As book discussion leaders we are always looking for books that will challenge our readers.  What we do not want is that the topic of the book will lead the group away from a discussion of the book and into a debate on the subject matter. 

The book I would like to suggest as a book discussion title is called The Photographer:  Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Emmaunel Guibert, Didier Lefévre and Frédéric Lemercier. 

Here are the reasons why this book may soften the approach to this controversial topic. 

First, it is not about our war.  Sadly, Afghanistan was worn-torn long before the U.S. Armed Forces arrived and this book takes place in 1986 when a young French photographer decided to document the work of the Médecins Sans Frontiéres or Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan when it was occupied by the forces from the Soviet Union.  By showing how the doctors have to cross into Afghanistan from Pakistan, it shows the complex relationships between the people and the virtually ungoverned region that so dominates our news.

Second, this book is in graphic nonfiction format combining the drawings of Guibert and the photographs of Lefévre.  I believe that discussing the format may lessen the need to spend the whole discussion talking about the subject matter of the book. 

Third, the text.  Lefévre makes a lot of choices on his journey that will lead to a good discussion about him.  He is a fascinating character to read about and to view. 

This book might appeal to young adult or male readers to draw them into a discussion.  What will be the challenge for the discussion leader is to set a course in the discussion and lead, allowing the controversial to surface, the present to resonate along with the past, but not to let the discussion fall victim to emotion. 



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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