Christmastime and a good book go together like holly and ivy.
Most of us are home from work and school, and we’re generally in more contemplative moods as we dig in for the darker months. There’s no better time to crack open a well-written book that challenges our assumptions about what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes.
This year, consider using your holiday downtime to settle in with book that engages you as a reader, and empowers you to take action through charitable giving.
The four titles below each delve into a salient issue of the day—be it the plight of refugees or the crisis in the NHS. They are honest, authentic reads that deliver the facts alongside truly enjoyable writing.
Better yet, all of these books are engaging enough to be enjoyed by the tentative teenage reader all the way up to the well-read pensioner. Any of them would make a terrific gift to give and discuss as a family.
But don’t stop there. After reading one of these powerful stories of individuals working against the odds, think about how a charitable gift in the new year could help people like them.
If you make that gift as a family, you will not only have entertained and educated your loved ones this Christmas season with a truly great read. You might also end up creating a tradition of informed, thoughtful charitable giving your whole family will enjoy year after year.
If the refugee crisis has become too large to wrap your head around, pick up a copy of Melissa Fleming’s story of Doaa Zamel, a young Syrian refugee. Doaa grew up in a large traditional family in Syria but was forced to flee to Egypt and then to Europe in 2014.
Fleming, an official with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), met Doaa after the Syrian teenager was rescued from the wreckage of a smuggler’s boat off the Greek coast.
It’s a tough read at times, but it is also hugely inspiring as you learn what Doaa endured to try to save her fellow refugees.
After reading A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea, you may consider a gift to Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), which rescues migrants at sea. Alternatively, you could give to Doctors Without Borders, a highly regarded international charity of traveling medical workers, many of whom work in refugee camps.
Mountains Beyond Mountains is a classic introduction to international public health with a fantastic feel good quality. A physician and anthropologist, Dr. Farmer has studied and cared for the poorest of the poor around the world.
The book will make you seriously consider supporting the charity Partners in Health, co-founded by Paul Farmer.
This quick, engrossing read came out in April of this year and has since sold over a million copies in the UK. Kay was an NHS gynecologist and obstetrician for 10 years. He wrote This Is Going to Hurt from a collection of his own journal entries, jotted down after days spent working on the wards. It is hilarious, cringe-worthy and a hugely valuable window into the harrowing lives of junior doctors.
After reading it, you might consider a gift to a charity connected with a hospital or medical centre near you. While your donation may not benefit junior doctors directly, improved services and facilities for patients are always appreciated by the medical staff who care for them.
If you’re keen to understand the struggles of those living in what’s often called ‘middle America,’ crack open a copy of Janesville. One of President Obama’s ‘best books’ picks for 2017, this is the story of what happens when a large factory leaves a town where it’s been a fixture of stable employment for generations.
Amy Goldstein is a Washington Post journalist who follows a cluster of residents of Janesville, Wisconsin, over several years. Some recover from the blow of middle age unemployment, some don’t. What she reveals is the heartbreak and very real struggle of people who are truly left ‘out in the cold.’
After reading Janesville, you might consider a gift to your local food bank or community foundation.
Happy reading (and giving) this Christmas season!
I am passionate about helping people become informed, empowered and enthusiastic donors. After more than 10 years in the nonprofit/charity sector, I embraced my fear of spreadsheets and got an MBA so that I could help citizens like myself become more strategic givers. Today, I use my unique experiences in both sectors to help people who care deeply about using their money to make the world a better place.