7. World War Z by Max Brooks
Read this book NOW. World War Z is an account from multiple survivors all over the world of the Great Zombie War. Find out how the outbreak began, how governments reacted, the catastrophes that resulted, how rebels and soldiers and ordinary people survived.
In all seriousness, this book feels absolutely accurate. Beyond the questionable existence of the undead, the accounts from all facets of every society; Israel's self-quarantine, the several versions of South Africa's "Redeker" plan (protect a desirable percentage of the people, hole up and cut your losses), the nuclear outbreak between Iran and Pakistan, the abandonment of Japan and China (the outbreak begins in China), various navy defections, of course the behavior of idealistic, individualistic Americans, and all variety of psychological epidemics; seem plausible. Which returns me to why this book needs to be read now.
Max Brooks demonstrates at least a shallow if not thorough understanding of the current culture of every country he portrays. This book would be a great way for teens to start learning, in a fun way, about what motivates the international community. This is the best time to read it to get references that I'm afraid will quickly be out of date. I'm sure this book could be classic, but let's face it, Cold War references aren't so hot anymore. That said, it does even hark back to earlier periods in history that will always shape some part of the culture of certain places.
I tend to be a scaredy-cat sometimes with books and especially movies (at 8, the madwoman in Jane Eyre made me hide under the covers with the lights on). The descriptions are naturally a little macabre, as with the use of the "Lobo," a two-sided spear intended for zombie brain destruction, but nothing that can't be read in the daytime. I liked it so much, I bought it for my sister for her birthday. I can't praise it more than that.