to fight. It has since been adapted into an award-winning play under the same name, and as a blockbuster film directed by Steven Spielberg.

14. Sebastian Faulks – Birdsong

Birdsong tells of a man called Stephen Wraysford at different stages of his life both before and during World War I. Faulks retelling of the events and attitudes surrounding the Battle of the Somme has been singled out for especial commendation. It came 13th in a 2003 BBC survey searching for Britain’s favorite book.

15. Pat Barker – Regeneration trilogy

This trilogy explores the experience of British army officers being treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh.

Barker draws extensively on first person narratives from the period, creating characters founded in real-life individuals, including the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, and psychologist W.H.R. Rivers, who pioneered treatments of PTSD.

November 2020 marks 100 years since the Unknown Warrior was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey. For the centenary, Dan Snow visits the Abbey and the National Army Museum, to learn more about an untold story behind the Unknown Warrior.

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30 of the Best Historical Books That Will Transport You to Another Time

Choose your own adventure, from prehistoric to present day.

While it is (still) impossible to travel through time, reading historical books is the best way to get a sense for how others lived in generations past. Whether you have a favorite time period you&rsquore fascinated by, or want to learn about a new culture, there&rsquos no shortage of popular books that are both rooted in history and highly entertaining.

Some of the best-received historical books range from biographies that further popularized famous figures, such as Ron Chernow&rsquos Alexander Hamilton, to surprisingly true tales that resemble novels, like Erik Larson&rsquos The Devil in the White City. Another important category of historical books are those that highlight the experiences of disenfranchised communities, such as Michelle Alexander&rsquos The New Jim Crow or An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Once you&rsquove finished reading some of these historical introductions, you can also dive deeper into books about racism, LGBT-focused books, or books by Hispanic authors to learn even more about these underrepresented but undoubtedly vital communities.

This international bestseller explores what it means to be human from a biological and historical perspective. It examines how homo sapiens survived out of six initial species that inhabited the Earth, and tries to connect the dots as we attempt to examine what will become of us as we gain the ability to bend laws of natural selection.

Critics praise Mary Beard's SPQR not only due to the vast amount of history it covers, nearly 1,000 years of ancient Rome, but also because of its easy readability. Beard avoids jargon and writes vividly to bring this dramatic time period to life.

Howard Zinn's book is now widely popular in classrooms across the country, in part because of its inclusive retelling of American history. Rather than focusing on the highest offices, Zinn writes about the perspectives women, Native Americans, factory workers, and other marginalized groups throughout our country's past.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz won the American Book Award in 2015 for this book, which challenges the origin story of the United States by telling it exclusively from the perspective of Indigenous peoples. Spanning over 400 years, it's a comprehensive examination of both colonialist government policy and Indigenous resistance.

The Devil in the White City is an incredibly popular historical book so vibrant that it almost reads like fiction. Erik Larson tells the story of two men at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair: one an architect, the other a serial killer.

Michelle Alexander's book has had a profound impact on recent U.S. history. Her argument that mass incarceration is an evolution of the racial caste system in America has inspired a new generation of activists, as well as aided Black Lives Matter and other racial justice movements.

If you watched Hamilton and are interested to learn more about this Founding Father, Ron Chernow's biography will be a fascinating read. It was Lin-Manuel Miranda's inspiration for the Broadway play, and unsurprisingly is a vivid account of Hamilton's role in birth of America.

This revisionist history book presents Genghis Khan and his accomplishments in a brand new light. Weatherford paints a picture of Khan as far more progressive than his European counterparts, and underscores his impact on trade, communication, and modern civilization as a whole.

A winner of numerous awards, Purnell's biography tells the story of Virginia Hall, an unlikely American spy during World War II. Hall, who started out as a Baltimore socialite, quickly rose the ranks and ultimately became the first Allied woman to conduct secret warfare behind enemy lines.

Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson captures the Great Migration of African Americans to Southern states from 1915 to 1970 with impressive detail. Featuring over a thousand interviews, records, and new data, this book is as well-researched as it is gripping.

For coverage of events in recent history, Rachel Maddow's Blowout offers a powerful account of how oil and gas industries have the ability to corrupt Western democracy as we know it.

John Barry chronicles the 1918 Flu Epidemic in The Great Influenza, and offers lessons we can use when considering how to handle future (and current) pandemics. According to Barry, the 1918 pandemic teaches us that most essential for survival is our authority's ability to establish trust among its citizens.

James Loewen's critique of American history textbooks in Lies My Teacher Told Me might make you rethink what you learned in school. His coverage spans events from the first Thanksgiving to the Iraq War, while offering a plea for greater truth in education.

Patrick Keefe tells the story of the Troubles in Northern Ireland through the entry point of the 1972 murder of widow Jean McConville. By interviewing people on both sides, he captures this all-around devastating conflict in intimate detail.

Henrietta Lacks, though not alive today, has cells that are, and they sparked a medical revolution involving the development of the polio vaccine, cloning, and more. Her incredible story is one of scientific discovery and its dark past of experimenting on African Americans, told beautifully by Rebecca Skloot.

English comedian Stephen Fry makes Greek mythology accessible and entertaining in Mythos. By infusing familiar tales such as Pandora's Box with humor and fresh historical perspective, his take on the Greek classics feels impressively modern.

To understand the complicated military relationships in the Middle East today, Scott Anderson's Lawrence in Arabia is a deeply insightful piece of work that connects the wars of the early 1900's to current events in the 21st century.

The Professor and the Madman details the ambitious and dramatic making of the Oxford English Dictionary in the 1850s. Primarily, when one man submits 10,000 definitions, the committee is shocked to learn he's an inmate at an insane asylum.

A former child soldier himself, Ishamel Beah offers a tragic and riveting account of civil war in Sierra Leone, and its effects on the children that were deployed to fight in it.

Through first-hand interviews, letters, and memoirs, Midnight in Chernobyl casts an intimate light on the worst nuclear disaster in history. Written over several years by journalist Adam Higginbotham, it offers powerful lessons about how to handle climate change and other crises today.

When Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent Tony Horwitz joins a group of Civil War reenactors, the result is a journalistic venture that combines history, present-day tensions, and humor.

You might not have thought something commonly found on your kitchen table could provide an overarching view of world history, but Mark Kurlansky proves otherwise. In Salt, he demonstrates how this substance has inspired everything from trade routes to revolutions since the beginning of civilization.

In Begin Again, Eddie S. Glaude Jr. recalls James Baldwin's disillusionment over the Civil Rights Movement and applies it to America's current struggle with race relations. Part biography, memoir, and commentary on the present day, Glaude Jr.'s book provides important lessons for moving forward.

For those with an interest in colonial America and the epic voyage that launched it, Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower will expose a darker truth to these events as they're commonly told. The establishment of New England consisted of a brutal 55 year conflict that threatened to ruin colonists and natives alike, and ultimately influenced the country that developed as a result.

When Harry S. Truman was unexpectedly thrust into the presidency after the passing of FDR, he oversaw one of the most eventful periods of American history. A.J. Baime takes readers through the first four months of his administration filled with global conflicts and incredibly high stakes at home and abroad.

When Winston Churchill began recruiting Women in World War II to join an elite spy agency, 39 heeded the call and helped bring the Allies to victory. Sarah Rose's analysis of diaries and oral histories brings the courage of these inspiring women to life.

