Planning your own reading journey?
Obviously, since I am choosing only one book per country AND only 80 countries, that leaves lots of countries unread and lots of books overlooked. I can’t, in any way, provide an exhaustive list of books for you for your own reading journey (should you try this on your own sometime), but I thought I could try to get some sort of list started.
My knowledge is limited, so please help me! If you have a book you want to see added to the list, please send me a comment to those post and I’ll add your suggestion (with proper credit).
Current list is IN PROGRESS – thank you!!
Note — There are some countries that could be in multiple categories. For example, where do Turkey and Armenia fit? Europe? Middle-East? I have some places listed in a reading area — and I reserve the right to fiddle with them a bit. If it makes sense to read a book from Turkey on my way through Europe instead of going up to read it while I’m in the Middle-East, I might do that.
Some helpful websites:
Biblio Travel: www.bibliotravel.com — Type in a location and voila! Amazing. Helpful. An exhaustive and ever-growing list.
Books Set In: www.bookssetin.com — Searchable by location. Not as comprehensive as other lists and has mostly mystery and romance selections. But might serve as a good jumping off point. List is growing all the time.
A Striped Armchair: Travel by Books Wrap-up — Eva’s blog is fantastic for all things book related. This link will show you to her book list for her own Travel by Books challenge. I’ve included some of her books in the lists below, but her site is worth checking out for the maps and the links to her reviews. It’s an awesome resource.
● Balkan Beauty, Balkan Blood: Short Stories by Robert Elsie — “These stories offer a provocative glimpse into the sensibility of Europe’s least-understood people, who, overcoming centuries of oppression, at long last may speak to the rest of us.” –Review of Contemporary Fiction
● Biografi by Lloyd Jones — “In prose clear as window glass, sharp-eyed New Zealand novelist Jones (Splinter) recounts his journey through Albania in 1991, just as the poor, isolated country stumbles into a chaotic, post-communist future. Biografi (the title comes from the word for the security dossiers kept by the secret police on each citizen) is equal parts travelogue, political reportage and mystery.”
● Broken April by Ismail Kadare — An Albanian man living in the mountains is forced to kill a man and by law now must be killed by the dead man’s family. Reviews say it is bittersweet and haunting.
● The Albanian Affairs by Susana Fortes — Set in the nation of Albania during Enver Hoxha’s tyrannical dictatorship. A commanding love story and a compelling tale of loss and mystery.
● The Albanians by Miranda Vickers — Nonfiction. The history of Albania.
● The Accursed Mountains: Journeys in Albania by Robert Carver — Robert Carver explores a country that time forgot — where complete villages have been cut-off from others for nearly 60 years and survives many adventures along the way.
Other books set in Albania: Spring Flowers, Spring Frost; Agamemnon’s Daughter; The Three-Arched Bridge; Albanian Spring by Ismail Kadare. High Albania and Albania and The Albanians by Edith Durham. The Keys of Hell by Jack Higgins.
● Andorra by Peter Cameron — Takes place in a fictionalized version of the real Andorra. Follows a man who goes to live there — reviews call it dark and comical.
● Andorra by Max Frisch — “A reissue of this timeless fable on racism. The populace of Andorra capitulates to the Anti-Semitism of an invading army, betraying a young Gentile brought up by Jews.”
Other books: Approach to the History of Andorra by Lidia Armengol Vila and Andorran Memories by Valenti Claverol.
● Passage to Ararat by Michael J. Arlen — Won the National Book Award in 1976. A boy travels to Armenia in order to understand what his famous novelist father wanted to forget.
● The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig — A haunting and beautifully told story of a girl living in Austria and the end of World War I. Recently translated into English, this book was published posthumously after Zweig’s suicide.
● Setting Free the Bears by John Irving — “It is 1967 and two Viennese university students want to liberate the Vienna Zoo, as was done after World War II. But their good intentions have both comic and gruesome consequences, in this first novel written by a twenty-five year old John Irving, already a master storyteller.”
● The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp – Certainly the Austrian category would be lacking without a mention of the famous singing family turned Musical Theater legends. Told by Maria, this autobiography goes beyond “The Sound of Music” and deeply into the lives of Maria, the baron, and the children.
● The Third Man by Graham Greene – A writer goes to look for his friend in post-World-War-II Vienna. Murder and intrigue. The story was intended to be a screenplay and eventually became a film with Orson Welles.
● The Woodcutter’s by Thomas Bernhard — “Musical, dramatic and set in Vienna, Woodcutters. . . .resembles a Strauss operetta with a libretto by Beckett. —Joseph Costes, Chicago Tribune.”
Other books set in Austria: A Death in Vienna by Daniel Silva; A Nervous Splendor by Frederic Morton; Schlepping Through the Alps by Sam Apple; Secrets in the Cellar by John Glatt; Homestead by Rosina Lippi; The Piano Teacher [winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature] by Elfriede Jelinek; Blue Night by Cindy McCormick Marinusen; The Lonely Empress: Elizabeth of Austria by Joan Haslip; The Devil in Vienna by Doris Orgel; The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey.
● Azerbaijan Diary: A Rogue Reporter’s Adventures in an Oil-Rich, War-Torn, Post-Soviet Republic –– “This underground classic tells the story of oil-rich Azerbaijan’s first years of independence from Moscow. Goltz’s vivid, personal account, filled with memorable portraits of individuals in high places and low, carries the reader from the battlefront to the oilfield, the voting booth to the negotiating table, always with an astute sense of how it all fits into the geopolitical firmament.”
