Immerse yourself in captivating stories from around the world that illuminate key political and social issues. As the famous Sudbury Book Fair approaches, we asked international affairs expert Aurélie Lacassagne to recommend some thought-provoking reads to transport you across the globe.
From prescient dystopian fiction to first-hand war reporting, these selections will challenge your perspectives and spark reflection. Some are modern publications, and others are time-tested classics full of enduring insights.
Exposing Division and Oppression
1984 by George Orwell (1949)
This chilling dystopian novel envisions a world of government surveillance, propaganda, and totalitarian control. Orwell’s vivid depiction of systemic oppression serves as a stark warning about the dangers of divisive ideologies taken to the extreme.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
Atwood paints a disturbing portrait of a near-future America ruled by Christian fundamentalists who subjugate women and strip them of all rights. An unforgettable examination of sexism, reproductive rights, and authoritarian regimes.
“Books are never written in a vacuum. Even when there’s imagination and creativity involved, there are always real world influences on the writer, whether conscious or not.” – Aurélie Lacassagne
Exploring Identity and Belonging
Murderous Identities by Amin Maalouf (1998)
Maalouf, one of Lacassagne’s favorite authors, dissects how flawed conceptions of identity can breed intolerance and violence. A nuanced analysis that promotes acceptance and warns against simplistic “us vs them” mentalities.
All We Are Saying by Jean-Marc Dalpé (1999)
This play by Franco-Ontarian author Dalpé movingly explores cultural displacement and the struggle to reconcile multiple identities. An empathetic look at the immigrant experience in Canada.
“I can’t recommend Amin Maalouf enough, especially ‘Murderous Identities’. Since writing it, he’s been inducted into the prestigious Académie Française.” – Aurélie Lacassagne
Discovering Overlooked Voices
I’ll Dance on Senghor’s Grave by Blaise Ndala (2014)
A coming-of-age story about family bonds, sexual identity, and post-colonial politics in Africa. Lacassagne calls this novel by Franco-Ontarian author Ndala one of her top recent reads.
Emerging from the Dark Night by Achille Mbembe (2010)
Philosopher Mbembe offers a profound meditation on Africa’s complex colonial legacies and path toward an enlightened future. An eye-opening challenge to Western misconceptions.
“Blaise Ndala’s ‘I’ll Dance on Senghor’s Grave’ is one of my favorite Franco-Ontarian works in recent years.” – Aurélie Lacassagne
Visually Engaging Storytelling
Pyongyang by Guy Delisle (2004)
Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle (2007)
Jerusalem by Guy Delisle (2011)
Delisle’s illustrated travelogues vividly capture his experiences in authoritarian societies through evocative visuals combined with incisive text. Lacassagne highly recommends Burma Chronicles in particular for insight into that troubled nation.
“Burma Chronicles is a must-read to understand the country’s ongoing Rohingya crisis.” – Aurélie Lacassagne
Brave War Reporting
The Fog of War by Anne Nivat (2011)
War Bitch by Anne Nivat (2000)
Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich (2013)
Legacy of Spies by John Le Carré (2018)
Nivat’s raw dispatches straight from conflict zones provide unmatched first-hand perspectives on the human costs of war. Le Carré’s timeless espionage thrillers likewise offer chilling insights into geopolitical machinations.
“Anne Nivat is one of those fearless journalists willing to risk everything to bear witness from the frontlines of war.” – Aurélie Lacassagne
These selections only scratch the surface of the captivating stories out there to transport you across borders, expand perspectives, and illuminate our shared human experiences. Let these books spark your curiosity about unfamiliar places and people. The Sudbury Book Fair is the perfect place to continue discovering new worlds between the pages.
Frequently Asked Questions
What types of books does Aurélie recommend?
Aurélie suggests various fiction and non-fiction books spanning genres from dystopian novels and war reporting to post-colonial literature and illustrated travelogues. Her recommendations illuminate global political and social issues.
What are some key elements of the recommended books?
Many deal with themes of oppression, identity, belonging, and forgotten voices. Some are prescient speculative fiction while others offer first-hand perspectives from conflict zones. The books provide insights into diverse cultures and challenge Western assumptions.
Why does reading global literature matter?
These stories can expand our worldviews, teach empathy, spark reflection on political and social issues, illuminate shared human struggles, and transport us to unfamiliar places. Books help us grow as global citizens.
Who is Aurélie Lacassagne?
She is an associate professor of political science at Laurentian University who shares her insights on international affairs each Tuesday on CBC Radio’s Le Matin du Nord morning show. Her book recommendations draw on her expertise.