JCI Challenge: Read around the world

JCI Challenge: Read around the world

March 26, 2020 3:26 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Books can transport us; even without leaving home. I once had an idea to read a different book every week of the year. Each one would be set in a different country and I’d travel the globe through world literature… Though this is a rather ambitious reading goal, so I wanted to capture what this world reading challenge would look like!

After endless research, I created the following world reading challenge. It includes 52 titles from around the globe – along with alternatives for those books you might have already read. The selection of countries is random, though I’ve tried to balance them across continents. The book selections are related to the countries in a number of ways – are set there, have characters from there, reflect the local culture or are by notable authors from there. The books were also chosen based on their overall popularity, awards, reviews and ratings; with a good mix of classics and modern literature to boot.

Hopefully, you find something here to inspire your next read, or even consider taking on the world reading challenge yourself. Why not read your way around the globe this year? I’ve provided alternates if you’ve already read the books so technically you could do this annual challenge twice!

1.Afghanistan:
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini,

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

2.Antarctica:
Shiver
by Nikki Gemmell

This is the story of Fin, a young woman who gets the chance of a lifetime to go to Antarctica. Surrounded by the cruel beauty of the last great wilderness on earth, she finds herself transfixed by the power of the land. Travelling and living with a close-knit and idiosyncratic team, Fin learns the rules and taboos of community life in Antarctica, and then promptly breaks the strictest taboo of all – she falls in love. The consequences are shattering.

Please note: this is a difficult title to find for some readers, please consider the alternative title below if you have trouble!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Pym by Mat Johnson

3.Argentina:
Heartbreak Tango
by Manuel Puig

Awash in small-town gossip, petty jealousy, and intrigues, Manuel Puig’s Heartbreak Tango is a comedic assault on the fault lines between the disappointments of the everyday world, and the impossible promises of commercials, pop songs, and movies.

This melancholy and hilarious tango concerns the many women in orbit around Juan Carlos Etchepare, an impossibly beautiful Lothario wasting away ever-so-slowly from consumption, while those who loved and were spurned by him move on into workaday lives and unhappy marriages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
How I Became A Nun by César Aira

 

4. Australia:
The Secret River
by Kate Grenville,

In 1806 William Thornhill, an illiterate English bargeman and a man of quick temper but deep compassion, steals a load of wood and, as a part of his lenient sentence, is deported, along with his beloved wife, Sal, to the New South Wales colony in what would become Australia. The Secret River is the tale of William and Sal’s deep love for their small, exotic corner of the new world, and William’s gradual realization that if he wants to make a home for his family, he must forcibly take the land from the people who came before him. Acclaimed around the world, The Secret River is a magnificent, transporting work of historical fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

5.Bahamas:
Wind from the Carolinas
by Robert Wilder

This sprawling, lusty novel spans nearly a century and a half, recreating a fabulous era of romance, violence and high adventure. It is the saga of the Camerons, an impetuous Tory family, who fled South after the American Revolution to rebuild their baronial plantations in the turbulent, wind-swept Bahamas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Great Wide Sea by M.H. Herlong

6.Bangladesh:
A Golden Age
by Tahmima Anam,

Set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh War of Independence, A Golden Age is a story of passion and revolution, of hope, faith and unexpected heroism. As young widow Rehana Haque awakes one March morning, she might be forgiven for feeling happy. Today she will throw a party for her son and daughter. In the garden of the house she has built, her roses are blooming, her children are almost grown, and beyond their doorstep, the city is buzzing with excitement after recent elections. Change is in the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Lajja (Shame) by Taslima Nasrin

7.Brazil:
Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon
by Jorge Amado,

One bright spring day in 1925, Gabriela arrives from the poverty-stricken backwoods of Brazil to the lively seaside port of Ilhéus amid a flock of filthy migrant workers. Though wearing rags and covered in dirt, she attracts the attention of Nacib, a cafe owner, who is in desperate need of a new cook. So dire is his situation that he hires the dishevelled girl. The savvy young woman quickly proves to be an excellent chef and—once well-scrubbed and decently dressed—an eye-catching beauty. Nacib quickly finds himself the owner of the most prosperous business in town—and the employer of its most sought-after woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Lost City of Z by David Grann

