Posted by: biblioglobal | May 7, 2012

Ten, a nice round number

I’ve now checked off ten countries in my project to read a book from every country in the world and I want to write up some of my thoughts so far:

  • My approach to picking out books has been to not plan too far ahead, but instead to keep an eye out for interesting books or for some news item or reference to draw my attention to a particular country. It’s actually quite challenging for me to resist the urge to look up books and make lists, but I’m enjoying the feeling of fortuitous discovery.
  • I think that the books most prominently available in the U.S. about a lot of countries are biased towards ones about the Big Bad Thing in that country- the Armenian genocide, the civil war in Sierra Leone, or the slums of India. I’m not sure how I want to deal with this. On one hand, I think I might want to try to counteract that bias by steering away from these sorts of books in the future in favor of books that represent the broader (and more positive) culture of a country. On the other hand, the Big Bad Thing is likely to be quite important in a country’s history and therefore valuable to know more about.
  • I’ve found that writing blog posts about the books, rather than the reading itself, is the rate-limiting step for me. You can see this in the often large gap between the date I completed a book and the date that I posted about it. I find myself having to wait to start new books because I haven’t written the posts for the last two books I’ve read.
  • My approach to writing has been to write about my thoughts about a given book and how it relates to the country it represents. I haven’t given much in the way of book summary or evaluation. With ten books under my belt though, I feel like I’m in a better position to pick out a few to particularly recommend. Ali and Nino (Azerbaijan), The Tiger’s Wife (Serbia), and Behind the Beautiful Forevers (India) were all especially excellent books.

 

Any thoughts? Should I give more of a summary of the books or make other changes to my commentary? Should I make an effort to avoid books about the Big Bad Things?

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Responses

  1. I like your emphasis on unique commentaries.. We (your readers) can always find a book summary on Amazon or Wikipedia. I am often only vaguely aware of the Big Bad Thing in countries that are not often in the news, e.g. Armenia, so your choice of such books is Not Such A Bad Thing for the historically-challlenged, like me.

    • Thanks for the feedback! I similarly find that while I’ve often heard lots of references to the Big Bad Thing so it sounds very familiar, when I stop to think I realize that I actually know very little about it.

  2. Sorry, a little late response. I think your comments are very insightful and I agree with Kathy about not bothering with the summaries. I am in favor of writing about how the book shapes your understanding of and outlook towards a particular country. The Big Bad Thing is bound to shape the way a country operates and behaves and is probably necessary to understand the land, no?

    • I’m glad to see that there is a consensus! The Big Bad Thing may be important in the history of a country, but it troubles me that sometimes it is the only thing we think of when we think of a particular country and I would like to broaden my understanding to other parts of the country’s culture. At the same time, my understanding of the Big Bad Thing is often very superficial, so it is good to learn more about it. In the end, I think what I want to do is to strike a balance and read books that vary in the kind of subject matter that they address.


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