The most recommended books about refugees

Who picked these books? Meet our 129 experts.

129 authors created a book list connected to refugees, and here are their favorite refugees books.
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What type of refugees book?


Letters from Cuba

By Ruth Behar,

Book cover of Letters from Cuba

Maria Kiely Author Of Which Way Is Home?

From the list on highlight the importance of trust and friendship.

Who am I?

An act of kindness from a stranger when you’re having a bad day can totally change your mindset, it can even change your life. I believe there are few things more important than trust, friendship, and making genuine human connections. Those are some of the main themes of my novel Which Way is Home? and themes that appear in each of the books on my list. You never know when someone is going to come into your life and change it for the better. I always want to be open to those experiences in my life and reflect them in my writing. Reading these books has only reinforced that desire.

Maria's book list on highlight the importance of trust and friendship

Why did Maria love this book?

Based on the true-life experiences of author Ruth Behar’s grandmother, the letters that Esther writes from Cuba to her beloved sister Malka back in Poland feel totally real and remind me of my mother’s connection to her cousins that were left behind when she escaped Czechoslovakia. I love how open and curious Esther is and how that helps her connect with her new Cuban neighbors despite their differences. Esther creates a strong community by sharing her Jewish traditions with people who know nothing about them. The neighbors are willing to come together at first, despite their apprehensions, because they like this sweet, smart, little girl but they soon learn that they all have more in common than they would have ever guessed. This book will strengthen your faith in humanity.

By Ruth Behar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Letters from Cuba as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pura Belpre Award Winner Ruth Behar's inspiring story of a young Jewish girl who escapes Poland to make a new life in Cuba, while she works to rescue the rest of her family

The situation is getting dire for Jews in Poland on the eve of World War II. Esther's father has fled to Cuba, and she is the first one to join him. It's heartbreaking to be separated from her beloved sister, so Esther promises to write down everything that happens until they're reunited. And she does, recording both the good--the kindness of the Cuban people and her discovery…

Yusra Swims

By Julie Abery, Sally Deng (illustrator),

Book cover of Yusra Swims

Meeg Pincus Author Of Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank's Diary

From the list on ordinary helpers in extraordinary times.

Who am I?

I’m someone who feels everything deeply and longs for a kinder, healthier world for everyone. A humane educator and diverse books advocate, I’m drawn to true stories that inspire compassion, inclusivity, and taking action in our own unique ways to make a difference. My nonfiction picture books—including Winged Wonders, Cougar Crossing, Ocean Soup, Make Way for Animals!, So Much More To Helen, and more— focus on “solutionaries” who help people, animals, and the planet. They’ve won Golden Kite and Eureka! Nonfiction Honor Awards, starred reviews, and spots on best books lists.

Meeg's book list on ordinary helpers in extraordinary times

Why did Meeg love this book?

I was bowled over by Yusra Mardini’s powerful story when I heard it during the 2016 Olympics, when she was a swimmer on the global Refugee team. As Yusra and her sister were fleeing war-torn Syria and their boat began to sink, the 17-year-old did what she knew how to do best—swim—to help save the lives of everyone aboard. In sparse but powerful words and art, this book shows American children so much about the refugee experience, through a teenager whose life probably looked very much like their own before war struck her country, and who stepped up and saved others with her skill while at risk herself.

By Julie Abery, Sally Deng (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Yusra Swims as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Age range 5 to 9

Based on a real life story!

Yusra Mardini loves to swim. Growing up in Damascus, she is just a girl with a dream: to swim for her country in the Olympic Games. But when war erupts in her country, she is forced to flee.

In spare, rhyming verse, Yursa Swims tells the true story of one girl's journey from her beloved home in Syria to Germany.

We follow her to the Turkish coast, where she boards a small, crowded boat across the Aegean Sea to Greece. When the boat begins to sink, Yusra swims, helping…

Me and My Fear

By Francesca Sanna,

Book cover of Me and My Fear

Lisa Katzenberger Author Of It Will Be OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship

From the list on facing your fears.

Who am I?

I’m a picture book writer who struggles with anxiety. Some things that seem like no big deal to most people can become a very big worry for me (like Giraffe worries about Spider in It Will Be OK). I found that identifying and naming our emotions—in this case fear—makes it easier to address our feelings and work through them. I want to share my experience of being fearful of things, both big and small, with children to let them know they are not alone and they can have power over scary emotions.

Lisa's book list on facing your fears

Why did Lisa love this book?

