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Struggles of RefugeesFact or fiction, books are a great way to create empathy and understanding of the real-life experiences of other people. An experience that is not uncommon yet unique to each individual who has lived it, is the global refugee struggle. There are many books that tell the stories of refugees and contemporary fiction books are only one example of a genre that can raise awareness through storytelling. Raising awareness about the struggles of refugees through books and literature helps encourage more humanitarian efforts directed at helping refugees.

Kiss the Dust

Published in 1994, this historical fiction book by Elizabeth Laird takes place in 1991. Tara is a 12-year-old Kurdish girl living in Iraq during a time when conflict was high between Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Kurds. After her father’s involvement with the Kurdish resistance movement, Tara and her family are forced to flee to Britain, where her whole world changes completely. Though “Kiss the Dust” is more about Tara and her family’s struggles as refugees living in London, there is also a lot of focus on the Kurdish resistance movement in 1991 and the trauma that many experienced because of it. There is also an emphasis on overall trauma from war-ridden areas, something that has lasting effects on refugees.

The Red Pencil

“The Red Pencil” was written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and published in 2014. Inspired by a true story, it revolves around 12-year-old Amina living in Darfur, Sudan, in 2003. She nearly loses everything when her village is attacked, and after, she and her family are forced to find a refugee camp on foot. This book describes the struggles of her journey to the refugee camp in Kamal as well as her struggles while living in the camp. Due to the trauma, Amina stops speaking. Eventually, one of the relief workers gives her a red pencil which she uses to begin her journey of recovery. While describing Amina’s journey, the book also highlights Sudan and its prolonged conflicts and wars, showing how many Sudanese people have been forced to flee their homes throughout the years, making Amina and her family only one of many Sudanese refugees.

The Bone Sparrow

Written by Zana Fraillons and published in 2016, “The Bone Sparrow” follows a young boy named Subhi who was born in an immigration detention center in Australia. His mother and sister were part of the flood of Rohingya refugees who escaped their homeland due to the genocide of their people. Because he spent his entire life behind fences, Subhi struggles to curb his curiosity about the outside world. His only access is through his mother’s stories and his imagination. Eventually, he meets a girl on the other side of the fence who contributes to his journey of freedom, imagination and knowledge about the world. Through Subhi’s struggles, the author illustrates the refugee struggle of not having a place to truly call home. The story also shines a light on the Rohingya genocide and the number of refugees created as a result, a conflict still going on today.

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles

Enaiatollah Akbari was 10 years old when his mother sent him to Pakistan from Afghanistan, to protect him from the Taliban, portraying the many years the Taliban have been creating conflict in areas around Pakistan and Afghanistan. Published in 2010, the novel by Fabio Gada revolves around Akbari’s five-year journey as he travels through Iran, Turkey and Greece, eventually ending up in Italy at the age of 15. Throughout his journey, he encounters many hardships. This story highlights a refugee’s journey of loss and rebuilding.

The Good Braider

Published in 2012 by Terry Farish, this book is about a Sudanese family escaping war in their homeland and eventually ending up in Portland, Maine, a place with a lot of other Sudanese immigrants. The community of Sudanese refugees in the United States portrayed in this book shows the impact of the current and previous conflicts in South Sudan. The main character, Viola, struggles to balance the differences between her Sudanese heritage and the culture of the United States. By portraying Viola’s struggles within a Sudanese immigrant community, this book highlights the communal struggles of refugees and immigrants living in the United States.

The Unique Struggles of Refugees

Though the characters are fictional, all of these stories are based on real-life events that forced thousands of people to flee their homes. From war to genocide, each book highlights a unique yet similar set of events that the characters experience, based on their history, setting and context. These different perspectives not only allow people to empathize with victims of history but also bring more of an understanding about the lives of refugees and encourage more humanitarian efforts to address this global issue.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr

Resilience Found in the Rebuilding of the Mosul University Library

A library in Iraq is receiving the proper attention it deserves after the devastation of an occupation by the Islamic State since 2014. The rebuilding of the Mosul University library has been brought about by volunteers who have attempted to restore what is left of the library’s collection, after hundred of thousands of ancient documents were destroyed.

