Jackie's global reading challenge

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Jackie's global reading challenge

Edited: Mar 29, 2018, 6:31 am

streamsong was talking about this challenge over in the 75ers Non-Fiction Challenge thread, and it instantly appealed! I love the idea of a non-stressy or obsessive global challenge, which can take place over my whole lifetime, and introduce me to many new authors and countries. At the moment the main places I hang out on LT are the ROOT group and the Category Challenge, and I am prioritising tackling Mt TBR rather than buying lots of new books (although, er, I seem to be doing that as well!) - maybe I should say I'm not prioritising buying new books just for a challenge, but if I have a book on Mt TBR or the wishlist that happens to fit, then that's great. So I will just use this thread to list the books I've already read, and the new ones as and when they happen. And I look forward to getting ideas from other participants here as well!

I'm going to count 'books about' as well as books 'set in' or books by indigenous authors, although I hope to get to as many of those as possible.

(I'll put a map in here at some point)

Edited: Oct 18, 2023, 6:07 am



1. Khaled Hosseini - A Thousand Splendid Suns
2. Cliff Jones - Water Runs Slow Through Flat Land





Antigua and Barbuda


1. Tom Michell - The Penguin Lessons
2. Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths


1. Armine Ishkanian - Democracy Building and Civil Society in Post-Soviet Armenia
2. Narine Abgaryan - Three Apples Fell from the Sky


1. Bill Bryson - Down Under
2. Marlo Morgan - Mutant Message Down Under (NB this is a terrible book!)
3. Nevil Shute - A Town Like Alice


1. Raphael Jerusalmy - Saving Mozart


Edited: Sep 8, 2022, 8:17 am












Bosnia and Herzegovina

1. Zlata Filipovic - Zlata's Diary
2. Mrs E.R. Whitwell - Through Bosnia and Herzegovina with a Paint Brush
3. Steven Galloway - The Cellist of Sarajevo


1. Alexander McCall Smith - No 1 Ladies Detective Agency; Tears of the Giraffe; Morality for Beautiful Girls


Brunei Darussalam


1. Julian Barnes - The Porcupine
2. Georgi Markov, tr. Dimiter Keranov - Two Essays

Burkina Faso


Edited: Nov 19, 2023, 8:18 am



1. John Swain - River of Time: A Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia
2. Chris Moon - One Step Beyond


1. Nigel Barley - The Innocent Anthropologist : Notes from a Mud Hut


1. Billy Connolly - Journey to the Edge of the World
2. Annie Proulx - The Shipping News
3. Stef Penney - The Tenderness of Wolves
4. L.M. Montgomery - Anne of Green Gables
5. Andre Alexis - Fifteen Dogs

Cabo Verde

Central African Republic



1. Brian Keenan & John McCarthy - Between Extremes


1. Jung Chang - Wild Swans
2. Frances Wood - Hand Grenade Practice in Peking
3. Jung Chang - Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister
4. Ai Weiwei - 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows


1. Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Bon Voyage Mr President, and Other Stories



Costa Rica

Côte d’Ivoire


1. Dubravka Ugresic - Baba Yaga Laid an Egg
2. Slavenka Drakulic - How we Survived Communism and Even Laughed



Czech Republic

1. ed. Hana Havelkova & Libora Oates-Indruchova - The Politics of Gender Culture Under State Socialism: An Expropriated Voice (specifically about Communist Czechoslovakia)
2. Jan Kotouc tr. Isabel Stainsby - Frontiers of the Imperium

Edited: Jun 11, 2021, 4:40 pm


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

1. Barbara Demick - Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
2. Bandi - The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea
3. Michael Palin - North Korea Journal

Democratic Republic of the Congo

1. Ben Rawlence - Radio Congo: Signals of Hope from Africa's Deadliest War


1. Helen Russell - The Year of Living Danishly.
2. Barry Lopez - Arctic Dreams (features Greenland).



Dominican Republic

Edited: Nov 28, 2020, 4:29 pm



1. Charles Darwin - The Galapagos Islands


1. Linda Herrera - Revolution in the Age of Social Media: The Egyptian Popular Insurrection and the Internet
2. Goscinny & Uderzo - Asterix & Cleopatra

