Posted by: biblioglobal | November 7, 2014

Books from 60 countries

I actually hit the 60 book milestone back in August, but it has taken me until now to get the relevant posts out. I seem to have slowed down in my progress, since looking back, I finished the first 30 books in just over a year. Overall though, I’m happy with my progress. I’m keeping up with my rough goal of covering 20 countries a year, since I’m coming to the end of year 3(!) of the project.

Where I’ve been lately:

Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Lebanon, Germany, China, Nepal, Finland, Hungary and Timor Leste. (Click on the country to see my post.)

Once again, I’ve failed to read anything from South America. I suppose there’s no point in vowing once again that I’ll get to it in the next ten books. I’ll get there eventually.

Most memorable:

Overall this was a really good group of books. The one book that I really struggled with was The Story of Zahra by Hanan Al-Shaykh (Lebanon) but in the end I learned some valuable things from reading it, even if I really didn’t like the book.

The two books of this group that had the biggest impact on me were The Mussel Feast by Brigit Vanderkam (Germany) and The Door by Magda Szabo (Hungary). Both of these books, plus another one that I really enjoyed, The Summer Book by Tove Janssen (Finland) were really narrowly focused books. The Summer Book and The Door both revolved around the relationship between two people to such an extent that all the other characters in the book seemed like mere shadows. In The Summer Book the relationship was between grandmother and granddaughter, spending the summer on an isolated island. In The Door, the narrator analyzes her relationship with her housekeeper and deals with her feelings of guilt and responsibility.

The Mussel Feast encompasses the relationships between four people instead of two. As a scientist I can tell you that going from two interacting parts to four adds a huge amount of complexity! But The Mussel Feast is told from the perspective of a single evening, so it still feels very narrowly defined.

I often really like big epics and books incorporating many points of view, but there was something really nice about the way each of the books in this set really dug in to one very specific thing. (And they all still were reflective in some way of their country of origin, which is something I look for in the books I pick.)

Where I’m headed:

I’ve already read my book for Estonia, Petty God by Kaur Kender. I’ve also read a book covering Ethiopia recently, but I haven’t decided whether I’m going to include that one or not. I started reading it not planning to count it as my ‘official’ Ethiopia book. But I’m thinking about including it, just because I kind of want to rant about it. That seems kind of unfair to Ethiopia though!

I’ve still got Jorge Luis Borges sitting on my shelf. Also sitting there is my book for Senegal, So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba. I’ve heard really good things about it, so I’m excited to read it. Actually, I think the only reason I haven’t read it yet is that my copy is from the academic library and once again full of someone else’s underlining and notes. There were actually several copies of this book in the library, and I tried to pick the least marked-up one, but it’s still kind of irritating. Maybe I just need to request a copy from another library!



  1. You have a good pace going; I’m only averaging about 10 countries a year. I need to speed up!

    • I think you can go at any speed that works for you! I suspect I will slow down eventually when I get to the point where I only have more ‘difficult’ countries left.

  2. A great overview! I was thinking about doing a similar post once I reach the middle of our project, which is about… now. Don’t know why I haven’t written that one yet…
    It’s always motivating to read your posts! I was actually thinking about continuing the project with other countries once I’ve finished with the 20 European ones. We just wanted to check how it goes in the beginning and not go too big right away. Now that I’m reading about your books from Ethiopia, Lebanon, Nepal, etc, I just know I’ll have to take it further!
    And oh! Jorge Luis Borges! I love his writing! What are you going to read from him?

    • I enjoy doing these posts since it gives me a chance to celebrate hitting a milestone and also to think back on what I’ve read.

      That would be great if you decide to continue your journey! You’ve been making such quick progress through your 20 countries that I’ve been thinking that you’ll be done really soon and I won’t get to hear about your reading anymore.

      The Borges book I have on my shelf is a larger collection, but I’m planning to read just the stories from Ficciones. I find myself sort of intimidated by Borges and he just keeps getting more intimidating the longer he sits on my shelf!

      • I know what you mean – I have 2 books by Eugenides that just sit there on my bookshelf and point a blaming finger for not reading them. I was planning to do it once I’m done with the 20 countries.

        Actually I have about 40 books on my shelf pointing blamingly… I tend to buy more books than I can read. I might need to see someone about this!

  3. Awesome job! I know how hard it is to stick to a regular posting schedule or even find the time to read at all when you are in grad school. 60 countries is a great accomplishment! I love seeing the books you choose to read and learning more about places and cultures I don’t think about very often. 🙂

    • Thanks! Of course, I don’t think it gets any easier after graduate school either…

  4. […] making a 20 books from 20 countries project – 5 books, 10 books, the world. This is what Biblioglobal reminded me of […]

  5. I like that your goal could also span a lifetime. I mean think of how long it would take to travel to all the countries!

    • It certainly could span a lifetime. I like having an end-point to look forward to though, hopefully about 7 years from now. Which still seems like an insanely long time!

      • Most definitely, but I just look at it (probably because I’m lazy) like I do my Classics Club list – as long as I make progress I’m happy.

  6. Congrats! 60 countries is a milestone! I have slowed down heavily in my reading lately, with my health being a bit down and a reading rut having hit me heavily. Can’t wait to resume this project once I get back on.

    • Thanks! I hope you feel better and find some inspiring reading soon!

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