Reading books by authors from 30 countries

World map

Read books since I started the reading challenge in January 2017.

I did it! I have read books by authors from 30 nations (if I include Sápmi which I do). Not in a year which was the original challenge but in a bit under 1.5 years. I struggled a bit in the beginning but gradually I got better at finding great books from countries I normally don’t read from and I became braver in my reading choices.

What have I learnt?

In the beginning I was a bit too ambitious in my reading choices which slowed down my progress. If my goal had been to read one book per country and never return it would have made sense to make that one book really count. However, that’s not what I was trying to do. Instead I was gradually expanding my reading comfort zone and for that it helped to keep it simple. Often the cultural context of a novel was unfamiliar and it made more sense to select books that was not too demanding in other ways. I therefore dropped any ambition that the books I selected had to be particularly literary and I preferentially opted for shorter novels. Along the way I also got better at finding great literature in translation, identified a few interesting indie publishers and found many excellent international bloggers .

Good sources of literature in translation

And other stories publishes an eclectic collection of mostly translated fiction. Among them The Lime Tree by César Aira (which I liked) and The Seamstress and the Wind by the same author (which I found too weird).

Ayebia specialises in literature by African and Carribean authors. I’m currently enjoying their anthology African Love Stories (edited by Ama Ata Aidoo). Thank you Darkowaa for the review that introduced me to it!

My favourite discovery in translated fiction has been Peirene Press which publishes translated fiction by mostly European authors. I would have preferred a wider reach but Peirene Press has some other advantages that makes up for it. Most importantly all the books I have read from them (3) have been excellent. They also only publish shorter works (maximum about 200 pages) which makes me much more willing to risk trying a new author. And I like the look of their books…

A few relevant blog posts I found along the way

Beginner’s guide to Baltic Literature by Agnese

Ann Morgan’s list of books from her blog “A year of reading the world”

Darkowaa’s list of Ghanaian authors and their books (3 part series, links to the two first parts can be found at the end of her post).

Stuart at Winstondad’s Blog have also reviewed a wide range of translated fiction (sorted by country).

I would like to add more links here, please let me know if you have recommendations of similar resources from other regions (excluding literature from the UK and the US which is easy to find anyway).

What’s next?

I won’t start another reading challenge rightaway but I will keep tracking author’s country or origin for my reading. Hopefully it will show that I keep exploring new reading grounds. Next year I consider once more trying to limit my book buying but to give myself a free pass for books from countries I normally don’t read from to encourage more diverse reading choices.

 

 

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