8.Canada:
The Blind Assassin
by Margaret Atwood,

The novel opens with these simple, resonant words: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister drove a car off the bridge.” They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister Laura’s death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura’s story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. This is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

9.Cambodia:
First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
by Loung Ung

This is a riveting narrative of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her family, and the triumph of spirit. One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army forced Ung’s family to flee. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labour camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

10. Chile:
Eva Luna
by Isabel Allende,

Born poor, orphaned at an early age, and working as a servant, Eva is a naturally gifted and imaginative storyteller who meets people from all stations and walks of life. Though she has no wealth, she trades her stories like currency with people who are kind to her. In this novel, she shares the story of her own life and introduces readers to a diverse and eccentric cast of characters including the Lebanese émigré who befriends her and takes her in; her unfortunate godmother, whose brain is addled by rum and a few of her own invention; a street urchin who grows into a petty criminal and, later, a leader in the guerrilla struggle; a celebrated transsexual entertainer who instructs her in the ways of the adult world; and a young refugee whose flight from postwar Europe will prove crucial to Eva’s fate.

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende

11.China:
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
by Lisa See

In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

12.Colombia:
One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez

A widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement in a Nobel Prize- winning career. The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendi a family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the Buendi a family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Robber of Memories: A River Journey Through Colombia by Michael Jacobs

13.Congo:
The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver

A story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman by Lisa J. Shannon

14.Dominican Republic:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Díaz

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ-the curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
In The Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

15.Egypt:
The Alchemist
by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George

16.Ethiopia:
Cutting for Stone
by Abraham Verghese

An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others set in the 1960s & 1970s Ethiopia and 1980s America.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Beneath the Lions Gaze by Maaza Mengiste

17.Fiji:
Maya
by Jostein Gaarder

A chance meeting on the Fijian island of Taveuni is the trigger for a fascinating and mysterious novel that intertwines the stories of John Spooke, an English author who is grieving for his dead wife; Frank Andersen, a Norwegian evolutionary biologist estranged from his wife Vera; and an enigmatic Spanish couple, Ana and Jose, who are absorbed in their love for each other. Why does Ana bear such a close resemblance to the model for Goya’s famous Maja paintings? What is the significance of the Joker as he steps out of his pack of cards? As the action moves from Fiji to Spain, from the present to the past, unfolding further stories within the stories, the novel reveals an astonishing richness and complexity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Fiji by Lance Morcan

18.France:
Madame Bovary
by Gustave Flaubert

Emma Bovary is beautiful and bored, trapped in her marriage to a mediocre doctor and stifled by the banality of provincial life. An ardent devourer of sentimental novels, she longs for passion and seeks escape in fantasies of high romance, in voracious spending and, eventually, in adultery. But even her affairs bring her disappointment, and when real life continues to fail to live up to her romantic expectations, the consequences are devastating. Flaubert’s erotically charged and psychologically acute portrayal of Emma Bovary caused a moral outcry on its publication in 1857. It was deemed so lifelike that many women claimed they were the model for his heroine; but Flaubert insisted: ‘Madame Bovary, c’est moi.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

19.Germany:
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery…

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meagre existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbours during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Goodbye To Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

20.Greece:
Zorba the Greek
by Nikos Kazantzakis

The story of two men, their incredible friendship, and the importance of living life to the fullest. Zorba, a Greek working man, is a larger-than-life character, energetic and unpredictable. He accompanies the unnamed narrator to Crete to work in the narrator’s lignite mine, and the pair develops a singular relationship. The two men couldn’t be further apart: The narrator is cerebral, modest, and reserved; Zorba is unfettered, spirited, and beyond the reins of civility. Over the course of their journey, he becomes the narrator’s greatest friend and inspiration and helps him to appreciate the joy of living.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

