A Year Abroad In Books

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With summer officially in full swing, many of us are finding ourselves entering a slower time of year. If you're finding yourself in this camp and with a little more time to spare, might I suggest picking up a book? Continuing with last week's theme of reading more, I thought I'd lay out some of my favorites from this past year and why I think they're worth the read. These books in particular shaped my Fulbright year, guiding me through many adventures on unaccustomed earth.

Whether you’re cramming in a few minutes of reading during a break, lunch hour, before bed, or spending long hours by the pool, these reads are sure to keep your mind engaged and your soul content:

1. Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris—Tim Ferris hosts one of my favorite podcasts. On his show he features world-class performers in a wide range of fields. I listen to his show to learn more about others’ habits, paths, and motivations, and often incorporate the bits and pieces that work into my life. This book compiles information from 200+ interviews in one place. It’s a longer book, but definitely doesn’t have to be read cover to cover. If you’re looking to improve your productivity, outlook, or motivation, this one’s for you. Choose what works best, discard the rest!

2. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl—this is an older book written by a Holocaust survivor chronicling his time at Auschwitz. In the book, Frankl details the way in which he coped with the trauma of daily life in the camp. Here’s a glimpse of the kind of wisdom it imparts: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”. For anyone going through a rough time, this is an especially poignant read.

3. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri—I read this book in two sittings and only stopped reading because I had to leave my house for work. This was a wonderful work spanning eight stories that chronicle the ups and downs of familial generational conflict, cultural assimilation, and the complicated nature of leaving your homeland and putting down roots in “unaccustomed earth”. 

4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates—Living abroad provided many stunning revelations of how easy it is to assume that we understand an issue, and yet be superficial in our treatment of it. For me, that meant rethinking the immigrant experience as it relates to my own family. Given my fragile understanding of an experience that was so close to my heart, I decided to take the year to reexamine other issues and concepts I felt I had a fairly good grasp on. Coates was part of that process. Written as a letter to his son, this book offers a gripping account of what it means to be black in America.

5. Chasing the Flame by Samantha Power—disclaimer this is a (very) long book that I found incredibly appealing because I’m a fan of Sam Power’s writing. It’s a deep dive into the life and career of Sergio Vieira de Mello, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who died in the 2003 Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad. In an era where hope and idealism might often seem audacious and dated, I found it inspiring to read about the life of a person who managed to nurture a strain of idealism throughout his career—even as he confronted genocide and the most depraved human behavior conceivable. The book traces his early days in the U.N. and will take you to Bangladesh, East Timor, and Bosnia to name a few places. If you’re interested in international affairs, diplomacy, or simply want to be inspired by a brilliant career, this is for you!

 

Happy reading and feel free to leave any book recommendations down below!