El Salvador

Equatorial Guinea




1. Peter Gill - Famine & Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid

Edited: Jun 26, 2022, 8:06 am




1. Tove Jansson - The Summer Book
2. Tove Jansson & Tuulikki Pietila - Notes from an Island


1. Patrick Leigh Fermor - A Time to Keep Silence
2. Stephen Clarke - 1000 Years of Annoying the French
3. Voltaire - Candide
4. Jean-Paul Sartre - The Age of Reason
5. Jean-Dominique Bauby - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

(also: Simon Kitson - The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France; Peter Mayle A Year in Provence & Bon Appetit)

Edited: Oct 18, 2023, 6:08 am





1. Colin Thubron - Among the Russians


1. Hester Vaizey - Born in the GDR: Living in the Shadow of the Wall
2. Thomas Harding - The House by the Lake
3. Philip Oltermann - The Stasi Poetry Circle



1. Louis de Bernieres - Captain Corelli's Mandolin






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1. Richard Fidler & Kari Gislason - Saga Land
2. Steinunn Sigurdaradottir - Heida: A Shepherd at the Edge of the World


1. Vikram Seth - A Suitable Boy
2. Arundhati Roy - The God of Small Things
3. Michael Booth - Eat Pray Eat
4. Ruskin Bond - A Time for All Things: Collected Essays and Sketches


1. Tim Severin - The Spice Islands Voyage.

Iran (Islamic Republic of)

1. Azar Nafisi - Reading Lolita in Tehran


1. Paul MacAlindin - Upbeat
2. Dorothy Al Khafaji - Between Two Rivers


1. Tony Hawks - Round Ireland With a Fridge
2. Lawrence Donegan - No News at Throat Lake
3. Roddy Doyle - The Barrytown Trilogy
4. Joseph O'Connor - Star of the Sea
5. Lisa Smyth - Abortion and Nation: The Politics of Reproduction in Contemporary Ireland


1. Mark Thomas - Extreme Rambling: Walking Israel's Separation Barrier. For Fun
2. Matthew Small - The Wall Between Us: Notes from the Holy Land
3. Mohammed Omer - Shell-Shocked


1. E.M. Forster - A Room With a View
2. Emma-Jane Kirby - The Optician of Lampedusa
3. Julia Blackburn - Thin Paths: journeys in and around an Italian mountain village
4. Jan Morris - Venice

Edited: May 1, 2020, 10:40 am



1. Jean Rhys - Wide Sargasso Sea.



1. Christina Grau - Backpacking My Style.

Edited: Mar 29, 2018, 9:31 am








Edited: Mar 29, 2018, 9:19 am


Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos)









Edited: Oct 1, 2022, 4:42 pm


The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


1. Douglas Adams - Last Chance to See
2. Alison Richard - The Sloth Lemur's Song


1. William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer - The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind




1. Joshua Hammer - The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu


Marshall Islands



1. Mark Carwardine & Stephen Fry - Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams


Micronesia (Federated States of)


1. Tony Hawks - Playing the Moldovans at Tennis
2. Charles King - The Moldovans
3. Rory Maclean & Nick Danziger - Back in the USSR: Heroic Adventures in Transnistria
4. Vladimir Lorchenkov - The Good Life Elsewhere



1. Michael Kohn - Dateline Mongolia





Edited: May 1, 2020, 12:06 pm



1. Chris McIntyre - Bradt Guide Namibia




New Zealand




1. Ben Okri - The Famished Road
2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - We Should All Be Feminists; Dear Ijeawele
3. Jackie Kay - Red Dust Road


1. Tim Moore - Frost on my Moustache

Edited: Mar 29, 2018, 9:27 am



Edited: Dec 17, 2022, 3:57 pm



1. Michael Palin - Himalaya
2. Mohsin Hamid - The Reluctant Fundamentalist
3. Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb - I Am Malala



Papua New Guinea

1. Lloyd Jones - Mister Pip





1. Zvi Feine - Jewish Communal Service in Romania and Poland 1986-2006
2. Joanna Mishtal - The Politics of Morality: The Church, the State, and Reproductive Rights in Postsocialist Poland
3. Ben Aitken - A Chip Shop in Poznan: My Unlikely Year in Poland
4. Diane Ackerman - The Zookeeper's Wife