In his biography of John Lewis, Jon Meacham illuminates this civil rights leader's path to preaching non-violence and unwavering hope. Both an icon and a hero, John Lewis leaves a legacy that Meacham compares to that of Thomas Jefferson in terms of the impact he's had on the development of our nation.

First published in 1970, this bestseller inspired a generation of Americans to reconsider the history of Westward expansion and the human cost it had on native populations. Dee Brown focuses on the suffering experienced between 1860 and 1890 in this thoroughly researched and tragic tale of Native American history.

Fans of Neil Gaiman's popular works of fiction will be drawn to Norse Mythology. This non-fiction book weaves familiar characters, including Thor, Odin, and Loki, into a captivating and epic saga.

Winner of the National Book Award and recently adapted into a major motion film, In the Heart of the Sea tells the exhilarating survival tale of the sailors aboard an 1820 Nantucket whaleship.

______________________________________________________

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The Best Marriage Books for Newlyweds

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert

After meeting and falling in love with Felipe in Indonesia, at the end of her Eat Pray Love journey, Elizabeth Gilbert and her now-husband swore fidelity to each other. However, they deduced never to marry after both of their previous marriages having ended in divorce. But fate seemed to have other plans when Felipe was detained at the U.S. border while on a trip to visit Elizabeth. Now, with a new set of circumstances and complications, Elizabeth and Felipe decide to marry. A thoughtful exploration of marriage as both a cultural and legal tradition and of the many interpretations it has across couples. Gilbert sets out to make peace with what it means to be part of a married couple. A book that is ultimately an exploration of love, it can help you to explore what it means to make such a commitment as well as how to cope with the many anxieties surrounding marriage and divorce in modern society.

How to Be Married: What I Learned from Real Women on Five Continents About Surviving My First (Really Hard) Year of Marriage by Jo Piazza

After getting married at age 34, Jo Piazza found herself surrounded by questions that had informed her life as a travel journalist. Why do people even get married in a world where you don&rsquot have to anymore? Can marriage be a feminist thing? How does an independent, strong, and continually traveling woman reconcile her identity as someone&rsquos partner? Jo travels through 20 countries to understand how to be married and what that means across the world. From the old wisdom of tribeswomen to Dutch prostitutes, Jo learns what it means to be married and make that marriage last. Covering how to communicate, what makes a good partnership, and how to deal with getting old in the world, Jo delivers a witty memoir. If you are a newlywed trying to get through your first year, know that you are not alone Jo can help you learn and understand that you will be okay.


20 Riveting Books You Don't Want to Miss This Spring

From sweeping historical fiction to incredible biographies of artists and royalty, these are the books we're binge-reading this spring.

Spring book season is here, and with it has come a myriad of novels we can't wait to dive into. While the Veranda Sip & Read Book Club can only highlight one book each month, we're spotlighting some soon-to-be favorites right here. From a novel of imaginative speculative fiction from Nobel Prize&ndashwinner Kazuo Ishiguro to an evocative exploration of class and race on the beaches of Barbados, our roundup has something for every reader out there. Don't miss the touching memoir of friendship and grief set in New York City, the meticulously researched biography of queen Cleopatra herself, and a page-turning reimagining of the life of 20-century Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington.

Each of these titles will release this spring, from February to May, making them perfectly timed to accompany you on a warm-weather retreat, even if it's only to your back porch. And don't miss our roundup of the 11 art and design books that are must-reads for every aficionados's table, along with the most engaging books of 2020.

Available: Feb. 2, 2021
Perfect for:
fans of literary fiction, writers like Brit Bennett

Lala lives in Baxter's Beach, Barbados, with her husband, a petty criminal whose mansion burglary is thwarted, causing a spiraling a chain of events&mdashwith horrible consequences. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is an intimate portrait of interconnected lives at the intersection of race and class in a rapidly changing resort town that's at the top of this season's must-read list.

Available: Feb. 2, 2021
Perfect for: fans of memoirs, Tuesdays with Morrie, and poignant journeys of friendship

A coincidence can change everything. And in CBS Sunday Morning News correspondent and multi-Emmy-Award-winning Martha Teichner's new memoir, it does just that, with New York City and its farmers' markets as its backdropWhen an acquaintance introduces Teichner to someone dying of cancer due to exposure to toxins after 9/11, she is faced with a decision: Can she consider giving the woman's dog, Harry, a loving new home? The answer launches a deep friendship between two women, explored through a touching story of friendship, illness and grief, and the unexpected magic that comes with chance encounters.

Available: Feb. 9, 2021
Perfect for: fans of historical fiction, WWII stories, The Lilac Girls, The Paris Wife

Following the intertwined stories of Odile, a librarian at the American Library in Paris during the Nazi occupation, and Lily, a lonely teen in Montana in 1983 who strikes up a friendship with her secretive elderly neighbor, only to discover that the two are linked by a dark secret from the past.

Available: Feb. 9, 2021
Perfect for: fans of memoirs, soul-searching journeys of healing and survivorship

Regardless of whether you were a devoted follower of Suleika Jaouad's New York Times column about her time in treatment for leukemia or you missed out completely, her new memoir is one you won't be able to put down (I read it in 24 hours!). Suleika writes with searing honesty about her years seeking a diagnosis and then in treatment, but its her journey afterward&mdasha road trip to find out how to build a life after everything she knew about herself had been dismantled by illness and grief and anger&mdashthat will have you reading deep into the night.

Available: March 2, 2021
Perfect for: fans of books that stick with you long after you've finished them speculative, deeply imaginative reads

Klara and the Sun is the latest novel by Nobel Prize&ndashwinning author Kazuo Ishiguro. Klara is an Artificial Friend who, from her place in the store, watches the behaviors of both the passersby and the customers browsing the store's shelves. She's hopeful that a customer will soon choose her and explain the answer to the ultimate question: What does it mean to love?

Available: March 9, 2021
Perfect for: sweeping historical fiction, family sagas

Meticulously researched, Surviving Savannah explores the true story of the sinking of the "Titanic of the South," a luxury steamship that sank in 1838 with Savannah, Georgia's aristocracy on board. Now, 180 year later, the wreckage has been found, and professor Everly Winthrop has been asked to curate a collection focusing on recovered artifacts. Everly's research leads her to the astounding history of a family on board and the heartbreaking decisions they faced in the wake of the ship's explosion. It's a moving exploration of what we do when confronted with an unspeakable tragedy&mdashand the ways we survive it.

Available: March 23, 2021
Perfect for: illuminating nonfiction, Tom Holland&rsquos Rubicon, enduring cultural figures

Cleopatra. The legendary Egyptian queen is still an enigma to this day. But here, Alberto Angela provides readers a dynamic portrait of a strikingly modern woman and ruler born in an ancient era and skilled in the art of diplomacy and war. Cleopatra focuses on a 20-year period of sweeping change, beginning with the assassination of Caesar and ending with the suicides of Antony and Cleopatra. Meticulously researched, rich in both detail and scope, this expansive history reimagines a remarkable woman at the center of a fascinating time in history.

