Monday, October 14, 2013

Around the world in 365 days - by book

So, I heard about this project "A Year of Reading the World" last week and decided to give it a go. But of course, it isn't enough to read what Alexandra read ... so I added some additional constraints, or opportunities, depending on how you think about things.  If you want to join me, please do, with your own lists, or suggest things below.

Firstly, I'm in the U.S., so we have different works available than U.K.-based Alexandra found, and possibly more are in translation here.  Secondly, I read in English and French, which opens some doors, especially for works from writers from countries in West and Central Africa and parts of Micronesia. If you  have more than one language, do your own challenge with works available. Thirdly, I'm most interested in works by women, although not exclusively. So I thought I'd try for at least 50 percent by women -- you've heard that we "Hold up half the sky," right?  Then I decided I should stick to things published in my lifetime, so last half of the 20th century until now. Sound fair?

Today I checked out the list of countries at Member States of the UN, but it didn't include places that I think of as having separate cultures, such as Scotland and Northern Ireland.  So instead of 193 nations, the starting list is 195. Perhaps we'll add more, too ...

Also, at our house, we already have books from about 45 of the countries listed, and in the interests of keeping the whole project manageable financially, I set a limit of $5 per additional volume. For titles not on our shelves, I'll see what I can borrow from libraries, then go for used copies, probably from Amazon or similar sites online. Although, I must say I found several works at Half Price Books in the Avon neighborhood yesterday, for $1 or less each.  What a great resource, even if the name ought to be Half Priced Books.

So, here's a global map and four pins to get started. Japan, Albania, Argentina, and Canada. Two men, two women. Mostly older titles, since -- as you might have noted above -- we have these books already at home.

To join, click on the map to open a new tab, showing this week's ideas. On the new tab, click on one of the green pins. A small tab within the map will open with author's last name and title of the book. Under that appears the word "link."  If you click that, you will see the description of the book. These four are in print and used copies are available online. 

Next week four more titles, with a different color of pin. Maybe I'll figure out how to make an interactive map here, too.  Stranger things have happened.

Even if you don't read the books, please share your thoughts for authors to include!

Are you in?



  1. Great work! Wish it had dark type on light background, though.

  2. from friend Jeff via Facebook: "For Laos, Collin Cotterill's Dr. Siri novels are great ('The Coroner's Lunch')."

  3. Please clarify the rules. Is it a book about a country or a book written by a citizen of the country? Or is the place of birth of the author to be the determinant? Is the target list the nations that are currently in business? What happens with messy regions like Yugoslavia, where countryhood changes frequently?

    1. Thank you for your interest! We can make any rules we'd like. If you are reading your own list, please feel free to modify my "rules" as suits you. [more below]

      I've chosen books taking place in a country and written in a language of that country by someone who a) grew up there or b) has lived there for a substantial time as an adult.

      I started with the U.N. list of recognized countries as of this year and found 193. But, as you note, there are former countries with extensive literatures, as well as regions where residents consider their stories and experiences distinct from the "national" culture. So, I added Northern Ireland and Scotland to the U.N. list, plus North Korea, although it is not U.N. sanctioned. And might add the Kurdish culture, American Black author(s), Basque literature, and others.

      For Yugoslavia, I'm considering each of the current countries separately (Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Slovenia). It helps that I have friends in Serbia to guide me.

      Today, one of my projects it to make an online, searchable database of countries and recommended (to me, not by me) titles. I hope you will come back and check it out.