Edited: Mar 29, 2018, 9:30 am



Edited: Jun 2, 2018, 4:11 pm



1. Mike Ormsby - Never Mind the Balkans, Here's Romania (plus Romanian version Grand Bazar Romania)
2. Olivia Manning - The Balkan Trilogy
3. Haya Leah Molnar - Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania
4. Cornelia Muresan - Schimbările comportamentului familial în România : o abordare din perspectiva cursului vieții
5. Katherine Verdery - Secrets and Truths

Russian Federation

1. Leo Tolstoy - War & Peace
2. Andrew Meier - Black Earth
3. Valerie Sperling - Sex, Politics and Putin
4. Mikhail Bulgakov - A Country Doctor's Notebook
5. Margaretta Eagar - Six Years at the Russian Court


Edited: Mar 27, 2022, 4:50 pm


Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Lucia

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


San Marino

Sao Tome and Principe

Saudi Arabia



1. Rebecca West - Black Lamb & Grey Falcon


Sierra Leone




1. ed. Roman Kuhar - Beyond the Pink Curtain (published in Slovenia, includes chapter on Slovenia)

Solomon Islands


South Africa

1. Nelson Mandela - Long Walk to Freedom
2. Trevor Noah - Born a Crime
3. Didier Fassin - When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Portraits of AIDS in South Africa

South Sudan

1. Various authors - The Weekenders: Travels in the Heart of Africa


1. Tim Moore - Spanish Steps: One Man and his Ass on the Pilgrim Way to Santiago
2. Goscinny & Uderzo - Asterix in Spain
3. Alan Parks - Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca?

Sri Lanka





1. Jonas Jonasson - The 100-Year Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared
2. Fredrik Backman - A Man Called Ove



1. Ghada Alatrash - Stripped to the Bone: Portraits of Syrian Women

Edited: Oct 18, 2023, 6:09 am




1. Craig Packer - Into Africa




1. Tete-Michel Kpomassie - Michel the Giant: An African in Greenland


Trinidad and Tobago



1. Elif Shafak - The Flea Palace
2. Jeremy Seal - A Fez of the Heart: Travels Around Turkey in Search of a Hat
3. Ece Temelkuran - How to Lose a Country



Edited: Jun 16, 2018, 4:03 pm




1. Jonathan Safran Foer - Everything is Illuminated
2. Sarah Phillips - Women's Social Activism in the New Ukraine
3. Adriana Petryna - Life Exposed: Biological Citizens After Chernobyl
4. Vasyl Baziv - Armageddon at Maidan (terrible book!)
5. Marta Dyczok - Ukraine's Euromaidan: Broadcasting through Information Wars with Hromadske Radio

United Arab Emirates

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

1. John McCarthy & Sandi Toksvig - Island Race
2. Melissa Harrison - Rain: Four Walks in English Weather
3. Robert Macfarlane - Landmarks
4. James Rebanks - The Shepherd's Life
5. Alastair McIntosh - Soil and Soul

United States of America

1. Billy Connolly - Billy Connolly's Route 66
2. Josie Dew - Travels in a Strange State
3. Bill Bryson - The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America
4. Eric Schlosser - Fast Food Nation
5. Michael K Brantley - Memory Cards



1. ed. Kathleen Kuehnast & Carol Nechemias - Post-Soviet Women Encountering Transition (several former Soviet Union countries, but does feature 2 chapters specifically on Uzbekistan)

Edited: Mar 29, 2018, 10:00 am




Viet Nam

Edited: Mar 29, 2018, 10:00 am


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Apr 10, 2018, 9:07 pm

Wonderful, a new member! Happy reading - this will take over your life for years! xx

Apr 11, 2018, 10:06 am

Welcome, Jackie, I'm also glad you've joined!

Apr 12, 2018, 6:15 am

>28 starbox: >29 streamsong: Thank you both very much! I'm loving the relaxed nature of the challenge!

I've got my list of books lined up for various challenges this year (non-fic, ColourCAT) in other LT groups, and already highlighting to myself which ones might fit here.