The Mosul University library and its contents were destroyed during two years of the Islamic State’s occupation of Mosul, in northern Iraq. Iraqi newspapers, maps, books and ancient collects were lost in the burning of the library. During the occupation, 900,000 residents were displaced and thousands of civilians killed amid the fighting.

The independent blogger Mosul Eye has since led a movement to restore what is left of the library’s collection. This has resulted in the movement to recover and donate books to the library. Many were doubtful that the library’s collection had survived, but the discovery of some 86,000 books proved otherwise. Since the discovery of the books, many have been moved to a safer location. According to Irina Bokova, the head of the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the destruction of the library “adds to the systematic destruction of heritage and the persecution of minorities that seeks to wipe out the cultural diversity that is the soul of the Iraqi people.”

The efforts of Mosul Eye and volunteers alike culminated in a reading festival that celebrated books, reading, music and poetry. For many, the festival symbolized the resilience of the Iraqi people and their culture against the threat of terrorism. The war on culture that has been posed by Islamic State has led not only to the burning of books, but shrines, statues and other culturally significant sites. However, just as the rebuilding of the Mosul University library serves as a testament, the Iraqi people have proven their resilience in the face of terror.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr


Within the world of nonprofit work, many have incredible stories to share that expand others’ perspectives. Here is a list of books about nonprofits specifically focused on global poverty. Some are about what inspired certain organizations, some about the work that they do and some about behind-the-scenes logistics.

  1. “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World” by Tracy Kidder; Founder of Partners in Health, Paul Farmer is a believer in change when change seems impossible. This book describes Farmer’s pursuit of improving global health by working in places from Harvard to Peru and Haiti. His goal is to cure the world because “the only real nation is humanity.” For a list of books about nonprofits, this one is a must.
  2. “Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor” by Paul Farmer; Paul Farmer’s own book details his personal experiences working in developing countries. He describes the social and economic injustice that the poorer citizens of the world face and explains why it should be among everyone’s priorities to help. He writes with optimism, believing that our sense of justice will evolve with medical and social technology.
  3. “The Blue Sweater” by Jacqueline Novogratz; By blending personal stories and theory, Jacqueline Novogratz’s memoir demonstrates her approach to ending world poverty. Moving from credit analysis to nonprofit work, she started the Acumen Fund, which invests in ideas and companies fighting against poverty. She illustrates the global reach of the need for this kind of work by using personal stories from her travels.
  4. “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time” by Greg Mortenson; This is the story of one man’s journey from mountaineering to the school building in Pakistan. Mortenson’s 55 schools, many for girls, offer education in a dangerous place and illustrate the power one individual can have for change.
  5. “Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail” by Paul Polak; Polak focuses on a grassroots approach to ending poverty based on his 25 years of experience. He wants to help those who make less than a dollar per day stand on their own two feet rather than have developed countries swoop in and save them. His approach involves low-cost and innovative ways to implement change.
  6. “Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager’s Guide to Getting Results” by Alison Green and Jerry Hauser; Another highlight of management on the list of books about nonprofits, this one focuses on getting results through effective management skills. It reminds us that office work can be just as important as getting dirty on the ground.
  7. “Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits” by Leslie R. Crutchfield, Heather McLeod Grant and J. Gregory Dees; This book discusses the six characteristics that make 12 different nonprofits successful, especially when one looks at their levels of impact. Big or small, organizations can apply these six ideas to their own work, especially in the wake of the global recession.
  8. “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins; As the title suggests, this book outlines certain companies that were able to go from average to amazing. Collins and his research team list seven characteristics that helped these companies build strong and long-term foundations for success.
  9. “The Networked Nonprofit” by Beth Kanter and Allison H. Fine; In today’s society, businesses rely heavily on social media to engage consumers, and nonprofits are no exception. In terms of books about nonprofits, this is another that focuses on management. Social media can be a great tool for raising awareness as well as fundraising and reaching donors.
  10. “A Fistful of Rice: My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty Through Profitability” by Vikram Akula; This personal story about the intersection between philanthropy and capitalism shows how business ideas can be applied to global problems. Akula writes about using capitalism to transform many of India’s poor citizens first into first consumers and then into business owners.

