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One Book, One San Diego Wants Your Input For Next Book

I love suggesting books for others to read. In fact, I take the whole endeavor very seriously. In my younger, snobbier days, I actually broke up with a guy because he recommended a terrible book (Not naming the guy or the book!).

Karma soon exacted its justice when my gorgeous film professor - who I had a mad crush on - suggested I read "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace. The cerebral grad student kept trying to engage me on my progress through the 1,079 page book and I eventually had to fess up. It wasn't happening (a combination of not having the time and, frankly, intimidation won out). I literally watched the small flicker of interest in his eyes disappear in a poof.

Outside of these two traumatic cases, recommending books and talking about them is one of the great pleasures in life. Well, my Culture Lusters, this is your chance to suggest a book for the entire city/county of San Diego to read!

Above: "Outcasts United" by Warren St. John was the most recent One Book, One San Diego selection.

One Book, One San Diego, a partnership between KPBS and the San Diego Public Library, will soon choose three books that will contend in a public vote to be chosen as the next One Book, One San Diego selection. The winning book will - hopefully -be read by San Diegans throughout the next year. The public vote begins in July, so right now the committee is trying to decide on the three contenders.

As the committee begins deliberations, we thought we'd solicit some suggestions from our well-read readers.

What books should the committee consider for the next One Book, One San Diego selection?

There are a few requirements. The book needs to be out in paperback with an audio version available. Suggestions should be appropriate for high school students and its themes should resonate with the community. The goal is to have the final book be one we all want to talk about, so it should inspire conversation.

The book can be fiction or non-fiction. All of the past selections have been non-fiction books ("Enrique's Journey," "Three Cups of Tea," "The Zookeeper's Wife," and "Outcasts United").

The committee is made up of local high school teachers, college professors, librarians, and community members. They can't read everything, so let's make sure they have lots of good options at their disposal.

Leave your suggestions in the comments section below - along with why you think your recommendation is a good one. I bet we can create a great reading list for all of us.

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Avatar for user 'pavlovsbelle'

pavlovsbelle | June 1, 2010 at 12:18 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Urrea.

From Publishers Weekly: Nayeli, the Taqueria worker is a young woman in the poor but tight-knit coastal Mexican town of Tres Camarones who spends her days serving tacos and helping her feisty aunt Irma get elected as the town's first female mayor. Abandoned by her father who headed north for work years before, Nayeli is hit with the realization that her hometown is all but abandoned by men, leaving it at the mercy of drug gangsters. So Nayeli hatches an elaborate scheme inspired by The Magnificent Seven: with three friends, she heads north to find seven Mexican men and smuggle them back into Mexico to protect the town. What she discovers along the way, of course, surprises her. Urrea's poetic sensibility and journalistic eye for detail in painting the Mexican landscape and sociological complexities create vivid, memorable scenes.

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone | June 1, 2010 at 1:17 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

@pavlovsbelle - good suggestion. Did you hear the interview we did with Luis Urrea on These Days last year? He's a terrific storyteller. Take a listen when you can. Here's the link.

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Avatar for user 'ehansen'

ehansen | June 1, 2010 at 1:19 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

I recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain. It had a life-changing effect on me and everyone I know who has read it.

From Publishers Weekly
If you've ever wondered what your dog is thinking, Stein's third novel offers an answer. Enzo is a lab terrier mix plucked from a farm outside Seattle to ride shotgun with race car driver Denny Swift as he pursues success on the track and off. Denny meets and marries Eve, has a daughter, Zoë, and risks his savings and his life to make it on the professional racing circuit. Enzo, frustrated by his inability to speak and his lack of opposable thumbs, watches Denny's old racing videos, coins koanlike aphorisms that apply to both driving and life, and hopes for the day when his life as a dog will be over and he can be reborn a man. When Denny hits an extended rough patch, Enzo remains his most steadfast if silent supporter. Enzo is a reliable companion and a likable enough narrator, though the string of Denny's bad luck stories strains believability. Much like Denny, however, Stein is able to salvage some dignity from the over-the-top drama.

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Avatar for user 'Joanne Faryon'

Joanne Faryon, KPBS Staff | June 1, 2010 at 3:43 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion

I've read this book three times. It's the most honest and raw account of grief and loss.