I've finished a few countries already, in terms of having read 5 for them, but I have decided that if I read a book by a citizen of that country (rather than, say, a travel book by an outsider) then I would swap it in to my total of 5 and remove the non-native book (or at least just count it as an 'additional' title). Not that anyone's interested apart from me, but it's nice to be nerdy about details sometimes, and I do want to increase my reading by non-Anglo writers.

Most recently, this week I finished Simon Kitson's The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France which I added as an additional as I'd already got 5 titles for France (plus the author is a Brit). It was a bit dry in places, but interesting to read about something I knew nothing about before.

May 15, 2018, 10:49 am

Yesterday I finished a very small collection of short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which I am counting as my first for Colombia as that was where he is from, even though none of the stories was set there. Bon Voyage Mr President and Other Stories was a Penguin60 book (little books published by Penguin in 1995 to celebrate their 60th anniversary). I'd not read any Marquez before, so wasn't sure quite what to expect. This was four short stories, the title one being by far the longest. That was about a deposed Latin American/Caribbean dictator (country not specified) seeking medical treatment in Geneva. There were also shorter stories about a guy on a flight seated next to a beautiful woman and he imagines their interactions, although they never so much as share a glance; a woman who is accidentally admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Spain and whose husband, when he eventually traces her, sides with the doctors rather than helping her get out; and the fourth one was the only one featuring the magical realism for which Marquez is famous, about two brothers with a boat in their 8th floor flat in Madrid, who end up drowing all their classmates in light.

I'm glad I can now say I've read some Marquez, and I thought the writing was beautiful (and the translation very good too) - here was obviously a very talented writer at the top of his craft. I found it hard to relate to any of the characters, though, and other than the third story about the accidental psychiatric patient, which was intriguing enough to make me think it would have worked as a longer novel, I don't feel particularly like I'd like to read more. 3/5.

Jun 16, 2018, 4:05 pm

I just finished an edited volume, Post-Soviet Women Encountering Transition (ed. Kathleen Kuehnast & Carol Nechemias) which as well as Russia and Ukraine (both of which I have completed for this challenge already) also featured a few other former Soviet countries. I am going to include this book for Uzbekistan, as there were two chapters related to there.

Jun 27, 2018, 5:11 pm

Yesterday I finished a library book, Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. It's set in the USA and Pakistan, so I'm counting it for Pakistan for this challenge.

Jul 11, 2018, 3:03 pm

I'm counting Colin Thubron's Among the Russians for Georgia, as that is one of the states he visits on this epic journey (it was undertaken in the Soviet times so it was all part of the same country), and I've already completed this challenge for Russia and Ukraine. It's a great book, well worth a read.

Jul 16, 2018, 6:22 am

An LTER book which I couldn't actually finish was Christina Grau's Backpacking My Style. She visits 16 countries in total, on a budget. Before I abandoned it, one of the countries I did read about was her trip to Jordan, so I'm counting this in the challenge. Although I honestly wouldn't recommend it to anyone else!

Aug 3, 2018, 7:05 am

Yesterday I finished Ukraine and Russia: People, Politics, Propaganda and Perspectives. As mentioned in >34 Jackie_K: I've actually completed this challenge for both countries already, but wanted to just note it here.

Aug 6, 2018, 4:24 am

Adding Matthew Small's The Wall Between Us: Notes from the Holy Land as my second book for Israel. It was good, although I preferred the other book I read about the Separation Wall, Mark Thomas' Extreme Rambling.

Edited: Aug 9, 2018, 4:37 am

I've added Charles Darwin's The Galapagos Islands to Ecuador for this challenge - it kind of feels a bit cheeky, especially as I've not read anything about or from mainland Ecuador, but as the islands are an Ecuadorean territory I'm sneaking it in on a technicality :)

Apr 28, 2019, 7:06 am

I've 3 more books to add for this year so far.

For Cambodia, Chris Moon's One Step Beyond, a memoir about his time working with the mine clearance programme of the Halo Trust. It covers his time in both Cambodia and Mozambique (where he stepped on a mine and lost most of his right leg plus his right hand), but a huge chunk of the book is set in Cambodia (including a few days where he and his team were kidnapped by the Khmer Rouge).

