Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What are you reading in August?

It's been a productive reading time for me this month.  I hope you will take the opportunity to check out some of these books.

ja 1. John A: The Man Who Made Us by Richard Gwyn. To my shame, I admit that this is one of the first books on Canadian history that I have ever read and the first on one of our prime ministers. That said, I could not have picked a better one to start with. A highly entertaining and educational read, this book is the first of a two-volume set by Richard Gwyn on the life of Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald. I highly recommend it.

mtc 2. Meditations on the Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A collection of sermon by the famous German martyr on the theme of the cross. Certainly a mixed bag, as far as a collection is concerned. Some of them are excellent (e.g. the chapters on discipleship and the cross and the treasures of suffering). Others are almost incomprehensible (i.e. almost anything taken from his book Ethics). I had considered making this book available to our supporters but decided against it after having read it. I am afraid that too many would be disappointed.

bttp 3. Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus. Written by the man who is recognized as the creator of microcredit as a means of helping the poor and who won a Nobel Peace prize for it. Tells the story of how Yunus began and developed the concept small loans to the poor in Bangladesh as a means of helping them help themselves and how this continues to be perhaps the most effective means of really assisting the poor; far more so that providing handouts or relief aid. This is an important book that project officers working in developing countries really should read. Highly readable as well.

rh 4. The Return of History and the End of Dreams by Robert Kagan. Interested in understanding world events in the 21st century? Want to know why the hopes and expectations that came after the fall of communism in eastern Europe failed to materialize? Want to know why increased trade does not (and never really has) resulted in increased human rights? Read this book. It only took me a couple of hours but it was well worth it.

durs 5. Dancing Under the Red Star by Karl Tobien. The story of Margaret Werner, an American citizen living in the Soviet Union with her family, who was 17 years old when the secret police came for her father on trumped-up charges of treason. Left destitute, she and her mother fought extreme cold and near starvation, taking whatever jobs they could find. Seven years later, in 1943, the police came for Margaret. Accused of espionage, she was sentenced to 10 years' hard labor in Stalin’s gulag. Tobien, her son, describes the appalling privations and backbreaking work in her Siberian prison camp. We will be making this book available in our monthly newsletter and online in October.

apy 6. The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Kang Chol-hwan. North Korea is today one of the last bastions of hard-line Communism. Its leaders have kept a tight grasp on their one-party regime, quashing any nascent opposition movements and sending all suspected dissidents to its brutal concentration camps for "re-education." Kang Chol-hwan is the first survivor of one of these camps to escape and tell his story to the world, documenting the extreme conditions in these gulags and providing a personal insight into life in North Korea. We will also be making this book available online and in our October newsletter.

That’s it for another month. If you have any books that you would recommend, let us know.

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