● Factory of Tears by Valzhyna Mort — A book of poetry. “Valzhyna Mort is a dynamic young poet who writes in Belarusian, working explicitly to reestablish the traditional language of her homeland. Mort’s poetry is infused with the politics of language and the legacy of revolution, wherein poems become prayers and weapons.”
● Wave of Terror by Theodore Odrach — “This panoramic novel hidden from the English-speaking world for more than 50 years begins with the Red Army invasion of Belarus in 1939. Ivan Kulik has just become Headmaster of school number 7 in Hlaby, a rural village in the Pinsk Marshes. Through his eyes we witness the tragedy of Stalinist domination where people are randomly deported to labour camps or tortured in Zovty Prison in Pinsk.” (Goodreads)
● Resistance by Anita Shreve — “The wife of a Resistance worker in Nazi-occupied Belgium falls in love with a wounded American pilot, forcing her to struggle with trust and betrayal.”
● A Tall Man in a Low Land: Some Time Among the Belgians by Harry Pearson — “Can any nation whose most famous monument is a statue of a small boy urinating really be that dull? Harry Pearson lived In Belgium for several months, burying himself in the local culture. He drank many of the 800 different beers the Belgians produce, and ate local delicacies such as kip kap, or jellied pig cheeks. This book commemorates strange events such as The Festival of Shrimps at Oostduinkerke, and laments the passing of the Underpant Museum in Brussels.”
Some others: The Sorrow of Belgium by Hugo Claus or Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett; Asterix in Belgium by Rene Goscinny; A Dog in a Hat by Joe Parkin; The Twentieth Train by Marion Schreiber.
● The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway — “A musician plays his cello for twenty-two days at the site of a mortar attack, in memory of the fallen. Among the strangers drawn into the orbit of his music are a young father in search of water for his family, an older man in search of the humanity he once knew, and a young woman, a sniper, who will decide the fate of the cellist—and the kind of person she wants to be.” (Summary from goodreads.com — Suggested by Carrie B.)
● The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric — “The Bridge on the Drina is a vivid depiction of the suffering history has imposed upon the people of Bosnia from the late 16th century to the beginning of World War I. As we seek to make sense of the current nightmare in this region, this remarkable, timely book serves as a reliable guide to its people and history.” Winner of the 1961 Nobel Prize for Literature.
● People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks — Heavily lauded. Winner of multiple awards. “From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated prayer book through centuries of war, destruction, theft, loss, and love.”
●Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco — “The book focuses on the Muslim enclave of Gorazde, which was besieged by Bosnian Serbs during the war. Sacco spent four weeks in Gorazde, entering before the Muslims trapped inside had access to the outside world, electricity or running water.” (Also by Sacco: War’s End.)
● Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo by Zlata Filipovic — “It begins as the day-today record of the life of a typical eleven-year-old girl, preoccupied by piano lessons and birthday parties. But as war engulfs Sarajevo, Zlata Filipovi´c becomes a witness to food shortages and the deaths of friends and learns to wait out bombardments in a neighbor’s cellar. Yet throughout she remains courageous and observant. The result is a book that has the power to move and instruct readers a world away.”
Other books set in Bosnia: Vermeer in Bosnia by Lawrence Weschler; Basher Five-Two by Scott O’Grady; Necessary Targets: A Story of Women and War by Eve Ensler; Blood and Vengeance by Chuck Sudetic; Good People in an Evil Time: Portraits of Complicity and Resistance in the Bosnian War by Svetlana Borz; Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia by Savo Heleta.
● Bulgarian Rhapsody by Linda J. Forristal — Well, who said cookbooks can’t count in this challenge? Although, I think flipping through shouldn’t count. Go ahead and make some of these tasty Bulgarian dishes. Or just pick this cookbook up while you’re reading about Bulgaria.
● King’s Ransom by Thomm Lemmons and Jan Beazely — A true story about the King of Bulgaria and his attempts to save his Jewish population from Hitler. This passionate story demonstrates the King’s amazing resolve and fortitude that saved each and every Jewish man, woman, and child from Hitler’s concentration camps.
● Natural Novel by Georgi Gospondinov — “Gospodinov flits and buzzes among various subjects — from graffiti in public toilets to the movies of Quentin Tarantino — in this tale of a young Bulgarian writer who decides to create his own version of a ”natural novel” assembled from the bits and pieces of everyday life. At its center is a poignant story about the narrator’s divorce and the fact that he isn’t ”the author” of his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s pregnancy. Maybe he’s suffering from attention deficit disorder; maybe he’s just stuck with a skewed if stoic appreciation of life’s messy flux. Whatever the cause, his monologue turns into a quirky, compulsively readable book that deftly hints at the emptiness and sadness at its core.” ANDERSON TEPPER, The New York Times
● Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria by Kapka Kassabova — “This two-part memoir of Kapka’s childhood and return explains life on the other side of the Iron Curtain.”
● The Making of June by Annie Nigh Ward — A woman moves to Bulgaria with her husband, only to have him leave her for a younger woman. She decides to stick it out in the country. “She survives and learns that loss can be an opportunity and that loneliness gives a person time to change her life.”
Other books to check out: Under the Yoke by Ivan Vazov; Beyond Hitler’s Grasp by Michael Bar-Zohar; The Iron Candlestick by Dimitur Talev; The Peach Thief and Other Bulgarian Stories by Emilian Stanev.
● Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West — “Widely recognized as West’s most distinguished nonfiction work, this book describes the author’s travels to Yugoslavia with her husband in 1937–a journey overshadowed by the growing inevitability of the Second World War.” (Goodreads)
● Cafe Europa: Life After Communism by Slavenka Drakulic — “One of Eastern Europe’s most acclaimed writers offers a brilliant work of political reportage–filtered through her own experience–which shows that Europe is still a divided continent, with the East separated–and ostracized–from the West by prejudice and intolerance.”
● The Survival League by Gordan Nuhanovic — “In the wake of war and political strife, where can normalcy be found? Croatian author Gordan Nuhanovic delves past the politics and into the people with the stories that make up The Survival League. English lawns, caffeinated punks, male pattern baldness – all parts of the everyday life that Nuhanovic’s characters observe or reclaim. These are tales of survivors, not only of war, but of life and its spectrum from the mundane to the insane.”
● Zagreb, Exit South by Edo Popovic — “Masterfully illuminates the lives of diverse, colorful characters adrift in postwar Croatia.”
Also set in Croatia: April Fool’s Day (also set in Serbia) and Salvation and Other Disasters by Josip Novakovich; Escape from Despair by Katarina Tepesh; American Scream and Palindrome Apocalypse by Dubravka Oraic-Tolic; Stillness: And Other Stories by Angela Brkic.
● Death in Cyprus by M.M. Kaye — A mystery novel set on the island of Cyprus. There is a death on a cruise ship and the passengers soon learn that the death was murder.
● Ledra Street by Nora Nadjarian — A collection of short stories from the author’s native Cyprus.
● The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera — “In seven wonderfully integrated parts, different aspects of human existence are magnified and reduced, reordered and emphasized, newly examined, analyzed, and experienced.”
● The Golem by Gustav Meyrink — “Most famous supernatural novel in modern European literature, set in Ghetto of Old Prague around 1890. A compelling story of mystical experiences, strange transformations, profound terror.”
● I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal — “In a comic masterpiece following the misadventures of a simple but hugely ambitious waiter in pre-World War II Prague, who rises to wealth only to lose everything with the onset of Communism, Bohumil Hrabal takes us on a tremendously funny and satirical trip through 20th-century Czechoslovakia.”
● Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal — “Hanta has been compacting trash for thirty-five years. Every evening he resues books from the jaws of his hydraulic press, carries them home, and fills his house with them. Hanta may be an idiot, as his boss calls him, but he is an idiot with a difference – the ability to quote the Talmud, Hegel, and Lao-tzu. In this baroque and winsome tale, Hrabal, whom Milan Kundera has called “our very best writer today,” celebrates the power and the indestructibility of the written word.”
● The Trial by Franz Kafka — “The Trial (German: Der Prozess) is a novel by Franz Kafka about a character named Josef K., who awakens one morning and, for reasons never revealed, is arrested and prosecuted for an unspecified crime.”
● Utz by Bruce Chatwin — “Traces the fortunes of Kaspar Utz, an enigmatic collector of Meissen porcelain living in Cold War Czechoslovakia. Although Utz is allowed to leave the country each year, and considers defecting each time, he always returns to his Czech home, a prisoner of the Communist state and of his precious collection.”
● The Visible World by Mark Slouka — A son born to Czech immigrants travels back to the Czech Republic in order to understand his past. He wants to know more about an affair his mother had with a member of the Nazi resistance — the ending of the affair, he feels, is the reason for his mother’s incurable unhappiness.
Other books set in the Czech Republic: Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal; The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Slowness by Milan Kundera; The Canceled Czech (Evan Tanner Mystery) by Lawrence Block; The Twelve Little Cakes by Dominika Dery; Giraffe: A Novel by J.M. Ledgard; A Time to Speak by Helen Lewis.
● Darkness Over Denmark: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews by Ellem Levine — “The remarkable story of collective and individual acts of bravery and altruism.”
● The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff — A book about the first man to woman gender reassignment surgery in 1930s Denmark. (A fictionalized account.)
● The Exception by Christian Jungersen — “A bestseller throughout Europe, [the book] is a gripping dissection of the nature of evil and of the paranoia and obsessions that drive ordinary people to commit unthinkable acts.”
● Hamlet by Shakespeare — “Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark!” This classic deserves to read and re-read. One of my favorite plays to teach and watch. Revenge. Love. Moral dilemmas. Does it get any better than this?
● Number the Stars by Lois Lowry — One of my favorites from elementary school. An ALA Notable Book. “Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated”. Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.”
● The Royal Physician’s Visit by Per Olov Enquist — “An international sensation, The Royal Physician’s Visit magnificently recasts the dramatic era of Danish history when Johann Friedrich Struensee — court physician to mad young King Christian — stepped through an aperture in history and became the holder of absolute power in Denmark.”
● Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg — “It happened in the Copenhagen snow. A six-year-old boy, a Greenlander like Smilla, fell to his death from the top of his apartment building. While the boy’s body is still warm, the police pronounce his death an accident. But Smilla knows her young neighbor didn’t fall from the roof on his own.”
Also in Denmark: The History of Danish Dreams and The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg; North to Freedom by Anne Holm; Sharpe’s Prey (Sharpe #5) by Bernard Cornwell; Music and Silence by Rose Tremain; Ophelia by Lisa Klein.
● My Estonia: Passport Forgery, Meat Jelly Eaters, and Other Stories by Justin Petrone — “A foreigner arrives in the middle of a dark winter and must survive in Estonia, the “least fortunate Scandinavian country,” a land where people eat blood sausage and jellied meat, drink warm bread, and are always on time; a place where every family is haunted by the past and is struggling to catch up to the present.”