In this beautiful book, Fear is its own character, a soft white blob with minimal facial features. It starts out protecting the main character from danger, and the girl considers Fear a protector. But when the girl travels to a new country, Fear begins to grow and get in her way, preventing her from speaking up or making friends. Then when the girl spots a boy with his own Fear, she faces her own Fear, literally pushing it away so she can go outside and play, until Fear becomes smaller. It is a brilliant depiction of our fears blocking us, the work it takes to overcome them, and the joy we can feel when we do.

By Francesca Sanna,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Me and My Fear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A beautiful tale of conquering fears and spreading empathy from award-winning author and illustrator Francesca Sanna.When a young girl has to travel to a new country and start at a new school, her Fear tells her to be alone and afraid. How can she hope to make friends if she doesn't understand their language?

A heart-warming and relevant new tale from the bestselling author and illustrator of The Journey, this book shows us the importance of sharing your Fear with others - after all, everyone carries a Fear with them, even if it's small enough to fit into their pocket!

City of Thorns

By Ben Rawlence,

Book cover of City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp

Denis Dragovic Author Of No Dancing, No Dancing: Inside the Global Humanitarian Crisis

From the list on the tragedy of war.

Who am I?

I have lived, breathed, and studied peace and conflict since 1998, but what I’m most passionate about is the plight of the people. I spent over a decade in countries such as Iraq, Sudan, and East Timor providing humanitarian assistance followed by another decade writing and working on the consequences of wars. The more we understand the impact of wars the better humanity will be placed to stop them. That is why I chose five beautifully written books that will be difficult to put down while offering an array of voices and perspectives that together provide insights into how we can better respond to outbreaks of war.

Denis' book list on the tragedy of war

Why did Denis love this book?

Ben Rawlence’s City of Thorns makes the list because of his ability to weave a powerful narrative around the day-to-day lives of refugees living in camps. Far too often our knowledge of refugees is limited to numbers—the number of people who die crossing the Mediterranean, the number living in a camp, or the amount of dollars required to ease the suffering. This book is an antidote to the numbers. Rawlence introduces us to the hopes and challenges of nine residents of what was then the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, Kenya. Unfortunately for the nine, Rawlence’s book covers a period when famine and terrorism hit the Horn of Africa adding another dimension to understanding the plight of the most vulnerable caught up in the vagaries of war.

By Ben Rawlence,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked City of Thorns as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a 'nursery for terrorists'; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort.

Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, deep within the inhospitable desert of northern Kenya where only thorn bushes grow, Dadaab is a city like no other. Its buildings are made from mud, sticks or plastic, its entire economy is grey, and its citizens survive on rations and luck. Over the course of four years, Ben…

Lily's Crossing

By Patricia Reilly Giff,

Book cover of Lily's Crossing

Charlotte Herman Author Of My Chocolate Year: A Novel with 12 Recipes

From the list on for children on WW2 at home and across the ocean.

Who am I?

I grew up on Chicago’s home front during WW2. President Roosevelt wanted everyone—adults and children—to do their part for the war effort. So we neighborhood kids formed a Victory club, where we marched around singing, “Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor,” and other patriotic songs. And though we had fun, we understood the meaning of the gold stars in the windows, and knew that terrible things were happening on the other side of the world. There are so many wonderful books set during this time period, and I can never read enough of them. These books, along with my memories, are what inspire me to write historical fiction of my own.

Charlotte's book list on for children on WW2 at home and across the ocean

Why did Charlotte love this book?

This is one of my all-time favorite children’s WW2 books set on America’s home front. The year is 1944, and Lily is off to spend another magical summer in Rockaway. The beach and the boardwalk, the swimming and fishing, and her friend Margaret are waiting. But the summer soon begins to fall apart. Margaret and her family are leaving for a town in Michigan where her father has a job in a wartime factory. And her own father reveals that he is about to work as an engineer for the army somewhere in Europe.

Loneliness sets in until Lily meets an orphaned boy named Albert, a Hungarian refugee who is spending the summer with relatives. Albert’s parents have been taken by the Nazis, and his sister, Ruth, is left behind in France. Lily and Albert have much to learn from each other, and much to share. This book tells a…

By Patricia Reilly Giff,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lily's Crossing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This “brilliantly told” (New York Times) Newbery Honor Book gives readers a sense of what it was like to be on the American home front while our soldiers were away fighting in World War II.
As in past years, Lily will spend the summer in Rockaway, in her family’s summer house by the Atlantic Ocean. But this summer of 1944, World War II has changed everyone’s life. Lily’s best friend, Margaret, has moved to a wartime factory town, and, much worse, Lily’s father is going overseas to the war.
There’s no one Lily’s age in Rockaway until the arrival of…

A Long Petal of the Sea

By Isabel Allende, Nick Caistor (translator), Amanda Hopkinson (translator)

Book cover of A Long Petal of the Sea

Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon Author Of A Place in the World

From the list on multicultural stories set in exotic lands.