21.Iceland:
Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent

A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Independent People by Halldór Laxness

22.India:
A Suitable Boy
By Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find — through love or through exacting maternal appraisal — a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

23.Indonesia:
This Earth of Mankind
by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Minke is a young Javanese student of great intelligence and ambition. Living equally among the colonists and colonized of 19th-century Java, he battles against the confines of colonial strictures. It is his love for Annelies that enables him to find the strength to embrace his world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata

24.Iran:
Rooftops of Tehran
by Mahbod Seraji

In this poignant, eye-opening and emotionally vivid novel, Mahbod Seraji lays bare the beauty and brutality of the centuries-old Persian culture, while reaffirming the human experiences we all share.

In a middle-class neighbourhood of Iran’s sprawling capital city, 17-year-old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend Ahmed, joking around one minute and asking burning questions about life the next. He also hides a secret love for his beautiful neighbour Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. But the bliss of Pasha and Zari’s stolen time together is shattered when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah’s secret police. The violent consequences awaken him to the reality of living under a powerful despot, and lead Zari to make a shocking choice…

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Reading Lolita In Tehran by Azar Nafisi

25.Iraq:
The Yellow Birds
by Kevin Powers

“The war tried to kill us in the spring,” begins this breathtaking account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city. In the endless days that follow, the two young soldiers do everything to protect each other from the forces that press in on every side: the insurgents, physical fatigue, and the mental stress that comes from constant danger.

With profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on mothers and families at home, The Yellow Birds is a groundbreaking novel about the costs of war that is destined to become a classic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Sand Queen by Helen Benedict

 

26.Ireland:
The Wonder
by Emma Donoghue

In the latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Good People by Hannah Kent

27.Italy:
The Name of the Rose
by Umberto Eco

The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon – all sharpened to a glistening edge by wry humour and a ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where “the most interesting things happen at night.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

28. Jamaica:
The Book of Night Women
by Marlon James

The Book of Night Women is a sweeping, startling novel, a true tour de force of both voice and storytelling. It is the story of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. Even at her birth, the slave women around her recognize a dark power that they and she will come to both revere and fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Small Island by Andrea Levy

29.Japan:
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
By Haruki Murakami

In a Tokyo suburb, a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan’s forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

30.Kenya:
Out of Africa
by Karen Blixen

Out of Africa is Isak Dinesen’s (Karen Blixen’s) memoir of her years in Africa, from 1914 to 1931, on a four-thousand-acre coffee plantation in the hills near Nairobi. She had come to Kenya from Denmark with her husband, and when they separated she stayed on to manage the farm by herself, visited frequently by her lover, the big-game hunter Denys Finch-Hatton, for whom she would make up stories “like Scheherazade.” In Africa, “I learned how to tell tales,” she recalled many years later. “The natives have an ear still. I told stories constantly to them, all kinds.” Her account of her African adventures, written after she had lost her beloved farm and returned to Denmark, is that of a master storyteller, a woman whom John Updike called “one of the most picturesque and flamboyant literary personalities of the century.”

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
A Grain of Wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

31. Mexico:
Like Water for Chocolate
by Laura Esquivel

A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her, so that Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

32.Morocco:The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca
by Tahir Shah

Inspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Tahir Shah dreamed of making a home in that astonishing country. At age thirty-six he got his chance. Investing what money he and his wife Rachana had, Tahir packed up his growing family and bought Dar Khalifa, a crumbling ruin of a mansion by the sea in Casablanca that once belonged to the city’s caliph or spiritual leader.

With its lush grounds, cool, secluded courtyards, and relaxed pace, life at Dar Khalifa seems sure to fulfil Tahir’s fantasy–until he discovers that in many ways he is farther from home than he imagined. For in Morocco an empty house is thought to attract jinns, invisible spirits unique to the Islamic world. The ardent belief in their presence greatly hampers sleep and renovation plans, but that is just the beginning. From elaborate exorcism rituals involving sacrificial goats to dealing with gangster neighbours intent on stealing their property, the Shahs must cope with a new culture and all that comes with it.

