Around the World for a Good Book


A few years ago, probably not too long after my country began an ill-conceived invasion of Iraq, I decided that I should do something to learn more about people in other countries. Since I’m a compulsive reader the natural solution was to learn about people and culture through their literature. So I started the Around the World for a Good Book challenge to read a book by an author from every country in the world.

I set a few guidelines for the effort:

  1. Due to my monolingualism the book would have to be written or translated into English (one of the great barriers to finding books from some countries)
  2. The book I read should preferably be fiction – a novel or short stories. Poetry is okay as well and a non-fiction work by a native author as last resort.
  3. Failing to find any book that meets the above two requirements I would read a history or travel book about the country in question, again preferably by a native author.

Trying to read a book from every country in the world raises a lot of questions. How many countries are there in the world anyhow? The US State Department Recognizes 191 independent states, the United Nations has 192 member states, and FIFA ranks 201 football-playing entities.  Wikipedia has a list of  245 sovereign states!

Does the United Kingdom count as one nation or four? Is there such a thing as a native of the Holy See? And what about Catalonians, Palestinians, Tibetans, and other peoples who do not have country  to call their own? Fortunately, at my pace of reading I have a lot of time to work on these questions.

Here are the books I’ve read already with links to reviews:

  1. Afghanistan: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  2. Algeria: Cousin K by Yasmina Khadra
  3. Angola: A General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa
  4. Antarctica: Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler
  5. Bangladesh: The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam
  6. Antigua and Barbuda: Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
  7. Argentina: Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar
  8. Australia: Woman of the Inner Sea by Thomas Keneally
  9. Austria: The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek
  10. Belgium: Life Form by Amélie Nothomb
  11. Belize: Beka Lamb by Zee Edgell
  12. Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Lazarus Project by Alexsandr Hemon
  13. Brazil: Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado
  14. Cameroon: The Story of the Madman : A Novel by Mongo Beti
  15. Canada: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
  16. Catalonia: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  17. Chile: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  18. Colombia: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  19. Costa Rica: Assault on Paradise by Tatiana Lobo
  20. Côte d’Ivoire: Aya by Marguerite Abouet
  21. Croatia: Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić
  22. Czech Republic: The Joke by Milan Kundera
  23. Djibouti: In the United States of Africa by Abdourahman A. Waberi
  24. Dominican Republic: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  25. Ecuador: Bruna and Her Sisters in the Sleeping City by Yanez Cossio
  26. England: Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
  27. Egypt: I Think of You by Ahdaf Soueif
  28. Ethiopia: Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste
  29. Faroe Islands: Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion by Johan Harstad
  30. Fiji: The Anniversary Present by Larry Thomas
  31. Finland: Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna
  32. France: The Castle of Whispers by Carole Martinez
  33. Georgia: Pilgrimage to Dzhvari by Valeria Alfeyeva
  34. Ghana: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey
  35. Germany: Billiards at Half-Past Nine by Heinrich Böll
  36. Greece: Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
  37. Greenland: Crimson by Niviaq Korneliussen
  38. Haiti: Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
  39. Honduras: Senselessness by Hoacio Castellanos Moya
  40. Hungary: The Last Wolf & Herman : The Game Warden & the Death of a Craft by László Krasznahorkai
  41. Iceland: The Blue Tower by Thorarinn Eldjarn
  42. India: The God of Small Things by Arundhuti Roy
  43. Indonesia: Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan
  44. Iran: Persepolis & Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi
  45. Iraq: A Sky So Close by Betool Khedairi
  46. Ireland: Patrick Pearse Motel by Hugh Leonard
  47. Israel: Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret
  48. Italy: Conclave by Roberto Pazzi
  49. Jamaica: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
  50. Japan: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  51. Kiribati: The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Maarten Troost
  52. Kyrgyzstan: The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov
  53. Lebanon: The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
  54. Lithuania: Stalemate by Icchokas Meras
  55. Malaysia: Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
  56. Mexico: The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel
  57. Nepal: Arresting God in Kathmandu by Samrat Upadhyay
  58. Netherlands: The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer (NOTE: I read many Dutch books in preparation for a trip to Amsterdam in 2010)
  59. New Zealand: Dogside Story by Patricia Grace
  60. Nigeria: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  61. Norway: The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann
  62. Pakistan: Salt & Saffron by Kamilla Shamsie
  63. Palestine: Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
  64. Peru: Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa
  65. Poland: Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
  66. Portugal: Jerusalem by Gonçalo Tavares
  67. Romania: Little Fingers by Filip Florian
  68. Saint Lucia: Prisnms by Garth St. Omer
  69. Scotland: The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway
  70. Serbia: The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
  71. Senegal: Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks by Boubacar Boris Diop
  72. Singapore: The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang
  73. Somalia: Maps by Nuruddin Farah
  74. South Africa:  Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
  75. South Korea: Silver Stallion by  Ahn Junghyo
  76. Spain:  The Man of Feeling by Javier Marías
  77. Sweden: Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
  78. Switzerland: To the Back of Beyond by Peter Stamm
  79. Syria: Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa
  80. Thailand: The Happiness of Kati by Ngarmpun (Jane) Vejjajiva
  81. Togo: An African in Greenland by Tété -Michel Kpmoassie
  82. Trinidad and Tobago: The Golden Child by Claire Adam
  83. Turkey: Snow by Orhan Pamuk
  84. Uganda: Snakepit by Moses Isegawa
  85. United States Virgin Islands: Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
  86. Uruguay: The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis
  87. Vatican City: When in Rome by Robert J. Hutchinson
  88. Vietnam:  On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous  by Ocean Vuong
  89. Wales: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  90. Zambia: The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell
  91. Zimbabwe: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

I’m always looking for new suggestions of good books from different parts of the world.  If you know a good book that meets my guidelines, please post the title and author in the comments field.

15 thoughts on “Around the World for a Good Book

  1. Aloha: Perhaps you have it on your list but in the manner of An African in Greenland I think you should read Sex Lives Of Cannibals. It doesn’t really have much to do with sex lives or Cannibals and is one of the most entertaining books I have ever read about a couple living on a Island in the Pacific. (Kiribati) It really is hilarious and a true story.

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  2. This is a wonderful project. I applaud for undertaking it actually. I can´t help but comment that you haven´t read anything from Macedonia though. You should work some more on your list :D

    Like

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