Available: March 30, 2021
Perfect for: fans of Daisy Jones & The Six, Such a Fun Age, works by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Opal is coming of age in Detroit with a fierce determination to be a star. When aspiring singer/songwriter Neville discovers her at an amateur night, the two join forces to make rock music together for a fledgling label. But a single event will threaten Opal's dream and career&mdashwith a deadly reminder of the steep repercussions for Black women who dare to speak truth to power. Decades later, as Opal considers a reunion with Neville, an oral history uncovers an allegation related to that fateful event, one that threatens everything.

Bold, edgy, and introducing an unforgettable narrator, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is a fictional imagining of a band on the brink of stardom and collapse at once, an exploration of freedom and creativity you don't want to miss.

Available: March 30, 2021
Perfect for: fans of expansive family sagas, literary fiction, works by Yaa Gyasi

Of Women and Salt is a sweeping story that spans from the 19th century to present day, from Cuba and Miami to Mexico, as it follows the unfolding narrative of Carmen and her daughter Jeanette, whose determination to understand the family's history, despite her mother's reticence, sets them on a course of reckoning as she unearths secrets, betrayals, and the legacies we carry with us across time and space.

Available: April 6, 2021
Perfect for: fans of page-turners, Amy Bloom&rsquos White Houses, and Colm Tóibín&rsquos The Master

Based on true events, Leonora in the Morning Light is an exploration of love and art that explores 20-century Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington and the events that defined her life during World War II.

The year is 1937, and Carrington is a 20-year-old British socialite and painter dreaming of independence when she meets Max Ernst, an older, married artist. She follows him to Paris and is introduced to Surrealist visionaries like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Inspired, Carrington begins to experiment with her own work and recognition grows&mdashuntil the emerging shadow of WWII changes everything. And when Carrington and Ernst's paths cross with Peggy Guggenheim, an art collector and socialite helping artists flee to safety in America, everything changes.

Available: April 13, 2021
Perfect for: fans of Yaa Gyasi's Homecoming, lyrical prose

Mark this one on our can't-miss list! Open Water is a heartrending love story that touches on themes of race and masculinity as it probes what it means to exist in a world that sees only the color of your skin. Through the blossoming relationship between a Black British photographer and dancer, readers glimpse the struggles of existing, of creating, and of loving in a world framed by violence and otherness. Caleb Azumah Nelson's debut is a startling, illuminating novel worth every bit of the buzz.

Available: April 13, 2021
Perfect for: fans of memoirs, Southern Gothic, family sagas

J. Nicole Jones's wealthy hotel- and restaurant-owning family is responsible for much of the tourist draw to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But at home, violence and capriciousness rule the day, and Jones's childhood is marked by extremes of wealth and debt. Writing with her family's catastrophes and triumphs as guideposts, Jones paints an evocative portrait of a childhood and place haunted by its myths and fractured past.

Available: April 20, 2021
Perfect for: in-depth narratives about historic figures, biographies

Based on unprecedented archival access, Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz is the remarkable story of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. The pair met at a workshop at Boston University, jumpstarting the makings of a fierce rivalry touched by equal parts jealousy and respect. They would go on to become iconic figures in literature alongside parallel challenges in their personal lives. Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz grants readers a fascinating inside look at two legendary poets.

Available: May 1, 2021
Perfect for: fans of books about identity, art, biographies

Paris, in the charged space between the World Wars, became the birthplace of the Modernist movement, and No Modernism Without Lesbians is the incredible story of how a group of four women&mdasha groundbreaking publisher a artists' patron a society hostess and a groundbreaking writer&mdashwho all loved women rejected the patriarchy and shaped a community in Paris that saw the likes of the most brilliant figures of the age and created for themselves a glittering life in pre-war Paris.

Available: May 4, 2021
Perfect for: fans of psychological thrillers, books like The Silent Patient

In a twisty homage to Daphne du Maurier&rsquos Rebecca, 26-year-old Eleanor Russell marries glamorous Orlando Montague after being fired from her role on a soap opera under dubious circumstances. The pair move to the Hollywood Hills, and Eleanor goes on to be cast as the lead in a remake of Rebecca. But as she immerses herself in the famous gothic tale, her new husband's personality changes, hauntings from her past re-emerge, and Eleanor begins to wonder if she and her new husband are both hiding secrets.

Available: May 4, 2021
Perfect for: fans of literary fiction, epic stories with grand scope and flawless execution

Marian Graves has grown up dreaming of flight. At 14, she takes on a dangerous patron who provides the training she needs&mdashat a tragic cost&mdashto circumnavigate the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.

A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film centering on Marian's disappearance in Antarctica. Hadley's immersion into the character of Marian unfolds alongside Marian's story as their fates and desires align in this epic tale of two women in pursuit of their own destinies.

Available: May 4, 2021
Perfect for: fans of royal reads, biographies, historical fiction

When WWII began, young Alathea Fitzalan Howard was sent to live with her grandfather at the historic Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. There, Alathea developed a close friendship with Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and their parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who were her neighbors at nearby Windsor Castle. Now, readers can peek for the first time inside this hidden world with Alathea&rsquos diary from ages 16 to 22, where she recorded the details of her life with the Royal Family and the complex anxieties of war, making this a must-read for all fans of The Crown and royal devotees.

Available: May 11, 2021
Perfect for: epistolary fiction, biography, historical fiction

Letters to Camondo is a collection of imaginary letters from Edmund de Waal to Moise de Camondo, the banker and art collector who created what is now the Musée Nissim de Camondo, a breathtaking private collection in Paris of French 18th-century art.

The Camondos were a Jewish family from Constantinople who moved to Paris in the 1870s and became fixtures of Belle Époque high society&mdashas well as targets of antisemitism, much like de Waal's relations, the Ephrussi family. After de Waal, one of the world&rsquos greatest ceramic artists, was invited to make an exhibition in the Camondo house, he began to write letters to Moise de Camondo.

These 50 letters are deeply personal reflections on assimilation, melancholy, family, art, the vicissitudes of history, and the value of memory.

Available: May 11, 2021
Perfect for: fans of art history, engrossing historical nonfiction

In Plunder, Cynthia Saltzman tells the story of Napoleon Bonaparte&rsquos looting of Italian art and its role in the creation of the Louvre, following the fate of Wedding Feast at Cana (1563) by Paolo Veronese, a magnificent painting on canvas that Bonaparte ordered removed from a monastery on an island in Venice in 1797. The painting would later go on display at the new Louvre museum in 1801.

Expertly researched, Plunder chronicles one of history's most incredible art appropriation campaigns, illuminating a historic figure and the complex origins of one of the greatest museums in the modern world.

Available: May 25, 2021
Perfect for: fans of The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Nest


19 Military Non-Fiction Books

1. Studs Terkel. 2011. The Good War. The New Press.

Turkel, a Chicago-based journalist, received the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for this collection of interviews with 121 men and women around the globe about their experiences leading up to and during World War II. (Click to Tweet this)

Through the words of both famous and ordinary people, Turkel paints a vivid portrait of history while tackling themes such as institutionalized racism, the military-industrial complex and the origins of the Cold War along the way. This work of oral history, critically acclaimed upon its release, grows more important each year as there are fewer members of the Greatest Generation left to tell their story in person.