Who am I?

I grew up in Latin America (& briefly in Europe) and my connections and regard for the people, culture, and natural setting resulted in my novel, A Place in the World. I have lived in six countries and appreciate the experiences. I love languages and history and like to travel, at least vicariously with a good book. I hope you enjoy my book picks as much as I have! I am a writer, former university lecturer, and environmental scientist, with an MS in geology and a passion for botany. This background enabled me to weave aspects of natural science, as well as Latino culture, into my writing.

Cinda's book list on multicultural stories set in exotic lands

Why did Cinda love this book?

This story starts in Spain’s Civil War but immigrates to Chile. I have two reasons to be attracted to this book. First I grew up in South America and so am drawn to this setting, but second I had a writing mentor who was a small boy during the Franco regime. (I published his story in my blog.)

An exodus of thousands of Spaniards escaped into France and Cristian Zozaya was separated from his parents for years until they were able to immigrate to South America. His story echoes the beginning of Allende’s, except hers is about adult refugees in a marriage of convenience. The protagonists face trials in Chile with yet another dictatorship, but the ending is pleasing.

By Isabel Allende, Nick Caistor (translator), Amanda Hopkinson (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Long Petal of the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________ THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER _______________ 'A powerful love story spanning generations... Full of ambition and humanity' - Sunday Times 'One of the strongest and most affecting works in Allende's long career' - New York Times Book Review _______________ On September 3, 1939, the day of the Spanish exiles' splendid arrival in Chile, the Second World War broke out in Europe. Victor Dalmau is a young doctor when he is caught up in the Spanish Civil War, a tragedy that leaves his life - and the fate of his country - forever changed. Together with…


By Leonardo Padura, Anna Kushner (translator),

Book cover of Heretics

Stephen Fredman Author Of A Menorah for Athena: Charles Reznikoff and the Jewish Dilemmas of Objectivist Poetry

From the list on blending Jewish history with a personal quest.

Who am I?

As an enthusiastic and eclectic reader, one of my great joys is recommending books to others. I was able to indulge this joy consistently while teaching at a university, introducing students to authors and books and topics they otherwise might never have encountered. I find this same excitement in my own writing, searching for ways to reveal to others the magnificent wealth I find in modern poetry and in the brilliant concepts of poetic thinking.

Stephen's book list on blending Jewish history with a personal quest

Why did Stephen love this book?

The Cuban mystery writer Leonardo Padura offers an amazing presentation of Jewish history and the art of painting as they collide in modern Havana.

He weaves together three stories: the attempted escape from Hitler by Jews aboard a ship that is turned back from the Havana harbor in 1939; the aborted career of an imaginary Jewish disciple of Rembrandt, who defies the biblical prohibition against creating human likenesses; and a contemporary attempt by a Cuban Jew to track down his exterminated family’s Rembrandt masterpiece.

I love how the vastly different worlds of modern Havana and 17th-century Amsterdam embark on a conversation that reveals so much about Jewish history and art.

By Leonardo Padura, Anna Kushner (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Heretics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Padura’s Heretics spans and defies literary categories . . . ingenious." ―Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air

A sweeping novel of art theft, anti-Semitism, contemporary Cuba, and crime from a renowned Cuban author, Heretics is Leonardo Padura's greatest detective work yet.

In 1939, the Saint Louis sails from Hamburg into Havana’s port with hundreds of Jewish refugees seeking asylum from the Nazi regime. From the docks, nine-year-old Daniel Kaminsky watches as the passengers, including his mother, father, and sister, become embroiled in a fiasco of Cuban corruption. But the Kaminskys have a treasure that they hope will save them: a small Rembrandt…

Boats, Borders, and Bases

By Jenna M. Loyd, Alison Mountz,

Book cover of Boats, Borders, and Bases: Race, the Cold War, and the Rise of Migration Detention in the United States

Nancy Hiemstra Author Of Detain and Deport: The Chaotic U.S. Immigration Enforcement Regime

From the list on why the U.S. has the biggest immigration detention system.

Who am I?

I first became aware of harms of immigration enforcement policies while volunteering to tutor kids of undocumented migrant farmworkers in the 1990s. Through a variety of jobs in the U.S. and Latin America, my eyes were opened to reasons driving people to migrate and challenges immigrants face. I eventually went to graduate school in Geography to study local to transnational reverberations of immigration policies. A project in Ecuador where I helped families of people detained in the U.S. led me to realize how huge, cruel, and ineffective U.S. immigration detention is. I hope these books help you break through myths about detention and make sense of the chaos.

Nancy's book list on why the U.S. has the biggest immigration detention system

Why did Nancy love this book?