Everyone has a book, movie or song that completely changed the way he or she sees the world. Perhaps it was a particularly inspiring character or a plot that defied imagination. Often the most amazing stories humans tell each other are true.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Flickr


For many, learning the truth about poverty can be hard. Unfortunately, for many, poverty is a sad reality. However, people should want to learn more about poverty so that it can be alleviated. The following is a list of books that will change your perspective on poverty.

5 Books that Will Change Your Perspective on Poverty

  1. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity: Katherine Boo, Pulitzer-winner, published this novel in 2012. This book is a narrative nonfiction that tells the story of a family working towards a better life in the city of Annawadi, where inequality is very high. Over the course of three years, Boo got to know the people who live in Annawadi. The book focuses on the daily stresses and problems of the inhabitants, who are suffering from poverty, hunger, diseases, violence and ethnic strife. Boo focuses on people such as a young orphan named Sunsil, a garbage picker, and Fatima, a young, emotionally troubled woman who only has one leg and dreams of a better life. The book focuses on many people who are suffering from poverty and wish to escape the situation. This heartbreaking and dramatic true story will change your perspective about poverty.
  2. How Change Happens: This novel, “seeks to understand how power and systems shape change, and how you can influence them.” How Change Happens was published in 2016 and is written by Duncan Green. This book is for those interested in activism, lobbying, or joining organizations that are dedicated to inspiring change. Green focuses on major themes that can help make change occur in the world.
  3. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide: Written by Pulitzer-winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, this nonfiction story takes place in Asia and Africa. Here, Kristof and WuDunn meet extraordinary women who are struggling with inequality, sex slavery, violence and abuse. Kristof and WuDunn paint the world with many emotions; sadness, anger, clarity, and hope. “Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen,” reviewers commented. This book will definitely change your perspective about poverty.
  4. Development as Freedom: Development as Freedom was published in 1999 and written by economist Amartya Sen. The book argues that economic development entails a set of linked freedoms: the freedom of opportunity including access to credit, political freedoms and transparency in relations between people, and economic protection from abject poverty, including through income supplements and unemployment relief. The book states that real change will not happen simply by increasing basic income or rising average GDP per capita. Instead, a package of overlapping mechanisms that will enable the exercise of a growing range of freedoms is required. Sen’s views lie in free markets as an essential method of acquiring freedom.
  5. Little Bee: Chris Cleave’s fiction novel, Little Bee, follows the story of two women — one a recent widow from suburban London, and the other is an illegal Nigerian refugee. These women form a tenuous friendship, and as the story develops, Little Bee’s harsh life is recounted. The novel examines the treatment of refugees by the asylum system, as well as issues of British colonialism, globalization, political violence, and personal accountability.

These books will all change your perspective about poverty. They even offer ways in which people can help alleviate poverty, and suggestions for how people should treat each other in order to thrive in this world. Each book tells heartbreaking, but true stories that are many people’s reality, living in poverty and enduring harsh conditions. The books and their dynamic characters will surely affect your perspective on poverty.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr

digital_libraries

Imagine for a moment life without Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, The Great Gatsby, or Shakespeare—no books at all. Imagine not even being able to read.

This is a reality for thousands of people. In Ghana, reading is still considered a luxury. This has to change, according to Mrs. Matilda Amissah Arthur, wife of Ghana’s Vice-President. Amissah-Arthur called for more political will to tackle the issue, saying that books are the cheapest and best carriers of knowledge in the country.

Over 700 million people around the world are illiterate, but there are a number of global projects underway to fight illiteracy by providing books to those in need.

The International Book Project (IBP) is one of these organizations. The IBP states that its mission is to “build global partnerships that foster cultural understanding and bring people together for common goals” through sustainable programs.