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone | June 1, 2010 at 3:56 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

@Joanne - isn't it brilliant? So sad.
Have you read her book about California? It's called "Where I Was From" She's genius.

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Avatar for user 'bereKPBS'

bereKPBS | June 1, 2010 at 5:14 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

I think we should give a try to old classics, I love reading classic books, and I think our teenagers and adults will delight from discovering why these books are classics, and if the Sandiegas who have read them already, I am sure wouldn't mind reading them again... just an idea... here some of my selections and their descriptions taken from this website

The catcher in the rye by J.D. Salinger (as a remembrance of his recent death)
The hero-narrator of "The Catcher in the Rye" is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices -- but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (I loved reading this book!)
Set against the tumultuous years of the post-Napoleonic era, The Count of Monet Cristo recounts the swashbuckling adventures of Edmond Dantes, a dashing young sailor falsely accused of treason. The story of his long imprisonment, dramatic escape, and carefully wrought revenge offers up a vision of France that has become immortal.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (for our love of books and dying printed media)
Guy Montag, a fire-fighter and book-burner for the State, discovers that in order to remain human he must preserve the books that attest to his humanity in this classic science fiction novel.

The adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (a truly American classic!)
"The adventures of Tom Sawyer is the story of a boy's adventures growing up in a small town on the banks of the Mississippi river over a hundred years ago. The cheerful, adventurous hero plays truant to form a pirate band and, together with his best friend, Hucleberry Finn, finds fun and excitement, and buried treasure, along the shores of the great river"--

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Avatar for user 'aarynb'

aarynb | June 1, 2010 at 7:03 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

I've said it recently and I'll say it again: I'm in a short story state of mind.
I propose:

"Alone With You" by Marisa Silver;
"The Boat' by Nam Le;
or please, oh please, there is something for everyone in...
"A Kind of Flying" by Ron Carlson (my hero! le sigh).

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone | June 1, 2010 at 8:44 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

@bereKPBS: Other cities have certainly gone with the classics, including "Fahrenheit 451" and "To Kill a Mockingbird." These are obviously high school friendly choices, one of the requirements. Thanks for the reminder.

@aarynb: (full disclosure, aarynb is a Culture Lust contributor) Short stories is an interesting idea, though I wonder if the category is at all feasible at this stage. For four years now, all of the selected books have been non-fiction! I'm just hoping we can make the leap to fiction.

To your short story list, I would add anything by Alice Munro. You have to lend me the Ron Carlson; I've never read him.

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Avatar for user 'Joanne Faryon'

Joanne Faryon, KPBS Staff | June 2, 2010 at 12:31 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

Love Alice Munroe. Can I add another wonderful Canadian author to the list - Carol Shields. Larry's Party, Happenstance, The Stone Diaries.
Angela, will order "Where I Was From" tonight. Thanks for the tip.

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Avatar for user 'Christi'

Christi | June 3, 2010 at 10:46 a.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

I loved Outcasts United and Three Cups of Tea. Thoroughly disliked The Zookeeper's Wife and haven't read Enrique's Journey.

I'd like to suggest Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. From Publisher's Weekly: "Today's kids are increasingly disconnected from the natural world, says child advocacy expert Louv (Childhood's Future; Fatherlove; etc.), even as research shows that "thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can... be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorder and other maladies." Instead of passing summer months hiking, swimming and telling stories around the campfire, children these days are more likely to attend computer camps or weight-loss camps: as a result, Louv says, they've come to think of nature as more of an abstraction than a reality. Indeed, a 2002 British study reported that eight-year-olds could identify Pokémon characters far more easily than they could name "otter, beetle, and oak tree." Gathering thoughts from parents, teachers, researchers, environmentalists and other concerned parties, Louv argues for a return to an awareness of and appreciation for the natural world. Not only can nature teach kids science and nurture their creativity, he says, nature needs its children: where else will its future stewards come from? Louv's book is a call to action, full of warnings—but also full of ideas for change."

It's one of the books that we're all passing around my workplace. Other books include: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach; The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why by Amanda Ripley; The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs; All Politics is Local by Tip O'Neill; Cadallic Desert by Marc Reisner; Denialism by Michael Specter; Fit to Live by Pamela Peeke.

