Reading All Around the World update

After a couple of years of very little activity, I finally got back into the Reading All Around the World project and I’m so glad I did. It reminds me of how powerful reading is as a way to learn and expand our horizons while staying in one place. Here’s what I’ve read since the last time I checked in.

(Two stars** after the author name indicates the author is a native of the country described. One star* indicates the author’s ethnic background is from that country. Other books have a strong and well-researched setting; usually the author has lived in the country for an extended period.)

  • Venezuela – Octavio’s Journey and Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy** – February 2018
  • Egypt – The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson – August 2018
  • Spain – Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes** – July 2019
  • Australia – My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin** – October 2019
  • Saudi Arabia – Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif** – December 2019
  • South Africa – Born a Crime by Trevor Noah** – December 2019
  • Ghana – All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou* – January 2020
  • Chile – The House of the Spirits and My Invented Country by Isabel Allende** – January 2020
  • Korea/Japan – Pachinko by Min Jin Lee* – January 2020
  • Bhutan – Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming – February 2020
  • Iceland – Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – February 2020
  • India – The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sunja Massey* – February 2020
  • Nigeria, Senegal, and West Africa – In Search of Disobedient Women by Dionne Searcey – March 2020


My favorites? I found Daring to Drive and Born a Crime both absolutely stunning in their portrayal of life in a repressive, unjust society, while also celebrating the human spirit that comes to light in these dark surroundings.

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes was interesting for its perspective: a Black American woman living in Africa, looking for a sense of coming home that proved elusive.

I enjoyed the novel The House of the Spirits but I think I liked Allende’s memoir My Invented Country even more — an exile’s love letter to her homeland.

Burial Rites was another stunner, one of those historical novels that makes you feel “this must be how it was.” I really felt transported back to 19th century Iceland (and I’m so glad I’m not stuck there permanently).

I’m excited to keep going with this journey. What books have you found to transport you to other parts of the world?


18 thoughts on “Reading All Around the World update

  1. I’ve been terribly parochial so far this year, I’m afraid: apart from the UK I’ve only read titles by authors from Finland, Poland, Ireland and the States, which is not very adventurous of me.

    I’m trying very hard to restrict myself to books already on my shelves, so that rather reflects a cultural myopia on my part. Still, I have authors from Hungary, France, Italy, Argentina and Colombia lurking somewhere, folktales from Turkey and China, and fantasy from Australia and Japan, so I just need to stir my bones and take the plunge. Very soon.


  2. I agree, both Daring to Drive and Born a Crime were completely stunning. I think Daring to Drive affected me especially. I don’t think I realized that Allende had written a memoir. I read some of her novels years ago and liked but didn’t love them, I’d really like to read her memoir though. Thanks for the introduction to that one.


    1. She has written several memoirs actually. I believe this is the third or fourth. It is fine to read this one independently though – I would like to look into some of the others at some point. Maybe another novel as well.


  3. My book group has been trying to expand past the usual suspects so we read a classic novel of Croatia, The Goldsmith’s Treasure, recently and this month a classic Japanese novel, Kokoro, reflecting the cultural diversity of the members. I would say Kokoro was more of a success, despite our having to conduct our discussion online.


    1. I have “The Gate” by the same author on my list as it is available as an e-book from the library. Good to know that “Kokoro” was a success for your (online) discussion.


  4. Yay!! I’m so glad to have some company on this journey. I’ve read a few African novels lately (Congo, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau), but then I pretty much just read DWJ all this month. I need to get out of my quarantine-induced slump of the last week or so, and do better than this. I have a whole pile of ‘Read Around the World’ books, so no excuses. 🙂


    1. I’m interested in fantasy based on different cultures as well though I don’t count them for this challenge. Any recommendations?

      I hope you do read Born a Crime. It’s an amazing book.


  5. I loved Burial Rites when I first read it in 2014. I am running a poll right now to determine which book I reread next and Burial Rites is one of the options. I recommend Kent’s sophomore novel, The Good People. Set in 1820s Ireland, I found it an even darker read than Burial Rites but very well-written. I’ve never read anything by Isabel Allende but I think I would like her books.


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