Mighty Be Our Powers, by Leymah Gbowee

Leymah Gbowee's tranquil, relatively privileged life as a 17-year-old university student exploded in 1990 when war broke out in her homeland, the West African nation of Liberia. Today she is a spokesperson for women worldwide who are tired of war and want to build peace. Her memoir Mighty Be Our Powers tells the gripping story of the 21 intervening years. If you are looking for hope among the many news stories of conflict and violence, you will find it here.

And, if you are looking for an original, passionate memoir, you will find that too in this book. Listen to Gbowee describe her immersion into war after a childhood of peace: "When you move so quickly from innocence to a world of fear, pain and loss, it's as if the flesh of your heart and mind gets cut away, piece by piece, like slices taken off a ham. Finally, there is nothing left but the bone."

In 1996, six years after Charles Taylor began the rebellion that toppled the government of Samuel Doe and led to multiple struggles for power among warlords, Liberia lay in ruins. All the infrastructure—roads, hospitals, schools, electricity—was gone. Soldiers had shot up anything left standing, including light poles. More than 80 percent of the population was living below the poverty line. Little boys were toting AK-47s that they could hardly lift but knew how to shoot.