For Denmark, Helen Russell's The Year of Living Danishly - I always like a good book title pun!

And my first for Iraq, Paul MacAlindin's Upbeat, which is the story of the formation and first few years of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq.

Apr 28, 2019, 7:10 am

Ooh, and I forgot another one!

My 3rd for Italy: Julia Blackburn's Thin Paths: journeys in and around an Italian mountain village. An excellent book, highly recommended.

Jun 2, 2019, 1:56 pm

I remembered a couple of other books I read earlier this year that count for this challenge. I'm cheekily counting Asterix & Cleopatra as my second book for Egypt, and I also read Jackie Kay's wonderful Red Dust Road, which is her memoir of looking for her biological family - her dad was a Nigerian student in Scotland in the 1960s, and a fair bit of the book features her meeting him and other family members in Nigeria, so that's my 4th book for Nigeria.

Oct 22, 2019, 10:27 am

I haven't added to this thread for ages, but I've several more books to add:

* Trevor Noah - Born a Crime (South Africa)
* Alexander McCall Smith - Morality for Beautiful Girls (Botswana)
* Zvi Feine - Jewish Communal Service in Romania and Poland 1986-2006 (Poland)
* Douglas Adams - Last Chance to See (Madagascar)
* Mark Carwardine & Stephen Fry - Last Chance to See - in the Footsteps of Douglas Adams (Mauritius)
* Mohammed Omer - Shell-Shocked (Israel) (well, really Palestine, I hate that I have to include it with Israel here, given the subject matter).

May 1, 2020, 10:50 am

I've added a number of books to a number of countries - Moldova, Italy, Jamaica, Afghanistan, Iraq, Poland.

Aug 4, 2020, 3:42 pm

Adding books to Iceland (Saga Land) and Chile (Between Extremes). Both excellent!

Aug 16, 2020, 4:49 pm

Adding a rare book to North Korea - Bandi's The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea.

Sep 16, 2020, 1:23 pm

I've added two more books - Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez to Denmark (well really it features Greenland quite a lot, but for the purposes of this challenge's definition it would come under Denmark), and my first for Austria, Raphael Jerusalmy's Saving Mozart, which is set in Salzburg.

Oct 7, 2020, 9:01 am

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer is a wonderful book, and my first here for Malawi.

Nov 23, 2020, 4:33 pm

I've just added the excellent The House by the Lake by Thomas Harding to my Germany list.

Nov 28, 2020, 4:29 pm

And my first for Ethiopia - Peter Gill's Famine & Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid, which was very interesting (even though it's already a decade old).

Dec 16, 2020, 3:54 pm

I have just finished Joshua Hammer's The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu which was fascinating, and read like a heist story. It's also my first for this challenge for Mali.

Jan 17, 2021, 11:03 am

Hmm. I was excited to add my first book about Taiwan here, but it doesn't seem to be on the list of countries. Looking at wikipedia, it appears that it is not recognised by China and so it is not an official member of the UN.

Anyway, I can't include it in my list because of that, but I do want to note that Jessica J. Lee's Two Trees Make a Forest is a wonderful introduction to Taiwan.

Mar 12, 2021, 9:33 am

Into Africa by Craig Packer is my first book for Tanzania. It's an account of a fieldwork trip to the Serengeti and Gombe national parks, and I really enjoyed it.

Apr 26, 2021, 12:54 pm

Adding A Chip Shop in Poznan: My Unlikely Year in Poland to Poland (unsurprisingly!). An enjoyable travelogue of a Brit moving to Poland, after being intrigued by so many Poles moving to the UK.

Jun 11, 2021, 4:41 pm

My latest library book was Michael Palin's diary accompaniment to his travel documentary, North Korea Journal. An easy and interesting read, although hampered by having to read it on my computer and Adobe Digital Editions only showing the top half of the photos.

Edited: Jul 31, 2021, 1:13 pm

Adding the anthology The Weekenders: Travels in the Heart of Africa to South Sudan (if I'd read it when it was published, in 2001, it would have been added to Sudan, of course, but all the stories and accounts are set in the south, which is now independent).

