Top Ten Books that Tackle Tough Issues[The hyperlinked titles lead to Blue Bookcase reviews, in case you want to know more.]
1. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
I could fill half this list with "issue" books by Barbara Kingsolver, but I'll try to provide a little more variety for you, dear reader, and just mention this one. I think The Bean Trees is the only one of her books that I haven't mentioned in a Top Ten Tuesday post yet. Anyway, the issue here is the plight of refugees as illegal immigrants. It's one of my favorite books, partly because the issue is pretty subtly presented and it fits naturally into the story.
(By the way, if you like this author check out our reviews of The Lacuna and Prodigal Summer.)
2. The Cider House Rules, by John Irving
John Irving is another author who packs his fair share of issues into his stories. Abortion is the big issue in Cider House, and it's presented more fairly than you might expect.
3. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman
This amazing nonfictional book explores the complicated refugee/new immigrant cross-cultural experience, and also medical noncompliance. It's a wonderful, heartbreaking story.
4. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow
Here's another heartbreaking story, this time exploring the issue of racial identity. I think I like it more in hindsight than I did right after I finished reading. My goodreads review isn't exactly glowing, but there's no denying that Ms. Durrow does a beautiful job with a complicated issue.
5. Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi
There are a couple of issues in this book; the ones that stood out to me were censorship and women's rights under Islamic law. I also reviewed it on goodreads, back before I started writing for The Blue Bookcase. Persepolis is another great read that deals with these same issues.
6. It Sucked and then I Cried, by Heather B. Armstrong
This is the saga of pregnancy and new motherhood as told by Heather Armstrong (of dooce.com fame). The issue is post-partum depression, and I'm not going to say it's the best book ever about the subject. But I liked it, and I think the humor is pretty refreshing for a book about an issue. (p.s., here's my goodreads review)
7. The Bedwetter, by Sarah Silverman
Speaking of books that are funny despite the issues... did you know that famous comedienne Sarah Silverman was a bed wetter until she was like 16? And it was actually really tragic and humiliating because they didn't have overnight pullups for big kids back then. So here's another issue for you: Bed Wetting. It's real, people, and it makes life hard for kids and teenagers and their parents! Thanks to this book, I now have a (mostly) irrational fear that my children will be bed wetters. And here's my goodreads review.
8. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
Edna Pontellier is hopelessly bound to her home and family life; the issue is women's rights and their incompatibility with the traditional Victorian societal values. I really identified with Edna when I first read this in (I think) 11th-grade English, and it's still one of my favorite books.
9. Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers
This is the true story of one man's imprisonment after Hurricane Katrina. The issue (actually one of several) is racial profiling. I'd hate to give anything away by saying more, but it's really, really shocking and well done. Check it out.
10. A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah
This is a huge bestseller, so you probably already know that the issue is Child Soldier-dom. When I read it a few years ago, I was even more shocked and horrified than I expected to be. It also opened my eyes to some difficulties I hadn't considered, like the rehabilitation of these boys and the overarching social problem they can become even after they are rescued from the war. I wouldn't call it one of my favorite books, but when it comes to Issues, you can't get much better than a first-hand account like this one.