While most academic work on detention focuses on immigration enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border or in the U.S. interior, this book traces the origin of detention to U.S. efforts to deter the Cuban and Haitian migration that occurred as part of U.S. Cold War dealings.

With fascinating, painstaking historical research, Loyd and Mountz argue that the legal and infrastructural foundations of the contemporary detention system were established through the U.S. response to Caribbean migration in the 1990s and the goal of preventing migrants from claiming the international right to asylum.

The book also shows how racism—especially anti-Black racism—has been at the core of immigration detention since the beginning, as have abhorrent, shocking conditions of detention facilities.

By Jenna M. Loyd, Alison Mountz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Boats, Borders, and Bases as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discussions on U.S. border enforcement have traditionally focused on the highly charged U.S.-Mexico boundary, inadvertently obscuring U.S.-Caribbean relations and the concerning asylum and detention policies unfolding there. Boats, Borders, and Bases offers the missing, racialized histories of the U.S. detention system and its relationship to the interception and detention of Haitian and Cuban migrants. It argues that the U.S. response to Cold War Caribbean migrations actually established the legal and institutional basis for contemporary migration and detention and border deterrent practices in the U.S. This book promises to make a significant contribution to a truer understanding of the history and…

Book cover of The Islands at the End of the World

Lehua Parker Author Of One Boy, No Water

From the list on authentically Hawaiian books for tweens and teens.

Who am I?

Growing up in a kanaka maoli—Native Hawaiian—family in Hawai’i, I hungered for stories centered around island kids and their authentic lived experiences. I scoured classrooms, libraries, and bookstores looking for stories that reflected my reality, but all I ever found were dusty collections of ancient legends, not books that appealed to my sense of wonder or adventure. It’s the reason I wrote the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy and why I’m so excited to share this collection with you. These books are everything I always wanted to read as a child growing up in Hawai‘i—and more!

Lehua's book list on authentically Hawaiian books for tweens and teens

Why did Lehua love this book?

When sixteen-year-old Leilani and her father traveled to O’ahu from Hilo to try a promising but experimental treatment for her epilepsy, they never expected to be stranded in the middle of a worldwide geomagnetic storm. With tsunamis striking randomly, all modern technology broken, and facing food shortages under martial law, Leilani and her father have to fight their way home. Along the way, Leilani discovers that the one thing that makes her different may be the one thing that saves us all. It’s an apocalyptic page-turner centered on Hawaii’s ecology and traditional cultural solutions.

By Austin Aslan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Islands at the End of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this fast-paced survival story set in Hawaii, electronics fail worldwide, the islands become completely isolated, and a strange starscape fills the sky. Leilani and her father embark on a nightmare odyssey from Oahu to their home on the Big Island. Leilani’s epilepsy holds a clue to the disaster, if only they can survive as the islands revert to earlier ways. 
   A powerful story enriched by fascinating elements of Hawaiian ecology, culture, and warfare, this captivating and dramatic debut from Austin Aslan is the first of two novels. The author has a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology from the…

The Farming of Bones

By Edwidge Danticat,

Book cover of The Farming of Bones

Michele Wucker Author Of Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola

From the list on understanding the Dominican Republic.

Who am I?

A summer with relatives in Belgium—a country divided by language and culture—inspired me to travel to Santo Domingo in 1988 to learn Spanish and study the fraught dynamics of two countries speaking different languages but sharing an island. My time in the Dominican Republic and Haiti inspired a lifelong exploration of complex issues using many lenses and stories. Today I write mainly about risk, drawing on psychology, culture, policy, and economics. The third book, The Gray Rhino, calls for a fresh look at obvious, looming threats. My fourth book, You Are What You Riskexplores risk perceptions and attitudes using a comparative, socio-cultural lens like the one I used in Why the Cocks Fight.

Michele's book list on understanding the Dominican Republic

Why did Michele love this book?

What I love most about Danticat’s writing—this is a very long list—is the way she evokes the inherent dignity of characters in almost unspeakably tragic situations. In this case, her subject is a pair of lovers and their community whose lives are upended by the 1937 massacre of Haitians and Dominico-Haitians living along the Dominican side of the border with Haiti. The mass killing is an inflection point in the two nations’ shared history, which individual human stories are essential to understanding.

By Edwidge Danticat,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Farming of Bones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is 1937, and Amabelle Desir is a young Haitian woman working as a maid for a wealthy family in the Dominican Republic, across the border from her homeland. The Republic, under the iron rule of the Generalissimo, treats the Haitians as second-class citizens, and although Amabelle feels a strong sense of loyalty to her employers, especially since her own parents drowned crossing the river from Haiti, racial tensions are heightened when Amabelle's boss accidentally kills a Haitian in a car accident. The accident is a catalyst for a systematic round-up of Haitians, ostensibly for repatriation but in fact a…

The Day War Came

By Nicola Davies, Rebecca Cobb (illustrator),

Book cover of The Day War Came

Tim Warnes Author Of Dangerous!

