Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weekly Geeks World Tour

This week's Weekly Geeks asks you to tell us about your globe trotting via books. Are you a global reader? How many countries have you "visited" in your reading? What are your favorite places or cultures to read about? Can you recommend particularly good books about certain regions, countries or continents? How do you find out about books from other countries? What countries would you like to read that you haven't yet?

I do enjoy reading about places 'elsewhere'. Fiction provides an excellent opportunity to really get into somebody's mind and see the world from their point of view. One of my favourite Proustian quotes which encapsulates this idea for me says that "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

Some of the places I seem to read about most, besides my own North American surroundings, are England, France, Eastern Europe (especially Ukraine), Japan and China, and a smattering of various other countries here and there. I particularly enjoy reading about Ukraine, because of my family background, and since my trip to Kyiv I've only become more fascinated by Ukrainian culture. I also really enjoy reading Scandinavian fiction, for no real reason except that I somehow connect with it. Nevertheless, when I was looking at my reading habits for this post, I realized I haven't read as widely as I had thought; I am aware of many books in translation, which are on my TBR, but I haven't actually read as many as I anticipated. One of the areas that is lacking which was pointed out by this exercise was South America. Except for Garcia Marquez, I haven't made great inroads into the writing of South America, although there are so many authors to choose from!

One of the ways I find suggestions for great international fiction is through all of you: other bloggers' reading habits inspire my own, very often. There are also a few sites that result in growing lists of things I really want to buy! One is World Literature Today; they have limited content up at their website but it is fascinating stuff. Here are a few works in translation I've read recently and really enjoyed --

Over at One Swede Read, there's a list of all the countries of the world with the relevant books she's read slotted in. (And she reviews a wide variety of world fiction). It's a handy way of keeping track, and seeing where your titles tend to pile up. And of course there's always a map -- Weekly Geeks has provided a link so we can all create our reading maps this week. I like what Christina over at Jackets & Covers has done with her map; she's created one map to show where she has physically travelled, then a second to show her bookish rambles. I haven't gone many places in real life, but my reading rambles are quite extravagant, so I'm stealing her idea! To see what other people are reading and what their suggestions for international fiction are, be sure to visit other Weekly Geeks -- I've already discovered both new bloggers and numerous new titles.

First, where I have actually gone...

create your own visited country map

Then, where my reading has taken me...

create your own reading map


  1. Nicely done! I'd highly recommend Isabelle Allende for a South American writer (Chile). She's written some fabulous novels. I'd suggest starting with her first, The House of the Spirits.

  2. I need to visit Central America and more of Africa!
    Weekly Geeks

  3. I'm lacking in South American books too! I read two Isobel Allende books years ago - Portrait in Sepia and City of the Beasts, both of which I enjoyed but wouldn't say they were all-time faves.

  4. What a great idea! think I may have to try this. I'm not very well travelled so it would be fun to see where my reading has taken me. Yours reminds me that I still haven't read Death and the Penguin!

  5. Terri & Caroline - there are many of us finding South America is a weak spot! I'll look into Allende.

    Gautami - I don't think I've read a single book from Central America!

    Geranium Cat - I hope you will do a map - I found it really entertaining and enlightening too. And I enjoyed Death & the Penguin a lot! I still have his second book, The Case of the General's Thumb, to read (I bought it in Kyiv)

  6. I'm discovering so many great books along this week's journey - thanks for your reccommendations!

  7. I found the map very enlightening as well. Happy Weekly Geeks :)

  8. What a great theme for Weekly Geeks this week! I loved your maps. I think I'll try to remember to do that tomorrow.

    I've "been" to several places in Europe and northern Africa just from reading Dorothy Dunnett's series. But the question is whether I've been anywhere else, in any other books. Must do a map tomorrow, and look over my bookshelves, and try to find out.

    You're very well travelled. :-)

  9. Those maps are cool -- it's nice to get a visual of where reading has taken you. This is one area I'd really like to do better in -- I haven't participated in challenges lately, but perhaps I should make an exception here and challenge myself to some reading in translation.

  10. I recommend Daniachew Worku's The Thirteenth Sun, but I recommend it tentatively because it's out of print. Worku (Ethiopian, died years ago) takes some of Faulkner's ideas about overlapping interior monologues and uses them to sketch out his thoughts about Ethiopia as it was during the time of the Emperor Haile Selassie. His feelings toward Selassie were ambiguous, and it shows in the book's tone. A very layered, very thoughtful, sometimes funny, sometimes grotesque novel. I wish someone would publish it again.


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