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Avatar for user 'judge'

judge | June 4, 2010 at 10:54 a.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

The Help by Kathryn Stockett - a surprisingly realistic portrayal of race relations in 1962 Jackson Mississippi. An easy read. The characters are well developed and the questions posed profound: Why do we trust black women with our children, but not our silver?

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak: two novels in one. A middle aged New Jersey housewife is a reader for a publisher and reads Sweet Blasphemy which is about the famous 13th Century Muslim poet Rumi and his freindship with the itinerant Sufi dervish Shams of Tabriz. What is it about the 12th and 13th centuries? Eleanor of Aquitane wrote the rules of courtly love and Rufi wrote some of the most beautiful love poetry . . . the book is an easy read. The characters are well drawn . . . the 40 rules are incorporated into the dual plotlines. I loved this book.

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Avatar for user 'Stephanie Lloyd'

Stephanie Lloyd | June 4, 2010 at 12:58 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

I am inclined to agree with aarynb, it's the year of the short story!

My vote is for Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. :)

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Avatar for user 'WANorcross'

WANorcross | June 4, 2010 at 6:07 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

Although it was published in 1997, I only recently read Pete Hamill's Snow in August at the insistence of a friend. I thought it was an engrossing and wonderful read, appealing to a wide audience, including high school students. It deals with racism, antiSemitism, poverty, bullying, the ethical issues of silence upon witnessing evil, Jackie Robinson's debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, urban life in 1940's America, all mixed with healthy doses of magical realism. The protagonist is a child/adolescent in post-WWII Brooklyn. The writing is not Hemingway, but it is competent, and in places quite good.

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Avatar for user 'expat'

expat | June 7, 2010 at 2:21 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

Charles Brockton Brown - Arthur Mervyn. Brilliant writing, and a plot that sounds like it is lifted right off the front pages...except the book is from 1800. That oughta be worth a discussion, although getting Chuck for a radio ad is going to be a tough one. ;)

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Avatar for user 'Lorena'

Lorena | June 8, 2010 at 2:45 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

I agree with aarynb - I absolutely loved Nam Le's "The Boat." I also liked berekpbs' suggestion regarding an old classic; my favorite book is "The Catcher in the Rye" and it would be great to reread it following Salinger's death, as an homage of sorts.

But, I'd also suggest 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, Junot Diaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." While it's a mild fantasy, at its core, the story is about an immigrant family and I think that would resonate with San Diegans.

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Avatar for user 'bereKPBS'

bereKPBS | June 8, 2010 at 4:24 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

if it is short story year, I totally agree with Stephanie Lloyd, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri is a beautiful book! one of my favorite short stories books ever!

Also, as mentioned above, any short stories collection by Alice Munro will be exceptional!

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone | June 8, 2010 at 4:32 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

@expat: Ha! Yes, those radio promos are important.

To everyone on Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" - Tom Fudge (KPBS health reporter) just finished this collection and recommended it to me - just days before all of you began raving about it here.

Now I must read it! Let's see if the committee takes note.

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Avatar for user 'ClairemontLover'

ClairemontLover | June 8, 2010 at 8:27 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

I would highly recommend a book that was written by a 24 year resident of San Diego. It's "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina". This is a memoir of a San Diego tourist who was trapped in the Superdome. With the 5th Anniversary of Katrina coming up this year I think it's important that we all reflect on what went on in New Orleans. As we know, what the media reported initially didn't necessarily jive with what happened. This book has received all outstanding reviews and is available as an e-book (Kindle, Nook, iPhone, Blackberry, etc.) too so audio can be enabled.

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Avatar for user 'esturtz'

esturtz | June 9, 2010 at 8:19 a.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

I recommend "The Blue Sweater" by Jaqueline Novogratz. I heard an interview she did with NPR awhile back and immediately bought her book. It really motivates you to think outside of your own personal world and see how you can change the lives of others for the better. We could all learn from this book!

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Avatar for user 'KathleenD'

KathleenD | June 9, 2010 at 10:06 a.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

I also recommend "The Help" by Katherine Stockett. It was the best book I've read in a long time. I did not want to put it down. I believe it would inspire a great discussion about history, literature, parenting and race relations now and then.

