This post may contain affiliate links.
Hello and welcome to my new overambitious blog series, in which I intend to chart my global reading journey (ba dum tsh) over the course of both six separate blog posts and the next few months/years/however long it takes me to read a book from every country.
I’ve been writing a lot about literature lately. So, I’ve both been reading a lot of books and reading a lot about books lately. My New Year’s Resolution was to only read books by women, a la Lilit Marcus, although I broke that almost immediately by tucking into a copy of Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Copeland that I picked up while travelling in Peru. That’s not really a surprise given that I’ve had things like ‘drink more water’ and ‘do more running’ on my resolutions since forever. I’m just, like, not good at sticking to them I guess?
And yet. Here I am with another vaguely ridiculous challenge—to read a book from every country in the world. Or, more specifically, a book by a woman writer from every country in the world.
Over the course of six posts, I’ll be alphabetically listing the countries (of which there are onehundredandninetyfuckingseven by the way, when you count Palestine—which you bloody should—and Vatican City—which, meh, whatever), before adding below my book recommendation and/or ‘goal book’ (a.k.a. the book I want to read from that country).
On that note, if you want to buy me one of these books, feel very free to head to my Amazon Wishlist, but also definitely not obliged to either.
These entries may change.
Some countries might have more entries if I can’t decide (I’ve never been entirely decisive either).
Some may remain empty for a while.
Either way, you’ll be left with a nicely curated, if entirely subjective, selection of texts to browse through to your heart’s content. And hopefully you’ll learn something new, unexpected, or enlightening about world cultures as you do so.
AN OVERAMBITIOUS WORLD READING LIST (A-B)
Full disclosure: I’ve only read one book from countries beginning with A, and that was Afghanistan. Well, I mean, I’ve read some Freud (Austria), but honestly, fuck Freud, and I’ve dabbled in Borges (ugh), but they. are. all. men. So, here are the women/femme/non-binary-penned books I want to read from each country.
Albanian literature is a mystery to me, but the poetry collection Haywire by Luljeta Lleshanaku is on my list. (UPDATE: Karen, a fellow blogger who has written about Albania before, also recommended Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones.)
I plumped for The Tongue’s Blood Does Not Run Dry by late author Assia Djebar for my Algeria entry.
Fun fact: Catalan is the official language of Andorra, a tiny country sandwiched between France and Spain. As a student of Catalan, this is endlessly fascinating to me. For this country, I’ve gone for Andorra Revealed, an anthology of writing on Andorra, principally for the piece by Andorran-Russian writer Alexandra Grebennikova.
Much Angolan literature is published in Portuguese and finding a woman author from the country that had been translated into English proved…tricky. That’s because gender bias extends even into the translation industry (yay). So, despite finding many great writers, like Cho do Guri, I’m still looking for one in English (or Spanish).
Antigua and Barbuda
Antiguan-American author Jamaica Kincaid is my choice for this Caribbean country’s entry: Annie John.
Yes, I’ve read some Borges. But he’s not the Argentine I’m most excited to read. I’m so ready to get my teeth into Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin instead. This will be her second book in an English translation (the first being Fever Dream) and given that I’m on a short story hype right now, it’s perfect.
No, I didn’t go for Kim Kardashian. I added The Accidental Observer by Lola Koundakjian to my reading list for Armenia.
My ‘to read’ from Australia is the critically acclaimed Terra Nullius from First Australian Claire G. Coleman.
I can’t find anything in English from Austrian women!
Send help in the form of translated women writers from Azerbaijan.
Help me find a woman writer from the Bahamas!!!!
While researching for this post, I struggled to find anyone in translation from Bahrain. One name that cropped up again and again was Ali Al Saeed; however, he’s not a woman. If you know any Bahraini women in translation, please let me know in the comments below!
Bangladeshi-British Monica Ali (via her novel Brick Lane) was the only writer from Bangladesh I’d previously come into contact with. However, and because I’m obsessed with short story and essay collections right now, I’ve gone for Lifelines, an anthology of Bangladeshi women writers, edited by renowned Bangladeshi writer Farah Ghuznavi.
After ruling out Rihanna, I went for Karen Lord instead. Her book, Redemption in Indigo, is a critically acclaimed rewrite of a Senegalese story.
I had to choose the first Belarusian recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, didn’t I? Second-Hand Time chronicles the voices of Soviets after the collapse of the USSR.
I was originally keen to read something by Lize Spit, the Flemish-Belgian writer with the intriguing name. However, I couldn’t find English versions of her work, so I instead went for Saskia de Coster and her book We and Me.
Fun fact: Belize is the only first-language English speaking nation in Central America. When researching for this book, I particularly wanted to represent an Afro-Latinx writer, and that’s how I ended up adding the work of Zee Edgell to this round-up. She was born in what was then British Honduras (now, naturally, Belize) and published her first book, Beka Lamb, a year after Belize gained independence. However, I chose her third novel, The Festival of San Joaquin, which looks at race and society in Belize, through a woman’s lens.
While I found the works of Flore Hazoume, Amousse Rockyath and Adelaide Fassinou in French, I couldn’t find anything in English unfortunately.
Oh, you want to read something by the first Bhutanese woman to write a novel in English? Here you go: The Circle of Karma.
I wanted to read Sweet Blood by Giovanna Rivero Santa Cruz, after I heard about her through the excellent A Year of Reading the World blog. However, I couldn’t find it online, so I went for the other recommendation Ann puts forward in that post—Our Dead World by Liliana Colanzi.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
I know nothing about Bosnia and Herzegovina, except that it’s a country with an unwieldy name and a tempestuous recent history. For that reason, I think, I went for Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipovic.
I wanted to go for a Bessie Head classic from Botswana, but instead chose Juggling Truths for its examination of a postcolonial Africa.
Clarice Lispector (who I thought was a cartoon character until…very recently) seems the obvious choice. But…nah. I went for this fun-looking book, The End, by Brazilian film star Fernanda Torres instead.
One resource I found from 2016 presented me with a startling figure—there have been no novels published in English by a Bruneian woman. Obviously, this isn’t to say there haven’t been novels written by Bruneian women, and only framing the narrative around whether work is available in English is both Anglo-centric and kind of gross, but I did find it surprising. However, there are two women from Brunei who have published poetry in English. Of the two, I found one anthology readily available online, Moments of Nil by Flora Tavu (a Phillippines-born, Brunei-raised woman.)
The first book from Bulgaria that piqued my attention was Greek Coffee by Katerina Hapsali, but I could only find it for Kindle and it was unavailable at the time of writing. So, I’m going to read Emiliya Dvoryanova’s Concerto for Sentence: An Exploration of the Musico-Erotic instead.
I found tons of work from Burkina Faso in French (obviously), but very little in English.
I’d have loved to read something by exiled Burundian princess Esther Kamatari, but I couldn’t find a copy of her work in English.
What are your global reading goals? What books do you want to see on the post detailing countries C-F? Let me know in the comments!