5 Summer Reads You Can't Put Down

Written by
FH staff writer
Published on
June 27, 2023 at 4:26:00 PM PDT June 27, 2023 at 4:26:00 PM PDTth, June 27, 2023 at 4:26:00 PM PDT

Diversify your summer reading with this supercharged list of our five favourite reads for August. Oh, wait, there’s a bonus #6 at the end! 

One of the best ways to expand our horizons is to get inside the mind and experiences of other cultures through their own storytelling. This list takes us on a tour of the Middle East, Africa, and Central America. In honour of International Youth Day (August 12), we’ve also included two autobiographical novels where the authors tell the complex tales of their childhoods. 

So, grab your library card, e-reader, or favourite online ordering app and get these titles right away!

1. Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri 

Everything Sad is Untrue (A True Story) weaves fact and fiction to tell the story of young Khosrou, an Iranian refugee who went from being a prince of Persia to a poor outcast bullied by his Oklhahoma classmates. You will laugh and cry and tap strangers on the shoulder in the coffee shop to read them shocking paragraphs out loud. Nayeri doesn’t shy away from tackling heavy issues like religious persecution, domestic violence, bullying, and more head-on, but all with the humour and practicality of a middle school boy. He also asks poignant questions of the reader, like, “Would you rather have a god who listens or a god who speaks?” Think about it.

Everything Sad is Untrue was first published in 2020 and won the Michael L. Printz Award, the Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature, and the Middle East Book Award for Literature. Watch a video intro to the book or listen to this 8-minute NPR interview with the author to get a feel for what you’re getting into!

2. The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan 

As tensions rise between and within Israel and Palestine this summer, now is the right time to read this thought-provoking, heart-tugging story based on a real encounter. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a Palestinian man, Bashir, and an Israeli woman, Dalia. Both families have a claim to the house with the lemon grove. Dangerously located on the “green line border” between Israel and the West Bank, the house becomes a centre of tension, refuge, and dialogue as the decades of complex political and cultural events roll on.

3. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

In Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, comedian, television personality, and all-around great guy, Trevor Noah, shares his experiences growing up as a mixed-race child in a politically oppressive environment. With a black South African mother and a white Swiss father, Trevor’s very existence was illegal in apartheid-era South Africa. This autobiographical novel slips in keen insights into South Africa’s complex cultures, systems, and history. This is a must-read for all of us living in mixed-culture environments and grappling with histories of systemic injustice. 

4. Escaping the Fire by Tomás Guzaro

 A story of rescue and redemption, Escaping the Fire: How an Ixil Mayan Pastor Led His People Out of a Holocaust During the Guatemalan Civil War is a gripping true story that gives keen insight into the history and experiences of the communities FH Canada works with in Guatemala. During the height of the Guatemalan civil war, Tomás Guzaro, a Mayan evangelical pastor, led more than two hundred fellow Mayas out of guerrilla-controlled Ixil territory and into the relative safety of the government army's hands. This exodus was one of the factors that caused the guerrillas to lose their grip on the Ixil, thus hastening the return of peace to the area. This autobiographical novel is a sober, yet hopeful story of suffering, rescue, and redemption.

5. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe 

This heart-rending work of historical fiction gives keen insight into the social, familial, and spiritual impact of European colonialism in West Africa. First published in 1959, Things Fall Apart is Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe’s debut novel and stands as his most famous to this day. You’ll quickly recognize why this classic, now half a century old, stands as required reading throughout most of English-speaking Africa and much of the wider English-speaking community around the world.