Like everyone all over the world, the past two years had put a stopper through my travel plans, big time. As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, all I could think of to satisfy the wanderlust cravings was to submerge myself in books. That is when I got the idea to kill two birds with one stone by traveling the world using books as my medium. In other words, I decided to read at least one book from every country in the world.
Best Books From Different Countries To Explore! ✈️ 🗺️
Over the past couple of years, I have journeyed through various countries through the pages of the books I read and have carefully curated an eclectic list for my “Crossing Borders Through Books” project. I have listed down some of the must-reads from my collection down below, so let the perusal begin.
1️⃣ The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo (Japan 🇯🇵)
If you’re in the mood for a cozy murder mystery set in post-war Japan, then this is the book for you. Replete with inheritance dramas, locked room murders, long-lost relatives, dark family secrets, and healthy (or perhaps unhealthy) doses of sibling rivalry galore, this book has something for every type of murder mystery fan out there. There’s also the perfect foil to Agatha Christie‘s Poirot, in the form of this book’s detective, Kosuke Kindaichi. Kindaichi is shabby and bumbling, whereas Poirot is fastidious and meticulous. Still, there’s no sliver of doubt that they are both brilliant detectives despite the differences in their appearance and methods of detection. This book is guaranteed to make you read it from start to finish in one sitting. You can get the book here! 📖
2️⃣ Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Poland 🇵🇱)
This book has been on my radar since its English translation won The Man Booker International Prize in 2018. This book is an anthology of bite-sized short stories that are perfect for when you are traveling and don’t want to carry around a hefty tome. The stories are tangential to each other and explore a wide range of themes and plotlines. The masterful translation done by Jennifer Croft makes this book a must-read, in my opinion. I also highly recommend checking out the author’s other book ‘Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead’, a murder mystery that follows a unique storytelling format. You can get the book here! 📖
3️⃣ A Long Petal Of The Sea by Isabel Allende (Chile 🇨🇱)
Though Isabel Allende is a well-known name amongst book lovers, I regret to say that I did not read any of her books until this one. This book is about a family- on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War – who are fleeing their country to seek asylum in Chile. From there, we follow their lives as they adapt to their new country, their rise and fall, and numerous exiles. Allende’s compelling writing makes this book a page-turner, and I found myself getting invested in the lives of these fictional characters. Needless to say, I have been converted into an Allende fan after reading this book and recommending it to other skeptics like me. You can get the book here! 📖
4️⃣ The Bastard Of Istanbul by Elif Shafak (Turkey 🇹🇷)
I believe that you can learn a lot from reading an Elif Shafak book, and true to form, I learned a lot from this book, including the Armenian Genocide, a part of history that was hitherto unknown to me. This book is an immersion into Turkish culture as well as Armenian culture. Shafak’s writing makes the experience so tangible that I felt as though I was walking through the streets of Istanbul and living the story instead of just reading it. You can get the book here! 📖
5️⃣ Miss Iceland by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (Iceland 🇮🇸)
Iceland has always been on my travel list. Unfortunately, at present, I lack the funds to make my travel dreams a reality; therefore, the next best course of action was to read a book set in Iceland written by an Icelandic author. This book follows the life of the protagonist Hekla. She valiantly tries to be a writer in a world that refuses to consider her as anything other than an object of beauty. This book is a fun and light read, filled with amusing characters, perfect for those who are in a spreading slump. You can get the book here! 📖
6️⃣ Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (Sweden 🇸🇪)
Fredrik Backman’s books are the embodiment of sunshine, cookies, and warm hugs in literary format, or at least that’s what I like to think they are. Anxious People is a funny story of the foibles of a bank robber turned kidnapper (a comically bad one at that) and their hostages. With a plethora of twists and turns, this story is a fun ride from start to finish, with a touch of sadness here and there. The best thing about Backman’s books is the characters, and this book has a lot of them who make it hard for you to choose your favorite one because they’re all equally compelling in tugging at your heartstrings. You can get the book here! 📖
7️⃣ Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria 🇳🇬)
This book was my first Adichie but certainly was not my last. After reading this book, I went down the google rabbit hole to learn more about the various foods, clothes, cultures, traditions, and places mentioned in it. Set during the military coup in Nigeria, this book follows the life of a teenage girl, Kambili, as she tries to figure out her place in life. This book has graphic descriptions of violence, domestic and otherwise, and is not for the faint-hearted. You can get the book here! 📖
8️⃣ Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (Mexico 🇲🇽)
Speaking of books that are not for the faint-hearted, Hurricane Season fits neatly into this category as well. Not just that, this book is not an effortless read, having numerous walls of text without a full stop or a paragraph break in sight. It is set in a rural, poverty-stricken town in Mexico where misogyny, paranoia, and violence go hand in hand. The book starts with the death of a character called ‘The Witch’ and down spirals from there. But what makes this book a worthwhile read is the lyrical essence of the writing, once you get past the difficulty in reading the never-ending sentences, that is. Paired with the brilliant translation done by Sophie Hughes, this book has the power to hold the reader in a trance, making it unputdownable. Don’t forget to mind the trigger warnings with this one, though. You can get the book here! 📖
9️⃣ The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai (Vietnam 🇻🇳)
As someone who had a faint idea about the Vietnam War, this book was like a godsend. It is a lesson in Vietnamese history told through the lives of three generations of a family. This story teaches us a lot about Vietnamese culture and its history, filled with one tragedy after the other. This was the author’s first book in English by the author, and it is a phenomenal debut! In my opinion, this book is a must-read gem for historical fiction enthusiasts. You can get the book here! 📖
🔟 Small Memories by José Saramago (Portugal 🇵🇹)
And the last book on this list is a memoir by the Portuguese author, José Saramago. This book details his childhood in Portugal, spent back and forth between his birthplace and the capital city. The recollections of childhood memories in snippets, punctuated by photos of his family and himself from bygone days here and there, give this book an atmosphere of intense nostalgia. Memoirs bridge the gap between nonfiction and fiction readers, and this book is one for the bookshelf for both types of readers. You can get the book here! 📖
These ten books are just a tiny piece of the world map. Thankfully there are numerous books out there, making the reading list endless. Here’s to crossing more borders, one book at a time!
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