JESUIT COMMITMENT HEROIC JOURNEY READING LIST
2012 - 2013
FRESHMEN COMMITMENT
Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
Chinese Cinderella – Adeline Yen Mah
Copper Sun – Susan Draper
In the Time of Butterflies – Julia Alvarez
Kaffir Boy – Mark Mathabane
The Weight of All Things – Sandra Benitez
Under a War Torn Sky - L. M. Elliott
Under the Sun – Arthur Dorros
SOPHOMORE COMMITMENT
A Bag of Marbles – Joseph Joffo
A Long Way Gone – Ishmael Beah
Angelina Jolie’s Notes from My Travels – Angelina Jolie
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race…- Christopher McDougall
Left to Tell – Immaculee Ilibagiza
Shanghai Diary – Ursla Bacon
Snow Falling in Spring – Moying Li
The Long Walk – Slavomir Rawicz
Weeping Under This Same Moon – Jana Laiz
JUNIOR COMMITMENT
Cry, the Beloved Country – Alan Paton
Gifted Hands – Ben Carson
Mountains Beyond Mountains – Tracey Kidder
Sarah’s Key – Tatiana DeRosnay
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – Lisa See
Stones into Schools – Greg Mortenson
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
The Flying Carpet – Hala Jaber
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay
This Our Exile – James Martin, S.J.
SENIOR COMMITMENT
A Mighty Heart – Mariane Pearl
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jamie Ford
Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal – Conor Grennan
Sold - Patricia McCormick
The Cellist of Sarajevo – Steven Galloway
The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa
The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders – E. Guibert
The Soloist – Steve Lopez
Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
LEADERSHIP BOOKS
Sophomores: Student Leadership Challenge – James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Juniors: Heroic Leadership – Chris Lowney
Seniors: Heroic Living – Chris Lowney
FRESHMEN COMMITMENT LIST
Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
Boyne has written a sort of historical allegory–a spare, but vividly descriptive tale that clearly elucidates the
atmosphere in Nazi Germany during the early 1940s that enabled the persecution of Eastern European Jews.
Through the eyes of Bruno, a naive nine-year-old is raised in a privileged household by strict parents whose
expectations included good manners and unquestioning respect for parental authority, the author describes a
visit from the Fury and the family’s sudden move from Berlin to a place called Out-With in Poland. There,
not 50 feet away, a high wire fence surrounds a huge dirt area of low huts and large square buildings. From
his bedroom window, Bruno can see hundreds (maybe thousands) of people wearing striped pajamas and
caps, and something made him feel very cold and unsafe. Uncertain of what his father actually does for a
living, the boy is eager to discover the secret of the people on the other side. He follows the fence into the
distance, where he meets Shmuel, a skinny, sad-looking Jewish resident who, amazingly, has his same birth
date. Bruno shares his thoughts and feelings with Shmuel, some of his food, and his final day at Out-With,
knowing instinctively that his father must never learn about this friendship. While only hinting at violence,
blind hatred, and deplorable conditions, Boyne has included pointed examples of bullying and fearfulness.
His combination of strong characterization and simple, honest narrative make this powerful and memorable
tale a unique addition to Holocaust literature for those who already have some knowledge of Hitler’s Final
Solution.–Susan Scheps
Chinese Cinderella – Adeline Yen Mah
Chinese Cinderella is the perfect title for Adeline Yen Mah's compelling autobiography in which, like the
fairy-tale maiden, her childhood was ruled by a cruel stepmother. "Fifth Younger Sister" or "Wu Mei," as
Yen Mah was called, is only an infant when her father remarries after her mother's death. As the youngest of
her five siblings, Wu Mei suffers the worst at the hands of her stepmother Niang. She is denied carfare,
frequently forgotten at school at the end of the day, and whipped for daring to attend a classmate's birthday
party against Niang's wishes. Her father even forgets the spelling of her name when filling out her school
enrollment record. In her loneliness, Wu Mei turns to books for company: "I was alone with my beloved
books. What bliss! To be left in peace with Cordelia, Regan, Gonoril, and Lear himself--characters more real
than my family... What happiness! What comfort!" Even though Wu Mei is repeatedly moved up to grades
above those of her peers, it is only when she wins an international play-writing contest in high school that
her father finally takes notice and grants her wish to attend college in England. Despite her parent's
heartbreaking neglect, she eventually becomes a doctor and realizes her dream of being a writer. Teens, with
their passionate convictions and strong sense of fair play, will be immediately enveloped in the gross
injustice of Adeline Yen Mah's story. A complete glossary, historical notes on the state of Chinese society
and politics during Yen Mah's childhood, and the legend of the original Chinese Cinderella round out this
stirring testimony to the strength of human character and the power of education.