An interesting collection from writers taken to south Sudan by the Daily Telegraph - including Tony Hawks, Alex Garland and Irvine Welsh (who contributes a very vivid novella which takes up around half the book - that will stay with me a long time).

I've also added Tom Michell's The Penguin Lessons to Argentina. This was a lovely light true story about a remarkable penguin.

Oct 5, 2021, 12:00 pm

I have added a new book to Pakistan - Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb's I am Malala. Which was every bit as inspiring as you would imagine.

Nov 15, 2021, 4:29 pm

I've added Jan Kotouc's Frontiers of the Imperium (translated by my friend, Isabel Stainsby) to the Czech Republic, as the author is Czech (as is the original language of the book). This is my first foray into military sci-fi - not really my thing, but the book kept my interest till the end, and I'd happily pick up the next in the series sometime when Mt TBR is a bit lower!

Jan 8, 2022, 9:15 am

A little bit pushing it, but I've added Julian Barnes' The Porcupine to Bulgaria. It's a fictional novella about the trial of a former Communist president of an unnamed eastern European country, but is widely known to be based on the trial of Bulgarian Communist leader, Todor Zhivkov.

Jan 10, 2022, 3:56 pm

Welcome, Jackie and see you on ROOT too!

Feb 18, 2022, 4:51 pm

>59 Cecilturtle: Nice to see you here :)

I finished Fredrik Backman's novel A Man Called Ove and it's my second read for Sweden. I really enjoyed it.

Feb 19, 2022, 6:12 am

>60 Jackie_K: Great! I fear that I will just fill Sweden with Nordic Noir novels, so it's good to get another idea of other possibilities that are still very readable.

Feb 19, 2022, 9:03 am

>61 MissBrangwen: whereas I'll be filling Sweden with the grumpy old man genre (my other book so far for Sweden is The 100 year old man...!).

Mar 5, 2022, 3:50 pm

My second book for Armenia is the wonderful novel Three Apples Fell from the Sky by Narine Abgaryan, translated by Lisa C Hayden. What a magical book, I loved it.

Mar 14, 2022, 5:08 pm

>60 Jackie_K: I really like Backman's books too. My favorites are A Man Called Ove and And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

Mar 27, 2022, 4:49 pm

>64 labfs39: I'd like to read more of his work (so many books, so little time....!).

I've added my 3rd book to South Africa - an academic text from 2007 with plenty of contemporary relevance still, Didier Fassin's When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa.

May 19, 2022, 10:49 am

>63 Jackie_K: I've added Three Apples That Fell From the Sky to my library hold list. Thanks for the recommendation!

May 20, 2022, 10:50 am

>66 streamsong: You're welcome, you're in for a treat!

May 21, 2022, 4:58 pm

I've just added my first for Indonesia, a fascinating travelogue of a sailing trip in the footsteps (sailsteps?) of Victorian explorer and self-taught naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace - Tim Severin's The Spice Islands Voyage.

Jun 26, 2022, 8:07 am

Adding two books by Tove Jansson to Finland - her novel The Summer Book which I read last summer and obviously forgot to add at the time, and the beautiful book written with her partner, artist Tuulikki Pietila (Tooti), Notes from an Island.

Jul 29, 2022, 8:55 am

>69 Jackie_K: Notes from an Island sounds fantastic!

Edited: Sep 8, 2022, 8:17 am

>70 Dilara86: It is gorgeous!

Sep 8, 2022, 8:21 am

A short foray into communist Bulgaria, with a short book, Two Essays, by writer and dissident Georgi Markov, who was assassinated in London in 1978 by a poisoned dart from an umbrella (yesterday was the 44th anniversary of the attack, he died a few days later aged 49). After his defection in 1969 he ended up working for the BBC World Service, but also produced bulletins for Radio Free Europe, along the lines of From Our Own Correspondent or Letter from America bulletins, about every day life in Bulgaria under communism, and it is thought that these bulletins are what riled the authorities there so much and led to his assassination. This book is the translation of two of those bulletins, 'Prostitution' and 'Wastewater', and I'd love to read more if they were ever translated. Apparently the translator is working on a biography of Markov; I for one would be really interested to read it.