From the list on for teaching kids empathy.

Who am I?

I’m a writer, illustrator, and champion of children’s books, with approximately 90 titles published over the last 25 years. I use this experience to guide parents to quality picture books via my blog, Stories Worth Sharing, which aims to help parents nurture and connect with their kids through stories. I can trace this passion back to my childhood. Snuggled in my father’s arms, we’d explore fantastic places together – like One Hundred Acre Wood, Busy Town, and Zuckerman’s barn. Picture books are foundational in developing young minds. These selected titles put your child in someone else’s shoes and teach them to empathise with others.

Tim's book list on for teaching kids empathy

Why did Tim love this book?

Sadly, this powerful story feels more relevant than ever. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, it confronts the reality of war head-on, putting the reader in the shoes of a little girl whose everyday routine is shattered. Because of the subject matter, this may be unsuitable for very young or sensitive kids – but it proves that picture books can be a potent way of speaking to older kids, too.

The unsophisticated language and naive illustrations provide children easy access to important discussions surrounding conflict and misplaced children. Poignant, thought-provoking, and ultimately uplifting, this story reminds us of the reality of war and that our children provide hope for a peaceful future.

By Nicola Davies, Rebecca Cobb (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Day War Came as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A powerful and necessary picture book - the journey of a child forced to become a refugee when war destroys everything she has ever known.

Imagine if, on an ordinary day, war came. Imagine it turned your town to rubble. Imagine going on a long and difficult journey - all alone. Imagine finding no welcome at the end of it. Then imagine a child who gives you something small but very, very precious...

When the government refused to allow 3000 child refugees to enter this country in 2016, Nicola Davies was so angry she wrote a poem. It started a…

Lost and Found Cat

By Doug Kuntz, Amy Shrodes, Sue Cornelison (illustrator)

Book cover of Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey

Cathy Camper Author Of Ten Ways to Hear Snow

From the list on Arabs that don’t feature camels or the desert.

Who am I?

As an Arab American, I rarely saw kids’ books about Arab Americans. And until recently, many of the books featuring Arabs and Arab Americans reiterated old stereotypes, showing them in the desert with camels, or as only an ancient (and often backwards) culture, ignoring all the exciting, modern contributions of Arabs historically, and today. In the West, Arabs are often stereotyped as hyper-religious, terrorist, or war-torn. I wanted to share kids’ books about Arab kids having fun, being creative, and in loving, caring families – books that share the richness of Arab culture in a positive way. 

Cathy's book list on Arabs that don’t feature camels or the desert

Why did Cathy love this book?

Imagine if war forced you to suddenly leave your home, taking only what you could carry - would you bring your cat? This Syrian family transports their cat Kunkush in a basket with them, all the way across the Mediterranean Sea, only to lose him on the beach in Greece. Would they ever see Kunkush again? Reading this gripping, true tale of how the white kitty was reunited with his immigrant family, I was especially moved to see that photos of the real family, Kunkush and their epic journey were included too!  

By Doug Kuntz, Amy Shrodes, Sue Cornelison (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lost and Found Cat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This heartwarming true story of one lost cat's journey to be reunited with his refugee family gently introduces children to a difficult topic and shows how ordinary people can help with compassion and hope.
When an Iraqi family is forced to flee their home, they can’t bear to leave their beloved cat, Kunkush, behind. So they carry him with them from Iraq to Greece, keeping their secret passenger hidden away.
But during the crowded boat crossing to Greece, his carrier breaks and the frightened cat runs from the chaos, disappearing. After an unsuccessful search, his family has to continue their…


By María José Ferrada, Ana Penyas (illustrator),

Book cover of Mexique: A Refugee Story from the Spanish Civil War

Mary Beth Leatherdale Author Of Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees

From the list on what it’s like to be a refugee.

Who am I?

Growing up on a farm in Southwestern Ontario, Canada that my family had owned for six generations, my world was small. That all changed when I moved to Toronto and met my husband, the Canadian-born son of Polish Jews who survived death camps and the Holocaust. His family taught me what it means to find yourself in the crosshairs of history, to be forced to make impossible choices under dire circumstances. I’m passionate about sharing stories that build understanding and celebrating those forced by fate to be fighters — their strong yet often surprising personalities, their unique journeys, and their inspiring grit. 

Mary's book list on what it’s like to be a refugee

Why did Mary love this book?