Copper Sun – Sharon Draper
This action-packed, multifaceted, character-rich story describes the shocking realities of the slave trade and
plantation life while portraying the perseverance, resourcefulness, and triumph of the human spirit. Amari is
a 15-year-old Ashanti girl who is happily anticipating her marriage to Besa. Then, slavers arrive in her
village, slaughter her family, and shatter her world. Shackled, frightened, and despondent, she is led to the
Cape Coast where she is branded and forced onto a boat of death for the infamous Middle Passage to the
Carolinas. There, Percival Derby buys her as a gift for his son's 16th birthday. Trust and friendship develop
between Amari and Polly, a white indentured servant, and when their mistress gives birth to a black baby, the
teens try to cover up Mrs. Derby's transgression. However, Mr. Derby's brutal fury spurs them to escape
toward the rumored freedom of Fort Mose, a Spanish colony in Florida. Although the narrative focuses
alternately on Amari and Polly, the story is primarily Amari's, and her pain, hope, and determination are
acute. Cruel white stereotypes abound except for the plantation's mistress, whose love is colorblind; the
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doctor who provides the ruse for the girls' escape; and the Irish woman who gives the fugitives a horse and
wagon. As readers embrace Amari and Polly, they will better understand the impact of human exploitation
and suffering throughout history. In addition, they will gain a deeper knowledge of slavery, indentured
servitude, and 18th-century sanctuaries for runaway slaves.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
In the Time of Butterflies – Julia Alvarez
From the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents comes this tale of courage and sisterhood set in
the Dominican Republic during the rise of the Trujillo dictatorship. A skillful blend of fact and fiction, In the
Time of the Butterflies is inspired by the true story of the three Mirabel sisters who, in 1960, were murdered
for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government. Alvarez breathes life into these historical
figures--known as "las mariposas," or "the butterflies," in the underground--as she imagines their teenage
years, their gradual involvement with the revolution, and their terror as their dissentience is uncovered.
Alvarez's controlled writing perfectly captures the mounting tension as "the butterflies" near their horrific
end. The novel begins with the recollections of Dede, the fourth and surviving sister, who fears abandoning
her routines and her husband to join the movement. Alvarez also offers the perspectives of the other sisters:
brave and outspoken Minerva, the family's political ringleader; pious Patria, who forsakes her faith to join
her sisters after witnessing the atrocities of the tyranny; and the baby sister, sensitive Maria Teresa, who, in a
series of diaries, chronicles her allegiance to Minerva and the physical and spiritual anguish of prison life. n
the Time of the Butterflies is an American Library Association Notable Book and a 1995 National Book
Critics Circle Award nominee.
Kaffir Boy – Mark Mathabane
Kaffir Boy does for apartheid-era South Africa what Richard Wright's Black Boy did for the segregated
American South. In stark prose, Mathabane describes his life growing up in a nonwhite ghetto outside
Johannesburg--and how he escaped its horrors. Hard work and faith in education played key roles, and
Mathabane eventually won a tennis scholarship to an American university. This is not, needless to say, an
opportunity afforded to many of the poor blacks who make up most of South Africa's population. And yet
Mathabane reveals their troubled world on these pages in a way that only someone who has lived this life
can.
The Weight of All Things – Sandra Benitez
Set in El Salvador during the civil war of the 1980s, seamlessly blends fact with imagination, evoking the
trauma of war more vividly than any newspaper account. Nine-year-old Nicolas de la Virgen Veras lives
with his grandfather Tata in Chalatenango, El Salvador, but on March 30, 1980, his mother, Lety, who works
in San Salvador for Don Enrique, brings him to the city to witness the burial of a martyred saint, Archbishop
Romero. In a bloodbath based on a real-life event, 35 people in the crowd of 80,000 are killed and 450
wounded by soldiers' fire. Lety dies protecting Nicolas. When her body is taken away, Nicolas cannot
believe she is dead and tries first to find the hospital for the wounded, then to get home to find Don Enrique's
address. As he journeys through the bleak Salvadoran landscape, Nicolas is caught in the violent clashes
between the National Army and guerrilla rebels. Held at different times by each faction, Nicolas must rely on
his wits and faith in the Virgin Mary if he is to survive. Benitez's novel is both political and spiritual,
beautifully illuminating the effects of war on the innocent.
Under a War Torn Sky – L. M. Elliott
It's packed with action, intrigue, and suspense, but this novel celebrates acts of kindness and heroism without
glorifying war. American Henry Forester, a young flier with the RAF during World War II, is a complex mix
of insecurities, unresolved feelings about his punitive father, and heroic aspiration. On his thirteenth
bombing mission, he is shot down, having no idea where he has landed. His journey back through Nazioccupied Europe and his involvement with members of the French resistance are depicted with chilling
realism. Small details (bike wheels in France were made of wood because the Germans had confiscated all
the rubber) add both credibility and appeal to this gripping adventure, inspired by stories told to the author by
her father. An afterword concerns the resistance movement.
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Under the Sun – Arthur Dorros
On the run from his war-torn home in Sarajevo, Bosnia, in the early 1990s, Ehmet, 13, sees his mother die
after an attack by soldiers. Hiding during the day and walking at night, he scavenges for food, tries to contact
his family, escapes a constrictive refugee camp, and finally finds home in a multiethnic orphan community
near the border. Acclaimed picture-book artist Dorros' first novel is a survival adventure that speaks to
cultural tolerance, showing and telling repeatedly that there is no clear division between "them" and "us."
Ehmet is part Muslim and part Catholic Croat; his friends and enemies are Serbian, Croat, Muslim, Jewish,
Christian. Racism is always there, but so is the kindness of strangers. In a final note, Dorros talks about his
visit to the area and to an ethnically diverse orphan village. The facts are astonishing, and the contemporary
war docu-novel will grab readers.
