Books: ‘Often out of great suffering something creative can emerge’

Books: ‘Often out of great suffering something creative can emerge’

This World Book Day we are highlighting books written by those who have experienced the trauma of being taken hostage or having had a loved one taken. Spanning many decades, there has been much research around how writing and reading can help people heal from trauma.

Our co-founder Terry Waite – who was held captive from 1987 to 1991 – reflected how in his days of solitude he told himself, ‘Suffering, in most cases, need not destroy. Often out of great suffering something creative can emerge’.

He wrote his first book, Taken on Trust, in his head while chained up for 23 hours and 50 minutes a day.

“I had no pencil and paper, but I could write in my head and the only way I could survive was to keep myself mentally alive.”

Following his release, Terry was elected a fellow at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he wrote his autobiography before its first release in 1993. Many hostages have written about their experiences.

At the other end of the trauma of hostage-taking and arbitrary detention, there are families desperate for any information that can give them a glimpse of what their loved one might be going through.

Miles Hargrove – who made the film Miracle Fishing about the experience of his dad being taken by the Colombian Narco-Guerillas – recently spoke about how his family was so hungry for information they searched for books by people who had experienced kidnapping first-hand.

Our reading list:

In response to people approaching us for reading suggestions, the team at Hostage International, led by former hostages Jude Tebbutt and Colin Freeman, has compiled a list of books predominantly written by hostages about their own experiences.

This list is not exhaustive, nor listed in any particular order, and we would always urge caution when choosing reading material reflecting traumatic events. If you have been directly affected by hostage-taking or arbitrary detention we are here to help [email protected].


Taken on Trust: an autobiography by Terry Waite

Terry, a former Church of England envoy, was kidnapped in Beirut, Lebanon, on 20 January 1987 while seeking to mediate the release of other hostages. He was held hostage for four and a half years before being released. He wrote much of this book in his head while in captivity and was able to put it down in writing following his release.


A Long Walk Home by Judith Tebbutt

Jude, who was on holiday with her husband in Kenya when she was kidnapped on 11 September 2011, and her husband was killed in the process.  She was held hostage in solitary confinement for six months in Somalia. Jude was released on 21 March 2012.


A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

Amanda, a Canadian reporter, was kidnapped and held hostage in August 2008 in southern Somalia together with her Australian companion Nigel Brennan. They were held for 15 months and released on 25 November 2009.


One Day Closer: A Mother’s Quest to Bring Her Kidnapped Daughter Home by Lorinda Stewart

This book, written by the mother of Amanda Lindhout, tells the story of how, for 460 days, she fought to save her daughter to bring her home.


The Price of Life by Nigel Brennan

Nigel, a photojournalist, was kidnapped and held hostage in August 2008 along with his colleague Amanda Lindhout. He was released on 25 November 2009 and wrote this book with contributions from his sister and sister-in-law.


Even Silence Has an end: My six years of captivity in the Colombian Jungle by Ingrid Betancourt

Ingrid was kidnapped whilst campaigning for the Colombian Presidency in 2002 by the FARC and was held hostage for six years until she was rescued on 2 July 2008.


American Hostage by Micah Garen

Micah, a journalist working in Iraq, was kidnapped and held hostage on 13 August 2004 and was held for nine days before being released.


Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 days in the Colombian Jungle by Marc Gonsalves

Marc, a military contractor, was travelling along with two colleagues when their aircraft crashed in the jungle of Columbia.  He was held hostage by the FARC for five and a half years before being rescued on 2 July 2008 alongside Ingrid Betancourt and others.


Eleven days of Hell by Yvonne Bornstein

Yvonne, an international trader, and her husband Danny were kidnapped and held hostage in Moscow by Chechen terrorists linked to al-Qaeda until they were rescued by a joint mission between the FBI and Moscow Police.


Escape in Iraq: The Thomas Hamill Story by Thomas Hamill

Thomas, a truck convoy commander delivering fuel to the US armed forces, was kidnapped and taken hostage on 9 April 2004. He made a miraculous escape 24 days later.


An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan

Brian, a teacher, went to Beirut in 1985 to work but was taken hostage by fundamentalist Shi’ite militiamen and held for four and a half years before finally being released on 24 August 1990.  He was held with Terry Waite and John McCarthy.


At your own risk: An American Chronicle of Crisis and Captivity in the Middle East by Tom Sutherland

Tom, a professor of Colorado State University, went to work at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon when he was kidnapped on 9 June 1985 and was held hostage for nearly six and a half years before being released on 18 November 1991. He was also held with Terry Waite and Terry Anderson.


Den of Lions: A Startling Memoir of Survival and Triumph by Terry Anderson

Terry, a journalist in Lebanon, was kidnapped in March 1985 and finally released in December 1991, enduring nearly seven years of captivity before being released.


The Hostage’s Daughter: A Story of Family, Madness and the Middle East by Sulome Anderson

In this book, Sulome, daughter of Terry Anderson, attempts to understand her father, the men who kidnapped him, and ultimately herself.


