Last Updated on March 20, 2018

While it’s cold outside, sitting by the fire with a compelling book to read after the kids are in bed will bring you warm rewards the television cannot offer. Here are three books about three different women, one born in Arizona, one born in Somalia, and the third born in Rwanda. Their stories will open windows, allowing you to see other worlds from the comfort of your own home. Their lives will inspire thanksgiving for the peace and safety most of us enjoy every day.

“The Glass Castle,” by Jeanette Walls, is an autobiographical tale of a childhood shaped by parents who were nomadic, sometimes homeless, and always teetering on the brink of lawlessness and extreme poverty. Jeanette and her siblings lived a life few of us can imagine in these United States. As she and her brothers and sister escaped the constant chaos of their upbringing to lives of independence and responsible prosperity, she watched with her siblings as their parents happily chose to remain homeless.

“Infidel,” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, will give you a sobering, insightful look into the life of girls raised as Muslims. She writes of her childhood with a sister and a brother, a father who was passionate about political agendas, and a mother who worked hard to liberate her children from the practices she viewed as barbaric in their culture, and a grandmother who often thwarted those attempts by her mother. The family moved from Somalia to Saudi Arabia to Kenya. Finally Miss Ali escaped an arranged marriage and is currently living in the West. What is most compelling about this book is the understanding we gain about this religion and culture that is expanding rapidly in our world. We need to learn all we can because it isn’t going away.

“Left to Tell,” by Immaculee Ilibagiza, is a remarkable story of a young woman’s survival of the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Immaculee was a 22-year-old college student when the Hutus began their systematic efforts to kill all Tutsis living in Rwanda. Amazingly she survived along with seven other women who were hidden in a tiny bathroom for three months by a pastor. Most of her family was murdered in the rampage that left over one million dead, slaughtered only because of their ethnicity. Forgiveness for this kind of evil is beyond our imagining, but Immaculee tells of the power of God that sustained her in hiding and that has helped her forgive and go forward in hope.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young pastor in Nazi Germany who was imprisoned for his work challenging Christians to resist Hitler, wrote this shortly before his arrest: “We must not give in to resignation or pious escapism in avoiding the harsh realities of the present day.” He challenged those who would listen not to be led astray by the opinions of those in power, but to think, to pray, and to “not give up trying to assess the new state of affairs for themselves.” May these books do this for your thinking and for your faith.

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  1. Janel Breitenstein says:

    I found the Glass Castle very eye-opening and intriguing. Great recommendation. Thanks for a great reminder. A professor of mine challenged us to have "a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other"–and reading's a great way to do that.