 

 

Read it already?
The Spider’s House by Paul Bowles

33. Myanmar (Burma):
The Glass Palace
by Amitav Ghosh

Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the Burmese Queen, whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her. The struggles that have made Burma, India, and Malaya the places they are today are illuminated in this wonderful novel by the writer Chitra Divakaruni calls “a master storyteller.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

34.Nepal:
Palpasa Cafe
by Narayan Wagle

Opening on the nameless character referred only as ‘I’ is an artist and is on the verge of earning prominence with his undaunted skills in art. Few causal yet co-incidental meetings with Palpasa develops into strong feelings between the two. No, this isn’t a romance novel for the emotion is dealt with on a more platonic level here.

The story progresses ahead with unexpected twists and turns, and a series of coincidences. Though the scenes appear simple, they bear many marvel points that touch. The book has its share of message and visions for a youthful living along with the suffering we had to go through in the hands of the Maoist and the then government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Sold by Patricia McCormick

35.The Netherlands:
The Dinner
By Herman Koch

It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse – the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

36.New Zealand:
The Luminaries
by Eleanor Catton

It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky. Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed, fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page-turner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Bone People by Keri Hulme

 

37.Nigeria:
Things Fall Apart 
by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart tells of two overlappings, intertwining stories, both of which centre around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty, it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

38.Oman:
The Turtle of Oman
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Aref Al-Amri does not want to leave Oman. He does not want to leave his elementary school, his friends, or his beloved grandfather, Siddi. He does not want to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his parents will go to graduate school. His mother is desperate for him to pack his suitcase—but he refuses. Finally, she calls Siddi for help. But rather than pack, Aref and Siddi go on a series of adventures. They visit the camp of a thousand stars deep in the desert, they sleep on Siddi’s roof, they fish in the Gulf of Oman and dream about going to India, they travel to the nature reserve to watch the sea turtles. At each stop, Siddi finds a small stone that he later slips into Aref’s suitcase—mementoes of home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Earth Weeps, Saturn Laughs by Abdulaziz Al Farsi

39.Pakistan:
I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
by Malala Yousafzai

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

40.Peru:
Death in the Andes
by Mario Vargas Llosa

In an isolated community in the Peruvian Andes, a series of mysterious disappearances have occurred. Army corporal Lituma and his deputy Tomás believe the Shining Path guerrillas are responsible, but the townspeople have their own ideas about the forces that claimed the bodies of the missing men. This riveting novel is filled with unforgettable characters, among them disenfranchised Indians, eccentric local folk, and a couple performing strange cannibalistic sacrifices. As the investigation progresses, Tomás entertains Lituma with the surreal tale of a precarious love affair.

Death in the Andes is both a fascinating detective novel and an insightful political allegory. Mario Vargas Llosa offers a panoramic view of Peruvian society, from the recent social upheaval to the cultural influences in its past.

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa

41.The Philippines:
When the Elephants Dance
by Tess Uriza Holthe

In the waning days of World War II, as the Japanese and U.S. forces battle to possess the Philippine Islands, the Karangalan family hides with their neighbours in a cramped cellar, where they glean hope from the family stories and folktales they tell each other. These stories of love, survival, and family blend the supernatural with the rich, little known history of the Philippines, the centuries of Spanish colonization, the power of the Catholic church, and the colourful worlds of the Spanish, Mestizo, and Filipino cultures.

As the villagers tell their stories in the darkened cellar below, Holthe masterfully weaves in the stories of three brave Filipinos–a teenage brother and sister and a guerilla fighter–as they become caught in the battle against the vicious Japanese forces above ground.

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

42.Russia:
War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace broadly focuses on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfilment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman who intrigues both men.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 

43. Saudi Arabia:
Girls of Riyadh
by Rajaa Alsanea

When Rajaa Alsanea boldly chose to open up the hidden world of Saudi women—their private lives and their conflicts with the traditions of their culture—she caused a sensation across the Arab world.

