9 Nonfiction Books That Show The Human Side Of Global Conflicts

Global tragedies are, unfortunately, all too common. War, natural disaster, and political upheaval can force people out of their homes, split up families, and ruin lives. If you want to examine the human cost of these tragic events, the books listed here are a great place to start. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Personal Books About Large-Scale Conflicts: Our 9 Picks

Title Author(s)
1. The Morning They Came for Us Janine Di Giovanni
2. The Underground Girls of Kabul Jenny Nordberg
3. Fire Road Kim Phuc Phan Thi & Ashley Wiersma
4. The Girl Who Smiled Beads Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil
5. For the Children Geza Tatrallyay
6. An American Bride in Kabul Phyllis Chesler
7. Lulu in the Sky Loung Ung
8. Forty Autumns Nina Willner
9. Seven in a Jeep Ed Gaydos

5 Ways to Get the News

If you want to help make life better for people in conflict zones, it's important to stay informed. Here are a few sources that can help you keep up-to-date on global events:

  1. NPR: Radio programs, podcasts, and online articles
  2. The New York Times: Print & online journalism
  3. BBC: Good source for international news
  4. The Wall Street Journal: Breaking news and economic coverage
  5. Associated Press: Investigative reporting and trusted facts

The History of the Conflict Between Palestine and Israel

In Depth

News coverage of large-scale disasters and global conflicts is often unemotional and fact-driven, making it easy to ignore the impact these events have on real people's lives. Books, however, can move away from cold statistics and shine a spotlight on the day-to-day experiences of individuals living through tough times. Here, in no particular order, are nine nonfiction books that focus on the human experience during international tragedies.

#1 is "The Morning They Came for Us" by Janine Di Giovanni. An experienced conflict reporter, the author details her trip to Syria during the civil war. She includes the perspective of Syrian citizens and explains how even the routine parts of their everyday lives were affected tremendously. Her unique account shows the complicated nature of civil war, and the importance of global citizenship.

In the #2 spot is "The Underground Girls of Kabul" by Jenny Nordberg. In Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous places for girls to grow up, many daughters are disguised as sons. This practice protects them, but it also makes it difficult for them to come to terms with their personal identities. Nordberg explores the daily risks that these girls face as they spend their childhoods pretending to be male. These young women's stories expose the extreme sexism and oppression occurring in Afghanistan.

This practice protects them, but it also makes it difficult for them to come to terms with their personal identities.

#3 on the list is "Fire Road," written by Kim Phuc Phan Thi, the subject in one of the most well-known photographs from the Vietnam War. Known as "Napalm Girl," the author was once an infamous visual representation of the horrors of war. When she was eight years old, she was badly burned during an attack on her village and then abandoned in a hospital morgue. Coping with the physical pain and emotional scars of these events, she turned to her faith as a healing force and found the will to live.

At #4 is "The Girl Who Smiled Beads" by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil. In the span of only 100 days in 1994, the Rwandan genocide was responsible for the deaths of nearly 800,000 people. For Wamariya, survival meant escaping Rwanda. At only six years old, she fled the country with her sister to seek shelter from ethnic persecution. She spent six years living through fear, hunger, abuse, and imprisonment before being granted asylum by the United States. Now a graduate of Yale University, she proves that resilience and strength can conquer adversity.

Next, at #5, is "For the Children" by Geza Tatrallyay. Hungary in 1956, experiencing turmoil and oppression, was separated from the western world by the Iron Curtain. The author details his family's numerous escape attempts and their unbreakable will to free themselves of the Soviet Union's control. At seven years old, he crossed the mine-covered Hungarian border, only to face new challenges of uncertainty and alienation. Despite the many obstacles that stood in their path, Tatrallyay's parents were determined to give their children the best future possible.

Despite the many obstacles that stood in their path, Tatrallyay's parents were determined to give their children the best future possible.

#6 is "An American Bride in Kabul" by Phyllis Chesler. After getting married, the author agreed to move with her husband to Afghanistan, his native country. An American woman unfamiliar with Afghan customs, Chesler experienced extreme culture shock upon arrival when she lost almost all of her rights. She saw a different side of her husband; once progressive and caring, he became sexist and controlling. Her memoir recounts her fight to escape Afghanistan, and to recover from the pain of a loved one's duality.

At #7 on the list is "Lulu in the Sky" by Loung Ung, the third book in a trilogy about a Cambodian girl's path through genocide, being rescued, and traveling to America. In this work, Ung describes her life as a refugee and college student. While trying to heal from her past, she must also prepare for her future. Her longing to reconnect with her culture and the family she lost leads her back to Cambodia, where she finds the inner peace she's been searching for.

In the #8 spot is "Forty Autumns" by Nina Willner. As the first female Army Intelligence Officer to lead operations in East Berlin, the author feels a strong connection with her family's history. Her mother escaped, alone, from East Germany and moved to America. While Willner was stationed in Berlin, some members of her family were only a few miles away, but unreachable because of the war. The lives of Willner, her mother, and her relatives in Germany are blended throughout the book with stories and photographs, showing the endurance of a family's bond over decades of separation.

The lives of Willner, her mother, and her relatives in Germany are blended throughout the book with stories and photographs, showing the endurance of a family's bond over decades of separation.

#9 is "Seven in a Jeep" by Ed Gaydos. In a twist to the usual war narrative, this work shares the often untold stories of regular soldiers doing routine tasks during the Vietnam War. Instead of extreme heroism and larger-than-life battle scenes, it focuses on the human connections and camaraderie that are crucial to survival. Brutally honest and sometimes hilarious, this memoir is a great choice for anyone who wants to know what life as a soldier was like during this infamous conflict.