Reading is a way round the world

I used to have a cookbook for kids — still do, come to think of it — called Cooking is a Way Round the World. Hence the post title. To quote Julie:

In one of my Goodreads groups, a clever person had the idea of each of us challenging ourselves to read a book by an author from every country. Obviously, this is a big challenge, and not something that can be banged out in three minutes, or even three months (for most of us!)

This struck me as an excellent idea. I think of it as like Munroing: there may be a few nutters who race to climb all 284 peaks in the fastest possible time, but for most people it’s a lifetime target, just picking off a few a year as opportunity allows.

Until the sport’s governing body comes up with an official set of rules, I’m allowing myself any genre, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, whatever; and I’m starting with the 192 member states of the UN plus any additional pseudo-nations I think are worth adding. At the moment the target is 201*. Just racking my brains for books I’ve already read, my initial score was 36.

My current total is: 143

Details below the fold.

You can also see which countries I’ve ticked off on a map here.

‘Countries’ which are not UN member states are marked with an asterisk.

Afghanistan - Albania – AlgeriaAndorraAngola – *Antarctica - Antigua and BarbudaArgentina – Armenia – Australia – Austria – AzerbaijanBahamas – Bahrain – Bangladesh – BarbadosBelarus – Belgium – BelizeBenin – Bhutan – Bolivia – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Botswana – BrazilBrunei Darussalam – Bulgaria – Burkina FasoBurundiCambodia – Cameroon – CanadaCape VerdeCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaColombia – Comoros – Congo*Cook Islands – Costa Rica – Côte d’IvoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDemocratic Republic of the Congo – Denmark – Djibouti – Dominica – Dominican RepublicEcuadorEgypt – El Salvador – Equatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopia – Fiji – FinlandFrance – Gabon – Gambia – Georgia – Germany – Ghana – Greece*GreenlandGrenadaGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHondurasHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIranIraqIreland – Israel – Italy – Jamaica – JapanJordan – Kazakhstan – Kenya – Kiribati – KuwaitKyrgyzstanLaos – Latvia – LebanonLesothoLiberiaLibya – Liechtenstein – Lithuania – Luxembourg – Macedonia, FYRO – MadagascarMalawiMalaysia – Maldives – MaliMaltaMarshall Islands – Mauritania – Mauritius – Mexico – Micronesia, Federated States ofMoldova – Monaco – Mongolia – Montenegro – Morocco – MozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew ZealandNicaragua – Niger – NigeriaNorth KoreaNorwayOmanPakistan – Palau – *Palestine – Panama – Papua New Guinea – Paraguay – PeruPhilippinesPolandPortugalQatar – Romania – Russia – Rwanda – Saint Kitts and Nevis – Saint LuciaSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan Marino – Sao Tome and Principe – Saudi ArabiaSenegal – Serbia – SeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon Islands – Somalia – South Africa – South Korea – South Sudan – SpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSwaziland – Sweden – Switzerland – SyriaTajikistan – Tanzania – Thailand – *Tibet – Timor-Leste – TogoTongaTrinidad and Tobago – Tunisia – Turkey – Turkmenistan – Tuvalu – UgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUK [*England - *Northern Ireland - *Scotland - *Wales]United States of AmericaUruguayUzbekistanVanuatu – Venezuela – VietnamYemenZambia - Zimbabwe

Afghanistan
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

Algeria
The Stranger, Albert Camus

Andorra
The Teacher of Cheops, Albert Salvadó

Angola
The Whistler, Ondjaki

Antigua and Barbuda
Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid

Argentina
Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges

Australia
Brilliant Creatures, Clive James

Azerbaijan
How Life Imitates Chess, Garry Kasparov

Bahamas
Mama Lily and the Dead, Nicolette Bethel

Barbados
Whispering Death: The Life and Times of Michael Holding, Michael Holding with Tony Cozier

Belarus
Voices from Chernobyl, Svetlana Alexievich

Belize
Beka Lamb, Zee Edgell

Benin
African Philosophy: Myth & Reality, Paulin J. Hountondji

Bosnia and Herzegovina
How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone, Saša Stanišić

Brazil
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Jorge Amado
Epitaph of a Small Winner, Machado de Assis