The IPB connects with partners on the ground, whether they be whole communities or specific schools, and distributes books in varying sizes of deliveries. Recently, they have sent shipments to Palestine, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua and India, to name a few.

Access to books is no longer limited to physical copies. With the ever-growing use of smartphones in the developing world, digital access to books is becoming another avenue to spread knowledge and fight illiteracy.

A study conducted by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, found that 62% of those surveyed have begun reading more, now that they can access reading material on their mobile phones. One in three individuals surveyed said their children were reading more on their smartphones, and 90% said they planned to read more in the next year.

The study also found that “people read more when they read on mobile devices, that they enjoy reading more, and that people commonly read books and stories to children from mobile devices.” The study shows that mobile technology is a promising, if not slightly untapped, road to reading and can help improve knowledge and literacy.

Why, then, read on a mobile phone instead of an actual book? It is much cheaper. In Zimbabwe, a bestseller in paperback costs $12, while reading a book on a mobile phone costs only between 5 and 6 cents.

Library For All is an example of how digital libraries are being used to spread books throughout the developing world. Founded in order to address the lack of books in classrooms, this online library follows the same principles as other digital book providers: a mobile platform is cheaper than physically delivering books. Moreover, the organization uses a specific low-bandwidth network that is tailored to benefit the developing world.

Coupled with the growth of mobile technology, reading on mobile phones and access to digital libraries in the developing world proves to be a powerful emerging partnership. If mobile libraries like Library For All can partner with mobile technologies, and mobile devices continue to become available to the developing world, every person on earth might have access to books.

– Greg Baker

Sources: Ghana Web, The Guardian, International Book Project, Library for All
Photo: CNBC

half_the_sky
There are few books that have the power to change the way we think about the world. “Half the Sky,” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is one of those books. Long after the reader closes the cover, they might find themself pondering the carefully chosen facts interspersed with heart-wrenching anecdotes from women around the world. The picture that emerges is nothing short of shocking.

The authors find that “more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine “gendercide” in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.”

Let that sink in for a minute. How is it possible that this routine violence against women has not made bigger headlines? Part of the reason, Kristof and WuDunn argue, is that there has not been any one large, catastrophic event to focus on, like a war. Rather, the killing and discrimination against women is an ongoing occurrence.

Another part of the reason may be that, in many societies, women are just not as important as men. Female babies are considered unlucky; female babies are less likely to receive medical attention; female children are less likely to receive adequate nutrition and education. The list goes on. And, until recently, it seems that female victims have been less newsworthy than their male counterparts.

But however slow on the uptake, the international aid community is, in recent years, prioritizing women’s rights. In 1994, the Violence Against Women Act was signed by Bill Clinton, and in 2008 the United Nations declared rape a war crime, just to name a few examples of progress. Indeed, as horrific as many of the women’s tales are, “Half the Sky” is an inspiring book. Women are not the problem, but the solution.

This is true across the board. Microloans given to women are both empowering and, often, financially successful. Providing women with more education not only increases their ability to provide for themselves, but also decreases pregnancy and increases the likelihood that women will seek medical treatment during pregnancies.

The fact still remains that women aged fifteen through forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. But the picture painted in Half the Sky is not one where men are the villains and women the victims. In many cases, women are perpetrators of discrimination and violence. For example, many owners of brothels that engage in forced prostitution are women.

Ultimately, gender-based violence and discrimination are not such over-whelming issues that we ought to resign in defeat. Yes, the problems are often complex and require cultural solutions rather than a quick technical or financial fix. But not always. There are many examples of incredible people who make huge differences. Edna Adan started a hospital in her homeland of Somaliland. The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital provides maternal healthcare for impoverished women, treating problems like obstetric fistulas that are rare in developed countries but it is estimated the between 2.5 and 3 million women worldwide suffer from fistulas.

An obstetric fistula is the result of prolonged or obstructed labor. Pressure from the fetal head cuts off blood flow to the mother’s organs, causing tissues between body organs to die. This often leaves a hole between the bladder and vagina through which urine drips uncontrollably. Aside from being painful and vulnerable to infection, fistulas are hugely stigmatizing, and often destroy families.

