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: 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.
Just racking my brains for books I’d already read, my starting score was 36.
My current total is: 157 read, 44 to go.
Details below the fold.
‘Countries’ which are not UN member states are marked with an asterisk. Greyed-out countries are ones I haven’t read yet.
You can also see which countries I’ve ticked off on a map here.
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
The Palace of Dreams, Ismail Kadare
The Stranger, Albert Camus
The Teacher of Cheops, Albert Salvadó
The Whistler, Ondjaki
Antigua and Barbuda
Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges
Remnants: Way of the Womb, Hagop Oshagan
Clive James, Peter Carey, Patrick White, etc
How Life Imitates Chess, Garry Kasparov
Mama Lily and the Dead, Nicolette Bethel
Voices II: Contemporary Bahraini Short Stories, ed. & trans. Hasan Marhamah
Bras, Boys, and Blunders: Juliet & Romeo in Bahrain by Vidya Samson
Whispering Death: The Life and Times of Michael Holding, Michael Holding with Tony Cozier
Voices from Chernobyl and Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War, both by Svetlana Alexievich
Beka Lamb, Zee Edgell
African Philosophy: Myth & Reality, Paulin J. Hountondji
Tales in Colour and Other Stories and Bhutanese Tales Of The Yeti, Kunzang Choden
Bosnia and Herzegovina
How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone, Saša Stanišić
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Jorge Amado
Epitaph of a Small Winner, Machado de Assis
The Forlorn Adventure, Amir Falique
Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, Malidoma Patrice Somé
The Running Man, Gilbert Tuhabonye
Survival in the Killing Fields, Haing Ngor and Roger Warner
Being in Being : The Collected Works of a Master Haida Mythteller, Skaay of the Qquuna Qiighawaay (trans. Robert Bringhurst)
also Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel, etc
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
Told by Starlight in Chad, Joseph Brahim Seid
House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
Wild Swans, Jung Chang
Gabriel García Márquez, obviously
Broken Glass, Alain Mabanckou
Island Boy, Sir Tom Davis, Pa Tuterangi Ariki
Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote, Ahmadou Kourouma
The Culture of Lies, Dubravka Ugrešić
Three Trapped Tigers, Guillermo Cabrera Infante
Echoes from the Dead Zone, Yiannis Papadakis
Franz Kafka, Jaroslav Hašek, Milan Kundera
War with the Newts, Karel Čapek
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Life and a Half, Sony Lab’ou Tansi
The Land Without Shadows, Abdourahman A. Waberi
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz
Beyond the Islands, Alicia Yánez Cossío
The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems, 1940-1640 BC, trans. R.B. Parkinson
Shadows of your Black Memory, Donato Ndongo
Who Needs a Story? — Contemporary Eritrean Poetry in Tigrinya, Tigre and Arabic, ed. Charles Cantalupo and Ghirmai Negash
Treading Air, Jaan Kross
Warrior King, Sahle Sellassie
The Year of the Hare, Arto Paasilinna
Colette, Balzac, Proust etc
Kvachi, Mikheil Javakhishvili
Goethe, Thomas Mann, etc
Red Love: The Story of an East German Family, Maxim Leo
Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis
Across Arctic America, Knud Rasmussen
Ragamuffin, Tobias S. Buckell
The President, Miguel Angel Asturias
The King of Kahel, Tierno Monénembo
The Radiance of the King, Camara Laye
Para Vasco: poemas da Guiné-Bissau / For Vasco: poems from Guinea-Bissau
From Sir, With Love, E.R. Braithwaite
Masters of the Dew, Jacques Roumain
Complete Works and Other Stories, Augusto Monterroso
Journey By Moonlight, Antal Szerb
Independent People, Halldór Laxness
Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth
This Earth of Mankind, Pramoedya Ananta Toer
My Father’s Notebook, Kader Abdolah
The Colonel, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
Thirsty River, Rodaan Al Galidi
Joyce, Yeats, Swift etc etc
The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami
Cities of Salt, Abdelrahman Munif
Almaty-Transit, Dana Mazur
A Grain of Wheat, Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o
The Chronicles of Dathra, a Dowdy Girl from Kuwait, Danderma
The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years, Chingiz Aitmatov
Mother’s Beloved: Stories from Laos, Outhine Bounyavong
The Book of Khalid, Ameen Rihani
Chaka, Thomas Mofolo
Redemption Road, Elma Shaw
The Bleeding of the Stone, Ibrahim Al-Koni
Nora by Ferdinande von Brackel, translated by Princess Marie of Liechtenstein
Stamping Grounds: Exploring Liechtenstein and Its World Cup Dream, Charlie Connelly
Translations from the Night, Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo
The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison, Jack Mapanje
21 Immortals: Inspector Mislan and the Yee Sang Murders by Rozlan Mohd Noor and Ripples and Other Stories by Shih-Li Kow
The Fortunes of Wangrin, Amadou Hampaté Bâ
The Maltese Baron… and I Lucian, Francis Ebejer
Life in the Republic of the Marshall Islands , ed. Anono Lieom Loeak, Veronica C. Kiluwe, Linda Crowl
Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in Search of Happiness, Amadou Ndiaye
Blue Bay Palace, Natacha Appanah
Down the Rabbit Hole, Juan Pablo Villalobos
Micronesia, Federated States of
My Urohs, Emelihter Kihleng
From Tajikistan to the Moon, Robert Frimtzis
The Blue Mountain, Galsan Tschinag
We killed Mangy-Dog & other Mozambique stories, Luis Bernardo Honwana
From the Land of Green Ghosts, Pascal Khoo Thwe
Dante International, Sharon Kasanda
Legends, Traditions and Tales of Nauru, Timothy Detudamo
The Soul of the Rhino, Hemanta Mishra
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
The Bone People, Keri Hulme
The Country Under My Skin, Gioconda Belli