SOPHOMORE COMMITMENT LIST
A Bag of Marbles – Joseph Joffo
This is a beautiful book that tells the true story of two young Jewish boys on the run from the Gestapo in
war-torn France. The author, Joseph Joffo is never nostalgic about the ordeal he and his brother went through
in their bid to escape the Death Camps of Nazi Germany. He writes from the heart but he writes with
purpose. His story is a warning to future generations never to take their lives for granted. A Bag of Marbles
is a fantastic book that should be on the shelves of every school in the world, just to remind future
generations that life is not always a bed of roses...
A Long Way Gone – Ishmael Beah
This absorbing account by a young man who, as a boy of 12, gets swept up in Sierra Leone's civil war goes
beyond even the best journalistic efforts in revealing the life and mind of a child abducted into the horrors of
warfare. Beah's harrowing journey transforms him overnight from a child enthralled by American hip-hop
music and dance to an internal refugee bereft of family, wandering from village to village in a country grown
deeply divided by the indiscriminate atrocities of unruly, sociopathic rebel and army forces. Beah then finds
himself in the army—in a drug-filled life of casual mass slaughter that lasts until he is 15, when he's brought
to a rehabilitation center sponsored by UNICEF and partnering NGOs. The process marks out Beah as a
gifted spokesman for the center's work after his "repatriation" to civilian life in the capital, where he lives
with his family and a distant uncle. When the war finally engulfs the capital, it sends 17-year-old Beah
fleeing again, this time to the U.S., where he now lives. (Beah graduated from Oberlin College in 2004.)
Told in clear, accessible language by a young writer with a gifted literary voice, this memoir seems destined
to become a classic firsthand account of war and the ongoing plight of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide.
Angelina Jolie’s Notes from My Travels – Angelina Jolie
Angelina is living proof of the power we all have -- every one of us -- to make a difference. I was deeply
moved by her descriptions of individual refugees struggling to live with dignity and hope, and found her
personal commitment to be an inspiration. Angelina's journals document her awakening as a humanitarian
activist and I hope they will move readers to act. I look forward to my continued work with Angelina on
behalf of the United Nations.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen –
Christopher McDougall
Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run
hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured
runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from
science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where evergrowing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the
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Copper Canyons that pits America’s best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will
not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to
run.
Left to Tell – Immaculee Ilibagiza
In 1994, Rwandan native Ilibagiza was 22 years old and home from college to spend Easter with her devout
Catholic family, when the death of Rwanda's Hutu president sparked a three-month slaughter of nearly one
million ethnic Tutsis in the country. She survived by hiding in a Hutu pastor's tiny bathroom with seven
other starving women for 91 cramped, terrifying days. This searing firsthand account of Ilibagiza's
experience cuts two ways: her description of the evil that was perpetrated, including the brutal murders of
her family members, is soul-numbingly devastating, yet the story of her unquenchable faith and connection
to God throughout the ordeal uplifts and inspires. Her account of the miracles that protected her is simple and
vivid. Her Catholic faith shines through, but the book will speak on a deep level to any person of faith.
Ilibagiza's remarkable path to forgiving the perpetrators and releasing her anger is a beacon to others who
have suffered injustice. She brings the battlefield between good and evil out of the genocide around her and
into her own heart, mind and soul. This book is a precious addition to the literature that tries to make sense of
humankind's seemingly bottomless depravity and counterbalancing hope in an all-powerful, loving God.
Shanghai Diary – Ursla Bacon
By the late 1930s, Europe sat on the brink of a world war. As the holocaust approached, many Jewish
families in Germany fled to one of the only open port available to them: Shanghai. Once called "the armpit
of the world," Shanghai ultimately served as the last resort for tens of thousands of Jews desperate to escape
Hitler's "Final Solution." Against this backdrop, 11-year-old Ursula Bacon and her family made the difficult
8,000-mile voyage to Shanghai, with its promise of safety. But instead of a storybook China, they found
overcrowded streets teeming with peddlers, beggars, opium dens, and prostitutes. Amid these abysmal
conditions, Ursula learned of her own resourcefulness and found within herself the fierce determination to
survive.
Snow Falling in Spring – Moying Li
In 1966 Moying, a student at a prestigious language school in Beijing, seems destined for a promising future.
Everything changes when student Red Guards begin to orchestrate brutal assaults, violent public
humiliations, and forced confessions. After watching her teachers and headmasters beaten in public, Moying
flees school for the safety of home, only to witness her beloved grandmother denounced, her home
ransacked, her father’s precious books flung onto the back of a truck, and Baba himself taken away. From
labor camp, Baba entrusts a friend to deliver a reading list of banned books to Moying so that she can
continue to learn. Now, with so much of her life at risk, she finds sanctuary in the world of imagination and
learning. This inspiring memoir follows Moying Li from age twelve to twenty-two, illuminating a complex,
dark time in China’s history as it tells the compelling story of one girl’s difficult but determined coming-ofage during the Cultural Revolution.