While we are not all trained medical professionals, there are many ways to help. Pressure from the United States has often been one of the most effective ways to accomplish reforms internationally. When the U.S. cares about something, economic incentives are often attached. If the U.S. were to make women’s rights a priority, the situation for half of the world’s population would likely improve significantly.

Claire Karban

Sources: Worldwide Fistula Fund, Half the Sky Movement
Photo: San Jose State University

hairdresser
With the tragic and irreplaceable loss of Nelson Mandela, the world now must take to his words and memories to keep his inspirational message of hope alive.  Thankfully, his spirit lives on in Long Walk to Freedom, his sensational autobiography, and Conversations with Myself, a collection of his most private essays and letters.  Mandela will forever be available for any one to access.  His words will resonate on the page for long-time followers or perhaps someone not yet familiar with the great leader.

In the spirit of Nelson Mandela and his written legacy, the following is a list of five essential works by African authors:

1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Perhaps the single most famous piece of African literature, Achebe’s first novel is a two-part story about Ibo tribesman Okonkwo.  The story narrates African life prior to the arrival of colonial powers, and then the subsequent colonization of Nigeria by Britain.

2. Native Life in South Africa by Sol Plaatje

Sol Plaatje was a political activist and intellectual fighting for the freedom of native Africans during colonization by both the British and the Dutch.  Plaatje was in many ways a forefather for Nelson Mandela, and Native Life in South Africa is one of the most important works in African literature.  In it, Plaatje makes an emotional plea for enfranchisement and basic human rights for black Africans suffering at the hands of colonialism.

3. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie is considered an important figure in contemporary African literature, as she represents the next generation of authors following Achebe.  Purple Hibiscus takes place in post-colonial Nigeria, and is the painful coming-of-age story of a young girl in a disintegrating family.

4. The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

This novel is a story about a hairdresser named Vimbai and her struggle to make a living and raise her son in modern day Harare, Zimbabwe.  Described by many critics as “bittersweet,” the novel is both humorous and dark at the same time.

5. Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Petals of Blood looks at the interconnectedness between four murder suspects in the wake of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya.  The novel is a skeptical look at postcolonial Kenyan politics and the impossibility of escaping a colonial past.

– Taylor Diamond

Sources: Good Reads
Photo: Kubatana Blogs

war_photography_brooklyn
The newest collection at the Brooklyn Museum offers unapologetic effects of violence around the world in a new exhibit titled “WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath.” The collection features works by 225 photographers from all walks of life including military members, commercial portraitists, journalists, amateurs and Pulitzer Prize winners.

Nearly 400 pieces are present in a variety of mediums such as prints, books, magazines, albums and photography equipment. The exhibit allows visitors to explore the evolving relationship between war and photography over the last 166 years.

Several iconic pieces are present including Joe Rosenthal’s famous photograph of solders holding up the American flag on the battlefield in Iwo Jima and Robert Clarks’s images of the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Unknown works like “Valentine with her daughters Amelie and Inez” offer new perspectives on continuing issues of violence. In the photo, Valentine stands in front of a house with two young girls, her arms wrapped around one.

The image depicts the struggles of Rwandan women during the early nineties, when instances of violence and rape swept the region. The two girls with Valentine are her daughters, one conceived through marriage, the other by rape.

Other images in the collection show the endurance of humanity in the face of endless violence such as Mark A. Grimshaw’s First Cut, which illustrates an American soldier cultivating a small patch of grass in the middle of the harsh Iraqi landscape.

Some works, on the other hand, are simply heartbreaking as in the case of W. Eugene Smith’s “Dying Infant Found by American Soldiers in Saipan,” June, 1944 depicting a soldier holding the baby in his arms as another soldier watches on.

Rather than a strictly historical account of past wars, the organizers of the exhibition aim to not only reflect the effects of violence in the world but also, explore the connection between violence and photography. The exhibit’s curator, Anne Tucker explains that despite the sheer volume of images and variety of locations, certain patterns are evident in the type of photographs produced from such occurrences.

