Sunday Salon: literature from around the world project

blog globe small 1Last year I created a personal challenge to read more literature from parts of the world outside the UK and North America. The World Literature challenge started with countries along the Equator and the Prime Meridian and I made these part of an overall challenge to read books from 50 different countries by the end of 2018.

I changed the course somewhat a few months ago and decided I wanted this to be more of a project and a general direction rather than a challenge with a set target and a deadline. That way it would feel less that I was reading something simply to meet a goal.

I’m so glad I made that switch. It’s been much more rewarding to pick up a book knowing I wanted to read it rather than feeling compelled to read it just because it was the next country on my list. And I can mix up that reading with my other projects on reading more classics and reading the Booker prize winners.

The past few weeks have seen me read novels from Somalia, New Zealand and India. All three were by authors I had never read before. All three have given me insights into cultures and issues outside my own experience. Maybe it’s a cliche to say that they’ve broadened my horizons but it’s nevertheless true.  Nurradin Farah’s The Fractured Rib dealt with the problems of being a woman in Somalia including that of arranged marriages and circumcision; Keri Hulme’s The Bone People introduced me to Maori legends while also highlighting the issue of child abuse and Amitav Ghosh brought the history of Burma to my attention in The Glass Palace.

So far I’ve read books from 13 different countries, six of them from Equatorial countries.  Not all of them have been remarkable or particularly rewarding of course but I did find some authors whose work I now know I want to further explore.

Next on my horizon will be Afghanistan via And the Mountains Echoed, the third novel by the Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini and then possibly Uganda with Moses Isegawa’s first novel, Abyssinian Chronicles. The first is a definite since I’m reviewing it for Shiny New Books magazine. But you never know where my wanderlust will take me after that and I may change my literary travel plans in favour of Latin America or China or Italy or ……….. 


About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on April 20, 2014, in Book Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. You are doing so well on your project! I read Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies a couple years ago and liked it very much. I plan on getting to the continuation of that book one of these days.

  2. Great start to the year of travelling I’ve read books from 23 countries so far in 2014 may not get to fifty thou

  3. I love Ghosh’s work. I’m hoping that the third in the trilogy he’s working on will be out soon. At the moment I’m hanging on in a state of limbo – the only problem with coming to trilogies the moment the first one is published.

  4. I love reading about far away places. For some reason Asia and Africa attract me more than South America and Australia, but i’m trying. I pride myself on reading diversely, yet I tend to only read works written in English so I am now trying to read more translated works.

    • Africa and India seem to have the greatest pull for me. It maybe because the cultures are so diverse whereas I have a feeling – thought could be doing the people from that country a terrible injustice – that Australia could be a bit too similar to UK

      • Perhaps you could go for some Aboriginal stories then, such as checking out Witi Ihimaera, who wrote “The Whale Rider”? (just checked and he’s actually from New Zealand – depends on how strict you’re going to be about that).

        There’s also people like Kate Grenville – I’ve read her book “The Lieutenant” which is about early travellers and settlers….

  5. i don’t tend to go for sentimental books so this will be a good test for me

  6. I just finished reading And the Mountains Echoed and while I liked it a lot, I found it a bit too sentimental. Curious to know how you find it.

  7. Joy,this is certainly a much easier (i.e. less stressful) way of travelling than queuing up at security and passport control and luggage etc etc

  8. good for you! let me know if you need any recommendations for Tibet or Japan – I have a couple “up my sleeve” so to speak

    • I would love both recommendations. The only japan authors I have read are Ishiguro and Mishima. Have never heard of any Tibetan authors even so you have my attention now for sure Nordie

      • for Tibet, keep an eye out for Xinran (e.g. “sky burial”). or – of course – anything from the Dalai Lama.

        As for Japan, I was surprised how much I liked Akimitsu Takagi, in particular “The Tattoo Murder Case” (published in the 1940s but with a very modern feel). . I took a chance, and was rather impressed.

        Natsuo Kirino is a more modern Japanese writer, but a little more……visceral than Takagi.. Books like “Out” or “Grotesque”…….(also good for female character driven novels)

      • Just looked it up, as I thought it was Chinese, but look out for “the pillow book” by Sei Shonogan ( I have it, but havent read it yet, but is apparently Japanese from the 10th Century

  9. What a great way to “travel” and get to know various cultures.

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