● Things in the Night by Mati Unt — Things in the Night explores a world on the edge of disaster–plagued by mysterious power-outages and threatened by ominous conspiracies–juxtaposed against images and stories of unsurpassed beauty and tenderness. This astounding novel, set in Estonia near the end of the millennium, is a hymn to the very best in the human imagination and a eulogy for what humans, at their worst, may destroy. (Also by Mati Unt: Diary of a Blood Donor.)
● Treading Air by Jaan Kross — A tale of one man’s life in the politically unstable Estonia. (Also by Jaan Kross: The Czar’s Madman.)
● Ice Moon by Jan Costin Wagner — “Only a week after losing his wife, a distraught Detective Kimmo Joentaa returns to work to join a murder inquiry. It is the case of a woman smothered in her sleep—a curiously tranquil death, it seems, and one with no motive—and Kimmo becomes obsessed.”
● The Kalevala by Elias Lonnrot — “The national folk epic of Finland is here presented in an English translation that is both scholarly and eminently readable. The lyrical passages and poetic images, the wry humor, the tall-tale extravagance, and the homely realism of the ‘Kaevala’ come through with extraordinary effectiveness.”
● Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi — Considered a Finnish classic.
● The Summer Book by Tove Jansson — “Tove Jansson’s slender novel is a season told in episodes in the lives a six-year-old girl, awakening to existence, and her grandmother, who is nearing the end of hers.”
● The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna — “A journalist and a photographer set out on an assignment on a lovely sunny evening. As they drive through the country they hit a young hare. Vatanen, the journalist, leaves the car and goes in search of the injured creature. The grateful animal adopts Vatanen and together the two scamper through farcical adventures and political scandal.”
Also set in Finland: The Finnish Line by Linda Gerber; The Cloud Sketcher by Richard Rayner; The Howling Miller by Arto Paasilinna; The Unknown Soldier by Vaino Linna; Dark Paradise by Rosa Liksom; The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy by Johanna Sinisalo.
● A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle — “A funny–and often hilarious–month-by-month account of the charms and frustrations of moving into an old French farmhouse in Provence and adapting to a very different way of life.”
● Chocolat by Joanne Harris — A war between church and chocolate. Impossible to read this book without wanting a box of chocolates sitting right there in front of you; actually, I would recommend it. (Also by Joanne Harris: Five Quarters of the Orange.)
● The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown — Dan Brown may not be a literary matermind, but the man knows how to write a page-turner. It’s quick and it’s fun; but it’s also a formula. I guess the formula works because it’s hard to put down even as you’re thinking, “Wow. This isn’t all that well-written.” (Angels and Demons was the first book in this series; even though this book received the bulk of the popularity.) Really all you need to know: Codes, secret societies, murder, crazy suspensions of disbelief.
● Labyrinth by Kate Mosse — “A volunteer at an archaeological dig, stumbles into a cave and makes a startling discovery-two crumbling skeletons, strange writings on the walls, and the pattern of a labyrinth.” Part of the Languedoc Series. (Also by Kate Mosse: Sepulchre)
● Les Miserables by Victor Hugo — One of my all-time favorite books. I remember reading it in front of the heater in our bathroom (my favorite reading place) in high school and devouring it. Love this book. “In this story of the trials of the peasant Jean Valjean–a man unjustly imprisoned, baffled by destiny, and hounded by his nemesis, the magnificently realized, ambiguously malevolent police detective Javert–Hugo achieves the sort of rare imaginative resonance that allows a work of art to transcend its genre.” (Also by Victor Hugo: The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
● Perfume: The Story of a Murder by Patrick Suskind — “In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift-an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille’s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing smells. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume”-the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Told with dazzling narrative brillance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.”
● Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky — The story behind this novel is fascinating. The author was a Jew living in Paris; she was deported and died in Auschwitz and her book remained hidden. It is a story of Parisians during the Nazi Occupation. (Suggested by Carrie M.)
Other books set in France: The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson; The Many Lives and Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland; Swann’s Way (In Search of Lost Time) by Marcel Proust; The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baronees Emmuska Orczy; Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay; The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry; My Life in France by Julia Child; The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby; The Red and the Black by Stendhal; Germinal by Emile Zola; Tartuffe by Moliere; The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Satre; Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik.
● The Book Thief by Markus Zusak — “Set in Nazi Germany and narrated by Death” this book is about a girl who steals books right from under the noses of the nazis. (Suggested by Jessica)
● Fatherland by Robert Harris — Germany wins WWII, so we’re living in an alternate time. On top of that we have a classic detective story – a grusome murder. Reviewers enjoy it and call it engrossing and enjoyable.
● The Reader by Berhard Schlink — “When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.”
● Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi — “It is set in Burgdorf, a small fictional German town, between 1915 and 1951. The protagonist is Trudi Montag, a Zwerg — the German word for dwarf woman. As a dwarf she is set apart, the outsider whose physical “otherness” has a corollary in her refusal to be a part of Burgdorf’s silent complicity during and after World War II. Trudi establishes her status and power, not through beauty, marriage, or motherhood, but rather as the town’s librarian and relentless collector of stories.”
Other books set in Germany:
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erch Maria Remarque; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer; Steppenwolf and Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse; The Clown by Heinrich Boll; Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald.
● Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres — “Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, this rich and lyrical, heartbreaking and hilarious novel has been widely hailed as a classic. Set on the peaceful island of Cephallonia, just as the horrors of World World II reach its remote shores, Corelli’s Mandolin is an exuberant mixture of history and romance, written with a wit that is incandescent (Los Angeles Times Book Review.”
● I’d Like by Amanda Michalopoulou — A collection of short stories, each reads like a fragment of a larger story.
● Into the Blue by Robert Goddard — “Harry Barnett lives the life of an Englishman on permanent vacation in Greece, house-sitting for a powerful friend and hiding from a past disgrace. That is, until a guest at the villa disappears on a walking tour, and Harry is the number one suspect. While a Greek detective tries to trap him, and the British tabloids pillory him at home, Harry’s conscience is his worst enemy of all. What happened to young, beautiful Heather Mallender? Who took her—and why didn’t Harry realize that something was amiss?”
● The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood — Penelope tells her story from the underworld. (Suggested by Jessica)
● Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis — “A philosophizing, larger-than-life mine owner who confronts life with exuberance and wit.”
Other books set in Greece:
Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield; The Island by Victoria Hislop; Paging Aphrodite by Kim Green; She Wakes by Jack Ketchum; A House Like a Lotus by Madeleine L’Engle; Love from Greece by Melanie Panagiotopoulos;
● The Bridge at Andau by James Michener — “Here is James A. Michener at his most gripping, with a historic account of a people in desperate revolt, a true story as searing and unforgettable as any of his bestselling works of fiction.”
● Eclipse of the Crescent Moon by Geza Gardonyi — A classic that tells the story of the invading Turkish army.
● Embers by Sandor Marai — described as melancholy about the decaying empire of Hungary. (Suggested by Missi)
● Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz — Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002. “At the age of 14 Georg Koves is plucked from his home in a Jewish section of Budapest and without any particular malice, placed on a train to Auschwitz. He does not understand the reason for his fate. He doesn’t particularly think of himself as Jewish. And his fellow prisoners, who decry his lack of Yiddish, keep telling him, “You are no Jew.” In the lowest circle of the Holocaust, Georg remains an outsider.”
● Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szaerb — “No one who has read this book has failed to love it.—Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian”
● Prague by Arthur Phillips — “A novel of startling scope and ambition, Prague depicts an intentionally lost Lost Generation as it follows five American expats who come to Budapest in the early 1990s to seek their fortune. They harbor the vague suspicion that their counterparts in Prague have it better, but still they hope to find adventure, inspiration, a gold rush, or history in the making.”
Other books set-in Hungary: Abigel by Magda Szabo; The Red Lion by Maria Szepes; A Guest in My Own Country: A Hungarian Life by Gyorgy Konrad; The Good Master & The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy; Esther’s Inheritance by Sandor Marai; I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson; Got Fangs? by Katie Maxwell.
● Angels of the Universe by Einar Mar Gudmundsson — “Set against the bleak landscape of Iceland, a story of madness unfolds as Paul describes growing up in a working-class family and his frequent retreat into his own fantasy world, which eventually leads him to Klepp, a psychiatric hospital.”
● Independent People by Halldor Kiljan Laxness — won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955. Moving and lyrical.
● The Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indrioason — The 4th book in a powerfully gripping detective series based in Iceland. (Also in the series: Jar City, Voices, Silence of the Grave, The Draining Lake)
Other books set-in Iceland: Viking Age Iceland by Jesse L. Byock; Njal’s Saga by Anonymous; Icelander by Dusting Long; Under the Glacier by Halldor Laxness; Last Rituals by Yrsa Siguroardottir.
● Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt — “Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood,” writes Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes. “Worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”
● Brida by Paulo Coelho — “A tale of young Brida, an Irish girl who wishes to become a witch.”
● Dubliners by James Joyce — “Each of the fifteen stories offers a glimpse of the lives of ordinary Dubliners – a death, an encounter, an opportunity not taken, a memory rekindled – collectively they paint a portrait of a nation.”
● The Gathering by Anne Enright — “The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him—something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations her distinctive intelligence twists the world a fraction and gives it back to us in a new and unforgettable light.”
● The Sea by John Banville — “John Banville introduces us to Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child to cope with the recent loss of his wife. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, gorgeously written novel — among the finest we have had from this masterful writer.”
Other books set in Ireland:
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Berry; In the Woods and The Likeness by Tana French; Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy (Also by Binchy: Tara Road, Scarlet Feather, Quentins, The Glass Lake, and many more; The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin; Books by Roddy Doyle; James Joyce.
● The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant — A historical novel set during the Renaissance, the main character is a young artist who falls in love with a painter, but is ultimately married off to an older man. She continues a clandestine relationship.
● The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips — “Layering wit and warmth into her portraits of two very different yet equally dynamic heroines, Christi Phillips shifts effortlessly between past and present in a remarkable novel that is at once a love story, a mystery, and an intriguing historical drama.”
● A Thread of Grace by Maria Doria Russell — “Mary Doria Russell’s extraordinary and complex historical novel, A Thread of Grace, is the kind of book that you will find yourself haunted by long after finishing the last page. It opens with a group of Jewish refugees being escorted to safe-keeping by Italian soldiers. After making the arduous journey over a steep mountain pass, they are welcomed into a small village with warm food and clean beds. They have barely laid their heads to rest when news is received that Mussolini has just surrendered Italy to Hitler, putting them in danger yet again.”
