Rent Collector by Camron Wright -- It takes place in a garbage dump in Cambodia. For the terrible setting it is in, this book is hopeful and inspiring. You will love the characters and what enriches their lives.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson -- This book describes the author's years of work with unjustly convicted people on death row, serving life sentences, and children serving sentences in adult prisons. Discouraging yet also hopeful and a very interesting book.
The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville -- I'm a new fan of this very talented Australian writer. I have read two of her books and loved them both. This one is about a European soldier who arrives in Australia in the early days and befriends some indigenous people. They begin to learn each other's languages. Of course, life doesn't roll along smoothly. It's a very touching story; it will remind you of the beauty of language and its intricate tie to culture as well as the complicated thing life is.
The Secret River by Kate Grenville -- a story about the early days of white settlement in Australia. A convict from London is sent to New South Wales. We follow him with his family experiencing many challenges, successes, failures, including severe conflict with the native people. It's a beautifully written story and very enlightening.
We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride -- an immigrant family, especially their very sweet son, the challenges they all face, what happens when different worlds collide. This is a very touching, poignant book.
Mr. Owita's Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall -- mostly non-fiction with a few things changed slightly for privacy and for condensing into a book format. This is the story of Carol Wall, struggling with breast cancer which came and went and which scares her endlessly.. and the gardener she meets, Giles Owita who is from ??, a country in Africa which I have forgotten (sorry). They strike up an amazing friendship, and Giles has such wisdom, patience, understanding. He is a gem; their friendship touches them both deeply. An amazing book.
The End of Your Life Bookclub by Will Schwalbe -- a son and his mother form a book club of just themselves. While she goes through chemo treatments, they read and discuss books. This is very touching; the mother is very wise. The bonus is that you'll get excited about a lot of other books. Your TBR pile will definitely grow!
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd -- two sisters grow up in a slave-holding family; they are way before their time in their attitudes toward slavery and women's role in society. Turns out the book is based on two sisters who are true historical figures I'd never heard of. The book also tells the parallel story of the slaves, especially a mother and daughter. Fascinating book that had me thinking long after I had finished it.
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway -- the city is besieged by shelling and sniper attacks from the surrounding hills. Life consists of venturing out for necessities warily, knowing a sniper could cut you down when you cross a wide street or a bridge. It's a fascinating look at humanity prevailing during a senseless war, and how a few individuals deal with their feelings of fear, loss, hopelessness, and sometimes even hope.
A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar -- the story of a family struggling to survive in Afghanistan through many years of invasions and civil war and yet more invasion. Told through the eyes of a boy who is about 8 years old when the story begins. Fascinating book.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell -- two kids in high school meet and develop a friendship. It is a fascinating, engaging book with social issues and coming of age issues; a hard-to-put-down book.
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes -- a man is injured in an accident and a neighboring woman meets him in a working relationship.. the story takes you through them getting to know each other, a moral dilemma that is facing everyone in the near future.. a real thought provoker and would be a great one for a group discussion.
The Orchard: A Memoir by Theresa Weir -- a fascinating look at marriage, family, and farming practices. Author has Minnesota ties.
Angle of Declination by Doug Mayfield and Sally Mayfield -- a young married couple faces a challenge to their marriage while living in Canada wilderness. Very well written story by Minnesota authors.
What is the What by Dave Eggers -- Sudan during civil war and Lost Boys. Gripping mostly true story.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green -- a teen book about two teens who have cancer. Excellent and touching.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich -- a family is traumatized by violence against the mother and the resulting trauma through the justice system. Winner of National Book Award. Erdrich is a Minnesota author.
A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines -- a murder takes place, and almost everyone in the area claims to be the perpetrator. Great story of cultures, oppression, and community.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce -- I absolutely loved this book! A man walks across England to see a friend who has cancer. It's so endearing and tender. Great portrait of humanity.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo -- a true story of people who live in abject poverty and grime in a Mumbai slum. It is fascinating, depressing, and hopefull all at once. I loved the people in this book!
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai -- poetic form, moving story of a girl from Viet Nam who moves to Alabama and the struggles she faces to learn a new culture. Great, sweet, sometimes sad book.
My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira -- a woman during the American Civil War is determined to become a doctor. Horrifying and fascinating story.
Annabel by Kathleen Winter -- a story about a baby born with both male and female genitalia and how that child is raised, and the outcomes as the child grows to adulthood. Beautifully written with language that sings!
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett -- loved this book. It is sort of dark, but still fascinating and I grew to love the characters as the story unfolded.
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar -- an excellent book about the polarization between social classes. You will love the characters! A great read!
Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History by Thomas Norman DeWolf -- through geneaology research, a family discovers their ties to slavery and decides to face it head on, researching where and how the involvement took place. VERY intersting and thought provoking.
Once by Morris Gleitzman -- a middle-school age book on the Holocaust. The main character, a young boy, is innocent and sweet.
Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn -- one of the best books I have ever read. A Lakota Indian elder, Dan, tells his story to Nerburn and asks him to write it down. Dan is gifted at understanding both Lakota culture and white culture and can clearly see where, how, and why they clash. This book is profound and deep -- thought-provoking like no other book. a must read.
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton -- written during apartheid in South Africa, it is the story of a village boy who goes to Johannesburg; after a prolonged absence, his father goes to look for him. Extremely moving, touching, and another thought-provoking must read book. I have read it at least 3 times and probably will again.