2. E.B. Sledge. 2007. With the Old Breed. Presidio Press.

A mainstay of nearly every Marine Corps reading list since its publication in 1981, this first-person account of World War II is also one of the main bases for the HBO miniseries “The Pacific.” You’ll be hard pressed to find a more clearly, honestly written account of the grunts at the frontlines during some of the most brutal fighting in Pacific. It’s the closest thing to living through the mud and rain of Okinawa — besides getting stationed in Okinawa.

3. Mark Bowden. 2010. Black Hawk Down. Grove Press.

This detailed account by journalist Bowden draws on Army records, audiotapes and videos to create a minute-by-minute account of how U.S. soldiers in 1993 found themselves outgunned and outwitted in Mogadishu, Somalia, after a helicopter drop-off turned deadly, leading to the most intense close combat in U.S. military history since the Vietnam War.

First published as a 29-part multimedia series for the Philadelphia Inquirer, this classic of war reporting was a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award for Nonfiction. (Click to Tweet this)

A 2001 motion picture of the same name, adapted from the book and directed by Ridley Scott, was nominated for four Academy Awards and won for best sound and best film editing. (Click to Tweet this)

4. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway. 2004. We Were Soldiers Once … And Young. Presidio Press.

Perhaps not a traditional memoir told from a first-person, this book is by no means some cold cut of pure historical, academic nonfiction. Hal Moore, who retired from the Army as a lieutenant general, and journalist Joseph Galloway were both party to the bloody Battle of Ia Drang, covered in detail by this book. A blend of the co-authors’ personal accounts and those of other survivors gleaned from interviews and diaries, it’s more a memoir told by the entirety of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 7th Cavalry Division on those fateful days than any single person.

5. Micahel Herr. 1991. Dispatches. Vintage.

While the previous entry was co-written by Galloway with Gen. Moore, this book was penned entirely by a civilian.

If you think that robs it of some of its impact, you should know three things:

1. Seeing things from an outside perspective is a good way to learn about yourself.
2. Michael Herr spent most of 1967 to 1969 as a war correspondent in Vietnam for Esquire.
3. This book was a partial basis for Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” of which Herr co-wrote the screenplay.

So yes, definitely worth reading.

6. Stephen E. Ambrose. 2017. Band of Brothers. Simon & Schuster.

This New York Times bestseller follows “Easy Company, the ordinary men who became the World War II’s most extraordinary soldiers at the frontlines of the war’s most critical moments.” Historian Ambrose drew his inspiration from interviews during a reunion of the 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, detailing not only their march from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest but the long-enduring bonds they developed among the survivors of the company.

Continue your journey with “we few, we happy few … we band of brothers” by watching the adapted 10-part HBO series, which was nominated for 20 Primetime Emmy Awards in 2002 and won seven, including Outstanding Miniseries and Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special. (Click to Tweet this)

Or just check out the soundtrack to the series on Spotify to help set the mood as you turn the pages.

7. Barbara W. Tuchman. 2004. The Guns of August. Presidio Press.

This huge bestseller focusing on the first month of World War I earned historian Tuchman the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for the publication year 1963. (Click to Tweet this)

Throughout her war nonfiction narrative, Tuchman painstakingly re-creates 30 days in the summer of 1914, beginning with the funeral of Edward VII and following all sides as they plot their way to war and march toward the Franco-British offensive, inevitably leading to years of trench warfare. Though she doesn’t mention it directly, Tuchman was present, as a child, for one of the pivotal events of the book: the pursuit of the German battlecruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau.

8. George Wilson. 1987. If You Survive. Ballantine Books.

When Wilson’s commanding officer said, “If you survive your first day, I’ll promote you,” it proved not to be a motivational promise but a haunting prediction. This unbelievable first-person account reveals Wilson’s World War II experiences through the invasion of Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge. Of all the men and officers who started in Company F of the 4th Infantry Division with him, Wilson was the only one who survived.

9. Joseph Plumb Martin. 2010. A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier. Signet.

Joseph Martin was 15 years old when he joined the Connecticut Militia in 1776 as an eager Patriot ready to fight for the American cause. During the next six years, he fought at the battles of Brooklyn, White Plains, Monmouth, Yorktown and more. (Click to Tweet this)

A survivor of Valley Forge as well, he became one of the American military’s first combat engineers and ended the war as a sergeant.

His account is essential reading for any Revolutionary War enthusiast.

10. Adam Makos and Larry Alexander. 2014. A Higher Call. Dutton Caliber.

This critically acclaimed, international best-seller centers on WWII German fighter pilot Lt. Franz Stigler and the humanity he showed toward a crippled U.S. bomber piloted by Lt. Charlie Brown. (Click to Tweet this)

This story of chivalry, filled with details about the aircraft, explains how these two men later met and became friends, almost 50 years after their chance meeting. Among the praise for the book is this from Col. Charles McGee, Tuskegee Airman, WWII. “It is often said that ‘war is hell’ — and it is — however, this story reveals how the human spirit can shine in the darkest hours.” If this tale doesn’t lift you up, have your heart checked for lead.

11. Ulysses S. Grant. 2012. The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Originally published by none other than Mark Twain, the memoirs of former President Grant were completed in the final months of Grant’s life. Knowing the end was near, he was motivated to put his take on the Civil War to paper. Valued by military historians and literary critics alike, the great leader’s memoirs don’t shy away from the brutal combat he saw or the mistakes some accused him of making during its bloodiest battles.

12. John Leppelman. 1991. Blood on the Risers. Presidio Press.

Leppelman, who did three tours of duty in Vietnam, shares his experiences as an FNG paratrooper in the 173d Airborne, an Army seaman and a Ranger on long-range reconnaissance patrol. From combat jumps to futile searches for the enemy to the deaths of his buddies because of lousy weapons, Leppleman recalls how he endured through it all.

13. Andrew J. Bacevich. 2016. America’s War for the Greater Middle East. Random House.

A 20-year Army veteran who served in Vietnam, Bacevich presents an in-depth assessment of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East during the past four decades, connecting episodes as varied as the Beirut bombing of 1983, the Mogadishu firefight of 1993, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the rise of ISIS in the present decade. By seeing these seemingly unconnected events as parts of a single war, Bacevich explains how errors in judgment by political and military leaders alike have contributed to a permanent conflict with no end in sight.

14. Ian W. Toll. 2008. Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy. W.W. Norton & Company.

Dive into this extremely well-written and -researched history, which earned Toll the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature in 2007. (Click to Tweet this)

Far from a romanticized account, the vibrant details and smooth narrative will provide incredible insights and make you feel as if you’re really facing the harsh demands of sea during some of our nation’s earliest battles. The included images of the surgical tools alone gave us a respectful pause.

15. Alex Kershaw. 2013. The Liberator. Crown.

This dramatic, true story follows U.S. Army officer Felix Sparks and the 157th Infantry Regiment during World War II. Over the course of 500 days, their odyssey takes them from the invasion of Italy to the gates of Dachau. (Click to Tweet this)

Unusual for your typical war drama, this book was adapted and recently released as adult animated original series on Netflix.

16. Jim Frederick. 2011. Black Hearts. Crown.

This bestseller detailing of the costs of toxic leadership has been on reading lists at West Point since its publication, and for good reason.

