Books From Around the World

Posted 19 July, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook / 28 Comments

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10 Books from Around the World

Reading books from around the world is something I love to focus on. I love traveling to different countries via books and seeing the world through other’s eyes. Sadly over the past couple of years, though, I haven’t been paying as much attention to where I’m reading nor where the authors I’m reading are from. This means that while my reading is still fairly diverse, the books I’ve been reading have been mostly set in the United States and the UK.

Today the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish are asking for our favorite books that aren’t set in the US. I took this one step further and am sharing books set abroad by authors who are not from the US. This means I had to leave out some of my favorites–The Poisonwood Bible (Congo), Maus (Poland), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Dominican Republic)–but hopefully you can find something on the list to diversify your reading list.

Books From Around the World

Books Around the World

The Bone People by Keri Hulme (New Zealand) – A beautiful and tender story about the tenuous relationship between an outcast woman, an orphaned boy, and a haunted man.  Hulme focuses on the Maori culture and the way that the indiginous people are margionalized in New Zealand. A touching read. On Goodreads

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (India) – Set in 1960s India, The God of Small Things centers around young twins and an Untouchable whom they both love dearly despite “love laws.” While this wasn’t the easiests of reads, it gripped me while reading it and has had a lasting impact on me. More of my thoughts | On Goodreads

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (Canada) – I feel a bit of a cheat including a book set in Canada in this list, but I love Atwood’s books set in Toronto which make me nostalgic for the years that I lived there when I was young. The Blind Assassin is part mystery, part science fiction, but entirely engrossing. On Goodreads

I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached (Lebanon) – This graphic memoir shows what life was like during the Lebanese Civil War through the eyes of a child. I loved the black and white illustrations, but what struck me was seeing the everyday juxtaposed with a wartorn country. More of my thoughts |  On Goodreads

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka (Ukraine) – Partly set in the UK and partly set in Ukraine, I learned so much about wartime and peacetime life through Lewycka’s quirkly little book. A Short History is full of colorful characters and is a gem of a book. More of my thoughts  | On Goodreads


Books Around the World

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (Japan) – The book that made me put Seeing the Cherry Blossoms in Japan on my bucket list. While the book details a love affair, the descriptions of the Japanese countryside and culture were unforgettable. More of my thoughts | On Goodreads

My Father’s Paradise by Ariel Sabar (Iraq) – I’m breaking my “authors not from the US” with this selection, but I wanted to include Sabar’s memoir/biography/history of searching for his Jewish roots in Kurdish Iraq. Certainly when we think of Iraq, we don’t automatically think of the Jewish faith, but reading Sabar’s book brought to light so many things about the country and religion. More of my thoughts | On Goodreads

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Chile) – One of those sweeping South American family sagas with all of the magical realism. No but really–a great multi-generational story that will make any soap opera look tame. I read this one over a decade ago and some of the scenes are still so vivid in my memory. On Goodreads

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Mexico) – Admittedly I didn’t love this little love story set in Mexico, but so many people rave about it that I’ve kept it on my shelf for a re-read one day. Do you do that? Plan to read a book you didn’t love the first time to see if you like it better the second? Sigh. More of my thoughts | On Goodreads

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria) – Another book set in the 1960s, this time during the Nigerian-Baifran war. A war I didn’t realize happened and a country I didn’t realize existed (Biafra) until I read this book. Half of a Yellow Sun is a character study and one that I would love to revisit. You know, right after I read Adichie’s other books first! More of my thoughts | On Goodreads

Coming up with this list made me realize how much I miss reading the world.

Which books set outside of the US by international authors do I need to add to my reading list? I’d love to hear your recommendations.


28 Responses to “Books From Around the World”

  1. Jenny

    I haven’t heard about most of these. I have heard of Like Water For Chocolate though. And, no, if I didn’t like a book I don’t keep it around. I’m so narrow minded. Sigh!

    • Definitely read it, Sarah! I always feel like reading Atwood is a little bit of work but so worth it in the end. Loved all the layers of The Blind Assassin.

  2. Some great choices here! You might enjoy A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, set in 1975 India during “The Emergency” when the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, “ruled by decree”. It’s a 5-plus star book.

