Words by: Emilio Lanera
Dr Seuss once said, “the more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
When we read not only can we be transported to different places, but we also gain a unique perspective through the characters of the book. Seeing the world from someone else’s point of view forces us to confront and re-evaluate our own preconceptions, giving us a better understanding of how the world works. If you’ve ever wanted to put in someone else’s shoes, here are five books that will do just that.
Growing Up Queer in Australia edited by Benjamin Law
There are plenty of stories about living in Australia but rarely do they come from a queer lens. If you are a queer person who wants to see themselves reflected in a piece of literature or an ally who wants to learn more about the LGBTQIA+ experience in Australia, I recommend you get your hands on a copy of Growing Up Queer in Australia. This collection of short stories written by those who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community spans over a diverse range of eras, places and ethnicities and shows the challenges and unique experiences queer people endure. Author and journalist Benjamin Law kicks off the book by sharing his struggles of watching gay porn in “pre-dial-up internet Queensland” and navigating his sexuality in an Asian household where homosexuality is considered taboo.
Every Man In This Village is a Liar: An Education on War by Meghan Stack
When Al Qadea struck the twin towers on 9/11, journalist Meghan Stack was vacationing in Paris. In a matter of weeks she finds herself thrown into the war zones of Afghanistan and Pakistan to find out more about this supposed War on Terror. She continues her travels reporting on other violent conflicts in Iraq and Lebanon and even lives in Jerusalem to explore the Israel-Palestine conflict. Visiting some of the most dangerous combat zones around the world, Meghan Stack culminates all her experiences in her book Every Man In This Village is a Liar: An Education on War. This book is definitely a confronting read, but a necessary one to learn more about the War on Terror that America and the Western world are fighting.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Although it is a bit of a cliche, there are some things money just can’t buy, and Crazy Rich Asians captures this perfectly. When middle-class girl Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she is shocked to arrive at Tyersall Park, a grand mansion tucked away in the Botanical Gardens. Bouncing around between different characters throughout the book, author Kevin Kwan does an excellent job of encapsulating the lavished and ridiculous life of Asia’s most wealthy. While the book is primarily set in Singapore, Nicholas’ family of crazy rich Asians travel all over the world from a shopping trip in Paris, to a bachelorette party on a private island in Indonesia. While the book also highlights the many perks of being very very rich, it also exposes the gossiping, backbiting, and scheming that happens in these elite circles and how money can get in the way of more important things like love.
Sidenote: If you enjoy the first book enough, you can read China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems to complete the trilogy.
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
With the Black Lives Matter movement in full force, especially in the United States, How To Be an Antiracist helps people understand the conversations around racial injustice in America. The overarching premise of the book is that simply “not being racist” isn’t enough. In order to make legitimate change, everyone needs to commit to an antiracist lifestyle to liberate Black people. Using history, politics, ethics and his own personal experience growing up African American, author Ibram X. Kendi urges the reader to confront their own status within the racialised world we live, and prompts them to think about what an antiracist society might look like. With racial tension at an all time high, How To Be An Antiracist is a necessary read for everyone.
Night by Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel was only a teenager when he was taken to Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. Later transferred to Buchenwald with his father who eventually dies of starvation, Elie’s haunting memoir Night encapsulates the horrors that millions of Jews faced during the Holocaust. There is no happy outcome for Elie, save survival. Having his father, faith, and dignity taken away from him, Elie’s trauma paints a bleak and confronting image, which will most certainly make most readers feel uncomfortable. There are many books you can read about World War II and the Holocaust but Night is one of the few that will expose you to the dehumanisation and brutalisation of the human spirit under extreme circumstances in such great detail.