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Around the World in Six Books

June 19, 2013

It has been awhile since I’ve traveled abroad. It has been awhile since I picked up a new novel. So when I saw that Amazon had put together a list of 80 books from around the world, I knew it was a summer challenge made for me. Starting now, I have picked 6 books, one from each continent, that I will read over this summer. Since I spend over an hour a day on the Seattle commute, I have no excuse not seeing this through!

It’s dangerous to go alone!

So a few rules I’ve set for myself:

  1. Authors should preferably be from the location. I don’t want to spend my summer reading from entirely American authors about the places they have visited
  2. Books are allowed to be fiction or non-fiction but I should try to have a mix of both overall
  3. The challenge is over September 1st which puts me at a book every one to two weeks.
  4. I don’t have to blog on every book but I want to do at least 3 posts.
  5. I am using the Amazon book list as ideas but I do not have to pick from it

Now on to the books!

North America: MiddleSex by Jeffrey Eugenides

While the book on southern BBQ was tempting, I don’t know much about transgender issues and this was a book I have heard about that got great reviews. Plus it was in Oprah’s book club and I trust Oprah not to lead me astray

South America: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

I haven’t read poetry in a long time, not since I was a freshman, and I think this will be a perfect pull back into it. I have read Pablo Neruda before with The Heights of Macchu Picchu, and enjoyed it. Apparently Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair is a collection of romantic poems and was controversial for its eroticism. It’s going to get hot this summer.

Asia: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

This one is a bit of a cheat. It’s not set in Asia, but it is about a refugee family from Laos in California and the cultural conflict over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. However, it’s one I have been meaning to get around to and was recommended to me by multiple professors. Since my honor’s thesis was on the benefits of collaboration between traditional healers and Western Doctors in HIV prevention, the intertwining of mental health and culture is a special interest of mine.

Africa: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

I was most disappointed by this book selection on Amazon. I couldn’t find a single African writer and most of the books seemed to be the typical “White man learns Africa is not that strange” story. So I turned to the internet to find a book written by an African author and found “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. It’s about Okonkwo, a man from an Ibo village in Nigeria and his fall out with the tribal world and well as the conflict between Nigeria and European missionaries.

Europe: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

I completely picked this on a whim from the list Amazon provided and have never heard of the book, nor the author. It is set in Barcelona and seems to be a murder mystery in which an antique book dealer attempts to uncover who is systematically destroying every copy of ever book by the famous author Julian Carax. Good enough for me!

Australia and Beyond: A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit.

Australia must not have many reputable authors because most of the books chosen by Amazon were more from the “wanderlust” category.  It seems more philosophical in nature and uses Solnit’s life to explore issues of wandering, being lost, and the uses of the unknown. This seems like a good way to end my summer as I decide what I want to do for graduate school and beyond.

Looking to join me in my quest? Get your library card, grab your kindle, and allons-y!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2013 11:34 pm

    This sounds wonderful, Maddy! I’ve had 3 of these books on my to-read list for a while now. Perhaps I’ll move some of these up on my list; there’s nothing like a little discussion to deepen your understanding of a good book! 🙂

    • June 20, 2013 8:49 am

      absolutely! which books do you have? I would love to have some discussions on them. I thought a blog post per book was too much. I also want to integrate another cultural aspect, for example, after reading my spanish murder mystery, maybe I will cook a spanish meal or see a spanish play, etc

  2. Monika permalink
    June 20, 2013 3:16 am

    So great to see you posting again! I miss the Epilogues! Also, when are you coming to Morocco!?!?!

    • June 20, 2013 8:50 am

      i missed it too but it’s back! Let’s sit down and talk seriously about it sometime! I can look at how much money I would need to save and we can pin down a rough date!

  3. June 20, 2013 6:20 am

    This is a great idea, and thanks for the link to the list!

    I read Things Fall Apart in middle school, and I remember it was a good book for discussion purposes. I don’t remember too much about it though, so maybe I should read it again!

    • June 20, 2013 8:52 am

      I tried to pick a good mix of books so I wasn’t reading entirely romanticized fiction or books from a teacher’s list. Let me know if you do read it and thanks for commenting!

  4. Emma Jackson permalink
    June 20, 2013 11:30 am

    Hi Maddy, Your book choices are good. I loved Anne Fadiman’s book: it is set in Merced only a hundred miles from here. “The Shadow of the Wind” we read before going to Barcelona. Set in the same Born section of Barcelona is ” Le Catedral del Mar” by Ildefonso Falcones, in Spanish and translated into English. A suggestion for book number 7. Enjoy!


    Sent from my iPad

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