The best books about looking for and finding refuge

Anne Raeff Author Of Only the River
By Anne Raeff

The Books I Picked & Why

Go, Went, Gone

By Jenny Erpenbeck, Susan Bernofsky

Book cover of Go, Went, Gone

Why this book?

This is a beautiful book about a retired academic and widower who finds himself embroiled in the lives of young African refugees trying to seek asylum in Berlin. What I love about this book, besides the beautiful writing, is that neither the widower nor the refugees are portrayed as saints and neither really finds redemption. It is, rather, a very real story of fragile yet real connections between people who, for entirely different reasons, are very much alone. I love this book because it holds us all accountable as human beings and asks us how we can retain our humanity, our moral center when power is so unequally distributed.


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After the Parade

By Lori Ostlund

Book cover of After the Parade

Why this book?

This book is for all of us who escaped the small-mindedness of the world in which we were raised and about the places that took us in. The book’s hero is Aaron Englund, a gay, bookish, and much-misunderstood boy who grows up in a small town in rural Minnesota. It is about his struggles in that hostile world and the other outsiders he encounters as he tries to figure out who he is. It is about saving oneself and finding one’s place, and it is in some ways a homage to my adopted home, San Francisco. It is also a book about love, about falling in love and falling out of love, and is full of humor and compassion. 


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Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955

By Harald Jähner, Shaun Whiteside

Book cover of Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955

Why this book?

This is my non-fiction choice. Aftermath is a brilliant book that describes the destruction and displacement in Germany caused by World War II. Although I have studied this topic my whole life and written about it in my fiction, there is always more to learn, and this book taught me so much. It is full of rich details and top-notch scholarship. Despite the terrible destruction and misery that the author describes, the book provides us with some hope in the ability of human beings to survive the unimaginable and even to create new meaning out of the rubble.


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Further News of Defeat: Stories

By Michael X. Wang

Book cover of Further News of Defeat: Stories

Why this book?

Further News of Defeat is a collection of loosely connected short stories about the realities of life in China, especially for people from the countryside who find themselves in the alien world of China’s cold and materialistic cities. The stories are heart-wrenching and the images in them will seep into your dreams, stay with you forever. What I love about this book is that, though all great books are fundamentally political, it is not politically motivated, not a diatribe against communism or even totalitarianism. The characters are not romanticized victims but real people with flaws and passions. This book will make you cry and think and laugh.


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Good to a Fault

By Marina Endicott

Book cover of Good to a Fault

Why this book?

This book by Canadian writer Marina Endicott is quirky in all the best ways—smart, tender, heart-wrenching, and quietly hopeful. It is about a lonely, divorced accountant who takes in a homeless family after crashing into their car. The book is gorgeous on the sentence level and the way Endicott writes about the connections and lack of connections between the characters in the book is full of wisdom and pathos. Though the premise is quite simple, the book is full of surprises. 


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