Brunei
The Forlorn Adventure, Amir Falique

Burkina Faso
Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, Malidoma Patrice Somé

Burundi
The Running Man, Gilbert Tuhabonye

Cambodia
Survival in the Killing Fields, Haing Ngor and Roger Warner

Canada
Being in Being : The Collected Works of a Master Haida Mythteller, Skaay of the Qquuna Qiighawaay (trans. Robert Bringhurst)

Cape Verde
The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo, Germano Almeida

Central African Republic
My Country, Africa: Autobiography of the Black Pasionaria, Andrée Blouin

Chad
Told by Starlight in Chad, Joseph Brahim Seid

Chile
House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende

China
Wild Swans, Jung Chang

Colombia
The Autumn of the Patriarch, Gabriel García Márquez

Congo
Broken Glass, Alain Mabanckou

Cook Islands
Island Boy, Sir Tom Davis, Pa Tuterangi Ariki

Côte d’Ivoire
Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote, Ahmadou Kourouma

Croatia
The Culture of Lies, Dubravka Ugrešić

Cuba
Three Trapped Tigers, Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Cyprus
Echoes from the Dead Zone, Yiannis Papadakis

Czech Republic
The Good Soldier Švejk, Jaroslav Hašek

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Life and a Half, Sony Lab’ou Tansi

Dominican Republic
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz

Djibouti
The Land Without Shadows, Abdourahman A. Waberi

Ecuador
Beyond the Islands, Alicia Yánez Cossío

Egypt
The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems, 1940-1640 BC, trans. R.B. Parkinson

Equatorial Guinea
Shadows of your Black Memory, Donato Ndongo

Eritrea
Who Needs a Story? — Contemporary Eritrean Poetry in Tigrinya, Tigre and Arabic, ed. Charles Cantalupo and Ghirmai Negash

Estonia
Treading Air, Jaan Kross

Ethiopia
Warrior King, Sahle Sellassie

Finland
The Year of the Hare, Arto Paasilinna

France
Chéri, Colette

Germany
Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse

Greece
Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis

Greenland
Across Arctic America, Knud Rasmussen

Grenada
Ragamuffin, Tobias S. Buckell

Guatemala
The President, Miguel Angel Asturias

Guinea
The King of Kahel, Tierno Monénembo

Guinea-Bissau
Para Vasco: poemas da Guiné-Bissau / For Vasco: poems from Guinea-Bissau

Guyana
From Sir, With Love, E.R. Braithwaite

Haiti
Masters of the Dew, Jacques Roumain

Honduras
Complete Works and Other Stories, Augusto Monterroso

Hungary
Journey By Moonlight, Antal Szerb

Iceland
Independent People, Halldór Laxness

India
The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie

Indonesia
This Earth of Mankind, Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Iran
My Father’s Notebook, Kader Abdolah

Iraq
Thirsty River, Rodaan Al Galidi

Ireland
Ulysses, James Joyce

Italy
The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Japan
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami

Jordan
Cities of Salt, Abdelrahman Munif

Kenya
A Grain of Wheat, Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o

Kuwait
The Chronicles of Dathra, a Dowdy Girl from Kuwait, Danderma

Kyrgyzstan
The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years, Chingiz Aitmatov

Laos
Mother’s Beloved: Stories from Laos, Outhine Bounyavong

Lebanon
The Book of Khalid, Ameen Rihani

Lesotho
Chaka, Thomas Mofolo

Liberia
Redemption Road, Elma Shaw

Libya
The Bleeding of the Stone, Ibrahim Al-Koni

Madagascar
 Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo

Malawi
The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison, Jack Mapanje

Malaysia
21 Immortals: Inspector Mislan and the Yee Sang Murders by Rozlan Mohd Noor and Ripples and Other Stories by Shih-Li Kow

Mali
The Fortunes of Wangrin, Amadou Hampaté Bâ

Malta
The Maltese Baron… and I Lucian, Francis Ebejer

Marshall Islands
Life in the Republic of the Marshall Islands , ed. Anono Lieom Loeak, Veronica C. Kiluwe, Linda Crowl

