“A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier,” by Ishmael Beah (2007)

JANUARY 5, 2010: I like nonfiction in general, but I love memoirs. There is an intimacy about them that can’t be captured in nonfiction. Ishmael Beah’s “A Long Way Gone” is like that. Beah’s story in his own voice is much more powerful than it would be written by a journalist or biographer. Beah, who got caught in the crossfire of a war in Sierra Leone, digs into the part of his memory that most people like to keep locked up for good. He pulls out horrifying stories of being drugged as a child soldier and brainwashed into committing violent acts during a war he doesn’t understand… READ MORE

“Safe Area Gorazde,” by Joe Sacco (2000)

DECEMBER 10, 2008: I have never been so disturbed by a book before this one. And I have read books about war. But Joe Sacco’s use of art to communicate a story penetrates deeper into the soul than mere words. “Safe Area Gorazde” is a journalistic graphic novel that details life in Gorazde, Bosnia between 1992-1995. Gorazde is a Bosnian town that was surrounded by Serb separatist forces and was designated a safe area by the United Nations… READ MORE

Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21stCentury” (2006)

JANUARY 4, 2008: Worldchanging is a behemoth of a topic to try to cover. The world is 6 billion people and quickly growing, as the book points out, and providing innovating solutions for all of its collective problems is near impossible. Yet, Alex Steffen, and his team at, have asked some important questions of our time and shown us just a glimpse of the good that is already being done. It’s green-colored, leafy design and intro by Al Gore may in some ways misrepresent the full scope of the book… READ MORE

“Scribbling the Cat,” by Alexandra Fuller (2004)

OCTOBER 18, 2007: I haven’t accidentally stumbled on a better writer since I saw Alexandra Fuller speak at Wordstock in Portland in October 2007. Fuller weaves humorous anecdotes and deep philosophical questions about the nature of humanity into this book about “K,” a former Rhodesian soldier returning years later to the battlefields on which he fought. Fuller travels with him desiring to understand the Rhodesian War,which her family supported during her youth in her home country of Zimbabwe…READ MORE