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Around the World in 35 Books

The following list is composed of reading suggestions published in The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World, in addition to recommendations from the staff of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, New & Featured.

Albania
Ismail Kadar
Broken April
Gjorg Berisha, wandering the mountains of Albania, has thirty days to live: by the laws of the Kanun, or Albanian mountain law, the family of the man he has slain must kill him when the truce period has passed. Diana Vorpsis, traveling through the mountains with her new husband, is intrigued by the young man and finds herself drawn into his fate. This lyrically written novel takes readers on a romantic journey through the mountains of Albania.
 
Anguilla
Carme C. Esteves and Lizabeth Paravisi-Gebert, editors
Green Cane and Juicy Flotsam: Short Stories by Caribbean Women
This collection of stories by twenty-seven Caribbean authors, including Jamaica Kincaid, looks at lives of women on the island. Victims of sex, race and/or class, the stories run the gamut of literary styles. The powerful theme of oppression, however, is seen throughout.
 
Antigua and Barbuda
Jamaica Kincaid
Annie John
Following Annie John, a young woman growing up in Antigua, this novel explores the relationship between mother and daughter and the impact death, illness and poverty can have on a life.
 
Aruba and Netherlands Antilles
Andrew Holleran
Nights in Aruba
This tale of a young, gay man growing up on the island of Aruba addresses interfamilial relationships and the main character's troubles reconciling his Catholic upbringing with his homosexuality.
 
Australia
David Malouf
Remembering Babylon
When a British cabin boy finds himself shipwrecked along the coast of northern Australia in the mid 1840s, he is rescued and taken in by an Aboriginal tribe. After later revealing himself to fellow countrymen, he finds that he is met with great hostility and fear. Remembering Babylon is a rich narrative about cultural identity and the comprehension of new worlds.
 
Benin
Bruce Chatwin
The Viceroy of Ouidah
When Brazilian adventurer Fancisco Manoel de Silva travels to West Africa, he quickly finds himself the master of all slave trade in Dahomey. However, this powerful novel reveals that the horrors of slavery may be more than the even the strongest can handle.
 
Bolivia
Rosario Santos, ed.
The Fat Man from La Paz: Contemporary Fiction from Bolivia
This, the most comprehensive collection of Bolivian fiction ever published in English, collects stories on all aspects of Bolivian culture. Collecting over 75 years of fiction, this anthology provides readers with a unforgettable glimpse into Bolivian culture.
 
Botswana
Alexander McCall Smith
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Mma Ramotswe opens her detective agency in this, the first in a series of popular mysteries. Although the business is slow in getting off the ground, Precious Ramotswe's wisdom and kindness quickly make her business a success. With delightful stories about life in contemporary Botswana, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is an excellent choice.
 
Brazil
Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist
A poor shepherd boy leaves his home in search of a mysterious treasure half a world a way. While on his journey, he meets several unlikely spiritual guides, including a fabled alchemist, who help him to discover what's truly important in life.
 
Canada
Margaret Atwood
Blind Assassin
Atwood's ambitious novel-within-a-novel is an interwoven tale of death, family, loss, and science fiction set during the height of the Red Scare.
 
Michael Ondaatje
In the Skin of a Lion
In 1920s Toronto, the lives of a provincial man, an immigrant day laborer, and a wayward nun become intertwined, with astounding consequences. Onadaatje, author of The English Patient, constructs a story that examines the boundaries between history and myth.
 
Chile
Isabel Allende
The House of the Spirits
This acclaimed novel, written by the niece of slain Chilean president Salvador Allende, chronicles the tumultuous history of a family and a nation, combining autobiographical and supernatural elements.
 
China
Pearl S. Buck
The Good Earth
A recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 (and more recently honored as an Oprah's Book Club book), The Good Earth is the story of a Chinese peasant who, with the help of his giving wife, becomes a wealthy landowner at the end of China's imperial age.
 
Pearl S. Buck
Imperial Woman
This story of China's last empress is set during the final days of the Manchu Dynasty, as Western powers begin gaining influence over the Chinese Empire.
 
Congo, Democratic Republic of (Zaire)
Ronan Bennett
The Catastrophist: a Novel
This fictional love story is set against the very real background of Zaire's dangerous political atmosphere in the early 1960's, as the country began its struggle to wrestle its independence from Belgium. This politically charged melodrama was short-listed for the Whitbread Novel Award.
 
Ecuador & The Galápagos Islands
Jorge Icaza
Huasipungo (The Villagers: a Novel)
Huasipungo provides readers with graphic descriptions of racial exploitation and oppression on the Andean haciendas in the early twentieth century. Native Indians, whites, and "cholos" (those of mixed blood), are all players in this disturbing, but important dramatization of Latin American history.
 
Kurt Vonnegut
Galápagos
Join the motley crew of the Bahia de Darwin as it sets sell for the Galapagos Islands after the start of the apocalypse. Set "one million years ago, back in 1986 AD", Galápagos is a comical, cautionary tale about the devolution of the human race.
 