Now in English, Alsanea’s tale of the personal struggles of four young upper-class women offers Westerners an unprecedented glimpse into a society often veiled from view. Living in restrictive Riyadh but traveling all over the globe, these modern Saudi women literally and figuratively shed traditional garb as they search for love, fulfillment, and their place somewhere in between Western society and their Islamic home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen

44.South Africa:
Disgrace
by J.M. Coetzee

Set in post-apartheid South Africa, J. M. Coetzee’s searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice-divorced, 52-year-old professor of communications and Romantic Poetry at Cape Technical University. Lurie believes he has created a comfortable, if somewhat passionless, life for himself. He lives within his financial and emotional means. Though his position at the university has been reduced, he teaches his classes dutifully; and while age has diminished his attractiveness, weekly visits to a prostitute satisfy his sexual needs. He considers himself happy. But when Lurie seduces one of his students, he sets in motion a chain of events that will shatter his complacency and leave him utterly disgraced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
July’s People by Nadine Gordimer

45.South Korea:
Please Look After Mom
by Kyung-Sook Shin

An international sensation and a bestseller that has sold over 1.5 million copies in the author’s native Korea, Please Look After Mom is a stunning, deeply moving story of a family’s search for their missing mother – and their discovery of the desires, heartaches and secrets they never realized she harboured within. You will never think of your mother the same way after you read this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

 

46.Spain:
The Shadow of the Wind
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The international literary sensation, about a boy’s quest through the secrets and shadows of postwar Barcelona for a mysterious author whose book has proved as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget.

Barcelona, 1945 – just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother’s face. To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again.

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

47.Sweden:
A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbour from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

48. Thailand:
The Bridge Over the River Kwai
by Pierre Boulle

It’s 1942: Boldly advancing through Asia, the Japanese need a train route from Burma going north. In a prison camp, British POWs are forced into labour. The bridge they build will become a symbol of service and survival to one prisoner, Colonel Nicholson, a proud perfectionist. Pitted against the warden, Colonel Saito, Nicholson will nevertheless, out of a distorted sense of duty, aid his enemy. While on the outside, as the Allies race to destroy the bridge, Nicholson must decide which will be the first casualty: his patriotism or his pride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
The Beach by Alex Garland

49.Turkey:
Snow
by Orhan Pamuk

Following years of lonely political exile in Western Europe, Ka, a middle-aged poet, returns to Istanbul to attend his mother’s funeral. Only partly recognizing this place of his cultured, middle-class youth, he is even more disoriented by news of strange events in the wider country: a wave of suicides among girls forbidden to wear their headscarves at school. An apparent thaw of his writer’s curiosity–a frozen sea these many years–leads him to Kars, a far-off town near the Russian border and the epicentre of the suicides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

50.United Kingdom:
White Teeth
by Zadie Smith

On New Year’s morning, 1975, Archie Jones sits in his car on a London road and waits for the exhaust fumes to fill his Cavalier Musketeer station wagon. Archie—working-class, ordinary, a failed marriage under his belt—is calling it quits, the deciding factor being the flip of a 20-pence coin. When the owner of a nearby halal butcher shop (annoyed that Archie’s car is blocking his delivery area) comes out and bangs on the window, he gives Archie another chance at life and sets in motion this richly imagined, uproariously funny novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

51.United States of America:
To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

 

52.Vietnam:
The Quiet American
by Graham Greene

“I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused,” Graham Greene’s narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous Quiet American of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious mission to Saigon, where the French Army struggles against the Vietminh guerrillas. As young Pyle’s well-intentioned policies blunder into bloodshed, Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British reporter, finds it impossible to stand safely aside as an observer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it already?
Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham

 

What do you think of this world reading challenge?

How many of these titles have you read? Are you going to try the world reading challenge? Have a great book recommendation I’ve missed? I’d love to hear more about your tips for books set around the world in the comments below!

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This post was written by Emma-Louise Munro Wilson

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