Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town
The Tibetan community of Ngaba is one of the most difficult places for outsiders to visit, yet it’s the center of Tibetan resistance to the Chinese government. Journalist Barbara Demick goes there to tell personal stories of the town’s residents (most of whom now live in exile), from their first encounter with the starving soldiers of Chairman Mao Zedong’s Red Army, who ate the religious statues made of flour and butter found in the town’s Buddhist temples. The book follows the Ngaba residents as the Communist government occupied Tibet, forced disastrous reforms, quashed a 1959 rebellion, and worked to erase Tibetan culture, language, and religion. A somber read, it shows how the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Tibet prefigured what is now happening to ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. —Angela Lu Fulton
Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: War Through the Lives of Women
Rape as a weapon of war is as old as war itself. Yet it remains the “most neglected” war crime despite the modern-day rise of the Islamic State and others, writes author Christina Lamb. The veteran British war correspondent is an able chronicler of the sexual violence behind forever wars and ongoing genocides. In unflinching but sympathetic accounts that are well written and amply documented, Lamb takes readers to Congo’s hospital for rape survivors, to the forest concealing Nigeria’s disappearing Chibok girls, to the slave market at Galaxy Cinema in Iraq where ISIS fighters rate and then trade Yazidi women and girls. This is a war chronicle we haven’t had before, and one we shouldn’t look away from. —M.B.
Imprisoned With ISIS: Faith in the Face of Evil
Ending a four-day visit to Sudan in 2015, Petr Jasek was about to board a plane for his home in the Czech Republic when security officers detained him in Khartoum. As routine questioning gave way to more than a year’s detention for the Voice of the Martyrs worker—who led its efforts to monitor the persecuted church in Africa—Jasek began an unholy trial. He would be imprisoned, tormented and beaten, tried for espionage, and sentenced to life in prison. He would also be captivated by God’s presence, find remarkable opportunities for evangelism, confront authorities, and ultimately be released. His page-turning story brings fresh courage that the “realized freedom” Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke about is one no prison walls can crush. —M.B.
Magdalena: River of Dreams: A Story of Colombia
“The people of the United States will do anything for Latin America, except read about it,” said veteran reporter James Reston. Author Wade Davis lends a reason to break that habit in a book about Colombia with a river at its center, not drug cartels. Davis captures life along the Rio Magdalena, a mirror to our Mississippi, flowing south to north and across the geographic and cultural strata of life in South America’s most resource-rich country. A National Geographic “Explorer-in-Residence,” Davis brings an unsurprisingly humanistic and uber-environmental perspective. But with armchair travel the way to go in 2020, and so few such works on Colombia, a fresh travelogue about a country coming off 50 years of conflict is a way to learn more about our South American neighbors. —M.B.