Khaled Hosseini's All-time Favorite Summer Reads
by Tamim Ansary
Ansary's memoir hails back to an Afghanistan most people have forgotten, one I personally remember fondly and recreated in my book, an Afghanistan living in peaceful anonymity, a "lost world" of walled villages, extended family networks, a world where instead of television, "we had genealogy." His prose is rich with the sounds and smells of this old world, but it transcends mere nostalgia. Tamim's memories serve as tools for his keen observations about the social and political mores of that time, about ripples in the calm way of life which led in part to the communist coup -see the chapter "Unintended Consequences."
Islam, A Short History
by Karen Armstrong
A concise and easy to read revision of Islam and its roots, told by one of the world's top scholars. An important book in this world climate.
Funny in Farsi
by Firoozeh Dumas
In one word: Hilarious. I recognized so many of my own relatives in this tale of an Iranian girl growing up in the U.S., living in a family of lovable eccentrics.
A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
Irving's Owen Meany, the diminutive, self appointed vehicle of God's will, is one of the most unforgettable characters of contemporary fiction. A lyrical coming of age story, perfect for the dog days of summer.
by Ha Jin
A story of infinite patience and boundless love, told in deceptively simple prose. As an aside, make sure you have access to food nearby; Jin's descriptions of food will make your stomach grumble.
The Dark Tower Series
by Stephen King
A delicious mix of pop culture, mythology, the old west, and Stephen King's trademark edge of the seat prose. My favorite is Wizard and Glass, the fourth in the series, a love story set in a parallel, old west world complete with bad guys, a nasty witch, and a damsel in distress.
Interpreter of Maladies
by Jhumpa Lahiri
Stories of immigrants and expatriates assimilating in a new home. Lahiri's gift is telling stories in a breezy, seamless manner, yet charging them with a sense of urgency that keeps you turning the pages.
by Ian McEwan
An elegantly told story of guilt and redemption, and a heartrending, whopper of an epilogue.
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
by ZZ Packer
The opening story alone, Brownies, is worth cover price. Then come stories of alienation, disillusionment, and despair. ZZ writes her characters with respect and intelligence, using the kind of exacting details that make them leap from the page.
Chang and Eng
by Darin Strauss
A fictionalized account of the famous Siamese twins, told with wit, sympathy, and a persistent sense of longing. Read the first page and you won't stop.