Those interested in learning more about the collection can visit the Brooklyn Museum website or visit the exhibit in person until February 2.

– Jasmine D. Smith

Sources: The New York Times, Brooklyn Museum

Clean_Water__for_Elirose_Good_Books_For_Children
Children are the future. Today, our youngest generation has the ability to learn about global issues through reading. Check out the educational books below:

1. Clean Water for Elirose by Ariah Fine

This book tells the story of Maria and her friends who love all kinds of different drinks. When they learn about a girl their age who doesn’t have clean water to drink they set out to help her find access to what she lacks. Literature review site goodreads.com describes it as a “[…] children’s picture book about the lack of clean drinking water in the world and how we can help.” All profits from this book go to support clean water projects.

2. Little Things Make Big Differences: A Story About Malaria by John Nunes and Monique Nunes

Little Things Make Big Differences: A Story about Malaria, is a story about a young Tanzanian girl named Rehema. The story focuses on Rehema’s battle with one of the world’s most fatal diseases, malaria. When she was a baby, Rehema was infected with the disease but survived because her parents were able to get treatment for her. In the book, Rehema describes what children in rich countries can do to help fight malaria.

3. The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

This book depicts how poverty affects families, with a focus on kids. Rawlings’ children’s book tells the story of a girl poet named Calpurnia and her family who worry that they will go hungry because there are no fish left in the river. Luckily, Calpurnia meets a medicine woman in the forest who helps her find the way to a secret river, teeming with catfish, which appears only when desperately needed and disappears when the heart and belly are full. The ending teaches kids that there is always a way to help aid those in need.

4. The Can Man by Laura E. Williams

Laura E. Williams provides a sweet but direct lesson about poverty in today’s society. Williams tells the story of a young boy named Tim who fantasizes about getting the skateboard of his dreams. But Tim’s parents can’t afford to buy him the skateboard for his birthday, so he puts on rubber gloves and starts collecting cans in a quest for cash. Soon he finds himself racing a homeless can collector to gain access to the best spots in the neighborhood for cans. As he gets to know “The Can Man,” Tim learns there are things in life more valuable than any object.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: Good Reads: Clean Water for Elirose, Good Reads: Global Issues for Kids, One, Huffington Post
Photo: Clean Water for Elirose

books
One of the best ways to begin the fight against global poverty is to immerse yourself in another culture.  Eastern Europe is region rich with folklore and literary tradition.  Whether you are looking to become further acquainted with Eastern European culture, or have an interest in promoting development and human rights in the region, curling up with some of Eastern Europe’s best works is a wonderful place to find inspiration.

1. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Kafka was one of the foremost existentialist authors in the world.  Czech by heritage, Kafka wrote many novels and short stories, but none more famous than his novella The Metamorphosis.  The novella is the story about a salesman named Gregor who wakes up one day and discovers that he has transformed into a giant insect.

2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Taking place during the Prague Spring of 1968, this novel is a classic story of a man torn between his love for a young woman he has just met and his old playboy habits.  But much more than that, it is an exploration of our choices as humans and chance events that influence our lives.  The “unbearable lightness of being” is when we forget the weight of what happens in our existence.

3. Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Although Patrick Leigh Fermor was a British author, Between the Woods and the Water is a story about the Balkans and Eastern Europe at its core.  It is a memoir about Fermor’s attempt to cross all of Europe on foot.  Stories about crossing the Danube, Budapest, and the mystical landscape of the Balkans and Carpathian mountains all abound in this exciting journey.

4. Café Europa: Life After Communism by Slavenka Drakulic

This work is a collection of essays by Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulic.  A humorous, but always poignant work, Café Europa is an exploration of how former U.S.S.R. states are dealing with post-Communism.

5. The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek

This piece is a biting satire on war and politics.  Written by Czech author Jaroslav Hasek, the book tries to piece together the devastation of World War I by creating a fictional story about a well-meaning Czech man in the Austrian army.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: Good Reads, Rick Steves