The Long Walk – Slavomir Rawicz
Although The Long Walk is well written, that has nothing to do with why it's a good book. People should
read this book because it chronicles perhaps the most extraordinary true story of human endurance in
recorded history. Slavomir Rawicz is unjustly imprisoned by the Communist Russians early in World War
II. He is confined to a cell so small that he literally cannot sit, but must sleep by collapsing with his knees
against the wall and his feet steeped in his own waste. He is later transported to Siberia by train, and then
marched through the cold countryside to a Soviet Gulag, witnessing the death by exposure and exhaustion of
other unfortunate captives along the way. In the prison camp he is set in forced labor, kept in horrendous
conditions, over-worked, and underfed. Near the end of his rope, Rawicz and a handful of companions
orchestrate a daring and desperate escape, and then proceed to run for their lives, on foot, toward freedom in
India--4,000 miles away. Then the fun begins. They must conquer the frozen Siberian tundra, the Gobi
desert, the Himalayan Mountains, starvation, the Soviets, and their own inner demons. Slavomir's ordeal
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overshadows every other survival tale I've every read, including Admiral Scott's Polar expedition and
Krakauer's Everest disaster. This is up there with the Donner Expedition in terms of grim conditions and the
indomitable human spirit. Trust me. If you've got a teenager who's complaining because they think they have
it rough, let them read this one. --Christopher Bonn Jonnes
Weeping Under This Same Moon – Jana Laiz
ForeWord Magazine Winner of Book of The Year and International Reading Association Notable Book,
Weeping Under This Same Moon is based on a true story of two teenage girls from different cultures, whose
paths intertwine, dramatically altering the course of their lives. Mei is an artist whose life has been disrupted
by the Vietnam War. Her anguished parents send her away on a perilous escape during the exodus of
thousands of Vietnamese refugees known as Boat People. In Mei's words we learn of the dangers she faces
caring for her two younger siblings on a sea journey fraught with hunger, thirst and deprivation, leaving
behind everything she loves to find refuge for her family. Hannah is an angry seventeen-year-old American
high school student. Friendless, neurotic, a social misfit - her passion for writing and the environment only
intensify her outcast state. Through Hannah's voice, we get inside her head, there to discover a gentle soul
beneath all the anger and turmoil. When Hannah learns of the plight of the Boat People, she is moved to
action. Destiny brings Mei and Hannah together in celebration of culture and language, food and friendship,
and the ultimate rescue of both young women from their own despair. Weeping Under This Same Moon is a
testament to the power of love and the spirit of volunteerism; affirming that doing for others does so much
for one's self.
JUNIOR COMMITMENT LIST
Cry, the Beloved Country – Alan Paton
Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too
deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the
setting sun makes red the veldt with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing,
nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much." The
most famous and important novel in South Africa's history, and an immediate worldwide bestseller when it
was published in 1948, Alan Paton's impassioned novel about a black man's country under white man's law
is a work of searing beauty. The eminent literary critic Lewis Gannett wrote, "We have had many novels
from statesmen and reformers, almost all bad; many novels from poets, almost all thin. In Alan Paton's Cry,
the Beloved Country the statesman, the poet and the novelist meet in a unique harmony." Cry, the Beloved
Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the
background of a land and a people driven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for
character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance,
born of the dignity of man.
Gifted Hands – Ben Carson
A brief, easy-to-read autobiography of a black man who is one of today's leading neurosurgeons. While
pursuing his career, Carson encountered prejudice, negative peer pressure, and politics in getting a job. His
sense of humor, faith in God, patience, and his belief in the work ethic come through without preaching. In
the last chapter, Carson gives recommendations to students on ways to live and to achieve.
Mountains Beyond Mountains – Tracey Kidder
At the center of Mountains Beyond Mountains stands Paul Farmer. Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned
infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, world-class Robin
Hood, Farmer was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to
diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need
them most. This magnificent book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem
insurmountable, and it also shows how a meaningful life can be created, as Farmer—brilliant, charismatic,
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charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston
and the mountains of Haiti—blasts through convention to get results.
Sarah’s Key – Tatiana DeRosnay
De Rosnay's U.S. debut fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups and deportations, in which thousands of Jewish
families were arrested, held at the Vélodrome d'Hiver outside the city, and then transported to Auschwitz.
Forty-five-year-old Julia Jarmond, American by birth, moved to Paris when she was 20 and is married to the
arrogant, unfaithful Bertrand Tézac, with whom she has an 11-year-old daughter. Julia writes for an
American magazine and her editor assigns her to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vél' d'Hiv' roundups.
Julia soon learns that the apartment she and Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand's family
when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported 60 years before. She resolves to find out what
happened to the former occupants: Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski, parents of 10-year-old Sarah and fouryear-old Michel. The more Julia discovers—especially about Sarah, the only member of the Starzynski
family to survive—the more she uncovers about Bertrand's family, about France and, finally, herself.
Already translated into 15 languages, the novel is De Rosnay's 10th (but her first written in English, her first
language). It beautifully conveys Julia's conflicting loyalties, and makes Sarah's trials so riveting, her
innocence so absorbing, that the book is hard to put down.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – Lisa See
Lily at 80 reflects on her life, beginning with her daughter days in 19th-century rural China. Foot-binding
was practiced by all but the poorest families, and the graphic descriptions of it are not for the fainthearted.