Mauritius
Blue Bay Palace, Natacha Appanah

Micronesia, Federated States of
My Urohs, Emelihter Kihleng

Moldova
From Tajikistan to the Moon, Robert Frimtzis

Mongolia
The Blue Mountain, Galsan Tschinag

Mozambique
We killed Mangy-Dog & other Mozambique stories, Luis Bernardo Honwana

Myanmar
From the Land of Green Ghosts, Pascal Khoo Thwe

Namibia
Dante International, Sharon Kasanda

Nauru
Legends, Traditions and Tales of Nauru, Timothy Detudamo

Nepal
The Soul of the Rhino, Hemanta Mishra

Netherlands
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

New Zealand
The Bone People, Keri Hulme

Nicaragua
The Country Under My Skin, Gioconda Belli

Nigeria
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

North Korea
This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood, Hyok Kang

Norway
The Ice Palace, Tarjei Vesaas

Oman
Mirabella and the Pearl of Chulothe, Laila Al Bellucci

Pakistan
Kartography, Kamila Shamsie

Palestine
The Butterfly’s Burden, Mahmoud Darwish

Papua New Guinea
Maiba, Russell Soaba

Peru
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, Mario Vargas Llosa

Philippines
Noli Me Tangere, José Rizal

Poland
The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad

Portugal
The Maias, José Maria de Eça de Queiroz

Qatar
Qatari Voices, ed. Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar and Carol Henderson

Russia
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Saint Lucia
Tiepolo’s Hound, Derek Walcott

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
City of Arches, Vivian Child

Samoa
Leaves of the Banyan Tree, Albert Wendt

San Marino
The Republic of San Marino, Charles de Bruc

Saudi Arabia
Yes, (Saudi) Minister! A Life in Administration, Ghazi Algosaibi

Senegal
God’s Bits of Wood, Ousmane Sembène

Seychelles
88 Days – A true story of Somali Pirates in the Indian Ocean, Francis Roucou

Sierra Leone
The Devil That Danced on the Water, Aminatta Forna

Singapore
Equal to the Earth, Jee Leong Koh

Slovakia
Rivers of Babylon by Peter Pišťanek

Solomon Islands
The Big Death: Solomon Islanders Remember World War II

Slovenia
The Golden Boat by Srečko Kosovel

South Africa
Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela

Spain
Don Quixote, Cervantes

Sri Lanka
Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaatje

Sudan
Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih

Suriname
The Free Negress Elisabeth, Cynthia Mc Leod

Swaziland
The Wah-Wah Diaries, Richard E. Grant

Switzerland
The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse

Syria
A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, Samar Yazbek

Tajikistan
The Sands of Oxus, Sadriddin Aini

Tibet
Born in Tibet, Chögyam Trungpa

Togo
An African in Greenland, Tété-Michel Kpomassie

Tonga
Songs Of Love: New And Selected Poems (1974-1999), Konai Helu Thaman

Trinidad and Tobago
Beyond the Boundary, C.L.R. James

Uganda
Abyssinian Chronicles, Moses Isegawa

United Arab Emirates
The Diesel, Thani al-Suwaidi

United Kingdom:

Crome Yellow, Aldous Huxley

Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996, Seamus Heaney

Whit, Iain Banks

Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas

United States of America
Moby Dick, Herman Melville

Uruguay
Soccer in Sun and Shadow, Eduardo Galeano

Ukraine
Only Yesterday, S.Y. Agnon

Uzbekistan
The Railway, Hamid Ismailov

Vanuatu
Black Stone, Grace Mera Molisa

Vietnam
The Paradise of the Blind, Duong Thu Huong

Yemen
The Hostage, Zayd Mutee‘ Dammaj

Zambia
Poceza m’Madzulo: Some Chinyanja Radio Plays of Julius Chongo with English Translations, Ernst R. Wendland

Zimbabwe
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller

*The UN states, with the UK broken down into four regions, plus Palestine, Tibet, Antarctica, Greenland and the Cook Islands. EDIT: And as of July 2011, South Sudan; which isn’t a member of the UN yet, but I assume will be soon.

14 Comments

  1. 1 August 2008 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know what rules you’ve set up for yourself, since we’re all different, but Alexander McCall Smith was actually born in Zimbabwe, though he writes about Botswana. I’m filing him under Zimbabwe, I think, though it appears Zimbabwe is a much easier country to fill than Botswana!

