Lives Other Than My Own

Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

21 of 50
Lives Other Than My Own
256 pages; Metropolitan Books
You'd have to call 2005 a very tough year for Emmanuel Carrère and his family: After barely escaping a tsunami while vacationing in Sri Lanka, they returned home to Paris to witness the death of Carrère's partner's sister. While Lives Other Than My Own (Metropolitan) might have been just another "why me?" memoir, it is, in the French novelist and biographer's hands, a wise study of the roots and rewards of altruism. With clear-eyed reporting, never-treacly compassion, and, yes, a healthy dose of French philosophizing, Carrère shows us how even the most self-obsessed can find grace and joy in the simplest acts of kindness.
— Sara Nelson