Yet women had nu shu, their own secret language. At the instigation of a matchmaker, Lily and Snow
Flower, a girl from a larger town and supposedly from a well-connected, wealthy family, become laotong,
bound together for life. Even after Lily learns that Snow Flower is not from a better family, even when Lily
marries above her and Snow Flower beneath her, they remain close, exchanging nu shu written on a fan.
When war comes, Lily is separated from her husband and children. She survives the winter helped by Snow
Flower's husband, a lowly butcher, until she is reunited with her family. As the years pass, the women's
relationship changes; Lily grows more powerful in her community, bitter, and harder, until at last she breaks
her bond with Snow Flower. They are not reunited until Lily tries to make the dying Snow Flower's last days
comfortable. Their friendship, and this tale, illustrates the most profound of human emotions: love and hate,
self-absorption and devotion, pride and humility, to name just a few. Even though the women's culture and
upbringing may be vastly different from readers' own, the life lessons are much the same, and they will be
remembered long after the details of this fascinating story are forgotten.–Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional
Library, VA
Stones into Schools – Greg Mortenson
Mortenson’s best-seller, Three Cups of Tea (2009), introduced his commitment to peace through education
and became a book-club phenomenon. He now continues the story of how the Central Asia Institute (CAI)
built schools in northern Afghanistan. Descriptions of the harsh geography and more than one near-death
experience impress readers as new faces join Mortenson’s loyal “Dirty Dozen” as they carefully plot a
course of school-building through the Badakshan province and Wakhan corridor. Mortenson also shares his
friendships with U.S. military personnel, including Admiral Mike Mullen, and the warm reception his work
has found among the officer corps. The careful line CAI threads between former mujahideen commanders,
ex-Taliban and village elders, and the American soldiers stationed in their midst is poetic in its political
complexity and compassionate consideration. Using schools not bombs to promote peace is a goal that even
the most hard-hearted can admire, but to blandly call this book inspiring would be dismissive of all the hard
work that has gone into the mission in Afghanistan as well as the efforts to fund it. Mortenson writes of
nothing less than saving the future, and his adventure is light years beyond most attempts. Mortenson did not
reach the summit of K2, but oh, the heights he has achieved.
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The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself
narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in
Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued
mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just
stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The
Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when she’s roused by regular nightmares about her younger
brother’s death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen
books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife
(who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not
only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate
over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he
does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesel's story all the nuances of chance, folly, and
fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public
Library, CA
The Flying Carpet –Hala Jaber
In this stirring, frank account, Jaber, a Lebanese-British foreign correspondent depicts her professional work
covering the Gulf War and her personal engagement with an Iraqi family caught tragically in the crossfire.
Reporting for London's Sunday Times on the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Jaber, accompanied by her
British photographer husband, Steve Bent, took up the cause of numerous hospitalized children grievously
wounded in the bombing and helped start a fund to provide them with better medical attention and supplies.
In particular, Jaber learned the extraordinary story of two orphans, the only survivors in a family of seven
children who had been engulfed in the firestorm with their parents while fleeing their Baghdad neighborhood
in April 2003. Three-year-old Zahra was burned over most of her body and in dire need of sophisticated
emergency attention, while her baby sister, Hawra, tossed from a car window, survived unscathed. Jaber,
with the help of young American journalist Marla Ruzicka (who eventually died in a car bombing), was able
to get Zahra airlifted out, though she later died in an American military hospital. Jaber felt keenly for these
orphans, as she had endured years of personal turmoil attempting to get pregnant in her marriage, and she
proposed to the girls' grandmother that she adopt them. Jaber demonstrates in this affecting work how she
employed her professional passion to aid Iraq's war victims.
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Southern whites' guilt for not expressing gratitude to the black maids who raised them threatens to become a
familiar refrain. But don't tell Kathryn Stockett because her first novel is a nuanced variation on the theme
that strikes every note with authenticity. In a page-turner that brings new resonance to the moral issues
involved, she spins a story of social awakening as seen from both sides of the American racial divide.
Newly graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in English but neither an engagement ring nor a steady
boyfriend, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan returns to her parents' cotton farm in Jackson. Although it's 1962,
during the early years of the civil rights movement, she is largely unaware of the tensions gathering around
her town. Skeeter is in some ways an outsider. Her friends, bridge partners and fellow members of the Junior
League are married. Most subscribe to the racist attitudes of the era, mistreating and despising the black
maids whom they count on to raise their children. Skeeter is not racist, but she is naive and unwittingly
patronizing. When her best friend makes a political issue of not allowing the "help" to use the toilets in their
employers' houses, she decides to write a book in which the community's maids -- their names disguised -talk about their experiences. Fear of discovery and retribution at first keep the maids from complying, but a
stalwart woman named Aibileen, who has raised and nurtured 17 white children, and her friend Minny, who
keeps losing jobs because she talks back when insulted and abused, sign on with Skeeter's risky project, and
eventually 10 others follow. Aibileen and Minny share the narration with Skeeter, and one of Stockett's
accomplishments is reproducing African American vernacular and racy humor without resorting to stilted
dialogue. She unsparingly delineates the conditions of black servitude a century after the Civil War.