I’m a big fan of picture books for older readers that tackle tough subjects. Before I read Mexique, I knew nothing about the 456 Spanish children who were sent to Mexico by ship to escape the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Yet, what I love about this book is how it goes beyond the historical facts to share the truth of the story in a moving and memorable way. The lyrical narrative is written in 1st person from the perspective of a child on the ship. And, the artwork, based on actual photographs, with its child-like style, somber colours, and graphic-novel style panels is stunning. You feel like you’re on the journey with the children. Waiting and wondering when you can return home. 

By María José Ferrada, Ana Penyas (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mexique as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On May 27, 1937, over four hundred children sailed for Morelia, Mexico, fleeing the violence of the Spanish Civil War. Home was no longer safe, and Mexico was welcoming refugees by the thousands. Each child packed a suitcase and boarded the Mexique, expecting to return home in a few months. This was just a short trip, an extra-long summer vacation, they thought. But the war did not end in a few months, and the children stayed, waiting and wondering, in Mexico. When the war finally ended, a dictator—the Fascist Francisco Franco—ruled Spain. Home was even more dangerous than before. 


Ten Pound Poms

By A. James Hammerton, Alistair Thomson,

Book cover of Ten Pound Poms: Australia's Invisible Migrants

Wendy Webster Author Of Mixing It: Diversity in World War Two Britain

From the list on migrants and refugees in twentieth-century Britain.

Who am I?

I’m a historian and writer and worked in universities all my life. I love writing and everything about it—pencils, pens, notebooks, keyboards, Word—not to mention words. I started writing the histories of migrants and refugees in twentieth-century Britain (and their entanglement with the history of the British Empire) in the 1980s and then kept going. When I studied history at university, migrants and refugees were never mentioned. They still weren’t on historians’ radar much when I started writing about them. Here I’ve picked stories that are not widely known and histories that show how paying attention to migrants and refugees changes ideas about what British history is and who made it. 

Wendy's book list on migrants and refugees in twentieth-century Britain

Why did Wendy love this book?

This may seem an odd choice, but many British who migrated to Australia subsequently returned to Britain and some, nicknamed ‘boomerang migrants,’ had lives of to and fro between Australia and Britain. I’ve chosen it because the experiences of migrants who don’t settle but either return or migrate onwards are often missing from histories. In Ten Pound Poms, the voices of people who returned or boomeranged are prominent, talking about intense homesickness, but also about a kind of reverse homesickness since the place they return to doesn’t match the way they imagined it while they were away and has changed during their absence. The book reminds us that people’s attachment to particular places and landscapes and soundscapes can be powerful, and that migration often involves complex feelings of belonging and unbelonging.

By A. James Hammerton, Alistair Thomson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ten Pound Poms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

More than a million Britons emigrated to Australia between the 1940s and 1970s. They were the famous 'ten pound Poms' and this is their story. Illuminated by the fascinating testimony of migrant life histories, this is the first substantial history of their experience and fills a gaping hole in the literature of emigration.

The authors, both leading figures in the fields of oral history and migration studies, draw upon a rich life history archive of letters, diaries, personal photographs and hundreds of oral history interviews with former migrants, including those who settled in Australia and those who returned to Britain.…

Paper Love

By Sarah Wildman,

Book cover of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind

Irene Wittig Author Of All That Lingers

From the list on hard times and resilience in the World War II era.

Who am I?

World War II has been the background of my life. My Viennese family fled the Nazi regime. My childhood was peopled with Holocaust survivors and other people displaced by war. My uncle was a refugee and was trained as a Ritchie Boy and sent to war. I have been inspired by how people can survive traumatic times and come out stronger and kinder.

Irene's book list on hard times and resilience in the World War II era

Why did Irene love this book?

A poignant, well-written and deeply researched non-fiction story of the author’s search for the girlfriend her grandfather had left behind in Vienna. As my family left Vienna because of the Nazi regime, and my own novel takes place in Vienna, I found Ms. Wildman’s book especially meaningful, raising the question not only of what had happened to the woman but also of how much guilt and responsibility the grandfather carried?

By Sarah Wildman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Paper Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One woman’s journey to find the lost love her grandfather left behind when he fled pre-World War II Europe, and an exploration into family identity, myth, and memory.

Years after her grandfather’s death, journalist Sarah Wildman stumbled upon a cache of his letters in a file labeled “Correspondence: Patients A–G.” What she found inside weren’t dry medical histories; instead what was written opened a path into the destroyed world that was her family’s prewar Vienna. One woman’s letters stood out: those from Valy—Valerie Scheftel—her grandfather’s lover, who had remained behind when he fled Europe six months after the Nazis annexed…

Love And War In The Pyrenees

By Rosemary Bailey,

Book cover of Love And War In The Pyrenees: A Story Of Courage, Fear And Hope, 1939-1944

Colin Duncan Taylor Author Of Menu from the Midi

From Colin's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Explorer History buff Francophile Trail runner

Colin's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Colin love this book?

