In every single one of us there is an instinct to fight or flight. Some of us are better at fighting, whereas the other half of us take off running at the first hint of trouble. Many times we do not have the luxury to contemplate how we will respond in a traumatic situation. We simply allow our brains and bodies to automatically react. If we survive, we may look back and reflect on why we responded the way we did. Luckily, for most of us, we will never have to fully address or witness a major catastrophe. However, we can always speculate on how we would respond in a particular situation. We ask questions such as, “Would I be hero or cowering in fear? Would I live to see another day, or would I die at the first hint of war?” We all like to think we would be the invincible hero, but the fact of reality is that we are never guaranteed the next year, month, day, or minute.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
When Ishmael was twelve his country was attacked by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Trying to escape the violence and carnage, Ishmael is able to survive with a group of boys until he finds himself forcibly recruited into an army of children. He soon discover that he is capable of committing heinous crimes.
Ishmael’s story reveals how someone can witness, participate, and survive the hells of war and still regain entry back into the arms of humanity. His story is not for fainthearted and sometimes it is difficult to think that this young boy, now man, witnessed and committed unthinkable atrocities. His memoir will make readers question if they could have survived the same events.
My only complaint of this book was the audiobook. Read by Ishmael, the book’s format initially confused me. I only realized that Ishmael would talk about his experiences during the war and then switch to his recovery from being a child soldier. The switching back and forth would make me lose my concentration on the storyline. This was especially difficult when I stopped the CD.
I do have one recommendation. I would actually be intrigued to see how well this book would pair with Ender’s Game. Although Ender’s Game is a fictionalized account of children fighting adult wars, it’s pairing with A Long Way Gone will reveal a scary reality.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
On September 6, 1996, a group of hunters discovered an emaciated body in an abandoned van in the Alaskan Wilderness. The body belonged to Christopher McCandless, who is speculated to have died just two weeks from being discovered. Known for his wanderlust, Chris, also known as Alex, sought adventure while abandoning worldly and material possessions. Chris’ largest desire was to walk into the wild and live off the land. He successfully survived off the land for four months before succumbing to starvation.
There has been many theories if McCandless was smart or foolish to attempt this feat. Krakeauer has a very distinct opinion on the matter. I will let readers discover Krakeauer’s stance on McCandless. I personally thought McCandless was trying to understand life without all of its material influences. How many of us have ever questioned what it would be like to walk away from everything and just live off the land. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it before. However, Into the Wild shows that simply walking into the wild is not a walk in the park. Krakauer does an exemplary job (subtly) of showing how society has come to rely on our modern technologies to keep us alive
This book is the ultimate nature survival book. Although it does not have a happy ending, the book will be appealing for both adults and teens.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Louis Zamperini has lived a life of adventure (He is still alive at 97). As a young boy he looked for fights. By the time he was a teen, Zamperini discovered that he excelled at running and even made it to the Berlin Olympics. However, with the advent of World War II, Zamperini enlisted as an airman, but his life would take a drastic turn after a crash into the ocean and Zamperini became a castaway.
This book will grab you by the eyeballs (or ears if you are listening to it) and force you to discover Zamperini’s story. Do not start this at midnight, or you might be late to work.
It seems that everyone has been obsessed with the Titanic at some point in their life. The unsinkable ship that took 68% of its passengers when it sank continues to enthrall people 100 years later.
Andrew Wilson brings a refreshing approach to this popular topic. He discusses how the sinking of the ship impacted the lives of survivors, and how some suffered terrible consequences for surviving.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has ever had a fascination with the Titanic.
102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn
On September 11, 2001, two planes flew into the twin towers in New York City. For 102 minutes, people trapped inside the towers fought to stay survive. Some knew it was the end of their lives, while others held onto their last shred of hope that they will be saved. Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn interviewed and researched how these individuals tried to make every last minute count.