The murders of Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr. are seen through African American eyes, but go
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largely unobserved by the white community. Meanwhile, a room "full of cake-eating, Tab-drinking,
cigarette-smoking women" pretentiously plan a fundraiser for the "Poor Starving Children of Africa." In
general, Stockett doesn't sledgehammer her ironies, though she skirts caricature with a "white trash" woman
who has married into an old Jackson family. Yet even this character is portrayed with the compassion and
humor that keep the novel levitating above its serious theme.
The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay
Bryce Courtenay makes THE POWER OF ONE seems so authentic that the reader is carried right into the
story. The book begins when a five-year-old boy is being sent off to boarding school. He's small for his age,
white and of English descent. His name is Peekay and he lives in South Africa. Up to this point in his life
he's known only his family and his beloved black Nanny. Now, he's forced to take care of himself and
survive under the most brutal of circumstances. The time is World War II and Peekay spends years in a
boarding school where he's the only English student among Afrikaners who are sympathetic to the Nazi
cause. He's beaten, tortured and treated as a "prisoner of war" by the older boys. The Afrikaners are the
descendents of the Dutch and there has been a great deal of conflict between them and the English settlers
who came to South Africa at a later period of time. When I first started reading this novel, I wasn't sure if I
could handle the passages about the brutal treatment of the little boy. However, I quickly learned that Peekay
is a spirited survivor and would make it through that horrible period of his life. On his vacations from school,
he meets several people, both black and white who really influence him and teach him to work hard in order
to fulfill his dreams. I found an uplifting joy in every success that Peekay experienced.
This Our Exile – James Martin, S.J.
Seamlessly combining spiritual writing, reportage, travel narrative, humor, and recent history, bestselling
author James Martin recalls his time as a young Jesuit working with the refugees in the slums of Nairobi,
Kenya. Drawing on his previous experience in the business world, he imagined that he had much to teach the
refugees. But they would end up teaching him much more about life, about survival and faith, and about love
and friendship. With stories that are by turns frankly incredible, darkly comic, inspirational, tragic, and
always provocative, this compelling work is a wonderfully realized tribute to our shared humanity.
SENIOR COMMITMENT LIST
A Mighty Heart – Mariane Pearl
When Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002, his very
pregnant wife, Mariane, was left to try to manage the search effort. In this memoir of the month between
Pearl's kidnapping and news of his death, she is unflinching, revealing every emotional detail with such
honesty that to call the book heart-wrenching is to minimize its power. A journalist herself, Mariane is adept
at detail and pacing, letting the events unfold as they happened, complete with their frustrating dead-ends
and the tangle of Karachi's bureaucracy. She weaves in memories and thoughts about Danny, which give the
book a keen poignancy. She describes how they first met at a party of her mother's, where he looked like "an
elegant extra-terrestrial casting a delighted but somewhat perplexed glance at the earthly specimens." Later,
after they were married and Mariane got pregnant, he would lean close to her growing belly and talk to the
baby in a made-up language he was sure the baby would learn post-birth. After the kidnapping, as she
searched his computer for clues, Mariane stumbled upon quirky lists he made, like "Things I Love About
Mariane." Such insight into Pearl's personality make the tragedy of his death even sharper. As Mariane deals
with his murder and faces the birth of their son alone, she acts with the same sincerity and grace that brought
her through the ordeal of the kidnapping. It's not difficult to see why, on the list of things he loved about her,
Pearl included: "Has incredible ability to see herself and others with clear perspective."
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
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Afghan-American novelist Hosseini follows up his bestselling The Kite Runner with another searing epic of
Afghanistan in turmoil. The story covers three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war and Taliban tyranny
through the lives of two women. Mariam is the scorned illegitimate daughter of a wealthy businessman,
forced at age 15 into marrying the 40-year-old Rasheed, who grows increasingly brutal as she fails to
produce a child. Eighteen later, Rasheed takes another wife, 14-year-old Laila, a smart and spirited girl
whose only other options, after her parents are killed by rocket fire, are prostitution or starvation. Against a
backdrop of unending war, Mariam and Laila become allies in an asymmetrical battle with Rasheed, whose
violent misogyny—"There was no cursing, no screaming, no pleading, no surprised yelps, only the
systematic business of beating and being beaten"—is endorsed by custom and law. Hosseini gives a forceful
but nuanced portrait of a patriarchal despotism where women are agonizingly dependent on fathers, husbands
and especially sons, the bearing of male children being their sole path to social status. His tale is a powerful,
harrowing depiction of Afghanistan, but also a lyrical evocation of the lives and enduring hopes of its
resilient characters.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jamie Ford
Ford's strained debut concerns Henry Lee, a Chinese-American in Seattle who, in 1986, has just lost his wife
to cancer. After Henry hears that the belongings of Japanese immigrants interned during WWII have been
found in the basement of the Panama Hotel, the narrative shuttles between 1986 and the 1940s in a
predictable story that chronicles the losses of old age and the bewilderment of youth. Henry recalls the
difficulties of life in America during WWII, when he and his Japanese-American school friend, Keiko,
wandered through wartime Seattle. Keiko and her family are later interned in a camp, and Henry, horrified
by America's anti-Japanese hysteria, is further conflicted because of his Chinese father's anti-Japanese
sentiment. Henry's adult life in 1986 is rather mechanically rendered, and Ford clumsily contrasts Henry's
difficulty in communicating with his college-age son, Marty, with Henry's own alienation from his father,
who was determined to Americanize him.
Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal – Conor Grennan
In search of adventure, 29-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a
journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children’s Home, an orphanage
in war-torn Nepal. Conor was initially reluctant to volunteer, unsure whether he had the proper skill, or
enough passion, to get involved in a developing country in the middle of a civil war. But he was soon
overcome by the herd of rambunctious, resilient children who would challenge and reward him in a way that
he had never imagined. When Conor learned the unthinkable truth about their situation, he was stunned: The
children were not orphans at all. Child traffickers were promising families in remote villages to protect their
children from the civil war—for a huge fee—by taking them to safety. They would then abandon the
children far from home, in the chaos of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. For Conor, what began as a footloose
adventure becomes a commitment to reunite the children he had grown to love with their families, but this
would be no small task. He would risk his life on a journey through the legendary mountains of Nepal, facing
the dangers of a bloody civil war and a debilitating injury. Waiting for Conor back in Kathmandu, and
hopeful he would make it out before being trapped in by snow, was the woman who would eventually
become his wife and share his life’s work. Little Princes is a true story of families and children, and what
one person is capable of when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. At turns tragic, joyful, and
hilarious, Little Princes is a testament to the power of faith and the ability of love to carry us beyond our
wildest expectations.
Sold - Patricia McCormick
As this heartbreaking story opens, 13-year-old Lakshmi lives an ordinary life in Nepal, going to school and
thinking of the boy she is to marry. Then her gambling-addicted stepfather sells her into prostitution in India.
Refusing to be with men, she is beaten and starved until she gives in. Written in free verse, the girl’s firstperson narration is horrifying and difficult to read. In between, men come./They crush my bones with their
weight./They split me open./Then they disappear. I hurt./I am torn and bleeding where the men have been.
The spare, unadorned text matches the barrenness of Lakshmis new life. She is told that if she works off her
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family’s debt, she can leave, but she soon discovers that this is virtually impossible. When a boy who runs
errands for the girls and their clients begins to teach her to read, she feels a bit more alive, remembering what
it feels like to be the number one girl in class again. When an American comes to the brothel to rescue girls,
Lakshmi finally gets a sense of hope. An author’s note confirms what readers fear: thousands of girls, like
Lakshmi in this story, are sold into prostitution each year. Part of McCormick’s research for this novel
involved interviewing women in Nepal and India, and her depth of detail makes the characters believable and
their misery palpable.
The Cellist of Sarajevo – Steven Galloway
Canadian Galloway delivers a tense and haunting novel following four people trying to survive war-torn
Sarajevo. After a mortar attack kills 22 people waiting in line to buy bread, an unnamed cellist vows to play
at the point of impact for 22 days. Meanwhile, Arrow, a young woman sniper, picks off soldiers; Kenan
makes a dangerous trek to get water for his family; and Dragan, who sent his wife and son out of the city at
the start of the war, works at a bakery and trades bread in exchange for shelter. Arrow's assigned to protect
the cellist, but when she's eventually ordered to commit a different kind of killing, she must decide who she
is and why she kills. Dragan believes he can protect himself through isolation, but that changes when he runs
into a friend of his wife's attempting to cross a street targeted by snipers. Kenan is repeatedly challenged by
his fear and a cantankerous neighbor. All the while, the cellist continues to play. With wonderfully drawn
characters and a stripped-down narrative, Galloway brings to life a distant conflict.
The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa
He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem--ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with
only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son,
who is hired to care for him. And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to
each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold
memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s
mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order,
reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of
discovering connections between the simplest of quantities--like the Housekeeper’s shoe size--and the
universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips
away. The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present,
and about the curious equations that can create a family.
The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders – E. Guibert
This documentary graphic novel brings together starkly beautiful black and white photographs taken by
Lefèvre, intimate drawings by Guibert, skillful design by Lemercier and a vibrant translation and thorough
introduction by Siegel. In 1986, photographer Lefèvre was hired by Médecins sans Frontières (MSF; Doctors
Without Borders), to document a mission into northern Afghanistan. Along the way, he and the doctors,
guides and interpreters with whom he traveled endured physical hardship and the fracas of war. In one
memorable scene, the group must cross an open plateau where Russian planes fired on the previous MSF
caravan. Photographs acting as panels emphasize the vast openness of the plateau, while drawings allow a
glimpse of the small human gestures of the travelers. Arriving on the other side of the plateau, they reach a
wooded area where, two years ago, they buried the man who didn't make it. This revelation is punctuated by
a large photograph of the burial mound under the trees, the mix of drawings and photographs heightening the
emotional impact. Originally published in three volumes in France, the book has sold more than 250,000
copies there, and the reach of this magnificent work promises to extend far beyond the graphic novel
community.