● The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston — “Douglas Preston fulfilled a lifelong dream when he moved his family to a villa in Florence. Upon meeting celebrated journalist Mario Spezi, Preston was stunned to learn that the olive grove next to his home had been the scene of a horrific double-murder committed by one of the most infamous figures in Italian history.”
● Catch-22 by Joseph Heller — Iconic. Amazing. Satirical. Hilarious. Poignant. The novel set during WWII, it takes readers on a journey through multiple character’s lives.
● The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco — A Milan man loses his memory of everything except for words in books and poems. He goes to his childhood home and he immerses himself in life there as his story unfolds around him. (Also by Eco: The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum.)
● Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross — a tale of controversy in this story about the only female pope in the 9th century. (Suggested by Laura)
Other books set-in Italy: The Decamreon by Giovanni Boccaccio; I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti; The Day of the Owl by Leonard Sciascia; The Passion by Jeanette Winterson; Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster; Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes; The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.
● The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell — “Wallander travels across the Baltic Sea, to Riga in Latvia, where he is plunged into a frozen, alien world of police surveillance, scarcely veiled threats, and lies. Doomed always to be one step behind the shadowy figures he pursues, only Wallander’s obstinate desire to see that justice is done brings the truth to light.”
● A Woman in Amber by Agate Nesaule — “Witnesses to rape, torture, and executions, Agate Nesaule and her family survived against all odds in World War II Europe to emmigrate to America where Agate could receive the education her mother had always dreamed of. But the trauma of war was not so easily buried. For years she has been secretly tormented by memories.”
● The Rings of My Tree by Jane E. Cunningham — “A young Latvian woman is caught up in a whirlwind of war forcing her into an unnatural migration for life.”
● Stamping Grounds: Exploring Liechtenstein and its World Cup Dream by Charlie Connelly — “Stamping Grounds follows the Liechtenstein national football team through their defeat-strewn qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup. It was hard to see this principality’s part-time players scoring even one goal, never mind adding to its meager international points total.”
● The Last Girl by Stephen Collishaw — A look at the Holocaust’s impact in Lithuania.
● The Witness Trees by Myra Sklarew — “[The book] tells through poetry, eyewitness accounts, and a moving historical narrative the tangled web of Lithuanian Jewish history. David Wolpe, a powerful Yiddish poet and writer, reports on the events during the summer of 1941 when the Jews of Keidan, a Lithuanian shtetl [village], were systematically massacred by local towns people. He was one of the few survivors when 2,076 men, women, and children perished and he describes in detail how a relatively cooperative and amicable community became a killing field.”
● The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania by Herman Kruk — “For five horrifying years, the librarian Herman Kruk recorded his own experiences and those of others, determinedly documenting the life and daily resistance of European Jews in the deepening shadow of imminent death. This unique chronicle includes all recovered pages of Kruk’s diaries and provides a powerful eyewitness account of the annihilation of the Jewish community of Vilna.”
Other books set-in Lithuania: Night of the Hawk by Dale Brown; Light One Candle by Solly Ganor; Kaddish for Kovno by William W. Mishell.
● The Meeting of Anni Adams: The Butterfly of Luxembourg by Lonnie D. Story — “A true story of survival. Through her long and successful life Anni Adams has had great tragedy and suffering.”
● A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge by Charles B. MacDonald — “In a final effort to change the course of the war, Hitler launched a surprise attack on Allied forces in the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg. But what began as a failure of inconceivable magnitude by U.S. Army intelligence ended in the most decisive European victory of World War II and the greatest American Army victory ever.”
● Milly’s Story: A Young Girl’s Memories of the Second World War in Luxembourg by Milly Thill — “Milly’s Story is a testimony of the author’s personal experiences as a 10-15 year old girl during the Nazi occupation of Luxembourg in the Second World War.”
● Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West — “Widely recognized as West’s most distinguished nonfiction work, this book describes the author’s travels to Yugoslavia with her husband in 1937–a journey overshadowed by the growing inevitability of the Second World War.” (Also takes place in several other European countries)
● Macedonia Passage: Dangerous Cargo by Wright Gres — “The original captain and cook have mysteriously disappeared and a sinister cargo is hidden in the yacht’s bilges. When Captain Frank Brown joins the schooner crossing the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean for the owners, things begin to heat up. The beautiful and enigmatic Turkish intelligence agent, Nevser Chase, joins Brown and his crew as they work to figure out just what kind of adventure and danger they’re in, who they can trust, and how they can stay alive.”
● Macedonia by Harvey Pekar — “Pekar has proven that comics can address the ambiguities of daily living, that like the finest fiction, they can hold a mirror up to life.” –The New York Times
Other books set in Macedonia: Who are the Macedonians? by Hugh Poulton
● The Maltese Goddess by Lyn Hamilton — “Lara flies to Malta to personally furnish the home of Toronto’s Martin Galea, whose reputation as an architect is rivaled only by his reputation as a womanizer. But when he turns up dead, Lara soon finds out that her client and his new home share a troubled past–a past that stretches back to the ancient world, and reaches out with the insidious hand of modern intrigue.”
● The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe — “One of the best-known works by the hugely influential English Renaissance dramatist Christopher Marlowe. The Introduction discusses the significance of this brilliant and major work, with detailed commentary provided for meanings of difficult words, lines, and references.”
● Ironfire by David Ball — “A dazzling story of love and valor, innocence and identity, an epic novel of the clash of civilizations on a barren island where the future was forged.”
Other books set in Malta: Great Siege: Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford; Jukebox Queen of Malta by Nicholas Rinaldi.
