In her 2013 autobiography I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, the young Pakistani activist describes the political turmoil that led to her radical advocation for female education in her native Swat Valley. After surviving a shot to the head by the Taliban for speaking out, Malala Yousafzai rose to prominence as a powerful figure in the fight for social justice and universal human rights around the world, and became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Yousafzai was profiled back in 2014 for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, where she spoke on the books and authors that shaped her life and work. Besides naming The Alchemist as an all-time favorite, she also recommended The Kite Runner to students, and Deborah Ellis’ The Breadwinner as the one book all girls should read.

Find a list of Malala’s book recommendations below, and complement with the reading lists of Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr


Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (also rec’d by Gabriel García Márquez)

“It’s a short book, but it is filled with so much. It really reflects the situation of 1930s America. I was fascinated to learn how women were treated at the time, and what life was like for poor itinerant workers.” -MY

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (also rec’d by Neil Patrick Harris)

“I like it because it is hopeful and inspiring. It tells the story of a boy who embarks on a journey to find a treasure, but as he goes along, he learns from every part of his journey and every person he meets. In the end, he finds his treasure in a very interesting place. His story tells you that you should believe in yourself and continue your journey.” -MY

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

“The book tells the story of a young girl who takes on the challenge of saving her family. I think it’s important for girls everywhere to learn how women are treated in some societies. But even though Parvana is treated as lesser than boys and men, she never feels that way. She believes in herself and is stronger to fight against hunger, fear and war. Girls like her are an inspiration. The Breadwinner reminds us how courageous and strong women are around the world.” -MY

Parvana’s Journey by Deborah Ellis

“I was gripped by this series and couldn’t drag myself away from it. Ellis beautifully captures childhood in war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan. The stories are very moving.” -MY

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

“All students should read The Kite Runner. It shows you should not judge other people by external things. And it shows loyalty and friendship.” -MY

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (also rec’d by Bruce Springsteen)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was the first book I read in the hospital. I had been having headaches and couldn’t read or focus properly for a while. It is a lovely book, and it was given to me by Gordon Brown — he sent me 25 books, and this was my favorite.” -MY

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (also rec’d by Richard Branson)

“I read it during a period when life in Swat was very hard. I distracted myself from the fear and terrorism by thinking about things like how the universe began and whether time travel is possible. I enjoy science, and I’m a very curious person. I always want to know the reason behind everything, big or small.” -MY

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (also rec’d by Hayao Miyazaki & Trevor Noah)

“It is a very clever book, and in the beginning it’s extremely funny.” -MY

Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan: The Martyr Who Founded RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan by Melody Ermachild Chavis

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

(via The New York Times)

Categories: Activists

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