Yo-Yo Ma, concert cellist and artistic director of The Silk Road Project, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to celebrating local cultures and global connections, recommends five recent favorite reads.

Lying Awake by Mark Salzman (Knopf, $14.70). I have enjoyed all of Mark Salzman’s books, but find this one to be a tremendous achievement. He illuminates the nature of spiritual life through the unique voice of Sister John of the Cross; using the realities and inspirations of her visions, he explores the age-old mystery of artistic inspiration.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (HarperPerennial Library, $11.20). Through this tale of the small village of Macondo and the family of its founder, Jose Arcadio Buendia, García Márquez draws readers into Latin American culture. The magical realism of this novel was so powerful that its color and images enveloped me. It’s one of the few books that made me see and think about my own world from a wholly different perspective.

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Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus by Robert D. Kaplan (Random House, $18.86). Kaplan’s history, enriched by his comprehensive knowledge of the region, is my favorite kind of book—one that begins a process. It opened a door for me: Not only did I come away with a better understanding of the region, I actually wanted to go there.

The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf (Schocken Books, $12.80). Described by Maalouf as a “true life novel,” the author presents a well-researched and objective historical study. He transcends traditional perspectives of the Mideast and West, creating an objective historical chronicle.

The East India Company: A History by Phillip Lawson (Longman Publishing Group, $43). As I learned more about the migration of ideas and goods along the Silk Route, I wanted to gain a better understanding of the East India Company, which was such a huge part of British history. Here, Lawson provides a comprehensive study.

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