Sep 8, 2022, 2:58 pm

>72 Jackie_K: That does sound interesting. I have not read anything from Bulgaria yet.

Sep 8, 2022, 3:24 pm

>72 Jackie_K: He is also a very talented fiction and drama writer (not sure what is translated into English from his fiction...).

Sep 8, 2022, 4:00 pm

>73 labfs39: This is a good introduction, that's for sure, albeit very short. I hope more of his work is translated.
>74 AnnieMod: Yes, so I gather. There appear to be a handful of his works on amazon, but not much.

Oct 1, 2022, 4:43 pm

#2 for Madagascar is The Sloth Lemur's Song by Alison Richard, which I listened to in audiobook form. She is an academic, who from her PhD in the very early 1970s to today has lived and worked extensively in Madagascar. This book is a magnum opus, looking at all the evidence for Madagascar's emergence as a country and landscape, and the various changes it has undergone over deep time. As well as her own discipline (anthropology - her research is on lemurs), she draws on zoology, botany, geology, ecology, archaeology, climate science, and history, in order to complicate the simplistic narratives of Madagascar's virgin environment being destroyed by local human inhabitants, as well as how the unique habitats and landscapes and flora and fauna of the island emerged. She highlights local Malagasy research as well as international scholars, and also includes anecdotes from her own extensive experience of living and working in Madagascar, and this is a highly respectful and loving as well as meticulously researched account. The book was narrated beautifully by Lucinda Roberts.

Oct 1, 2022, 7:18 pm

>76 Jackie_K: Sounds like a great overview of the country and thus perfect choice for the challenge.

Oct 2, 2022, 5:46 am

>77 labfs39: yes it was, I learnt loads!

Oct 30, 2022, 1:44 pm

Although mainly (as per the book title) set in Greenland, I am counting Togolese author Tete-Michel Kpomassie's Michel the Giant: An African in Greenland as my first book for Togo (the first two chapters are set there). This is a terrific book, I highly recommend it!

Oct 31, 2022, 1:29 pm

>79 Jackie_K:
I've got that down for Togo on my list too: so glad you recommend it, as it's already on my shelves! It was reviewed very positively in the Book Club Review podcast earlier this year too (and they're not afraid to say when they don't like something!)

Oct 31, 2022, 1:36 pm

>80 Willoyd: You've got a treat in store!

Dec 17, 2022, 4:00 pm

For Poland, I'm adding Diane Ackerman's The Zookeeper's Wife, the true story of the family who ran Warsaw Zoo before, during and after WW2. The zoo became a temporary safe house for many Jews escaping the Warsaw Ghetto, and Antonina, the wife of the title, did the bulk of the day to day managing of the logistics of this, while her husband Jan worked for the Polish Underground.

Dec 17, 2022, 4:08 pm

>82 Jackie_K: There is a movie based on the book as well. It was interesting to see the differences between the two.

Dec 19, 2022, 7:45 am

>81 Jackie_K:
I did have, you were right! Just finished it - so interesting. Gripped me right through to the finish. So much insight both into Greenland lifestyle (of that period) and of his own. Rightly a 'Modern Classic'.

Mar 13, 2023, 3:24 pm

Ruskin Bond's A Time for All Things: Collected Essays and Sketches was an unexpected delight. I got it a few years ago when I was looking for books about rhododendrons for a piece I was writing, and I did a random search on amazon using 'rhododendron' as a search term. This was one of the first books that came up, so I took a punt and got it, although I never did get round to reading it at that time. Rhododendrons are mentioned in the book, incidentally, but they don't have a huge starring role, so I'm honestly not sure why it came up in my search. But I'm very glad it did!

The author was born in India in the 1930s, so experienced both life under the British, and subsequent independence. He has lived most of his life in India, other than 4 years in his early 20s where he lived in Jersey and London. He lives in a hill station, Mussoorie, at the foot of the Himalayas, and these essays are mostly fairly short pieces describing the place and people and nature of northern India. I always looked forward to coming back to this book, it was just a very gentle, good-humoured and affectionate look at living a simple life and appreciating what is on your doorstep in a beautiful part of the world. He was a very genial companion, and I really found it easy to picture the scene through his words. Definitely recommend. 4.5/5.