With the help of the life stories of some of the people who used to live in her Pyrenean home, Rosemary Bailey provides a digestible overview of the succession of tragic events that affected the French side of the Pyrenees between the end of the Spanish Civil War and the liberation of France at the end of the Second World War.

We meet refugees of many types, heroes of the Resistance, Allied airmen, and collaborators who were all caught up in the political and military turmoil of the period. We also discover the tragic story of the concentration camps that imprisoned a succession of different groups or types of human beings, depending on the direction of the winds of war.

Overall, this book made me reflect on what surely rates as one of the least glorious periods of French history. It also inspired me to visit many of the locations,…

By Rosemary Bailey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Love And War In The Pyrenees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the fifteen years Bailey has been living in the region, the more she realised she didn't know, and people did not want her to know, about the war; about the French during the Occupation, the real role of the Resistance, the level of collaboration, the concentration camps in the Pyrenees and the treatment of Jews and other refugees. It is still very much a veiled history. Although people now acknowledge that the role of the Resistance in winning the war was exaggerated and glorified way beyond its actual numbers or achievements, few are willing to admit the level of…

Survival in the Killing Fields

By Roger Warner, Haing Ngor,

Book cover of Survival in the Killing Fields

James Taing Author Of Under the Naga Tail: A True Story of Survival, Bravery, and Escape from the Cambodian Genocide

From the list on surviving impossible odds.

Who am I?

Since arriving as a refugee in America, my father, Mae Bunseng has always wanted to tell his story. It would take many decades later for me, as I was coming of age, to consider what exactly my father had lived through. I was shocked at what he told me and knew his story had to be told. Thus over a decade ago I worked with my him to what eventually became Under the Naga Tail. In addition to this book, along the way, a short documentary called Ghost Mountain was created and released on PBS, which is accessible for streaming here. The film would win the best documentary at the HAAPI Film Festival.

James' book list on surviving impossible odds

Why did James love this book?

Haing Ngor, is still only one of three Asian actors to win an Oscar, received in 1985 for Best Supporting Actor in his portrayal of journalist Dith Pran for the film, The Killing Fields. Remarkably Haing Ngor himself was a survivor of the genocide in Cambodia, a trained Doctor at the time before the Khmer Rouge enacted their devastating atrocities upon the country. He would only survive torture by pretending to be an uneducated taxi driver. This book will leave you in awe and inspired, as it did for me, of Haing Ngor’s life. He resettles in America, doing jobs cleaning latrines to suddenly finding himself becoming Hollywood famous overnight. He was an important voice in the advocacy of human rights, until he, unfortunately, passed away in 1996.

By Roger Warner, Haing Ngor,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Survival in the Killing Fields as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is an autobiographical account of life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, written by the Oscar-winning actor from "The Killing Fields", whose own experiences under the Khmer Rouge were more shocking than those of Dith Pran, the character he played. The Khmer Rouge, led by Maoist fanatics, laid waste to the social fabric of Cambodia, forcing the entire population into agricultural labour camps and murdering those they considered bourgeois or intellectual. As a doctor, Haing S. Ngor was a special target of the Khmer Rouge; his family was wiped out, his wife died from starvation in his arms, and…

Exit West

By Mohsin Hamid,

Book cover of Exit West

Irfan Shah Author Of Sigh For A Strange Land

From the list on displaced people.

Who am I?

A combination of things led me to this topic: My father was forced to leave his home in northern India during partition and was therefore a child refugee. In 2016, I was filming in Ukraine and became hugely interested in what was happening there. I have looked for a way to help ever since then. Discovering Monica Stirling’s novel about refugees from East Europe, I realised that here was an opportunity to help give voice to the refugee experience; to help raise funds for Ukraine, and to help bring back to life an incredible story written by an author who deserves to be rediscovered.

Irfan's book list on displaced people

Why did Irfan love this book?

The book is a dizzying mix: the grim realities of displacement are intertwined with speculative fiction – fantasy even.

A love story of two migrants, Saeed and Nadia, who traverse the globe to escape conflict and try and find a way to be together. Oftentimes, they find their way across borders through a series of ‘doors’ – a device reminiscent of CS Lewis (in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) and one which takes the protagonists across the world. Elegant, spare prose; brutal realities, and electrifying flights of fancy – Exit West has it all.

One reason I like the book is that the author, Mohsin Hamid, has found a way to bring the desperate, timely topic of refugees out to a wider audience. His previous book, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, was made into a film and Exit West is being adapted for Netflix.