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Avatar for user 'dres'

dres | June 9, 2010 at 12:59 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

"One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez

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Avatar for user 'hinaekian'

hinaekian | June 9, 2010 at 10:56 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

I would suggest the book "Armenian Golgotha" by Grigoris Balakian, written in Armenian around 1915 and translated into English by his great nephew Balakian, professor at Colgate University. It was on the New York Times bestseller list last year.
Wonderful book describing this priest's day to day living during the Armenian Genocide of l915 perpetrated by the Turks, when he was sent on to march with innocent people and how he kept up their spirits. It is a gripping tale (true story) of a human tragedy. The American public will learn a great deal from this book.

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Avatar for user 'thurberberber'

thurberberber | June 10, 2010 at 1:38 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

Just an Ordinary Day: The Uncollected Stories Of Shirley Jackson

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Avatar for user 'Jocelyn'

Jocelyn | June 16, 2010 at 8:51 a.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

Interpreter of Maladies seems like a good choice to me.

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Avatar for user 'Jocelyn'

Jocelyn | June 16, 2010 at 8:49 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

Actually, if we get to propose any book, I propose a Prayer For Owen Meany because it is my all time favorite, and I'm always trying to get people to read it.

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Avatar for user 'ehcarey'

ehcarey | June 17, 2010 at 2:51 p.m. ― 6 years, 9 months ago

My vote goes to Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. A different view of the complexities of our food delivery system, its problems and a solution. Great reading.

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Avatar for user 'fictionality'

fictionality | July 1, 2010 at 3 p.m. ― 6 years, 8 months ago

Alive in Necropolis is a great book the takes place in the SF Bay Area. Or I would recommend a fiction book by a local author.

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Avatar for user 'JRedmond'

JRedmond | July 14, 2010 at 8:19 a.m. ― 6 years, 8 months ago

I agree with fictionality" and I suggest a short-story collection, "Tequila, Lemon, and Salt: From Baja, tales of love, faith--and magic" by beloved Tecate author Daniel Reveles, winner of the Theodore Geisel award, among many others honors. The border region is so full of color and life, and this author, who's been called the "O'Henry of Baja" nails it so perfectly! (Full disclosure: I work for the book's publisher).
I also love "Oscar Wao" and "One Hundred Years of Solitude" since they are both by brilliant writers, but since we have an equally great writer (Reveles) in our midst--let's celebrate him! Hear him read a free story download at
PS I love the Kingsolver book, but it's so regional--for a different region!

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Avatar for user 'jeffsloan'

jeffsloan | July 14, 2010 at 12:22 p.m. ― 6 years, 8 months ago

I would second "The Blue Sweater" and add William Kamkwamba's "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" which tells the story of a 14 year old boy living through the drought in Malawi in the early 2000's who transformed his life and that of his village by building a windmill out of "junk" The story is much more than that though, it is a riveting tale of growing up as a young boy in a land subsistance farming that is soon racked by famine, in a family that watches the family farm fail due to no fault of their own, and a story of one boy's determination to as he says "I try, and I made it!" This is a story about much more than building a windmill, it is a story of African culture, of overcoming adversity and of the human spirit!

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Avatar for user 'sander1'

sander1 | July 20, 2010 at 6:03 p.m. ― 6 years, 8 months ago

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Excellent novel set in 1960's Mississippi depicting relations between white employers and the black women who worked as the housekeepers, nannys, and cooks. Incorporates important related historic events.

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Avatar for user 'mlaiuppa'

mlaiuppa | July 20, 2010 at 11:32 p.m. ― 6 years, 8 months ago

I see the three books are already selected. I have no interest in reading any of them and so will not vote. Whichever one wins, I will not be reading it. I had no interest in reading this year's selection either.

I would have like to see The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein nominated. It is out in paperback (CostCo has it), is available in an audio selection (very nice, I have that too) and is age appropriate for High School. In fact, one of my students read it and liked it very much. He even recommended it to the next person in line when he returned it to the library.

It has many themes, dealing with death, divorce and life, all told through the eyes of a dog. There is love, car racing and the struggle of a single father to keep his daughter. There is also cruelty, all in the name of 'good intentions'. There is much in this book to jumpstart discussions at book club.

It is a fabulous book that appeals to a much wider range of readers than any of the three nominees. I'm not sure who is on this committee that is selecting the three finalists, but they've been doing worse and worse each year. Four non-fiction books in a row? I rest my case.

