1 of 8
By Loung Ung
280 pp.; Harper Perennial

Chronicling the horrors of Cambodia's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, First They Killed My Father focuses on Loung Ung's harrowing trek from a privileged daughter to a child soldier under Pol Pot. Director Angelina Jolie, who adopted her son Maddox from Cambodia in 2002, shot the film version on location and co-wrote the script with Ung, including unflinching depictions of labor camps and mass murder. But the brutality of the original memoir is hard to imitate, mostly due to Ung's voice. Within a year, she went from a happy 5-year-old to near death from starvation: "I can count every rib in my rib cage…" she writes. "The flesh on my feet is so swollen it glistens as if it will pop open." Years later, her every action is haunted by visions of death, as when she looks up at the sky. "They hover over me, these cloud-skulls, glaring at me with their invisible eyes." (September 15, Netflix)