  2. Harry
    1 August 2008 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really know what rules I’m using either, but I don’t think McCall Smith qualifies. I think I might scratch him altogether and look for someone else for Zimbabwe.

  3. 1 August 2008 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Tsitsi Dangarembga is another Zimbabwean.

  4. Harry
    1 August 2008 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, I’ll keep her in mind.

  5. 1 August 2008 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Harry, we’re flexible on the rules. I’ve already reclassified a few books and expect this to continue; certainly when I read an author who’s clearly a better fit. I’ve also shifted some of my exemplars from the books I’ve previously read–this morning I thought “Michael White! He’s an Aussie writer whose work is incredibly relevant to my profession! I should list him rather than Garth Nix!”

  6. Harry
    1 August 2008 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Harry, we’re flexible on the rules.

    Good :)

    The point of the exercise, for me, is to read a lot of books I wouldn’t otherwise have read, and I’m sure that will happen however I approach it.

    At the moment the prospect seems a little daunting, but I’m not setting a deadline and I should have a few decades left to tick off the remaining 163 countries, so there’s no rush.

  7. 1 August 2008 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    That’s exactly it for me, too, Harry. My horizons can get way too narrow if I don’t take care to expand them. I’m very excited about some of the books I’ve put on my list, but I never would have thought to look for them if not for this challenge.

  8. 4 August 2008 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Some books from The Bahamas:

    Bahamas – No Seeds in Babylon or God’s Angry Babies, Ian Strachan, or You Can Lead A Horse To Water, Winston Saunders

    All are available online.

    You could also read my play, which is available from Lulu.com. I take full responsibility for the awfulness of the photos.

  9. Harry
    4 August 2008 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Yes, it occurred to me I could order Jee Leong’s book to tick off Singapore, as well.

    I might pick your brains for other Caribbean writers later, as well.

  10. 5 August 2008 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I’ve posted longer lists on Shoshana’s blog.

  11. Harry
    5 August 2008 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Excellent, thanks for that.

  12. 27 June 2010 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Thanks Harry for your lovely commentaries, reviews and insight. As we re-read the literary world map about us all through Heraclitean Fire I wonder if we could stop by at some ports of call and re-fuel with what’s new by way of titles, the read, the unread, and the yet to be read… What I mean is, say, how about stopping by at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, and checking out what’s new there. Be invited, feel most invited, great countries, great cultures and great lovers of the word, and check out The Anuki Country Press. There could be more from that island in the Pacific…

  13. Cynthia
    15 May 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    You should try reading Kim Young-Ha’s books or Shin Kyung-sook’s books for South Korea part. They are both good and available in English, I believe.

  14. Harry
    15 May 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, I’ll them out!

    [Check them out, rather. Doh.]

9 Trackbacks

  1. By Heraclitean Fire » scribble scribble on 28 October 2008 at 8:23 pm

    [...] I need to find rather obscure books for the Read The World challenge, I’ve been buying second-hand copies online. And that has meant an irritation [...]

  2. By Sherry Chandler on 23 November 2008 at 1:06 pm

    [...] Harry, whose experiences are intriguing, I’ve joined the “Around the World” group at [...]

  3. [...] Och så ska man ju aldrig tro att man är först med någonting över huvud taget – idag hittade jag denna blogg!! [...]

  4. [...] actually surprised that I’ve spent three years trying to read a book from every country in the world without any new countries being created… but it looks like that’s about to change. Kosovo [...]

  5. [...] setup. The film equivalent of a lot of the books I’ve been reading for the Read The World challenge. So they’re living in a world of drugs and hip hop, but also seal hunting and [...]

  6. By Heraclitean Fire » Books of the year 2011 on 21 December 2011 at 5:29 pm

    [...] Read The World challenge came up trumps this year with a couple of absolutely cracking books — as well as [...]

  7. By Bookends – START « Arbitrary Essentials on 17 June 2012 at 9:24 am

    [...] exploring reviews in Goodreads, I found a link to a blog wherein he is doing a lifetime (or long-term) reading goal — to be able to read at least one book in almost every country in the world. It actually came [...]

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  9. [...] of August 1st, I’ve been reading my way round the world for five years and I’m at 135 countries accounted for — or 99 books read since I [...]

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