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Avatar for user 'Nathan Gibbs'

Nathan Gibbs | July 22, 2010 at 12:41 p.m. ― 6 years, 8 months ago

Voting is open for the three selected choices:

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Avatar for user 'rayjoe'

rayjoe | July 29, 2010 at 4:12 p.m. ― 6 years, 8 months ago

It sounds as if I'm too late to suggest a book for One Book One San Diego.

Oh well. But regardless of whether I'm late or not, I want to let you know about a great book a friend gave me to read. It's titled LOOKS EASY ENOUGH, A Joyful Memoir of Overcoming Disease, Divorce, and Disaster. The story takes place in San Diego, but is relevant almost everywhere and deals with overcoming adversity. At first I thought the book was an inspirational story, then I thought it was comedy, then a love story, and then . . . the author even shows us, the reader, how to build a house. The book is all of these, and much more. At times I was crying, at times I was laughing, but most of all I was inspired - to that see this guy (the author), this average Joe, could make it through this exceptionally hard time in his life, then there is no reason that I can't also make it through my own tough times.

Paraphrasing the back cover: After working as an architect for twenty-five years, the author decided at the age of forty-six to marry for the first time, retire, and move to a small mountain town to live the simple life and build their dream home. Instead, he found himself supporting his wife through breast cancer, helping his sister through a grueling four-year divorce from an abusive husband, painfully witnessing their retirement money circle the drain in the biggest stock market crash since the Great Depression, and watching as a thousand-foot wall of smoke and raging flames approached their home, the home they spent the last three years building themselves, before turning it into a six-inch layer of ash. Yet, through it all - cancer, divorce, a forest fire, and a market crash - the author sees what he calls the big picture view of life, THE MAGIC, and comes out smiling.

Definitely my choice for One Book One San Diego.

One man's humble opinion,
Ray Joseph

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Avatar for user 'rayjoe'

rayjoe | July 30, 2010 at 12:44 p.m. ― 6 years, 7 months ago

I too would place my vote for the most inspiring story I have run across in a long time - LOOKS EASY ENOUGH, A Joyful Memoir of Overcoming Disease, Divorce and Disaster. What makes Mr. Stevenson's story so relevant to me and my family is that we too lost our home in Scripps Ranch in the same Cedar Fire. Reading Mr. Stevenson's account gave me a whole new way to look at our tragic experience. The new outlook I got from reading his book has literally changed my life. I now look back at our loss with much less sadness and despair and have the strength to meet any new challenge/loss head-on knowing that I will come through a better person. Thank you Mr. Stevenson and thank you Mr. Joseph for posting your vote as well.

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Avatar for user 'DebbieT'

DebbieT | August 2, 2010 at 10:28 a.m. ― 6 years, 7 months ago

The Poisonwood Bible is one of my all-time favorites.

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Avatar for user 'nkreile'

nkreile | August 9, 2010 at 12:40 p.m. ― 6 years, 7 months ago

I recommend Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. These connected short stories make a lasting impression on the horrors of the Viet Nam war. Important stuff!

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Avatar for user 'bmodesto'

bmodesto | November 2, 2011 at 2:26 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

I recommend Nomad Diaries by Yasmeen Maxamuud. It is a riveting story, revealing the true hardships faced by the Somalian people as they immigrated to the United States. Readers will weep and celebrate with the characters of the book as they journey with them through the tragedies and joys they experience through both their country’s brutal civil war and the harsh realities of an immigrant life.

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Avatar for user 'Hass'

Hass | November 5, 2011 at 9:07 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

I agree with bmodesto with the suggestion of Nomad Diaries, by San Diegan Yasmeen, its truly an inspiring immigrant story that need to be shared This is a story of struggles, hope, and triumphs of immigrant family in the new country America , as the author puts it " America through the eyes of its newest immigrants".

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Avatar for user 'gsness'

gsness | March 8, 2013 at 5:27 p.m. ― 4 years ago

One book comes to mind that I believe everyone should read, from high school on up. It is "The Art of Happiness" by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama (you know, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner?) This book truly inspires and helps us think about how we can live happy and productive lives, while dealing with the setbacks that we all face at times. It provides sound advice everyone can use for leading a peaceful, happy and enriched life, without fabricated philosophy or psychobabble. A new look at life!

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