Buried Alive: Kidnapped and Entombed in the Deserts of Iraq by Roy Hallums Roy

Roy, an American contractor working in Saudi Arabia, was kidnapped on 1 November 2004 and held captive for ten months and seven days before being freed by US Arm’s Delta Force in Baghdad on 7 September 2005.


The ISIS Hostage – One Man’s True Story of 13 Months in Captivity by Puk Damsgård

Freelance photographer Daniel Rye was kidnapped in Syria and held prisoner by Islamic State for13 months.  This book, written with Daniel’s full cooperation, allows the reader to follow the investigation to locate and free Daniel whilst also giving a harrowing account of his time in captivity.


Weight of Sand: My 450 Days Held Hostage in the Sahara by Edith Blais

Quebec-born Edith and her Italian travelling companion were taken hostage by Islamic terrorists in eastern Burkina Faso in December 2018.  Edith and her companion Luca made a successful escape and she wrote this book in the months immediately following her release. It was published in Canada in 2021.


Blindfold: A Memoir of Capture, Torture, and Enlightenment by Theo Padnos

Theo, an American award-winning journalist, was captured and tortured in Syria by al-Qaeda affiliates for two years. He recounts his harrowing experience including his first-hand account of life in a Syrian village, being held in 13 different prisons. He was released in August 2014.


Kidnapped: Life as a Somali Pirate Hostage by Colin Freeman

Colin, a British journalist, was captured in Somalia and held for 40 days after being double-crossed by his bodyguards. He was released on 4 January 2008.


Hostage: A Year at Gunpoint with Somali Gangsters by Paul and Rachel Chandler with Sarah Edworthy

British couple Paul and Rachel were sailing their boat off the archipelago of Seychelles in October 2009 when Somali pirates boarded their boat and kidnapped them.  They were held hostage in Somalia for 388 days before being released on 14 November 2010.


Held hostage for 444 days: A story of survival by Barry Rosen

Barry, who was the US Embassy’s new press attaché to Iran, was one of 66 Americans seized inside the embassy in Tehran in November 1979. On 20 January 1981 Barry and other former hostages were freed.


The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast by Michael Scott Moore

Michael, an American journalist, had flown to Somalia for work in 2012 when he was kidnapped by Somali pirates who held him hostage for 977 days.


Some other Rainbow by John McCarthy & Jill Morrell

John, a British journalist, was kidnapped in Beirut on 17 April 1986 and held hostage for five years. During that time, Jill Morrell worked tirelessly on behalf of John until his release in August 1991. The book shares the experience of both John and Jill through those five years.


In the Hands of the Taliban by Yvonne Ridley

Yvonne, a British journalist, was captured by the Taliban on 28 September 2001 and held hostage for 11 days during which time she went on hunger strike.  Yvonne was released unharmed on humanitarian grounds.


Between Extremes by Brian Keenan and John McCarthy

Brian and John had been held hostage together in Beirut with only themselves and some American encyclopedias where they allowed their imaginations to wander across the high Andes and wastes of Patagonia.  Five years after their release they made that trip a reality.  This book is their account of their journey.


Impossible Odds by Jessica Buchanan

Jessica, an American aid worker working in Somalia with her colleague Poul Hagen Thisted, was kidnapped by Somali pirates on 24 October 2011 and held for 93 days.  On 25 January 2012, a team of 20 Navy Seals carried out a successful rescue, killing nine pirates in the process.


A Season in Hell by Robert Fowler

Robert, a Canadian diplomat, was kidnapped by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb while serving with the UN in Niger in 2008. He and a colleague were held in searing temperatures in the Sahara Desert for 130 days before being released. His book relays the hardships he suffered, as well as detailing his relationship with his captors and their motivations for kidnapping him.


Six Years a Hostage: Captured by Islamist Militants in the Desert by Stephen McGown

Stephen McGown was en route from London to South Africa in 2011, on a once-in-a-lifetime trip by motorbike, returning home to Johannesburg. He had reached Timbuktu, in Mali, when he was captured, along with a Dutch and a Swedish national, by al-Qaeda Islamist militants. He was subsequently held hostage at various camps in the Sahara Desert in the northwest of Africa for nearly six years before eventually being released on 25 July 2017.


Hostage by Guy Delisle

A graphic novel about Christophe Andre, who was working as a Médecins Sans Frontières administrator in Chechnya, when he was kidnapped on 2 July 1997 and held for 111 days before being released. Delisle worked closely with Andre and this novel illustrates in pictures the experience of his frightening and disorienting captivity.


Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison, by Jason Rezaian

A first-hand account by an American journalist, Jason, about his time as a prisoner of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in solitary confinement, the sham trial he went through, and the high-stakes diplomacy that occurred to get him out.


Long March to Freedom: Tom Hargrove’s Own Story of His Kidnapping by Colombian Narco-Guerrillas by Thomas R. Hargrove

Tom Hargrove was kidnapped in Colombia in 1994 while working as an agricultural scientist. This is a frank and honest account of Tom’s eleven months in captivity. He wrote the book on scraps of paper hidden in his belt which he smuggled out.


On 3 March 2022 World Book Day is celebrated in the UK.





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Books: ‘Often out of great suffering something creative can emerge’
Books: ‘Often out of great suffering something creative can emerge’