● One Moldavian Summer by Ionel Teodoreanu — A thoughtful and moving account of the country prior to World War II.
● Bread and Dew by Grigore Vieru — “Illustrated children’s book about a Soviet Moldavian boy named Doru.”
● The Hooligan’s Return by Norman Manea — “In October 1941, the entire Jewish population of Manea’s native Bukovina was deported to the Transnistria concentration camps. Manea was among them.”
● Lost Province: Adventures in a Moldovan Family by Stephen Henighan — “Stephen Henighan, a Romanian grammar book and hours of language tapes under his belt, billets with a family as an English teacher in Moldova, a country born from the dismantling of Romania during World War II.”
● Monaco Cool by Robert Westgate — An irreverant look at Monaco and the people who inhabit it.
● Anything Considered by Peter Mayle — “A rollicking caper set on the Cote d’Azur and in the backcountry of Provence, Anything Considered tells the story of Bennett, an English expatriate living in France with champagne tasts and a beer bankroll, who places an ad in the International Herald Tribune volunteering his services–any services–and soon finds himself in Monaco, living in the style to which has always wished to become accustomed.”
● Bridesmaids: Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, and Six Intimate Friends by Judy Quine — A biography of Grace Kelly as written by one of her closest friends. (Other books about Grace Kelly: Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier by J. Randy Taraborrelli; True Grace by Wendy Leigh)
● The Royal House of Monaco by John Glatt — “Glatt offers an intimate look at the 700-year history of the world’s most glamorous royal family, the Grimaldis of Monaco–their lavish lifestyles and their scandals, their happy times and their tragedies.”
● The Grimaldis of Monaco by Anne Edwards — “The Grimaldis of Monaco tells in full, for the first time, the remarkable history of the world’s oldest reigning dynasty.”
● Montenegro by Starling Lawrence — “In the forbidding beauty of the mountains of Montenegro, with World War I already a dark prophecy on the horizon, an English traveler with a keen interest in the tangled politics of the Balkans happens upon a remote valley–and upon a woman who will change his destiny.”
● The Black Mountain by Rex Stout — “Deemed one of Stout’s “All Time Best,” this mystery is unique in the series in that for the first time, Nero Wolfe, who rarely even leaves his house, breaks all precedent by leaving the country to discover the murderer of his best friend.”
● The Blood of Montenegro by James Nathan Post — “The history of my people is written in blood.” So begins this rich and personal epic drama of three generations of the Koljenovic family and their influence on the history of Montenegro, the Balkans, and the world.”
● Realm of the Black Mountain by Elizabeth Roberts — “Comparatively little is well known about Europe’s newest and one of its smallest independent states: the small mountain fastness Montenegro.”
● The Assault by Harry Mulisch — “A novel that probes moral devastation in the wake of the slaughter of an innocent family by the Nazis in retaliation for the association with a Dutch collaborator.” (Also by Mulisch: The Discovery of Heaven.)
● Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Cheavlier — “History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius … even as she herself is immortalized in canvas and oil.”
● Dairy of Anne Frank by Anne Frank — “Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl is among the most enduring documents of the twentieth century. Since its publication in 1947, it has been a beloved and deeply admired monument to the indestructible nature of the human spirit, read by millions of people and translated into more than fifty-five languages.”
● Amsterdam by Ian McEwan — Winner of the 1998 Booker Prize. “A contemporary morality tale that is as profound as it is witty, we have Ian McEwan at his wisest and most wickedly disarming. And why Amsterdam? What happens there to Clive and Vernon is the most delicious climax of a novel brimming with surprises.”
● The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom — “Corrie Ten Boom stood naked with her older sister Betsie, watching a concentration camp matron beating a prisoner.”Oh, the poor woman,” Corrie cried.”Yes. May God forgive her,” Betsie replied. And, once again, Corrie realized that it was for the souls of the brutal Nazi guards that her sister prayed.”
● A Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan — ““An impressive, very funny debut novel . . . featuring Charlie Howard, who is the very model of a modern master criminal.” —The Raleigh News & Observer
● The Winged Watchman by Hilda Van Stockum — “Dutch-Irish-American storyteller Hilda von Stockum has placed this adventure of resistance among the windmills of Holland during the Nazi occupation of World War II.”
Other books set-in The Netherlands: The Fall by Albert Camus; Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge; Love Life by Ray Kluun; In Lucia’s Eyes by Arthur Japin; The Wheel on the School by Meindert Dejong; Cut and Run by Carla Neggers; The Winter Queen by Jane Stevenson; A Road to Arnhem by Donald R. Burgett.
● What can I Do When Everything’s on Fire by Antonio Lobo Antunes — “Set in the steamy world of Lisbon’s demimonde—a nightclub milieu of scorching intensity and kaleidoscopic beauty, a baleful planet populated by drag queens, clowns, and drug addicts—is narrated by Paolo, the son of Lisbon’s most legendary transvestite, who searches for his own identity as he recalls the harrowing death of his father.”
● My Brother’s Gun by Ray Loriga — “When the oldest son of an attractive family kills a security guard and takes flight, the mother and brother he leaves behind are turned into media darlings, but after he kills again, members of his family becomes full-fledged stars.”
● The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron — a boy falls in love with a book and discovers that every copy of it is being destroyed. “Such a good book!” (Suggested by Jessica)
● The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/ The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson — the Millennium Trilogy, published posthumously, are crime novels following journalist Mikael Blomkvist. (Suggested by Jessica)
● Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist — a 12 year-old boy who needs a friend and a 200 year-old vampire, captured in the body of a child. Fantastic story – moving, powerful. Amazing. Read it.
● Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman — A fun look at Einstein’s theory of relativity. Told in a series of vignettes, this book is easy to read and fascinating. (Suggested by Erika)
● Angels and Demons by Dan Brown — The first Robert Langdon book – fast-paced, symbols everywhere. The ending is pretty unpredictable and Langdon is smart and quick-witted as always. Give Brown credit where credit is due: The man can write a blockbuster of a novel.
● City of Secrets: The Truth Behind the Murders at the Vatican by John Follain — “ An explosive exposé of murder and corruption in the highest reaches of the Vatican, the oldest and most secretive autocracy in the world.”
Central African Republic
● The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver — A missionary takes his family into the Belgian Congo to preach to a small village. The story alternates viewpoints and takes the reader through their experiences — including political unrest and family tragedies.
● A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o — a story of friendship, betrayal, bitterness in 1950s Kenya. (Suggested by Sunshine)
Sao Tome and Principe
● A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah — what is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? Beah tells his story of being a soldier at age twelve in war-torn Sierra Leone. (Suggested by Laura)
● The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay — Coming-of-age tale in post-world-war-II South Africa. (Suggested by Carrie M.)
● What is the What? by Dave Eggers — A powerful story about a man living in the conflict in Sudan and his life as a refugee in the United States. (Suggested by Erika)
● Song of Lawino/Song of Ocol by Okot p’Bitek — a debate about the future of Africa. The new and the old. (Suggested by Sunshine)
***THE MIDDLE EAST***
I recognize that some maps differ on what countries specifically constitute the Middle East – most have Egypt (which I placed in Africa) and Armenia and Azerbaijan (which I both placed in Europe). The modern day question of what is in the Middle East seems to be political and personal. This list seems to be the most common interpretation.
● All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Root of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer — “This is the first full-length account of the CIA’s coup d’etat in Iran in 1953—a covert operation whose consequences are still with us today. Written by a noted New York Times journalist, this book is based on documents about the coup (including some lengthy internal CIA reports) that have now been declassified. Stephen Kinzer’s compelling narrative is at once a vital piece of history, a cautionary tale, and a real-life espionage thriller.” Rana says that if you read one book about Iran THIS IS IT. (Suggested by Rana. She is from Iran. So she should know.)
● Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi — A teacher in Iran gathers seven of her students to read banned books from the Western world. It has been called “a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.” (Suggested by Carrie M.)
● A Hundred and One Days by Asne Seierstad — “For one hundred and one days Asne Seierstad worked as a reporter in Baghdad. Always in search of a story far less obvious than the American military invasion, Seierstad brings to life the world behind the headlines in this compelling–and heartbreaking–account of her time among the people of Iraq.” (Suggested by Carrie M.)
● The Red Tent by Anita Diamant — A story told by Dinah about the wives of Jacob – a story of sisterhood, motherhood, betrayal, and grief. (Suggested by Erika)
● Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson — One man’s tale of providing education to women throughout the K2 region. (Suggested by Erika)
United Arab Emirates
● Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie — set during China’s Cultural Revolution, this book is about two boys, a daughter of a tailor, and a love affair with books. (Suggested by Jessica)
● The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun by Brother Yun — the autobiography of a church leader in China and his persecution. (Suggested by Claudia)
● A Fine Balance by Roginton Mistry — “The story is still in my head six years later.” (Suggested by Missi)
● Across the Nightingale Floor by Liam Hearn — part of the Otori series. Set in fuedal Japan. (Suggested by Laura)
● The Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi — lust, passion, and a finger on the pulse of the psychology of women. Expertly woven tale. (Suggested by Sunshine)
● Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje — “A young woman born in Sri Lanka, educated in England and America, who returns to her homeland as a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights group to discover the source of the organized campaigns of murder engulfing the island.” (Summary by goodreads.com and suggested by Carrie B.)
● The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough — the sweeping epic of the Australian Outback. (Suggested by Jessica)
● True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey — Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2001. Looks at the adventures of Australia’s own Robin Hood.
Papua New Guinea
***NORTH AMERICAN AND THE CARIBBEAN
Antigua and Barbuda
● Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery — They wanted a boy, but they got Anne. One of the most lovable red-heads of all-time, Anne Shirley is an amazing young girl who will capture the heart of readers everywhere. A must-read. (The sequels are great too: Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, etc.)
● Fifth Business by Robertson Davies — Part of the Deptford trilogy. The main character tells his story and engages the reader in a part history/part mystery, most mostly amazing narration of his life. (Suggested by Carrie B.)
● Peace Shall Destroy Many by Ruby Wiebe — A story about mennonites in Western Canada during World War II. (Suggested by Carrie B.)
● The Search for April Raintree — A story of two Canadian sisters who are part Indian and part French and their search for identity. (Suggested by Carrie B.)
● Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder — “The story of Dr. Paul Farmer, who went above and beyond to provide health care in the mountains of Haiti. Roald Dahl fans will appreciate the role his daughter plays at the clinic, and part time love interest of the protagonist.” (Suggested by Erika)
● Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys — A prequel to Jane Eyre. It’s the story of Bertha, Rochester’s first wife. People call it lyrical and engaging. (Suggested by Jessica)
St. Kitts & Nevis
St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Trinidad & Tobago
● The Dragon Can’t Dance (Karen and Michael Braziller Books) by Earl Lovelace — A classic novel about the festival of Carnival. (Suggested by Carrie M.)