The Soloist – Steve Lopez
On the streets of the inner city, Los Angeles Times columnist and novelist Lopez (In the Clear, 2003)
stumbled upon the story that changed his life. Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless African American man, was
standing on a corner coaxing memorable music from a two-stringed violin. Turns out, 30 years earlier, Ayers
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had been at Juilliard studying classical bass when he experienced the first in a series of schizophrenic
episodes that turned his musical dreams into a nightmare. Now, worlds away from the concert halls he
imagined gracing, Ayers spends his days on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, fighting off rats and drug-frenzied
fellow homeless—and serenading passersby. The spot where Ayers has chosen to play is no accident; it’s
near the city’s statue of Beethoven and just down the hill from Walt Disney Concert Hall. Lopez quickly
becomes an integral part of Ayers’ life, bringing him new instruments and even facilitating arrangements at a
homeless shelter. But as he navigates the complex world of mental illness, Lopez discovers that good
intentions (and good connections) are often powerless in the face of schizophrenia, a potent, prickly,
unpredictable disease. Award-winning actors Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. are set to star in a movie
version of this compelling, emotionally charged tale of raw talent and renewed hope. --Allison Block
Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
Some failures lead to phenomenal successes, and this American nurse's unsuccessful attempt to climb K2,
the world's second tallest mountain, is one of them. Dangerously ill when he finished his climb in 1993,
Mortenson was sheltered for seven weeks by the small Pakistani village of Korphe; in return, he promised to
build the impoverished town's first school, a project that grew into the Central Asia Institute, which has since
constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Coauthor Relin recounts
Mortenson's efforts in fascinating detail, presenting compelling portraits of the village elders, con artists,
philanthropists, mujahideen, Taliban officials, ambitious school girls and upright Muslims Mortenson met
along the way. As the book moves into the post-9/11 world, Mortenson and Relin argue that the United
States must fight Islamic extremism in the region through collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and
improve access to education, especially for girls. Captivating and suspenseful, with engrossing accounts of
both hostilities and unlikely friendships, this book will win many readers' hearts.
SOPHOMORE, JUNIOR AND SENIOR COMMITMENT LEADERSHIP BOOKS
The Student Leadership Challenge – James Kouzes and Barry Posner
The Most Trusted Source on Becoming a Better Student Leader: In The Student Leadership Challenge,
Kouzes and Posner—today's premier leadership experts—demonstrate how anyone can be a leader,
regardless of age or experience. Grounded in the same extensive research as the best-selling The Leadership
Challenge, it uses real-life stories and examples exclusively from college students to illustrate The Five
Practices of Exemplary Leadership: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable
Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart.
Heroic Leadership – Chris Lowney
What can a 16th-century priest tell a 21st-century business executive about leadership? Plenty, believes this
author, who points out that from a 10-man "company" founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in 1540, the Jesuits are
now the world's largest religious order, with 21,000 professionals. In this absorbing, lucid book, Lowney,
who left a seven-year stint as a Jesuit seminarian to become a managing director at J.P. Morgan, explores
how the Jesuits have successfully grappled with challenges that test great companies-forging seamless
multinational teams, motivating performance, being open to change and staying adaptable. As he takes the
reader on an engaging romp through slices of Jesuit history, Lowney references four Jesuit pillars of success:
self-awareness (reflection), ingenuity (embracing change), love (positive attitudes toward others) and
heroism (energizing ambitions). Despite the emphasis on the four pillars, this is no formulaic "12-steps-tosuccess" tome. Rather than focusing on what leaders do, Lowney shows how the Jesuit approach focuses on
who leaders are. His conversational voice draws the reader in as he unfolds leadership lessons from some
unlikely Jesuit role models, including explorer Benedetto de Goes, linguist Matteo Ricci and mathematician
and astronomer Christopher Clavius. Lowney's passion for history is appealing, and he is careful not to
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sugarcoat his historical role models. Professionals looking for a One-Minute type of business book won't find
it here, but more reflective businesspeople of faith will find Lowney's insights a breath of fresh air.
Heroic Living – Chris Lowney
Chris Lowney takes us far beyond the spasmodic and frenzied hype of everyday media fare. In Heroic Living
he dares to suggest that our greatest joys and deepest fulfillments come from ordinary days and well cared
for relationships. He offers a simple map and compass of spiritual practices that guide our journey and equip
us for the various terrains we encounter along life's way. This work is a welcomed contribution for those
longing for a more authentic and purposeful life. If you liked Heroic Leadership, this is the guide for how to
head that direction. --Steve Moore, Executive Director, MJ Murdock Charitable Trust 2007
In Heroic Leadership Chris Lowney opened up new perspectives on leadership by linking Ignatian values
with corporate culture. Now in Heroic Living he expands and deepens our understanding of how to be
human in the midst of complexity and rapid change. He suggests how we might live magnanimously, making
good choices within Ignatian and other religious perspectives. Very importantly, he cites powerful examples
of women and men who are doing this successfully. --Rev. Charles Currie, S.J., President, AJCU
What kind of person will I be? This reflective question is often lost in our modern world of infinite choices
and information overload. Lowney's powerful book refreshingly integrates strategic management, religious
tradition and human stories. The book is full of teachable moments that help one view life from the "inside
out" rather than "outside in" - calling us to a better version of ourselves. Chris eloquently reminds us that our
most important business is "leading our lives". --Michael D. Connelly, President and CEO, Catholic
Healthcare Partners
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For One More Day – Mitch Albom