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


  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


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