Endless Summer: Book Reviews by Library For All

Nothing beats a good book and a cup of coffee. Reading allows us to instantly enter into the mind of a stranger and by the end of it, we have made a new friend. It pushes us beyond the boundaries of time, knowledge and space, opening us up to new worlds and multiple lives – such is the power of a book.

At Library For All, we love our books and remain committed to spreading this love through our cause of bringing knowledge to empower communities across the globe. While we read about the world, we want to make the world read.

As summer draws to a close, we wanted to share with you some of our best picks under the sun (literally) with a little something for everyone! Check out our list below: 

1. For the Inspiration Seeker: Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist – by Karen Wallow Prior, Eric Metaxas

As most of my team knows, I am almost exclusively a non-fiction reader. To most of you that probably seems ultra boring, I get it. I just really like to learn things and I like to use my subway rides to stretch my brain. With that being said I recently picked up the biography of Hannah More. Hannah was one of the times most admired female poets and authors. She could have enjoyed the trappings of fame and notoriety but instead used her connections and influence to change the course of history. She joined forces with famous change-makers and took on various social issues – slave trade, illiteracy, animal welfare – that she saw vital to the easing of suffering and betterment of others. I doubt there was a more influential and passionate female at the time and her journey, struggles, battles and wins have certainly inspired me this summer.

Rebecca McDonald, Co-Founder and CEO

2. For the Romantic: Lila – by Marilynne Robinson

I read recently, a beautifully written short tale about two people who, after pretty traumatic lives, unexpectedly find each other and find love. I chose it because I was at the most romantic little bookstore in DC and it was the closest thing to me. The author is a Pulitzer Prize winner, so I thought I couldn’t go wrong!

Tanyella Evans, Co-Founder and COO

3. For the Literature Lover: All The Light We Cannot See – by Anthony Doerr

This book was one of those treasured finds; the take it with me everywhere I go, rush to get to a quiet reading place, mind always distantly puzzling through the story, kind of reads. The novel interweaves the story of a young, blind French girl in Paris during with that of a young German boy, tricked into joining an academy for Hitler Youth and torturously coaxed into fighting in the war. I suppose for me, both the beauty and the tragedy of the novel lay in the way author Anthony Doerr so lovingly painted the innocence of both children, only to then so quickly destroy it. For the first hundred pages, he made me fall in love with their curiosity and vivaciousness. He then made me anxiously turn pages as they unknowingly became opponents in a war that neither one of them wanted to happen in the first place.

Yes, it was a beautiful story, but more so, it was a somewhat strange portrayal of my view of our world today- a harsh reminder to me that behind every war (the list of them today is too tragically long), there are soldiers who were once just innocent kids, many of whom would rather be anywhere than in the war, and many of whom may otherwise have been friends had they not become opponents. I suppose it made me realize how easy it is for us all to put labels to sides, but how important it is to also humanize them.

Isabel Sheinman, Director of Business Development

4. For the Time-Traveler: Shadow of the Wind – by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Highly recommended! The plot of this mystery novel set in Barcelona follows a young boy being taken to the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” – a labyrinth of books where each book awaits someone to choose it and make it a part of his/her life, thereby renewing its own lost life. I chose this book per recommendation of my father, who almost exclusively reads Spanish literature, and knows I enjoy novels of this genre – generally Gabriel García Márquez style authors. I thoroughly enjoy being taken to another place and time and becoming wrapped up in a story, particularly when on the beach during a sunny day!

Jessica Cordero, Programs Officer

5. For the History Buff: Tamil Tigress – by Niromi de Soyza

This is a heart-wrenching autobiography which details Niromi’s decision to voluntarily enlist as a female combatant in the Tamil Tigers. It outlines her struggles during this period, and explores the constant inner conflict she feels as she embarks on a violent struggle to obtain freedom for her people. I chose to read this book for very personal reasons. As a Sri Lankan who migrated to Australia at age two, I was extremely sheltered from the difficulties, discrimination and loss of hope experienced by Tamil women in Sri Lanka. I wanted to attain a deeper understanding of what life was like for them, but through the eyes of a woman who had been involved in the conflict in every sense.

Taniya Benedict, Programs Volunteer

6. For the Internationally-Minded: Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go – A novel of Haiti by Laura Rose Wagner

I absolutely loved this quick and easy read! It follows the story of two teenage cousins, Magdalie and Nadine, who survive the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The earthquake devastatingly took their mother and therefore forced the girls to be homeless and on their own, fending for themselves after the quake.  The girls stick closely together until Nadine leaves for Miami to live with her father, forcing Magdalie to stay in Haiti alone. Magdalie realises that she must fight on and embrace her new life. Laura Wagner captures the aftermath of the earthquake and the life of remarkable and resilient Magdalie. You won’t want to put this down!

Georgia Tyndale, Content Manager

7. For the Emotional Spirit: Paula – by Isabel Allende

I had never read any of Allende’s work before, but after reading a few reviews, I was excited to experience one of her stories. Paula began as a letter written from Allende to her comatose daughter, suffering from porphyria. The letter developed into an autobiographical story detailing Allende’s rise through journalism, parenthood and exile after the Chilean coup of 1975.

Noel McKenzie, Operations Manager

8. For the Satire Lover: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I chose this book because I had always meant to read it in high school. One of those classics that never really left my head, and I am so glad I finally picked it up! This dark yet comical war novel had me both laughing and near tears at the events that occurred during World War II, specifically the firebombing of Dresden in 1945. At the beginning of the book, Vonnegut shifts from his own train of thought about his connection to the bombing to the story of Billy Pilgrim, an American prisoner of war in Dresden in 1945 who was deeply affected by his experience. He’s just 18 years old when he experiences the cruelest of human experiences: he’s captured, starved, beaten and then made to come face to face with the people killed by the city’s horrible bombing. Sounds crazy that this story could even scratch the surface of being funny, but I think that’s exactly what makes it one of the greatest novels of its time. Vonnegut’s style is pure genius, blending crass humor with beautiful written descriptions about one’s experience with war.

Katherine Stephans, Partnerships & Communications Manager

9. For the Deep Thinker: All About Love: New Visions – by Bell Hooks

Love: not a lot of intellectuals ever attempt seriously discussing the subject, and people often laugh at college courses that contain the mention of it outside of the context of poetry. Bell Hooks does an amazing job of aggregating and summarizing the history of the study of love pointing out how rarely the female voice enters into the conversation pointing out the irony of how men are reluctant to discuss it. She explores gender issues around this reluctance and why is it so important that love exists for the development of children. I enjoyed the adventure of trying to define love and the intelligent thought and research that Hooks applies.

Cameron Moss, Developer

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Reading is a beautiful way to discover new meanings of happiness, love, strength and pain. As Library For All works towards transforming the lives of the underprivileged youth, we aspire to transport them to spaces outside of their own and expose them to a world of all possibilities and challenges, using books.

Another interesting read our team came across was the following article where Michael suggests that reading also increases your confidence, compassion and decisiveness. There you go, “Today a reader, Tomorrow a leader!”. We are confident that it is this knowledge and experience that will develop the young minds we are reaching out to and allow them to build great futures for themselves.

As we transition into fall, instead of laying on the beach, let’s curl up in our sofas and enjoy the simple pleasures of life – like a good book and a cup of coffee.