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Books that make you think…

Blood river : a journey to Africa’s broken heart / Tim Butcher – The author recounts his audacious and perilous quest through the Congo as he retraced the 1874 expedition of explorer H. M. Stanley to map the Congo River, traveling alone with an assortment of vehicles, including a motorbike and dugout canoe, and aided by characters ranging from U.N. aid workers to a pygmy-rights advocate.

The book thief / by Markus Zusak – Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel — a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.

Brave new world / Aldous Huxley – Huxley’s classic prophetic novel describes the socialized horrors of a futuristic utopia devoid of individual freedom.

Candide Voltaire – Candide is about a man who believes in the philosophy that: “what happens, happens for the best in the end.” that was taught to him by his personal philosopher Dr. Panlosss. Candide goes through many, many trials and everyone he meets has had something terrible happen to them. He searches the world over for his love Cundgonde. And in the end finds that the simplest things in life: love, friends, and health are all that matters.

The glass bead game : (Magister Ludi) / Hermann Hesse – Set in the twenty-third century, The Glass Bead Game is the story of Joseph Knecht, who has been raised in Castalia, the remote place his society has provided for the intellectual elite to grow and flourish. Since childhood, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and philosophy, which he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi (Master of the Game).

The last lecture / Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow – Reflections of a Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who lectured on “Really achieving your childhood dreams,” shortly after having been diagnosed with terminal cancer. His advice concerned seizing the moment while living, rather than dying.

The law / Frederic Bastiat – Here, in this 1850 classic, a powerful refutation of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, published two years earlier, Bastiat discusses: what is law? — why socialism constitutes legal plunder — the proper function of the law — “the vicious circle of socialism” — the basis for stable government. French political libertarian and economist Claude Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was one of the most eloquent champions of the concept that property rights and individual freedoms flowed from natural law.

The man in my basement : a novel / Walter Mosley – Hailed as a masterpiece-the finest work yet by an American novelist of the first rank-this is the mysterious story of a young black man who agrees to an unusual bargain to save the home that has belonged to his family for generations. Walter Mosley pierces long-hidden veins of justice and morality with startling insight into the deepest mysteries of human nature.

Middlesex / Jeffrey Eugenides – Calliope’s friendship with a classmate and her sense of identity are compromised by the adolescent discovery that she is a hermaphrodite, a situation with roots in her grandparents’ desperate struggle for survival in the 1920s.

Never let me go / Kazuo Ishiguro – From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, comes an unforgettable edge-of-your-seat mystery that is at once heartbreakingly tender and morally courageous about what it means to be human. Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it. Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

Outliers : the story of success / Malcolm Gladwell – Identifies the qualities of successful people, maintaining that culture, family, and idiosyncratic factors can have a decisive impact on shaping high achievers.

Sing, unburied, sing : a novel / Jesmyn Ward – Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds.

Slaughterhouse-five : or, The children’s crusade, a duty-dance with death / by Kurt Vonnegut – Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time, Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

Thinking, fast and slow / Daniel Kahneman – A psychologist draws on years of research to introduce his “machinery of the mind” model on human decision making to reveal the faults and capabilities of intuitive versus logical thinking.