World Of Literature Project

50 Countries. 50 Books

Finished: January 2023

In 2013 I embarked on a journey to diversify my reading. I’ve read thousands of books in my lifetime yet I’d been feeling for some time that my reading had been heavily biased towards the UK and USA. I knew little about the literature of South America, Africa or many parts of Europe.

The World of Literature Project was designed to change that. I set a goal of reading books by authors from 50 different countries.

Where in the world?

I deliberately excluded authors from the UK (Wales, Scotland,England and Northern Ireland); Eire and USA because I’d read extensively from those parts of the world already so it wouldn’t have been much of a challenge to include them.

My initial idea was to focus on the countries that lay along the Equator and the Prime Meridian. In theory that gave me 21 countries to explore. Unfortunately there were some countries that offered little if any option for books in English.

I’d love to be able to say at some point in the future that I’ve read a book from every county in the world but the chances I will find anything from small nations like Burkina Faso or Mali are slim.

It’s taken me almost ten years to complete the project — my last country was Iceland in January 2023.

I could have made life a lot easier and I’d have finished the project much soon if I’d chosen books set in a particular country. But I wanted an insider’s perspective on the language, way of life and culture of the country so I limited myself to the authors born in/raised in each country.

Which authors count?

That decision did present me with a few difficulties.

Would I include authors born in a country but living elsewhere? What if they were born in country A but most of their time was spent living in country B? How about second generation authors? Those who might never lived in China themselves, for example, but through their parents and networks had a strong cultural affinity to that location?

There was no clear cut answer so I just had to use my own judgement. For example, if an author left the country of their birth when they were a very small child and never returned (or only for a short visit) then I didn’t classify them as being from that country.

I probably made some incorrect decisions along the way — If I discover them, I’ll go back and find a different author from that country.

Books on the reading journey

The lists below show you what I read as part of this project.  Some countries have more than one entry but I counted the country just once.

Europe

Austria: A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler 

Belgium: Fear and Trembling by Amelie Nothomb

Croatia : Hotel Tito by Ivana Simić Bodrožić 

Czech Republic: Miss Silver’s Past by Josef Škvorecký

Denmark: The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul

Finland: White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen

France: Old Goriot by Honoré Balzac

Germany: The Search for Christa T by Christa Wolf

Holland/The Netherlands: The Evenings by Gerard Reeve

Hungary: Satantango by Lasio Krasznahorkai

Iceland: Snowblind by Ragnar Jonassonan

Italy: Inspector Montelbano by Andrea Camilleri

Norway: Love by Hanne Ørstavik. The Blue Room by Hanne Ørstavik

Poland: Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall

Switzerland: Twelve Nights by Urs Faes

Turkey: 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds In This Strange World by Elif Shafak

Americas

Brazil: Dom Casmurro by Joachim Maria Machado de Assis 

Canada: Dear Life by Alice Munro

Chile: The Infinite Plan by Isabelle Allende

Colombia: The Armies by Evelio Rosero Diago

Cuba: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

Guadeloupe: The Tree of Life by Maryse Conde

Jamaica: The Long Song by Andrea Levy

Mexico: Signs Preceding The End Of The World by Yuri Herrera

Asia/Oceania

Afghanistan: And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Australia: The Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw. The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan

Bangladesh: A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

China: Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li. The Chilli Bean Paste Club by Yan Ge

India: The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Indonesia: The Book of Jakarta by Maesy Ang and Teddy W. Kusuma

Japan: The Housekeeper and The Professor by Yoko Ogawa. After The Banquet by Yukio Mishima

New Zealand: The Luminaries by Eleanor Cotton. The Bone People by Keri Hulme

North Korea: In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park. River of Darkness by Masaji Ishigawa

Pakistan: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Vietnam: The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

South Korea: The Vegetarian by Hang Kang. Please Look After Mom by Shin Kyong-sook

Africa and Middle East

Algeria: Memory in the Flesh by Ahlam Mosteghanemi 

Angola: A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa

Burkina Faso: The Parachute Drop by Norbert Zongo

Democratic Republic of The Congo: Full Circle by Frederick  Yamusangie

Ghana: Wife of the Gods  by Kwei Quartery

Israel: A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar

Ivory Coast: In the Company Of Men by Véronique Tadjo

Kenya: Petals of Blood  by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Nigeria: Americanah  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Republic of the Congo: Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou

Rwanda: The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga

Somalia: From a Crooked Rib  by Nurradin Farah

South Africa: Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Zimbabwe: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

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