1) School Violence
Fiction: We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
A mother deals with the aftermath of her son's killing spree at his high school and the ramifications for her and her family.
Non-fiction: Ceremonial Violence: A Psychological Explanation of School Shootings by Jonathan Fast
An examination of various cases of school shootings from the first recorded incidents through Columbine.
2) Death and Grief
Two teenagers with cancer meet at a support group, fall in love, and teach each other valuable life lessons. Wow that sounds cheesey. It's not, trust me.
Start with The Year of Magical Thinking, a memoir of the year Didion loses her husband and deals with major health issues threatening her daughter's life and then read Blue Nights, where Didion writes about her daughter's death. Both are beautifully written.
3) Kidnapping/Domestic Trafficking
Fiction: Room by Emma Donoghue
Shockingly relevant to ongoing current events, Room is the story of a woman who is kidnapped as a young adult and held for years. The story is narrated by her five year old son, fathered by her captor.
Non-fiction: Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd
Real stories of young women who are bought and sold and held against their will or forced into prostitution as told by Rachel Lloyd, whose life work is helping these women escape and restore their lives.
Fiction: Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt
An allegorical work of literary fiction in which an actual black dog represents the depression experienced by both Winston Churchill and his temporary secretary.
Non-fiction: Killing the Black Dog by Les Murray
There are so many good memoirs and works of non-fiction on depression but Les Murray's is one of my favorites because it also includes the poetry that he wrote during a debilitating bout of depression that I find to be particularly meaningful and relevant to my own experiences.
5) Religious Abuse/Sexual Abuse in the Church
Fiction: Faith by Jennifer Haigh
A sister attempts to restore the reputation of her disgraced brother, a Catholic priest who has been accused of sexual abuse.
Non-fiction: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
A history of the Mormon faith, combined with an expose of the abuses of the modern FLDS.
6) Global Oppression of Women
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholos D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn
Journalists Kristoff and WuDunn tackle the biggest issues facing women on a global level, such as: trafficking, rape as an instrument of war, AIDS proliferation, and female genital mutilation.
7) Repressed Memory
The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham
An expert in psychology, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, examines the way our memory works and the phenomenon of false memories and how they have resulted in allegations of abuse.
8) False Convictions
Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How To Make It Right by Barry Scheck, Jim Dwyer, and Peter Neufield
A description of the Innocence Project, a non-profit that is using advances in DNA testing to overturn the convictions of criminals who were wrongly convicted using poor evidence, and stories of the men and women whose lives have been changed. It also addresses the challenges faced by those who are wrongly convicted, spend years in prison, and are then released.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
Journalist Katherine Boo spends three years living among the people who live in a Mumbai slum and describes the devastating poverty and daily life challenges faced by the people who live there.
And finally, a very important issue that is on all of our minds, and about which we all need to be familiar:
10) The Zombie Apocalypse
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
It was really hard for me to narrow down just one zombie book to recommend, but in the end I had to go with Max Brooks because I feel like he is the definitive author of the zombie genre and World War Z is a must-read if you're at all concerned about the zombie apocalypse, WHICH YOU SHOULD BE.