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Six summer reads from ShelterBox Book Club

by Catherine Thornhill, ShelterBox Book Club Head BookWorm 24/07/2022

It can be a delicious feeling, one that may be traced back to childhood as much as to your most recent holiday. Warm weather, a snack of your choice, and most important of all, days long and undisturbed enough to allow you to get truly lost in a book or two.

At ShelterBox Book Club we know that the books we choose can still take us on that long journey, expanding our horizons and allowing us to form bonds with people and places we might never have visited in person.

Whether their covers shade your eyes or catch the first drops of rain, we highly recommend the following reads from our ShelterBox Book Club back catalogue this summer.

A Woman of Firsts book cover

1. A Woman of Firsts: The Midwife Who Built a Hospital and Changed the World

by Edna Adan Ismail

A Woman of Firsts is the story of a remarkable woman who stood up and spoke out, not just for herself but for all the women and girls who couldn’t.

Edna Adan Ismail was the first Somali girl to study in Britain, the first Somali woman to drive, and Somaliland’s first qualified midwife. But she was also the First Lady of the Somali Republic before the violent coup which has caused decades of turmoil in the region.

Since Somaliland’s self-declared independence in the early 90s, Edna has served as both the Minister of Family Welfare and Social Development and as their first female Foreign Minister. Alongside these accomplishments, she has continued to work as a midwife both in Somalia and Somaliland and around the world with the World Health Organisation. She was the inventor of the phrase ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ having experienced it as a child and has worked tirelessly for its abolition. Her proudest achievement is the founding and building of the Edna Adam Hospital in Hargeisa, training future generations in what has been hailed as one of the Horn of Africa’s finest university hospitals.

The boy who harnessed the wind book cover

2. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope

by William Kamkwamba

Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi’s top boarding schools.

But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family’s farm devastated and his parents destitute. William was forced to drop out of college and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.

Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armoury of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan. He was going to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity—electricity and running water.

The unlikely adventures of the Shergill sisters book cover

3. The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

by Balli Kaur Jaswal

The British-born Punjabi Shergill sisters—Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina—were never close and now as adults, have grown even further apart.

On her deathbed, their mother voices one last wish. That her daughters will make a pilgrimage together to the Golden Temple in Amritsar and five other traditional Sikh sites of worship to carry out her final rites.

Arriving in India, these sisters will make unexpected discoveries about themselves, their mother, and their lives. And they’ll learn the real story behind the trip Rajni took with their Mother long ago—a momentous journey that resulted in Mum never being able to return to India again.


Yuli by Carlos Acosta book cover

4. Yuli: The Carlos Acosta Story

by Carlos Acosta

When Carlos’s father enrolled him in ballet school, he hoped not only to nurture his son’s talent, but also to curb his wildness. This magical memoir is about more than Carlos’s rise to stardom, however.

It is the story of a childhood where food is scarce, but love is abundant, where the soul of Cuba comes alive to influence a dancer’s art. It is also about a man forced to leave behind his homeland and loved ones for a life of self-discipline, displacement, and brutal physical hardship. Carlos Acosta makes dance look effortless, but the grace, strength, and charm have come at a cost. Here, in his own words, is the story of the price he paid.

We, the survivors by Tash Aw book cover

5. We, The Survivors

by Tash Aw

Born in a Malaysian fishing village, Ah Hock is trying to make his way in a country that promises riches and security to everyone but delivers them only to a chosen few.

With Asian society changing around him, like many, he remains trapped in a world of poorly paid jobs. These just about allow him to keep his head above water but ultimately lead him to murder a migrant worker from Bangladesh.

In the tradition of Camus and Houellebecq, Ah Hock’s vivid and compelling description of the years building up to this appalling act of violence – told over several days to a local journalist whose life has taken a different course – is a portrait of an outsider like no other, an anti-nostalgic view of human life and the ravages of hope. It is the work of a writer at the peak of his powers.

Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo book cover

6. Mr Loverman

by Bernardine Evaristo

Barrington Jedidiah Walker is seventy-four and leads a double life. Born and bred in Antigua, he’s lived in Hackney since the sixties.

A flamboyant, wise-cracking local character with a dapper taste in retro suits and a fondness for quoting Shakespeare, Barrington is a husband, father, and grandfather. But he is also secretly homosexual, lovers with his great childhood friend, Morris. His deeply religious and disappointed wife, Carmel, thinks he sleeps with other women. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington wants to divorce Carmel and live with Morris, but after a lifetime of fear and deception, will he manage to break away?

Feeling inspired? You can buy a copy of any of these books from, an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.


If you’d like to read more books from around the world and help ShelterBox in the process, then why not sign up to join our Book Club here. 

You will be joining over 3,000 members who receive an incredible book in the post every 6 weeks. At the end of each book cycle, members meet online to share their reactions in curated Q&As and debates.

Our Book Club choices are inspired by the people we help support: families across the world who have lost everything after disaster. What’s more your donation to the ShelterBox Book Club helps ShelterBox to change the stories of even more families.

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