Hello, friends! I’m here today to announce a big dream: I want to read the world. I plan to read a book from every country in the world, and record my progress here. I believe that, as a teacher, I need to read widely and often, and be able to introduce students to works and worldviews they haven’t experienced yet. What could better equip me for this mission than having a world full of books in my heart? Onward to Reading the World!
This all started for me when I read Tamika Gibson’s Dreams Beyond the Shore and learned much more about Trinidad and Tobago than I ever knew I didn’t know. This really revealed a major blindspot in my life as a reader, and I set out to find a fix.
It turns out, this is not a new idea. Check out this TED Talk by Ann Morgan, a UK author who undertook the challenge in 2012.
It’s going to be difficult, but worth it. I read English, French, German, and Spanish, so I hope to be able to cover a lot of ground that way. Still, there’s a lot out there that hasn’t been translated.
This is going to be my cornerstone post for this project. As I answer some hard questions, I’ll link to those answers here. As I read and review books, I’ll add the links here. As people leave me recommendations, I’ll add them here.
Use a very generous list of countries. The biggest reason for this is that I’ve lived in Puerto Rico and worked with Kurds, and both of these people deserve to have their own literature amplified. The first is a territory and the second is a stateless nation, but they both need to be on the list.
Prioritize authors “from” the country. I’m going to let authors self-identify on this one, because anything else is just me applying my American judgement, and that defeats the whole purpose of reading the world. There are a lot of reasons a person may not live in their native land, or reasons they may cling to the national identity of their parents. I’ve worked with Afghan kids born in refugee camps – are they not Afghan?
Prioritize fiction set in the country, or non-fiction about national issues. I’ll probably also read some poetry, because I love it.
Prioritize marginalized voices.
Prioritize classroom application potential. I’m reading for myself, but I’m also reading for my students. I want to be able to put books in their hands, so I’m going to review from my teachery perspective as always.
Reading the World List
A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)
Chronicle in Stone (José Eduardo Aqualusa)
Memory in the Flesh (Ahlam Mosteghanemi)
Where We Once Belonged (Sia Figiel)
The Book of Chameleons (José Eduardo Agualusa)
Blue Beans (Patricia J. Adams)
Antigua & Barbuda
Annie John (Jamaica Kincaid)
The Motorcycle Diaries (Che Guevara), Ficciones (Jorge Luis Borges)
All the Light There Was (Nancy Kricorian)
Graffiti Moon* (Cath Crowley)
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (Maria Von Trapp), Malina (Ingeborg Bachmann)
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Zlata’s Diary* (Zlata Filipovic)
When Rain Clouds Gather (Bessie Head)
British Virgin Is.
Behold the Dreamers (Imbolo Mbue)
The Handmaid’s Tale* (Margaret Atwood)
Central African Rep.
Cuidad de las Bestias* (Isabel Allende), Twenty Love Poems (Pablo Neruda), Ten Women (Marcela Serrano)
Empress Orchid (Anchee Min)
A Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Marquéz)
Congo, Dem. Rep.
How Dare the Sun Rise (Sandra Uwiringiyimana)
Congo, Repub. of the
The Surrender Tree (Margarita Engle)
L’Enfant Multiple* (Andrée Chedid)
Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese)
(Tons here already — I’ll dig up titles)
Die Fliessende Koeningen* (Kai Meyer), Tintenherz* (Cornelia Fünke), Die Blechtrommel (Günter Grass)
The House By the River (Lena Manta)
I, Rigoberta Menchu (Rigoberta Menchu)
Krik? Krak! (Edwidge Danticat), American Street (Ibi Zoboi)
The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy)
The Question of Red (Laksmi Patmunjak)
Persepolis* (Marjane Satrapi), Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi)
Thura’s Diary (Thura Al-Windawi)
The Accident Season* (Moira Fowley Doyle)
Isle of Man
Invisible Cities (Italo Calvino)
Everything, Everything* (Nicola Yoon)
The Housekeeper and the Professor (Yōko Ogawa)
The Golden Horse (Rainis), Soviet Milk (Nora Ikstena)
Between Shades of Gray** (Ruta Sepatys)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (William Kamkwamba)
The Hummingbird’s Daughter (Louis Alberto Urrea)
Micronesia, Fed. St.
Under the Udala Trees (Chinelo Okparanta), We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), Zahrah the Windseeker (Nnedi Okorafor)
N. Mariana Islands
Growth of the Soil (Knut Hamsun)
I Am Malala
(Mahmoud Darwish), (Suheir Hamad)
Papua New Guinea
Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories (Isaac Bashevis Singer), A Treatise on Poetry (Czeslaw Milosz)
The Cave (José Saramago)
War Against All Puerto Ricans** (Nelson Antonio Denis)
Night* (Elie Weisel), It Was Today (Andrei Codrescu)
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch* (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn), The Gray House (Miriam Petrosyan)
Saint Kitts & Nevis
St Pierre & Miquelon
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sao Tome & Principe
A Long Way Gone (Ishmael Beah)
When the Sea is Rising Red* (Cat Hellisen), Cry, the Beloved Country* (Alan Paton), Jump (and other stories) (Nadine Gordimer)
The Vegetarian (Han Kang)
The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafón), The Light of the Fireflies (Paul Pen)
A Man Called Ove (Frederick Backman), Still Waters (Vivica Sten)
Trinidad & Tobago
Dreams Beyond the Shore* (Tamika Gibson)
The Last Train to Istanbul (Ayse Kulin)
Turks & Caicos Is
United Arab Emirates
(I’ll find a title to drop here, but you know… like everything ever.)
(Also everything ever)
Inside Out and Back Again* (Thanhha Lai)
Wallis and Futuna
We Need New Names (NoViolet Bulawayo), Nervous Conditions (Tsitsi Dangarembga)
*These are books finished before the beginning of the challenge in November 2017. I’ll loop back around to these at the end, perhaps.
**These are books that don’t meet the requirement of an author self-identifying as a national. I’ll continue to look, and add to these as needed.
Want to Help with Reading the World?
If you’d like to donate a book, you can find my Amazon wishlist here. I will pass all donations along to a classroom library or another person Reading the World, and you can let me know your preferences. 🙂 I’d also love to organize a snail-mail book exchange or book loan with you, and you can reach out via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
That’s it! I’d love to hear from you! Please leave me your recommendations in comments. 🙂