The Epic of Askia Mohammed, Nouhou Malio
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood, Hyok Kang
The Ice Palace, Tarjei Vesaas
Mirabella and the Pearl of Chulothe, Laila Al Bellucci
Kartography, Kamila Shamsie
Basti, Intizar Husain
The Butterfly’s Burden, Mahmoud Darwish
America’s Prisoner: The Memoirs of Manuel Noriega, Manuel Noriega and Peter Eisner
Papua New Guinea
Maiba, Russell Soaba
Exotic Territory: A Bilingual Anthology of Contemporary Paraguayan Poetry, ed. & trans. Ronald Haladyna
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, Mario Vargas Llosa
Noli Me Tangere, José Rizal
The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad
The Maias, José Maria de Eça de Queiroz
Qatari Voices, ed. Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar and Carol Henderson
Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Nabokov, Solzhenitsyn etc
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Tiepolo’s Hound, Derek Walcott
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
City of Arches, Vivian Child
Leaves of the Banyan Tree, Albert Wendt
The Republic of San Marino, Charles de Bruc
Sao Tome and Principe
Yes, (Saudi) Minister! A Life in Administration, Ghazi Algosaibi
God’s Bits of Wood, Ousmane Sembène
88 Days – A true story of Somali Pirates in the Indian Ocean, Francis Roucou
The Devil That Danced on the Water, Aminatta Forna
Equal to the Earth, Jee Leong Koh
Rivers of Babylon by Peter Pišťanek
The Golden Boat by Srečko Kosovel
The Big Death: Solomon Islanders Remember World War II
Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela
The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyŏng: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea, trans. and ed. JaHyun Kim Haboush
Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaatje
Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih
The Free Negress Elisabeth, Cynthia Mc Leod
The Wah-Wah Diaries, Richard E. Grant
The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse
A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, Samar Yazbek
The Sands of Oxus, Sadriddin Aini
Born in Tibet, Chögyam Trungpa
An African in Greenland, Tété-Michel Kpomassie
Songs Of Love: New And Selected Poems (1974-1999), Konai Helu Thaman
Trinidad and Tobago
Beyond the Boundary, C.L.R. James
Abyssinian Chronicles, Moses Isegawa
United Arab Emirates
The Diesel, Thani al-Suwaidi
England*: too many to mention
Northern Ireland*: Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon
Scotland*: Iain Banks, Robert Burns, Robert Henryson etc
Wales*: Dylan Thomas
United States of America
too many to mention
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Soccer in Sun and Shadow, Eduardo Galeano
Only Yesterday, S.Y. Agnon
The Railway, Hamid Ismailov
Black Stone, Grace Mera Molisa
Doña Bárbara, Rómulo Gallegos
The Paradise of the Blind, Duong Thu Huong
The Hostage, Zayd Mutee‘ Dammaj
Poceza m’Madzulo: Some Chinyanja Radio Plays of Julius Chongo with English Translations, Ernst R. Wendland
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller
21 replies on “Reading is a way round the world”
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!
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.
Tsitsi Dangarembga is another Zimbabwean.
Thanks, I’ll keep her in mind.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve posted longer lists on Shoshana’s blog.
Excellent, thanks for that.
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…
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.
Thanks, I’ll them out!
[Check them out, rather. Doh.]
Thaks for this list! I am trying to do the same reading. But why have you forgotten about Sweden? :)
I’ve read Pippi Longstocking…
I’m trying not to leave all the most difficult countries until last, so that I have something interesting to look forward too. Sweden is a treat I can promise myself for later.
So you find Sweden a difficult country? Interesting :) If you want help with finding good swedish writers who are tanslated to english, just tell me! (And, Sweden is not on your list of countries.)
Sorry, I explained that badly. No, Sweden should be easy to find books for, even for someone who doesn’t like crime fiction. I’ve liked the occasional Tranströmer I’ve read, maybe I’ll get his collected poems.
I can see Sweden in the list at the top of the page, between Switzerland and Swaziland; it’s greyed out because I haven’t read it yet.
Ah, now I see. I looked at the long list with countries and books.
Yes, thats what I thougt. Sweish crimes isn’t very good, only popular. So don’t go there if you don’t have too :) Tranströmer is very good! Selma Lagerlöf is also classic and have written many books that still is a pleasure to read.
Thanks for the suggestions!
Hello, Harry! My name is Diego from Argentina. I realise it’s been quite a few years since your last reply, but I just happen to be tryin’ to do the same thing as you: reading one book of each country. So far I’ve read books from 90 different countries, so I still have a long way ahead… Anyway, I wanted to ask you if this list you posted is updated or if you could advance much further. (It’s quite complicated to find writers from remote places, so it would great to see how you managed to solve it in places like Palau or Kiribati). In the meantime, there are a few countries you are missing in this list that I have already read, so if you accept suggestions, here I go:
Austria: “The Golem” – Gustav Meyrink.
Belgium: “Desire” – Hugo Claus.
Botswana: “The Collector of Treasures and Other Botswana Village Tales” – Bessie Head (though born in South Africa, it is considered a writer from Botswana).
Israel: “Panther in the basement” – Amos Oz.
Morocco: “The last friend” – Tahar Ben Jelloun.
Rwanda: “The barefoot woman” – Scholastique Mukasonga.
Well, that would be all… Thank you and take care!