Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission To Promote Peace... One School At A Time
(Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin)
I just finished this one a few days ago. The true story of Greg Mortenson's failed attempt to climb K2, the world's second tallest mountain, led him to an inspiring victory nonetheless. Having built roots in Pakistan, Mortenson promised a small Pakistani town that he would construct its first fully functioning school that has since transformed into the Central Asia Institute. The CAI has built more than fifty schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, providing education to all children, especially girls. Mortenson's project interplays with the post-9/11 mentality of Americans, to which Mortneson states, "We need to understand that this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not bombs."
I had no business reading this book when I was fourteen, but what's done is done. Burgess illustrates a harrowing plot of teenagers, Tar and Gemma, on a downward spiral into drug addiction. There is no preaching within the pages of this book, no teachings of right from wrong, no guidance to the moral high ground, no "stay away from drugs" - just truth. It is as Gemma says, "You take more and more, and more often. Then you get sick of it and give it up for a few days. And that's the really nasty thing because then, when you're clean, that's when it works so well." Amazing writing.
Everything Is Illuminated
(Jonathan Safran Foer)
I could tell you that this novel is about the Holocaust (which it is) but that simplified description woulf not do Foer's work justice. A young Jewish man, conveniently named Jonathan Safran Foer makes his way to the Ukraine with the mission of finding the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. His search party is comprised of his translator, Alex, Alex's grandfather, and their dog, Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. Throughout his story, Foer mixes ethnic comedy with tragedy, and history with suspense. If it sounds eccentric, then you're following along just fine. Pretty impressive for his first novel.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
(Jonathan Safran Foer)
After discovering Foer had written a second novel, I bought it immediately. The only way I am able to reflect on this brilliant story of nine-year-old Oskar Schell is to consider that - despite Foer's classification - this novel is not fiction, but a true account of a boy's struggle to put together the pieces of his father's untimely death on September 11, 2001. The reason for this is that I do not believe a fiction story should provide so much truth. I know Foer's novel is someone's reality. Oskar is a whimsical and ambitious kid who comes across a key amongst his father's possessions and is thus determined to find the lock it opens. For also brings in the subplot of Oskar's grandfather, who survived bombings in World War II. His plot line may not appear as decorative as Oskar's, but they come face to face at the end for a conclusion that will make your heart sink.
You may already know Stephen Chbosky as the author of The Perks of Being A Wallflower, and although he did not write this compilation book, it is still very much worth reading. Pieces is a unique collection of short stories by aspiring writers from our generation. Read this for exciting moments of discovery and you will get a wonderful glimpse into the future of fiction writers.