14 Books to Change the World in 2018

Want to change the world with a few presents? These books will challenge perceptions, broaden minds and educate people about the realities facing refugees and asylum seekers today.

I often pass a purple Nissan Micra on the way to work that is adorned with flowers and on one of the doors is written, “be the change you want to see in the world”. The quote, often attributed to Gandhi, is a challenge.

So read a book and be challenged. Buy a book for a friend and challenge them. Buy a book for your MP and challenge policy. Click the front cover of each book to be taken to its Amazon page.

Upbeat does not benefit financially from the sales of these books. However, we might all benefit from a greater understanding of the situation encountered my millions of people around the world and hundreds of people within our city.

What is the What

Let's start with a bargain! For only £3.29, plus postage and packaging, you can read the story of Valentino Achak Deng as he walks with hundreds of other children to escape the Sudanese civil war. The account then turns to his time spent living in a refugee camp before resettling in America. A book full of detailed observations and, despite the tragic nature of the story, humour and hope.  


The Lightless Sky

The true story of how Gulwali Passarlay fled from Afghanistan at the age of twelve. The book is an account of his journey across Europe to the UK. It is also an account of adjusting to life in the UK. It’s a story of cruelty, suffering and perseverance.


The New Odyssey

Written by Patrick Kingsley, The Guardian’s migration correspondent. He travelled to seventeen countries in 2015 to research this book and writes about the journey as well as the reasons for flight. He writes about volunteers, smugglers, coastguards, as well as “politicians who look the other way”.  Read it and be changed.  


The Crossing

We have all seen images of Syria on the news. In this book, journalist Samar Yazbek travels from Paris where she is living in exile back to Syria on three separate occasions. It reads like an unending conveyor belt of death. Yazbek gives an insight into the daily lives of Syrians living in terrible conditions. Read it and have your heart softened to the Syrians living in our midst.  


The Morning They Came For Us

Janine di Giovanni reports on how the war in Syria began and the impact it has on people. It is harrowing.  Maybe even more than the previous book. Particularly brutal is realising how rape is commonly used as a weapon of war.   


The Book of Boaz

This is the story of how Dave Smith established the Boaz Trust, a charity for destitute asylum seekers in Manchester. The book is also an exploration of the British asylum system and what we can do to welcome people.


Refugee Stories

In this book, Dave Smith records seven true stories of people he works with. It highlights that every situation is different. The one thread running through the book is the difficulties and hardship endured by each person as well as the less than welcoming treatment they have all received from the government.  


Serving God in a Migrant Crisis

Patrick Johnstone argues that the refugee crisis is no passing phase. Instead, it is a growing global trend. He organises his book into three sections: What’s going on, What’s to know and What to do? Chapters that were particularly impacting were Jesus was a Refugee and The Blessings of Immigration. Johnstone says, “The world has literally come to our doorstep. Will we open the door?”. Read it to see if you can find the mention of Upbeat Communities!  


Seeking Refuge

This is almost like Serving God in a Migrant Crisis but for an American audience. However, it is worthwhile reading for sections on the theology of migration, hospitality, and understanding the trauma behind resettlement.   


The Happiest Refugee

This is the account of how Anh Do came to Australia on a boat from Vietnam. Surviving pirates and dehydration was just the start of his journey. After struggling in many jobs, he realised that comedians only have to work a few hours a week so he changed career. A five-star read!  


City of Thorns

The Radio 4 book of the week from February 2016. An account of nine interconnected lives in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. One Amazon reviewer called it a story of "shocking reality" and "painfully informative". This is what someone else had to say: 

"This was quite a perspective changing book for me. I'll admit, I usually just think of refugees as statistics that you hear about on the news, instead of as discrete individuals with their own story and their own personal struggles, some of which are not so different from my own." 


Human Cargo

Written in three sections (leaving, arriving and afterwards), Caroline Moorehead writes about asylum seekers in a range of locations including Afghanistan, America, Australia, Egypt, Lebanon, Britain and Sicily. The one thing that unites all these places is the effort that governments expend in order to keep people out. Although it is now a dated book, reading it is very informative and well worth the effort.   


Cast Away

This book, written by the Deputy Foreign Editor of The Independent, documents journeys to Europe as well as Europe’s inadequate response. Peter Lloyd, an Amazon reviewer, states that “this book does a great service in helping us meet people and listens to them tell their stories, of why they left home, the terrible journeys that they have endured and their treatment on arrival in Europe". 


The Optician of Lampedusa

An award-winning BBC journalist brings to life a late summer boat trip off a Sicilian island. That’s what the blurb says, but it's much more than that. As well as documenting the final tragic part of a journey from Libya, the book also documents how the optician has his heart enlarged for those he had previously not seen. Read the book and be spurred on to make a difference. 


What have we missed? Let us know in the comments! Let's choose compassion and understanding over fear and prejudice in 2018.  

Elliot – Project Coordinator and Tutor