In her memoir, Free: Coming of Age at the End of History, Lea Ypi chronicles her childhood growing up when Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha was in power and through the era of Albania post-Hoxha. With wit and insight Ypi recounts how she trusted Hoxha like a grandpa while questioning her parents’ lack of enthusiasm for the government.

I was pulled in with her stories of her family obtaining and losing a prized possession, an empty Coke can, of how her family talked in code about neighbors and relatives who disappeared, of her best friend who ran off with a neighborhood tough guy.

The book continues through the 1990s when Albania transitioned to a free market economy when her mother got political, her father found himself working for a corporation and having to implement World Bank policies and when it seemed that everyone who could fled to Europe or North America.

This year I spent 12 weeks in Albania and found this memoir a wonderful way to learn more of its history, while being able to ask my colleagues if their families also coveted empty Coke cans. Sure enough they did.

You don’t need to visit Albania, to enjoy this book. I’ve ordered several copies as gifts this Christmas. I’m that confident of its appeal.