Around the World in 80 Books, Part 1

I love to travel. However, most of my travel money is spent on books. Books are my first love. Recently, I took stock of what was on my shelves and instantly saw the lack of diversity; most of the books originated from countries like Canada, the U.K. and the U.S., with a few other western European countries thrown in there for good measure.

It struck me that the material I was reading certainly wasn’t what every one else was reading.

I thought it was time to take a literary trip around the world. Best part: it costs so much less than actually visiting these countries.

So, here we go. Around the world in 80 books. This series will look at the diverse literature out there by choosing the 80 geographically largest countries in the world and working my way down the list to find new and interesting titles to help diversify your shelves.


Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy

Double standards for women are as relevant today as they were when Tolstoy wrote about them. Plus, it’s shorter than War and Peace.


Anne of Green Gables — L.M. Montgomery

In Canada, Anne of Green Gables is engrained in our collective memories and consciousness. The chatty and often dramatic orphan steals your heart from the beginning as she grows up in Prince Edward Island. It’s a sweet story and feels like a warm blanket from home when you read it.


The Water Margin — Shi Nai’an

In China, there are four novels considered to be the best classical Chinese works. The Water Margin is considered one of the seminal texts. It was also written in vernacular Chinese and not classical Chinese.

United States of America

To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee

Part coming of age story, part racial tensions analysis, Lee’s work is a masterpiece of fiction. As Scout grows up, so does the reader. Injustices become complex and nuanced and perceptions are challenged. It’s a must read.


Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon — Jorge Amado

Jorge Amado is one of the most recognizable authors in Brazil. Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon is one of three of his works to be made into a movie.


Cloudstreet — Tim Winton

A more modern pick, Winton’s Cloudstreet, is a family saga of working class Australians from the middle 20thcentury.


Twilight in Delhi — Ahmed Ali

Originally published in Britain, Ali explores themes of the changing social, political and cultural landscape of India following colonialism.


Collected Fictions — Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges is one of the most recognizable literary figures in South America. He is best known for his short works and was the first to use the term magical realism. Magical realism is a literary style that weaves fantasy-like elements into otherwise realistic fiction.


The Silent Steppe — Mukhamet Shayakhmetov

There is very little literature published in English from Kazakhstan. The Silent Steppe is a work of non-fiction detailing the harsh conditions for native Kazaks during the Stalin era.


At the Café and the Talisman — Mohammed Dib

While Albert Camus may be a more likely choice for Algeria, his general lack of support for Algerian nationalism makes him less than desirable. Mohammed Dib’s work explores themes of Algerian nationalism, identity and history. His most famous work, La Grande Maison, is difficult to find in English. However, At the Café and the Talisman is readily available.

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