    I hope it isn’t cheating too much to list books set in Canada, because all ten of mine are today!

    • Thank you for the recommendation! I’ve seen that one around and I need to put it on a list so I can get to it. Wonder if there’s any overlap in subject with Midnight’s Children by Rushdie…have you read that one?

      • Oh, Trish, A Fine Balance is one of those books that is soul-wrenching. It’s long but will not leave your head afterward. One of the best books I’ve ever read!
        But you know, no expectations!

      • I’ve read Midnight’s Children and there’s no overlap: it’s set starting in 1947 when India gained independence from Britain, and the country of Pakistan was formed. It’s not anything like A Fine Balance and. although many have raved about it, you might notice that I’m not recommending it. ;-)

  3. SarahBeth

    Have you read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini? I thought it was beautifully haunting and while sad at times, a really interesting story.

    I also am in the middle of reading The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith H Beer. Its a really interesting memoir.

    • Oh I’ve heard such good things about The Nazi Officer’s Wife! I need to find a copy. I have read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns–loved both of them!

      • SarahBeth

        I got my copy on Amazon for my kindle and I think it’s on sale right now too, I saw it show up in BookBub for I think $1.99 last week?

  4. Raidergirl3

    Great list! I forgot how much I enjoyed a number of these. The Bone People broke my heart; Ukrainian tractors was a delightful read; and Half a Yellow Sun was so excellent.

    • This list kind of made me nostalgic for the old days of blogging since I read so many of them after I first started. I debated on including Fall On Your Knees which I believe is set around your neck of the woods! Have you read that one?

      • I have read Fall on Your Knees – excellent book. I read it around the time of a number of Oprah/child abuse books so it partly blends into a few other books. Very near my neck of the woods.
        I learned about so many good books I had never heard of before, in those early days of blogging. The Bone People and Chimanda Adichie are certainly part of that time. Have you read Adichie’s short story based on Mrs Dalloway/Melania Trump? Amazingly well done on both parts! I saw it linked on Twitter today.

  5. I’ve only heard of 3 of these books, which is sad, but I would love to read The Bone People. I am fascinated with that country and the plot sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with this list.

  6. The Bone People is such a great novel–one of my very favorites. I recently read Snow by Orhan Pamuk, a Turkish novelist. He’s won the Nobel Prize for literature, and his books are excellent.

  7. I haven’t read any of these though they all look interesting. I’m especially curious about I Remember Beirut. I watched one of Anthony Bourdain’s shows where he travels around the world and there’s one that they started filming there just as war breaks out and they keep the cameras rolling. It looked terrifying. This list has made me want to focus more on reading around the war too. Most of my books are set in the UK or the US but I’ve really enjoyed the books where I’ve gone outside my geographical zones a bit.

  8. I think you can totally include Atwood’s Canada! She certainly makes it come to life in that book.

    Half of a Yellow Sun is the only Adichie book I still need to read. I should get on that!

  9. Great list! I love the approach you took, though you are right – that would cut the list down a bit. But it also makes it even more interesting!

    sigh…The God of Small Things – I know everyone LOVES this novel, but I found it just too darn depressing! I am OK with a dark book if there is a thread of hope in it, but there was none at all in this one.

    Thanks for reminding me of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian! My family is originally from the Ukraine (my great-grandparents), and I’ve wanted to read this novel ever since its release…but had forgotten all about it. So thanks!

    You’ve got lots of others here I would like to read as well – great list!


    2016 Big Book Summer Challenge

  10. Great list – this has been such a good topic. I loved The Blind Assassin (I think I’ve loved all the Atwoods I’ve read), although I was gifted the hardback which is so big it’s always a bit intimidating to consider for a reread!

    I love the sound of The Bone People. I shall have to look it up.

  11. I have wanted to read The Bone People forever and it kept getting lost on my wish list. But then I found it at the second hand store a couple months ago. Should my reading ever go back to normal, I am excited to finally read it!

  12. I agree with the others about A Fine Balance. Excellent novel. I’m sure you’ve read Cutting for Stone, right? It was also outstanding. The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar is another I loved.

  13. I love this prompt – I am adding so many books to my TBR! I’d definitely echo Les’ recommendation of The Space Between Us – one of my all-time fav books.