1. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini: I have a friend who has told me she is glad that I was around on 9-1 so I could explain who the Taliban were and what was happening in Afghanistan, since she had never heard of them. I think that this book does the best job of describing what life was like under Taliban rule.
3. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood: Patriarchal, tyrannical theocracy based on biological control of women anyone? Oh, wait, that's right, we aren't that far away from that it some parts of our country, where a woman's right to choose is being eroded more and more every day.
4. Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison: Amazingly powerful book about child sexual abuse and domestic violence. And on a related note...
5. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison: All of the above, only adding racial identity and racism to the mix.
6. Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean: When horrible people do horrible things it is in our nature to dehumanize them and turn them into monsters who deserve death. What Sr. Prejean's work does is remind the readers vividly that people on death row are as human as you or me, and that if we as a society want to continue executing them, we need to do it with an understanding of our shared humanity.
7. Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg: This roman a clef details Feinberg's life as a butch lesbian in New York in the years directly before and after the Stonewall Riot in 1969. Feinberg has since identified as transgendered, and wrote another book about the historical treatment of transgendered people called Transgender Warriors that is really fascinating.
8. Zeitoun, Dave Eggers: This true story details what happened to an Islamic immigrant named Zeitoun and his family in the days after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Zeitoun stayed in New Orleans, and after the storm spent his days rowing around his neighborhood rescuing people and feeding pets left-behind-that is, until the US army arrested him as a terrorist...
10. The Abstinence Teacher, Tom Perotta: Perotta gives us a thoughtful look at the abstinence-only vs. comprehensive sex education debate. But guess which one still leads to fewer unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases? Knowledge is power, people!