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Citizenship

10 Powerful, Uplifting Summer Reading Books for Global Citizens

A powerful book can transport its reader to any part of the world — no matter how remote. It can put the reader in the shoes of an adolescent girl in India, a teacher in Kenya, or a mother in Afghanistan. 

For some, books are more than just stories. They’re life lessons. They’re motivation. They’re inspiration. 

At Global Citizen, we believe in the power of stories — and action — to create change for the world’s poorest communities. 

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We also know the stories that lead us to take action to end extreme poverty vary depending on our life experiences. 

That’s why we asked Global Citizens to tell us some of the books that helped them broaden their perspective of the world. Here are their suggestions: 

1. “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini

Taking place in Afghanistan over the course of several decades, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” follows the paths of Mariam and Laila — two women of different ages who are nonetheless brought together in shared experiences of trauma and heartbreak. Their experiences — of child marriage, abuse, loss of family members, and displacement — take place in the context of the disruptive political events simultaneously erupting in their country. 

(Suggestion via Global Citizens Scott C. and Yokary C.)

2. "Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracy Kidder

From Haiti to Siberia to Peru, Dr. Paul Farmer brought his vision of not just public health, but also radical hope to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. In “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” journalist Tracy Kidder sheds light on Farmer’s ambitious dream to “cure the world.” 

(Suggestion via Ryan K., Senior Growth Editor at Global Citizen.)

3. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo

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It’s been estimated that more than 5 million people in Mumbai, India, live in informal communities, or slums. Journalist Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” tells the stories of people living in Mumbai’s slum of Annawadi as they try to lift themselves out of extreme poverty in one of the world’s most challenging contexts. 

(Suggestion via Alexandra S., Business Development Manager at Global Citizen.)

4. “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan

The immense emotional and social breach, but also deep, impenetrable love, that exists between immigrant mothers and their daughters forms the backbone of Amy Tan’s multigenerational novel — set in modern-day San Francisco. Over games of mahjong, four Chinese mothers grapple with the implications of displacement and belonging in America. 

(Suggestion via Lianne K., Director of Video Production at Global Citizen.) 

5. “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe

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A novel that takes on one of the defining features of modern human civilization — colonialism — “Things Fall Apart” brings together past and present, old and new, through its towering storytelling. The story follows the challenges Igbo chieftain Okonkwo must face in order to lead his community forward into the future in a new world of colonial conquest.  

(Suggestion via Global Citizens Sapphire S. and Allana F.) 

6. “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Two Nigerian lovers, Ifemelu and Obinze, confront different challenges when they migrate to the United States and United Kingdom, respectively. Each of them must deal with racial discrimination, entrenched gender norms, and other forms of inequality while also hanging onto their precarious long-distance relationship. 

(Suggestion via Global Citizen Sapphire S.)

7. “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

Billed as a YA novel, “The Hate U Give” is a must-read for people of all ages. A young black girl finds herself drawn into a life of activism after her friend is shot by police. She finds herself confronting not just one police officer, but a judicial system that feels destined to fail her. 

(Suggestion via Global Citizen Riley D.)

8. “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond

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What are the three factors that have most influenced the world we know today? Well, if you’re Jared Diamond, those would be “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” Diamond’s insightful analysis of the shaping of the modern world crosses not just geographical but also political, social, racial borders to attempt to answer this monumental question. 

(Suggestion via Global Citizen Bryan R.)

9. “The Emperor of All Maladies” - Siddhartha Mukherjee

“The Emperor of All Maladies” is a book for dreamers — for individuals who have been told that tackling the world’s greatest challenges is impossible. The book has been called a “biography” of cancer, but it’s also a roadmap for what it takes to end it and a call to action for those who believe the world can be made better through persistent effort and collaboration. 

(Suggestion via Global Citizen Bryan R.)

10. “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

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This past year, the #MeToo movement has brought together women (and men) across the globe to call for gender equality. This same topic — gender inequality — was the focal point of “Half the Sky,” published a decade before the movement reached critical mass. The book is a call to arms to end the oppression of women — not just in the United States and Europe, but around the world.  

(Suggestion via Davinia J., Global Citizen Youth Advocate.)