Egypt
Naj¯ib Mahf¯uz.
The Cairo Trilogy
An epic story composed of three Mahf¯uz novels (Palace walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street), The Cairo Trilogy traces three generations of an Egyptian family living under British colonial rule in the early twentieth century.
 
England
Zadie Smith
White Teeth
This much-celebrated debut novel from Zadie Smith, gives readers a fascinating glimpse into the evolving cultural landscape of modern day England. Ms. Smith's protagonists are unlikely heroes (in fact, just regular, everyday, flawed individuals), who face the challenges of overcoming unmet expectations, adjusting to profound change, and coming to terms with differences of race, religion, class, sex , and culture. Spanning a variety of countries, cultures, and eras past, White Teeth is an ambitious novel with an honest, intimate appeal.
 
Iceland
Halldór Laxness
Independent People
This epic Icelandic tale about a difficult man who buys his own croft after several years of servitude to a local bailiff, tenderly dramatizes his struggles to establish an independent life for his family.
 
Italy
Umberto Eco
The Name of the Rose
A popular murder mystery novel set in 1327, The Name of the Rose is a great read for fans of historical fiction, mysteries, and the Middle Ages.
 
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
The Leopard
Set in Sicily in the 1860's, Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel revolves around the rise of Italian statehood and the dissolution of Sicilian royalty.
 
Iran
Gina Brakhordar Nahai
Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith
When her mother throws herself from a balcony one evening, and leaves no body behind, Lili embarks on a thirteen-year search for her whereabouts. The journey takes her from Tehran's Jewish ghetto, through Turkish whorehouses, and eventually, all the way to Los Angeles, California. This unique examination of cultural identity is tempered by Nahai's use of magical realism.
 
Japan
Banana Yoshitomo
Kitchen
A wildly popular read among young Japanese, Kitchen tells the story of Mikage, a young girl who encounters a murder after moving in with her best friend. Yoshitomo's unique characters and moving mediations on loneliness and survival give readers a fascinating glimpse into life in contemporary Japan.
 
German
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Faust
Perhaps the finest work in Germany's literary cannon, Faust is the story of man who makes a wager with the Devil that he cannot be tempted to wish any one moment to last forever.
 
Malaysia
Joseph Conrad
Lord Jim
An engaging examination of human morality and redemption, Lord Jim is the classic story of a young sailor working aboard a cargo ship in the South China Seas. When the vessel threatens to sink, and his fellow crewmen escape aboard a lifeboat, Jim is left to stand trail for the abandonment of the ship and its passengers.
 
Netherlands
Albert Camus
The Fall
Set in Amsterdam's notorious red-light district, this classic Camus tale explores issues of personal guilt and responsibility, and the implication of others. Notably, The Fall uses the city's canal ring system as a metaphor for the differing levels of hell.
 
Puerto Rico
Rosario Ferre
Sweet Diamond Dust: and Other Stories
Ferre presents revisionist tales of Puerto Rican history in this collection of short stories.
 
Russian Federation
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Crime and Punishment
Dostoevsky's classic novel about a law student who commits murder to prove a point: that he belongs to an elite class of mankind that is above morality, and thus entitled to pursue his interests through any means available. Following the crime, events transpire that immediately call his philosophy into question and ultimately determine his fate.
 
Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace
Heralded by some as the greatest book ever written, War and Peace is an intense character study that strives to comprehend the coalescence of historical events.
 
Somalia
Virginia Lee Barnes
Aman: The Story of a Somali Girl
This book offers readers a first-person account of a young girl's coming-of-age experiences in Somalia. History, tradition, and the cultural obligations of tribal life are examined as Aman retraces her difficult childhood.
 
Switzerland
Anita Brookner
Hotel du Lac
Edith Hope is 40, broken-hearted, and spending an uneventful holiday alone in a Swiss hotel resort, when she begins to get involved in the sordid lives of her fellow guests. Hotel du Lac was the winner of the Booker Prize in 1984.
 
United States of America
Jack Kerouac
On the Road
This Beat era classic is commonly considered to be one of the most important novels of the last century. Join Sal Paradise (a thinly-veiled Kerouac), as he travels across the country, capturing the essence of the American spirit with bohemian perspective.
 
Don DeLillo
Underworld
Blending history and fiction, Underworld explores the essence of American modern culture against the backdrop of baseball and Cold War paranoia.
 
Vietnam
Bao Ninh
The Sorrow of War
A quasi-biographical novel that gives readers insight into the North Vietnamese experience during the Vietnam War, The Sorrow of War is unorganized, unpredictable, and occasionally unintelligible. However, these chaotic elements give the book a powerful edge that impacts readers, and provides insight into the unpredictable nature of mankind, the human experience, and war itself.
 

Updated:09/10/09