Time columnist Frederick describes the deployment of a group of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division’s fabled 502nd Infantry Regiment to Iraq’s so-called Triangle of Death in late 2005. (Click to Tweet this)

Facing daily attacks and a breakdown of leadership and morale, the unit — known as the Black Heart Brigade — devolves into substance abuse and brutality, culminating in one of the U.S. forces’ worst crimes during that war. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with soldiers in the 1st Platoon, this riveting account pulls no punches and serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers of 21st century warfare.

17. James Mattis and Bing West. 2021. Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. Random House.

Here’s one for all you Mad Dog fans. This memoir of a life of warfighting and lifelong learning follows Mattis as he rises from Marine recruit to four-star general. In three parts — Direct Leadership, Executive Leadership and Strategic Leadership — Mattis’ direct writing style explains why the U.S. must return to a strategic footing so as not to continue winning battles while fighting inconclusive wars. You won’t have your hands in your pockets because you won’t be able to put this book down.

18. Nathaniel C. Fick. 2006. One Bullet Away. Mariner Books.

“If the Marines are ‘the few, the proud,’ Recon Marines are the fewest and the proudest.” (Click to Tweet this)

Written by a former captain in the Marines’ First Recon Battalion who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, this book describes the grueling training at Quantico, details how he endured interrogation and torture, and explains his insights into the differences between military ideals and military practice.

For his unflinching account of 21st-century battle, Fick received the William E. Colby Military Writers’ Award in 2006. (Click to Tweet this)

19. Sun Tzu. 2019. The Art of War. Ixia Press.

You didn’t think we’d write about the best war non-fiction and leave this one out, did you? Because if one book on this list has withstood the test of time, it’s this one. Dated to about the fifth century BC, this ancient Chinese military treatise weaves strategy with philosophy in such a way that leaders through the centuries have applied its lessons on outsmarting your enemy to warfare, business, sports and a host of other competitive fields.

Condensed from the text, the statement “Know yourself and your enemy, and in a hundred battles you will never be in danger” resonates to us today as much as it has to unknown multitudes of readers throughout history. (Click to Tweet this)


15 of the best first lines in fiction

Ursula K. Le Guin once said: "First sentences are doors to worlds." Here are some of the best in literature.

Matt Blake

Unforgettable first lines. Image: Ryan McEachern / Penguin

“First sentences are doors to worlds,” wrote Ursula Le Guin in her essay The Fisherwoman’s Daughter. Which is to say: in the hands of our greatest writers, opening lines cast an immediate spell, grab your attention like a starter's gun, set the tone and even foreshadowing what is to come.

Here, we've picked 15 of our favourite opening lines in fiction. It's not exhaustive there are far too many exquisite openers in literature to make space for them all. But these are some we find hard to forget.

Let us know your favourites on Twitter or at [email protected]

'Call me Ishmael'

Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

Crisp, cryptic and claustrophobic. It's probably the most famous of famous first lines, grabbing the readers attention like a slap in the face. Who is this man who calls himself Ishmael, you say, if indeed that is his real name?

'I am an invisible man'

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)

Not just an iconic opening line, but a deeply enigmatic one. As the unnamed narrator quickly explains, this is not a case of Edgar Allan Poe or Hollwood invisibility but a man ignored by the society around him. Thus begins one the greatest novels of the 20th Century.

'The story so far: in the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move'

Read a newspaper lately? Hard not to agree, at times, with this line from Douglas Adams' second instalment of his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. And if you disagree (the universe at least gave us love, right?), it should still make you laugh.

'Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday I can't be sure'

The Outsider by Albert Camus (1942)

So, someone clearly has mummy issues, but of what sort remains to be seen. Does he care that she's dead, or not at all? It's so hard to tell. Mersault is our narrator, a wonderfully messed-up social misfit who struggles to conform to society's expectations as he's drawn inexorably towards murder.

'It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York'

So. Many. Questions. And you've only read the first line. Turns out, death-obsessed Esther Greenwood is a far-from-happy college girl on the brink of a breakdown. But you got that already, right?

'Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board'

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

It's not often opening line works as both a brilliant way into a story and a handy aphorism, but that's precisely what you get on page one of one of the crowning novels of the Harlem Renaissance.


15 Author-Approved Books to Read Before Summer Ends

Ah, the summer. A time when we often find ourselves, somehow, someway, with a bit of free time&mdashfree time often best spent reading, whether it's on the train, in the park, or (if we're so lucky) on the beach. But even getting started with a book is tricky&mdashthere are just so many great choices out there that sometimes it can be hard to know where to even start.

Which is why we got in touch with five of our favorite authors&mdashChuck Klosterman, Rob Sheffield, Hanif Abdurraqib, Jayson Greene, and Esmé Weijun Wang&mdashand asked for their picks. What are some of the best writers in the business picking out for their own beach (or train, or park, or wherever we can find the time) reads? Well, wonder no more, because we've got that reading list right here.

It&rsquos a cluster of surreal short stories, with subjects including but not limited to: a mountain lion in an airplane bathroom, a man who ponders a procedure that would allow him to experience his wife&rsquos childbirth pain for her, and a classified operation assessing why coin flips no longer have 50/50 odds. Bizarre? Yes. Entertaining? Absolutely. -Men's Health

I don't really distinguish between "beach reads" and "regular reads." The words inside of books don't change when you bring them close to the ocean. That said, Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything is probably the best book ever written that literally explains why sand and water exist at all. -Chuck Klosterman

In 1967, the Beatles liked the beach so much that they (unsuccessfully) tried to purchase an eighty-acre Greek island, and if you want to understand why, read Rob Sheffield's brilliant Dreaming The Beatles. -Chuck Klosterman

Even though Alex Garland has transitioned into film direction and hasn't written a novel since 2004, his first book The Beach remains the ideal artifact for anyone who likes their summer reading material to express a meta-communicative message about where that book is being consumed. -Chuck Klosterman

One of my favorite music writers, because for him, music is about everything. His ode to the rappers A Tribe Called Quest turns into a poetic tour of youth, getting older, losing friends, holding on to what&rsquos really crucial through the years. -Rob Sheffield

A music journalist and his wife lose their 2-year-old daughter, and find their way through a grief that&rsquos barely imaginable. You might worry (understandably) that it&rsquos too grim for you to take, but it ends up being uplifting and cathartic. -Rob Sheffield

The first book I&rsquove ever read about menopause, from the punk literary legend who wrote the classic Suicide Blonde. It&rsquos a totally stunning meditation on how we change and grow over time&mdashit changed the way I think about the human body mine, as well as everyone else&rsquos. -Rob Sheffield

A brilliant young Australian writer goes deep on fan culture, pop stars, TV dramas, love, sex, death, identity, and grief: all the things that really matter. -Rob Sheffield

I love this book because of how inventive the language is, and how it confronts history through its many layered concepts. -Hanif Abdurraqib

Which I love for how the stories accumulate and haunt, weaving seamlessly through the personal narrative without being isolating. -Hanif Abdurraqib

If you like to sit on the beach and imagine the rising seas engulfing you if you imagine the lifeforms inside those waves going quietly awry, life as we know it grinding to a halt and evolution winding inexplicably backwards&mdashIi, in other words, you are as fun at parties as I am&mdashI urgently suggest reading Louise Erdrich&rsquos Future Home of The Living God.

