Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
Jung Chang (Simon and Schuster 1991)
Wild Swans tells the story of life in China for
author Jung Chang, her mother and grand-mother, and describes the horrors and poverty suffered by millions of Chinese in the 20th century. Chang lives through the Cultural Revolution and joins the Red Guards, during which time her parents are accused of being traitors and tortured. From a relatively privileged childhood, Chang’s life was to change when she, like thousands of young people, was taken to the countryside to be ‘re-educated’ into peasant life. Her entire family was sent to different regions of China and her father, once a high-ranking official, died after becoming ill and insane. She finally obtained a scholarship to the UK, one of the first Chinese students to study abroad, where she wrote this disturbing and moving story of her life.
Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World\’s Worst Dog
John Grogan (Hodder & Stoughton 2007)
This is a book that people both with and without dogs will love. A simply, but beautifully, written story of newlyweds John and Jenny moving into a house in Palm Beach and deciding that bringing a dog into their family would be a rather nice thing to do. Enter Marley, a 97-pound goof of a yellow Labrador, who crashes into their life and house with all the delicacy of a 10-tonne truck. A complete disgrace to his species, Marley knows no difference between right and wrong, but shows the true meaning of unconditional love and why we are happier and healthier in the company of our four-legged best friends.
The Joy Luck Club
Amy Tan (G P Putnam’s Sons 1989)
This book is a harrowing and heart-warming story of four Chinese immigrant women and their American-born daughters. The name of the club originates during the Japanese invasion of China after one of the mothers, Suyuan Wu, decides to start it to divert attention from the war. The club continues when she moves to the USA and sees lives and cultures of mothers and daughters clashing as they play mah-jong and eat dinner together. The daughters try to adapt to American life while attempting to respect their Chinese roots and culture, while the mothers struggle to leave their pasts behind.
The Emotional Lives of Animals
Marc Bekoff (New World Library 2007)
This book explores the complex emotions of animals – and why they matter. After a lifetime of studying animal behaviour, Bekoff shows that it is time to challenge science and give animals the benefit of the doubt. Animals may not share the same joy or sadness as the human species, but Bekoff offers a convincing argument as to why they have their own versions of these emotions – and why we should embrace common sense and look at all species with hearts and minds that seek to understand them.
The Ten Trusts
Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff (HarperCollins 2002)
The Ten Trusts compels us to reflect upon our footprints on this earth and consider how they affect the species that share our lives. It teaches us to respect and love nature, to be tenacious and to think intelligently of the things we do in our everyday lives that can be changed to help heal our suffocating earth. From the simplest advice of turning off the tap while we clean our teeth, to the complexity of helping to save whole species from extinction, The Ten Trusts shows that life is in our hands and there is much we can do to preserve it.
Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds
Joy Adamson (Collins and Harvell Press 1960)
Born Free holds special resonance for me as it began my journey into animal welfare. It tells the true story of Elsa, an orphaned lion cub raised and released into the wilds of Kenya by Joy and her husband George. The book and film shows the tenacity of people who refuse to give in to bureaucracy and red tape, and also inspired Virginia and Bill to found the successful and effective Born Free Foundation, which exists and flourishes to this day.
The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World
John Robbins (Conari Press 2001)
This life-changing book was written by the heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice-cream empire who gave it all away. He questions every aspect of the food we eat – where it is produced, how it is produced, how its production affects the environment, who is paid what for the food, how it is transported to our tables and how it affects our health.
Jill Robinson and Angela Leary (eds) (Animals Asia Foundation 2008)
I cannot end this list without self-promoting Animals Asia. Freedom Moon celebrates the freedom of bears caged for decades and cruelly milked for their bile, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine. With over 50 herbal and synthetic alternatives, there is no need for such a practice today. Freedom Moon is a book of hope, which shows bears bouncing joyously around their forested enclosures and putting their tortuous pasts behind them.
Jill Robinson MBE is the founder and CEO of animal welfare charity [Animals Asia Foundation
Her selections can be purchased here.
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