I feel it’s important for…

By Mohsin Hamid,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Exit West as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A BBC 2 Between the Covers Book Club Pick - Booker Gems


'Astonishing' Zadie Smith
'Stunning' Spectator
'Extraordinary' TLS

An extraordinary story of love and hope from the bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

All over the world, doors are appearing.
They lead to other cities, other countries, other lives.

And in a city gripped by war, Nadia and Saeed are newly in love.
Hardly more than strangers, desperate to survive, they open a door and step through.…

Running on Empty

By Michael Molloy, Peter Duschinsky, Kurt Jensen, Robert Shalka

Book cover of Running on Empty: Canada and the Indochinese Refugees, 1975-1980

Valerie Knowles Author Of Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2015

From the list on capturing Canada’s colourful immigration history.

Who am I?

I am a Canadian freelance writer, who has a BA in honours history from Smith College, an MA in history from McGill University, and a Bachelor in Journalism from Carleton University. As I have a special interest in Canadian history and Canadian biography, I have authored books in these subject areas. These include an award-winning biography of Sir William Van Horne, a polymath and railway general who pushed through the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and Cairine Wilson. Canada’s first woman senator, who was celebrated for her work with refugees in the 1930s and 1940s, and a best-selling survey of Canadian immigration and immigration policy, Strangers At Our Gates.

Valerie's book list on capturing Canada’s colourful immigration history

Why did Valerie love this book?

The fall of Saigon in 1975, inspired the largest and most ambitious refugee resettlement program in Canada’s history. In this compelling book, former Canadian immigration officers recount the experiences of a few dozen men and women who visited 70 remote refugee camps to arrange for the selection and resettlement of thousands of individuals displaced by oppression and war in eight different countries. The long days and humid and trying conditions under which these officers worked — sometimes sleeping on their work tables and subsisting on green tea and dried noodles – make for a gripping narrative. But the history also describes the 1976 Immigration Act, which established new refugee procedures and introduced private sponsorship. Ultimately, Canada accepted and resettled 60,000 refugees, half of whom were privately sponsored.

By Michael Molloy, Peter Duschinsky, Kurt Jensen, Robert Shalka

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Running on Empty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fall of Saigon in April 1975 resulted in the largest and most ambitious refugee resettlement effort in Canada's history. Running on Empty presents the challenges and successes of this bold refugee resettlement program. It traces the actions of a few dozen men and women who travelled to seventy remote refugee camps, worked long days in humid conditions, subsisted on dried noodles and green tea, and sometimes slept on their worktables while rats scurried around them - all in order to resettle thousands of people displaced by war and oppression. After initially accepting 7,000 refugees from camps in Guam, Hong…

And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain

By Elisabeth Åsbrink, Saskia Vogel (translator),

Book cover of And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain: The Heartbreaking True Story of a Family Torn Apart by War

Linda Olsson Author Of Astrid & Veronika

From the list on understanding the moody people of Nordic countries.

Who am I?

I am an accidental emigrant now living in Auckland, New Zealand. I arrived with my then husband and our three sons in 1990 for a three-year spell. And here I am with two sons now settled in New Zealand and one in Sweden and me in a very awkward split position between the two. I am also an accidental author as my first career was in law and finance. I am presently working on my seventh novel. My novels are what my publishers call literary fiction and they often involve characters who, like me, have no fixed abode. 

Linda's book list on understanding the moody people of Nordic countries

Why did Linda love this book?

Based on a true story, this is an important, thought-provoking book in these times of mass migrations around the globe. The story follows the thirteen-year-old boy Otto Ullman’s journey from Vienna to Trelleborg in southern Sweden. He is sent by his adoring Jewish parents as the persecution of Jews escalates in Austria during the lead-up to the second world war. The letters between Otto and his family, other relatives, and friends left behind are difficult to read. The efforts they all make to keep a brave face in spite of intolerable circumstances are utterly moving. Amongst the letters are official Swedish documents revealing the extent of racism and prejudice in Sweden. There are many similar stories. But I find this one particularly heartbreaking. 

By Elisabeth Åsbrink, Saskia Vogel (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews and a Notable Translated Book of the Year by World Literature Today 

Winner of the August Prize, the story of the complicated long-distance relationship between a Jewish child and his forlorn Viennese parents after he was sent to Sweden in 1939, and the unexpected friendship the boy developed with the future founder of IKEA, a Nazi activist.
Otto Ullmann, a Jewish boy, was sent from Austria to Sweden right before the outbreak of World War II. Despite the huge Swedish resistance to Jewish refugees, thirteen-year-old Otto was granted permission to…