It is a speculative dystopian thriller with strong hints of The Handmaid&rsquos Tale, and there is a passage about the final snowfall on Earth that made me weep. -Jayson Greene

How would a super powered team of female assassins deal with existential boredom? What would one such assassin do if they were trapped in an elevator shaft, possibly while also wearing an itchy, not very breathable bulletproof fabric that made them sweat down their backs? Would it be more tingly or icy to grow a mechanical limb? These are important questions, and Manuel Gonzalez answers them all in his explosively fun and surprisingly poignant 2016 novel The Regional Office is Under Attack! -Jayson Greene

A conversation between a woman and her son, lost to suicide, written with a depth of feeling without mawkishness. This book tore my heart into pieces, and yet it manages to be so elegant in its beauty. -Esmé Weijun Wang

T Kira Madden recounts a life: a life with love, with addiction a queer life, a surprising life. I was often in awe of this debut memoir. -Esmé Weijun Wang

Leila Slimani's novel, based on a true story, is a sharp piece of broken glass. Her tale of a nanny who does the unspeakable is a horrifying work, and a stunning one. -Esmé Weijun Wang


25 Books About Immigration That Movingly Capture the Experience

For many of us, the best way to learn about another's culture&mdashand sometimes even our own&mdashis by reading their stories. Books about immigration, written from authors from all over the world, are accounts of people rewriting their own. What happens to a person's self, when placed in a new setting?

Given that many Hispanic and Latinx families in the United States know firsthand the struggles that come with adapting to a new country, ahead of Hispanic Heritage Month, reading the rich assortment of immigration memoirs and novels out there is just another way to understand the many facets of Latinx identity. But we've also included a global perspective, with poignant tales from Syria, South Korea, Cameroon, and beyond.

Below, we've gathered an array of immigration-centric fiction and nonfiction, from stories of growing up on the Mexican border, descriptions of the perilous trek fleeing war, and chronicles of being a second generation citizen. These books about the immigrant experience are fit for high school curriculums and book club lists alike. We've also included a picture book to introduce younger readers to policies around immigration.

The Ungrateful Refugee is a companion read to virtually every single book on this list. When Dina Nayeri was a child, she and her family fled Iran and sought asylum in the U.S. Her world was uprooted, and so was her sense of self. Nayeri uses her own experiences as a springboard for telling other immigrants' stories, providing the unfiltered, no-holds-barred commentary about what it means to leave&mdashand not be welcomed upon your arrival.

What's it like to cross the border with your family? Grande's story begins with her parents' trek across the border in search of the American Dream, followed by her mother's return in order to bring her kids back to the U.S. Grande's memoir is both funny and heartbreaking, capturing the confusion and contradictions of childhood along with the joys and sorrows of being a young immigrant in search for a place to call home.

Nuri, a beekeeper, and his wife, Afra, live a simple and happy life in Aleppo, Syria&mdashat least, they do for years. Then comes war, the same one that has been dominating headlines for years. Following the couple's journey away from everything they've ever known, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a portrait of the sadness and strength behind so many news stories.

This poetic memoir is, among other things, an elegant telling of a boy who grows up among poor Mexican farmworkers and loses his mother at age 12. But it's also a tale of coming into his identity as a gay man living in a machismo culture before eventually accepting himself for all that he is&mdasheven after being abandoned by his father.

Exit West blends the horrors of war with a trick of magical realism. Saeed and Nadia are a young couple forced to flee their unnamed homeland for a saga that takes them from Greece to London to the U.S. Their journey is all too real&mdashit's their manner of travel that's the unusual part: They can escape through random doors.

Here, Hernández chronicles what her Cuban-Colombian family taught her about love, money, and race while also figuring out what it means to be an American and a woman. Her book is ultimately the story of a daughter who is eager to find herself and find her community while also creating a new, queer life. Moving between English and Spanish, she reflects on the impact of her parents and many of her fears growing up, resulting in a must-read, heartfelt exploration.

Ifemelu and Obinze meet and fall in love as teenagers in Lagos, Nigeria. After graduating, though, both set off for independent journeys in different countries. How will their experience as immigrants change them forever? And when, years later, they meet again, will they be the same people they once were?

Although Arce has a more recent memoir, her journey begins with this one, growing up on the outskirts of San Antonio as an undocumented immigrant while dreaming of professional and financial success. Her honest writing explores the physical, financial, and emotional costs of being a high-achiever while also keeping the secret of her immigration status. Arce paints a picture of the typical undocumented immigrant&mdashthe person who could be your next door neighbor or your family down the street. Though her story is incredible, it's also not unusual&mdashwhich is part of what makes it an incredible tale.

Looking for a YA book about the immigration experience that will appeal to high schoolers? This National Book Award finalist is about a girl coming to the U.S. from Haiti with her mother. Unexpectedly, her mother is detained, leaving Fabiola to navigate a new country&mdashon her own.

Barefoot Heart tells the world what it's like to be the child of a family of migrant farm workers, detailing the day-to-day life of a family who struggles in the fields while also having little education and speaking another language. For Treviño Hart, assimilation isn't easy, and compromises often result in consequences. But this story about overcoming your disadvantages and finding yourself is one that's sure to make many feel hopeful.

She's now best known for her roles on Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, but Guerrero has an immigration story of her own. When she was just 14 years old, Guerrero's parents were detained and deported while she was at school. Remaining in the country (being born in the U.S., she herself was a citizen), she had to rely on the kindness of family friends to survive. In the Country We Lovebrings to life one extraordinary woman's resilience in the face of a true nightmare but somehow finds the strength to keep going.

Oprah's Book Club pick alert! Behold the Dreamers is a modern epic following a Cameroonian couple trying to make it in New York. Their arrival, however, coincides with the Great Recession, making a hard adjustment even more daunting.

By the time Hero arrives to Los Angeles, she's been through an enormous trek: A wealthy upbringing in the Philippines, a time working for a guerrilla group, and government torture. America Is Not the Heart is set among the Filipino-American community of which Hero is a part.

Henry Park is a Korean immigrant who spends his life trying to be a native speaker of English trying to assimilate, essentially, into American culture. Ironically, the more American he becomes, the more alienated he feels from his own self. When he agrees to spy on Korean-American politicians, his own questions of identity are drawn into sharp relief.

Journalist Óscar Martínez spent two years traveling the Migrant Trail from Central America to the U.S. border. Martinez's book, The Beast, is a gripping look at the trek and its associated perils: Gang violence, exhaustion, kidnappings, sexual violence, assault, and freight trains.

Yuyi Morales came to the United States in 1994, with not much more than her dreams and her infant son. This gorgeously illustrated picture book is an ode to everything that immigrants bring with them when they arrive to a new country&mdashand what they add.

Along with the other young women in their remote Mexican mountain village, 15-year-old Ladydi Garcia Martinez disguises herself as a boy to escape the attention of roaming gangs of drug dealers. Inspired by a true story, Prayers for the Stolen is a searing portrait of a matriarchal community, ensnared by the ongoing drug wars and doing what it takes to survive.

Little Dog, the narrator of this aching book, writes a letter to his mother that she knows she can never read&mdashshe's illiterate, but she's a central figure in most of the book's scenes. Little Dog describes snapshots of his family's journey from Vietnam to the United States, and his own coming-of-age as a queer man. Vuong is a poet, and his background shows in every glistening sentence in this novel.

