Posted by: biblioglobal | July 2, 2013

Books from 40 countries

VanuatuBooks from 40 countries

It’s been quite a while since I finished my 40th book for the book-from-every-country project, and I’m only just getting around to putting up a summary post. At this point, I’m about 20% of the way through the project! Since I’ve been doing this for about a year and a half, I’m nicely ahead of my anticipated 10 year end date. Which is good, since I’m sure I’ll slow down at some point. Lately I’ve been finding myself reading quite a few books that ‘repeat’ countries or that I didn’t ‘count’ for other reasons. Sometimes it’s too hard to limit myself to just one book per country!

Where I’ve been:

Italy, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, Syria, Botswana, Vanuatu, and Slovakia.

The most memorable:

The Antelope's Strategy by Jean HatzfeldOne of the most memorable things about this set of books is that I’ve encountered a new genre that I had read very little of up to now. When I began this project I thought about the various genres of books I might include- fiction, memoir, travelogue, history, maybe some natural history. But I never though about oral histories. I think maybe somewhere in the back of my head I had an idea that they wouldn’t be that interesting to read.

I’m sure there are some boring oral histories out there, but I read two powerful and compelling ones in this set of books. First was The Antelope Strategy by Jean Hatzfeld, a compilation of interviews with Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda about what it is like to learn to live together again after such terrible violence. Second was A False Dawn by Ilona Lackova, the account of a Roma woman in 20th century Slovakia. Both books were fascinating and informative, and powerfully expressed the experiences of the speakers. I’ve got a couple more oral histories in my future reading plans now.

Where I’m headed:

My next two books will be a double-header of civil wars in Central America. I’ve finished the El Salvador book, One Day of Life by Manlio Argueta and I’m halfway through The Country Under my Skin by Gioconda Belli, a memoir of her time as a Sandinista in Nicaragua. It’s interesting to read them together, since they share a lot of themes, but are written very differently

After that I’m not sure where I’ll go. I recently read Jared Diamond’s recent book ,The World until Yesterday, and I’ve been itching to read more about Papua New Guinea. Jorge Luis Borges has been sitting on my shelf for a while, looking at me intimidatingly. Nearby is The Women of Algiers in their Apartment by Assia Djebar, which would count for both the Global Women of Color challenge and Maphead’s Middle East challenge. Honestly, I think the reason I haven’t read that one yet is that the writing on its spine is so faded and illegible that I keep forgetting its there.

Any thoughts on where to travel next?

Previous summary posts:

Ten, a Nice Round Number

Books from 20 Countries

Books from 30 Countries


  1. Congratulations on your progress! Of your “repeat” countries, which ones have you visited the most often?

    • I think India is probably the country I go back to most often. Since my boyfriend is Indian, I have a particular interest in it. Plus it’s just got so many interesting books!

      • I’m currently reading ‘Purple Hibiscus’ set in Nigeria, on my own ‘reading the world’ trip and thoroughly recommend it. Good luck on your travels – great blog!

      • Purple Hibiscus is great. I read it after I loved Half of a Yellow Sun, which was my read for Nigeria.

        It’s great to hear from someone else who is reading globally. I’m impressed by your criteria of only reading books after 1990. I generally try for more current books, but I’m no where near that strict!

  2. Congrats on reaching 40 countries! I’m sure it does get hard after awhile to not repeat–there are so many good books out there! Out of curiosity how many books do you typically read a year (since I know you are reading other books in between the book from every country posts)? It seems like you must read alot!

    • Thanks! I only this year started keeping a list of what I read which inadvertently also gave me a count of how many books I read. It seems that I average around a book a week.

  3. I’ve just read The Honey Thief by Najaf Mazari, another oral storyteller collaborating with a friend in order to bring these stories to a wider audience. It was published this year.

    The author is from the Hazara people of Afghanistan, although they don’t think of themselves as Afghan’s and have their own culture and traditions and stories. It was a delightful read and each story as relevant today as it was in the time it came into being.

    • Ooh, thanks for the recommendation! Having read The Kite Runner, I’d be very interested to read something written from a Hazara perspective.

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