Mar 14, 2023, 6:37 am

>85 Jackie_K: Well, that's a book bullet for me. And it's available on scribd :-)

Apr 5, 2023, 5:28 am

>86 Dilara86: I hope you enjoy it!

From India to Iceland next! Heida: A Shepherd at the Edge of the World by Steinunn Sigurdardottir is a fascinating memoir of an Icelandic sheep farmer who, as well as working her farm, gets involved in local politics in order to fight a proposed huge power plant that would be built near her farm, and flood and otherwise destroy huge parts of the local environment. The author is a novelist who met Heida and who was fascinated with her story, but wasn't sure how to tell it until she read and was inspired by Svetlana Alexievich's oral histories where she only uses the words of the people involved and offers no commentary herself. The story is told in the form of vignettes, which are mostly more or less consecutive, but with reminiscences about her family, childhood, early adulthood etc dropped in throughout. This way of writing felt both immersive but also slightly arm's length, which somehow managed to reflect Heida's strong and independent personality pretty well.

This is a really interesting view of farming life in rural Iceland - she talks in detail about lambing and shearing, as well as the constant repairing of equipment and buildings, and the worry that their neighbouring volcano (a mere 25km away as the crow flies) is well overdue a big eruption. She also faces bemusement at her very active decision to remain single and not have children, and some opposition to her political activity (which she feels she had no choice about - it was an if not me, then who? kind of situation). Above all, her love and respect for the farming life and the Icelandic landscape shine through. 4/5.

Jul 14, 2023, 4:25 pm

I've already completed the USA for this challenge, but just noting here that I recently finished the very interesting academic book, Bears Ears: Landscape of Refuge and Resistance by Andrew Gulliford, about the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, and its long history of Native settlement, later Mormon settlement, and the challenges brought by the discovery of uranium there.

Jul 15, 2023, 7:13 am

Also, I've already completed Russia for this challenge, but wanted to note here Sanin by Mikhail Petrovich Arsybashev, published in 1907, which I DNF'd yesterday. It's pretty bleak and amoral, and really not the kind of thing I like at all, but something about the writing did draw me in, and I'm sure I'll come back to it and finish it at some point. I will just really need to be in the right frame of mind for it.

Jul 21, 2023, 10:13 am

Another USA-focused book, the excellent The Way of Coyote: Shared Journeys in the Urban Wilds by Gavin Van Horn, which is all about the wildlife and habitats in and around Chicago. I found it very inspiring.

Oct 18, 2023, 6:07 am

I've a few more books to add since I last posted:

Germany - The Stasi Poetry Circle by Philip Oltermann. As is always the case when it comes to East Germany, the truth is way way stranger than fiction.

Turkey - How to Lose a Country by Ece Temelkuran. An important discussion about how strongmen/dictators (of whatever stripe) start subtlely and end up stripping away democracy, using the author's experience in Turkey.

China - Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang. The story of three sisters who were at the centre of politics in 20th century China.

Argentina - Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges. Mostly baffling metaphysics in the form of short stories, essays and 'parables'.

Also some honorary mentions:

I had another joyful trip to Botswana in the company of Mma Ramotswe et al in Alexander McCall Smith's In the Company of Cheerful Ladies. I'm not counting this one as I already have the first No 1 Ladies Detective Agency book in the series on my list. But I did enjoy it.

I very much enjoyed Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard, the story of her discovery of the full extent of the 'wood wide web', the miccorhyzal networks of fungi connecting trees. This was based largely on fieldwork in Canada (where I have already completed my 5 books).

Likewise for the USA, already completed, but I enjoyed Marilee Foster's Dirt Under My Nails, an account of a year farming a small family farm near the Hamptons.

Nov 19, 2023, 8:19 am

I've just finished Ai Weiwei's incredible memoir of his and his father's lives and experiences of art and dissidence and punishment in 20th and 21st century China. 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows is definitely highly recommended.

Nov 19, 2023, 1:10 pm

>92 Jackie_K: Thanks, I've added it to my wishlist.

Nov 19, 2023, 3:56 pm

>93 labfs39: You're welcome, I hope you enjoy it!