In 2015, Mexican author Valeria Luiselli began volunteering with undocumented refugee children in New York City. She shaped this experimental, moving novel&mdashone of our favorite books of 2019 &ndasharound the issues she encountered during that life-changing opportunity.

Though born in the U.S. to Dominican parents, Cepeda was sent as a baby to live with her maternal grandparents in Santo Domingo. But by the time she comes back to the U.S., her family has changed. Living first with her mother in San Francisco, then with her father in New York City, Cepeda doesn't know how to embrace her identity. Years later, she uses her DNA to discover and delve deeper into her own history&mdashalong with how her ancestors became Latino in the first place.

Like the best travel books, Open City is teeming with spot-on paragraphs of observations. Julius, a doctoral student from Nigeria, walks around New York with wide-open eyes, taking in the sights&mdashand feeling his own distance from them.

This incredible story begins with a young boy living in the U.S. When is parents' visas lapse and Peralta's father returns to Santo Domingo, his courageous mother, stays in NYC to try to make a better life for her sons. But due to life's difficulties, the family eventually becomes homeless. Peralta's account takes us through his story from homeless shelter to eventually attending Princeton University. This memoir is a essential for anyone who not only wants to learn more about the immigration process, but also about how it feels to grow up living in two completely different worlds.

Arana grows up torn between her father's Peruvian family and her mother's American one. Throughout her story, she tries to make sense of how her family immigrated to the U.S.&mdashand what it means to be a hybrid American. Eventually, she comes to terms with her split identity and embraces the north-south collision of her life and childhood.

Pachinko is a tale of immigration within a different context than stories of coming to the U.S. The multigenerational epic follows a Korean family who moves to Japan in the early 1900s. Their roots in Korea follow them, as they remain in a society that labels them outsiders, and estranged from their country of origin.

One of two memoirs by Eire, he writes of his childhood as a boy uprooted during the Cuban revolution before landing in Kennedy-era Miami. But what does it mean to be a refugee in a strange, new land? Eire faces his new American life with trepidation and excitement, wondering if his Cuban self must "die." His memoir explores both the everyday issues of growing up while also feeling out a completely new world and life.


50 Best Books To Read That Will Change Your Life For The Better

We all have a book that changed our life in some way. A book we couldn't put down from start to finish and once we had finished it we had to talk about, read it again or simply think about the story it told. A story that years later we still think about.

Whether you love a fiction novel, a heartbreaking memoir or a laugh-out-loud biography, there are some books everyone just *has* to read. It might be the book you read in GCSE literature, the book you borrowed from your best friend or just a book you picked up by chance, fact or fiction - some books just stay with us.

We've put together a list of books that need be on your reading list. From fiction novels you won't be able to put down to memoirs from women who have changed the world we live in.

We hope you enjoy them as much as we did - these are the best books to read.

Sephy lives a life of privilege but she's lonely and can see the injustices in the world around her. Sephy is a Cross. Callum is considered to be less than nothing but dreams of nothing but a better life. Callum is a Nought.Sephy and Callum have been friends since they were children and despite knowing Noughts and Crosses are destined to be enemies they choose one another but this decision has serious repercussions.

A story of love found in darkness, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is inspired by the astonishing true story of Lale Sokolov. Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz in 1942 and was given the job of tattooing the the prisoners. There he met Gita and made it his mission to not only survive but to make sure she did too.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the first book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. The series follows Potter as he leaves his muggle (non-wizarding) family to join the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. And before you ask, no it's not just for children.

This is the true story of how author Matt Haig not only came through crisis but managed to live better, love better and feel more alive. Haig makes you think of how you can enjoy your time on earth more and makes you question what it truly means to be alive.

The highly-anticipated book is finally here! In this first volume of his presidential memoirs, Obama opens up about his journey to becoming the 44th president of the United States and the first African American to hold the position. A powerful, brutally honest and inspiring book for all.

Yeonmi Park was running for her life when she escaped from North Korea but she didn't even know what it meant to be free.This is Park's escape through China's underworld of smugglers and human traffickers to South Korea and at last to freedom. And finally her emergence as a leading human rights activist - all before her 21st birthday.

On the verge of completing his training as a neurosurgeon, at 36 years old, Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.Kalanithi died while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient.

Mohsin's story takes harrowing turns yet it is full of life, laughter and most importantly, it is an inspiring story about breaking through life's barriers.

Westover's story is one of self-invention, self-belief and new beginnings. Her coming-of-age story highlights the importance of education and what it offers.

A school favourite that stands the test of time. Harper Lee tells the story through the eyes of six-year-old Scout Finch, the daughter of Atticus, a lawyer defending a black man charged with the rape of a white girl in the Deep South. It deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

Joint winner of the 2019 Man Booker Prize, Girl, Woman, Other tells the stories of a group of black British women over the past 100 years living in Britain, from Newcastle to Cornwall.

A love story that has stood the test of time, Romeo and Juliet's tragic ending is as iconic as it is heartbreaking.Along with Hamlet, it is one of William Shakespeare's most popular plays in his lifetime and most performed plays since his death.

When the animals of Manor Farm overthrow their master Mr Jones and take over the farm themselves, they think their life of freedom has begun. They couldn't be more wrong.Gradually, a cunning, ruthless elite among them start to take control.George Orwell's Animal Farm is rife with life lessons and meaning.

One of the most talked about debut novels of all time. Zadie Smith's debut novel tells the story of wartime friends Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. White Teeth covers friendship, love, war, three cultures and three families over three generations.

Not for the faint hearted, In Cold Blood is a non-fiction novel detailing the 1959 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in the small farming community in Kansas.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Color Purple is set in the deep American South and tells the story of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Her life changes after she discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is the history of the isolated town of Macondo and of the family who founds it, the Buendías. Gabriel García Márquez has touched the lives of readers across the globe and earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Elizabeth Day's celebration of things going wrong will convince you that failure is not a bad thing. You will also laugh out loud.

Joseph Heller's bestselling novel is a hilarious and tragic satire on military madness, and the tale of one man's efforts to survive it. You will finally understand the meaning of of a Catch 22.

Winner of the 1985 National Book Award, White Noise tells the story of Jack Gladney, his wife Babette, and their four children, as they navigate the rocky passages of family life to the background babble of brand-name consumerism.

Now an award-winning TV series starring Elizabeth Moss, The Handmaid's Tale tells the story of Offred, a handmaid in a totalitarian state.

Set after the American Civil War, it is inspired by the life of Margaret Garner, an African American who escaped slavery in Kentucky in late January 1856 by crossing the Ohio River to Ohio, a free state.

Charles Arrowby retires from London to an isolated home by the sea and plans to write his memoir. His plans don't work out, and his memoir evolves into a series of strange events and unexpected visitors that shake his ego to its very core.Iris Murdoch's nineteenth novel won the 1987 Booker Prize.

A world in which women have the ability to release electrical jolts from their fingers leading them to become the dominant gender. What's not to love?

Of course the Brontë sisters were going to feature on the list. Jane Eyre tells the story of orphaned Jane on her quest to find love, belonging and independence.

This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God&rsquos elect. At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves.

If you loved Greta Gerwig's 2019 film adaptation of Little Women, a revisit of the novel that chronicles the lives of sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy is an absolute must.

The bestselling, Booker Prize-winning author of Atonement tells the tale of sexual longing, fear and romantic fantasy on a young couple&rsquos wedding night.

Emily Brontë's only novel follows the passionate story of the intense, painful love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a boy adopted by her father.


15 Period Dramas You Should Binge-Watch Right Now

With rich characters and impeccable costumes, these period dramas will delight any history nerd.

Image via IMDB/Starz

Period dramas are an expressway to escapism. For fans of the genre, there's nothing more satisfying than shutting out the real world for a little while and getting lost in another era. Fortunately, there are tons of addictive period dramas streaming, and they come from all over the world. We chose 15 of our favorites—the ones with impeccably detailed costumes, compelling characters, and history nerd appeal—to help you plan your next TV marathon. Forget that it's 2020 and press play on one of these shows to take a journey to the past.

Image via IMDB/Netflix

The title may sound invented, but the Peaky Blinders were a real gang of 19th century British criminals. Set post-World War I, this drama series has courted a devoted audience with its unforgettable performances (including that of lead Cillian Murphy), brutal realism, and endless cool. At five seasons and counting, Peaky Blinders shows no signs of slowing down. Catch up before the forthcoming Season 6 hits Netflix.

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This Showtime series ran from 2007 to 2010 and took serious poetic license by casting Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a young, smoldering Henry VIII. The show chronicles his reign and his relationships to all six of his queens—Joss Stone, Natalie Dormer, and Joely Richardson are among that infamous sorority. Don't look to The Tudors for historical accuracy, however. This steamy soap is basically (and in a very good way) The Days of Our 16th Century Lives.

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The dashing Aidan Turner stars as the titular Captain Ross Poldark in this five-season series based on Winston Graham's novels. Ross returns to his Cornwall estate after fighting in the American Revolution and must undo the damage that's been done in his absence. He must also get over the loss of his former love, as she's moved on while he was away. Die-hard Poldark fans adore the show for its semi-ludicrous plot twists and epic romantic saga. If subtlety isn't your thing, this is the period drama for you.

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This stylish Australian mystery series has just about everything: a progressive heroine in private investigator Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis), an abundance of sexual tension between her and her American counterpart Jack (Nathan Page), the music and daring fashions of the 1920s, and—of course—plenty of murder. Based on Kerry Greenwood's books, Miss Fisher's consists of three seasons and the upcoming feature adaptation, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears. Your binge will fly by in a whirl of flapper dresses and witty banter.

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Directed by acclaimed Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden), this adaptation of John le Carré's novel features future Academy Award nominee Florence Pugh as an English actress recruited by Mossad to go undercover and help foil a terrorist plot. Michael Shannon and Alexander Skarsgård also star in the tightly plotted six-episode miniseries, which is a must-see for anyone who's a sucker for a spy story.

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Even if you haven't watched it yet, you're likely familiar with the Netflix show—one of its tentpole original series. It follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II and her family, with the core cast famously changing as the years go by. So far, Claire Foy and Olivia Colman have worn the crown in the period drama, with Matt Smith and Tobias Menzies playing Prince Philip. Imelda Staunton has been announced as the actress taking over for the fifth and final season. Unfortunately for those hoping for a dramatization of the royal kerfuffle caused by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping away from their duties, The Crown won't be extending into that recent history. But there's plenty of drama still to be rehashed in the decades it will cover.

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Streaming on Hulu in the U.S., Harlots is one of the service's hidden gems. Created by Moira Buffini and Alison Newman (and featuring many women working behind the scenes), this series approaches the story of a female brothel owner in the 18th century with a distinctly female perspective and gaze. It combines sumptuous period detail with a sensitive, character-driven exploration of sex work and its ability to grant women financial independence, especially in a time where there were few avenues to find that.

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Before there was Downton Abbey, there was Upstairs, Downstairs. The British series set in the early 20th century is similarly concerned with both the wealthy owners of the townhouse to which the title refers and the staff who serve them. The original show ran from 1971 to 1975 and was revived in 2010. The newer seasons pick up with some of the same characters (and a new aristocratic family running things) a handful of years after the action of the first iteration ends, leading up to the beginning of World War II.

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With three seasons streaming and a fourth to come, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has already racked up a shelf of Emmy Awards. Created by Gilmore Girls scribe Amy Sherman-Palladino, the mid-20th century series stars Rachel Brosnahan as a jilted housewife who embarks on a surprisingly successful career as a stand-up comedian. Her talent takes her from city to city and stage to stage, and the period details in every location are enough to make your mouth water—not to mention the costumes. That Maisel is also sharply funny feels like icing on the cake.

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The title of this Portuguese series translates to Most Beautiful Thing and the show, like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, deals with the liberation of a newly single woman. Not long after Malu (Maria Casadevall) comes to Rio to help her husband open a restaurant, he takes the cash and ditches her. Down but not out, Malu finds a new love in the pulse of the city—the sound of bossa nova—and opens a club. Fortunately, her sudden passion also comes with a dashing new love interest in musician Chico (Leandro Lima). There are only seven episodes so far of this 1950s-set series, but don't fret: Netflix has already renewed Coisa Mais Linda for Season 2.

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Diana Gabaldon's series of novels about a time-traveling English nurse falling in love with a Scottish Highlander had a dedicated fan base before anyone laid eyes on the Starz TV adaptation. After that, it became a phenomenon, turning leads Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan into stars and thinking persons' sex symbols. Known for its frank depictions of period-appropriate violence and its lingering, intimate love scenes, Outlander is also a globe-trotting, time-spanning adventure that incorporates real historical figures.

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Set in Madrid in the 1920s, this Spanish-language series is centered on four young women who find independence working for a cable company. The friends navigate family drama, romantic entanglements, and workplace politics while keeping the country connected. Cable Girls has proven to be one of Netflix's most addictive international selections. The second half of the fifth and final season dropped in Feb. 2020.

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The Spanish Princess is the latest in the Starz historical drama franchise based on Philippa Gregory's books, which began with The White Queen and continued with The White Princess. This series revolves around Charlotte Hope's teenaged Catherine of Aragon, the future Queen of England, who comes to the country under the impression that she's been corresponding with the Prince of Wales. After he suddenly dies, her prospects change and she must get to know the person who was really writing her letters: the proud and uncouth Prince Harry (Ruairi O'Connor), who would later become Henry VIII.

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Andrew Davies, creator of the beloved 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries (the one with Colin Firth), takes on Jane Austen's incomplete novel Sanditon in his latest venture. With very little source material to go on, Sanditon adds more than the usual amount of sex and gossip—or, perhaps more accurately, makes the subtext text—to a typical Austen plot of a young, unmarried woman traveling to a seaside resort as a guest of the owners. There, she encounters an heiress from the West Indies (the only main character of color Austen ever wrote), two conniving and suspiciously close half-siblings, and the seemingly indifferent but undeniably handsome brother of her guardian, among other intriguing characters.

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Initially based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, a real nurse who worked with expectant mothers in the 1950s, the BBC period drama Call the Midwife has been thriving for nine seasons. Audiences see the social and political issues plaguing the poor East End of London through the eyes of the women who deliver its children. Though loss is endured, fans are still eager for more Call the Midwife because of its ultimately life-affirming tone. A 10th and 11th season are already on the way.



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