Beth's Global Challenge

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Beth's Global Challenge

Dec 3, 2021, 11:18 am

This is a good place for me to track the books I read by authors from around the world. I am going to use the author's nationalities to track books. I am starting with what I've read in 2021 and will continue in the coming years.

Edited: Jan 5, 10:39 am

Dec 3, 2021, 11:19 am


Edited: Sep 16, 2022, 2:20 pm

Côte d'Ivoire
In the Company of Men

Edited: Apr 29, 10:32 pm

Dominican Republic
The Cemetery of Untold Stories

Edited: Jul 24, 2023, 4:44 pm

An Inventory of Losses

Dec 3, 2021, 11:21 am


Edited: Mar 25, 2:41 pm

Dec 3, 2021, 11:22 am


Edited: Nov 25, 2023, 2:09 pm

The House of Doors

Dec 3, 2021, 11:23 am


Edited: Sep 16, 2022, 2:24 pm

N, O
New Zealand
Sorrow and Bliss

The Death of Vivek Oji

Bitter Orange Tree

Edited: Mar 4, 9:00 am

P, Q
Best of Friends
Light in Gaza

Edited: Jan 23, 4:32 pm

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Saint Kitts and Nevis
The Skeleton Road
The Blackhouse

Edited: Jul 3, 2023, 1:56 am

Edited: Apr 17, 2023, 10:33 am


The Great Enigma

Edited: Oct 27, 2022, 3:47 pm

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Edited: May 22, 2:28 pm

Dust Child

Cursed Bread

Dec 3, 2021, 2:33 pm

Good for you for starting with this year's reading. You have read so many already! One of the things I like is that I can go to someone else's list and easily find a book for a particular country that they have read and I haven't, like Uruguay. So far I have been reading off my shelves, but I may purchase Jamilia by Tsjingiz Ajtmatov for Kyrgyzstan. It's been on my wish list for a long time.

Dec 3, 2021, 2:41 pm

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Making lists of books is so much fun.

I was surprised, when I looked at the number of authors from different countries that I've read this year. I need to do more reading from my shelves. I am not counting US authors.

Dec 3, 2021, 4:22 pm

>27 labfs39: Jamilia has been on my wishlist for ever too!

Welcome to the group and the challenge, Beth!

Edited: Feb 6, 2022, 11:42 am


16. Tunnels is a graphic novel by Israeli writer and illustrator Rutu Modan. On the surface, it is about the search for the Ark of the Covenant. But Nili, the single mom who is leading the search, is no Indiana Jones, and the search is complicated by the politics of the area. The tunnel she wants to dig would go through Palestinian land. When she runs into a Palestinian archeologist who is also digging a tunnel, she recognizes a companion of her childhood, but the years have made friendship and trust between Israeli Nili and Palestinian Mahdi nearly impossible.

There is a lot of politics in this adventure story, commentary about ownership of land, artifacts, and consequently, stories. Modan also shows what happens when two groups can't come together. This is a very clever, thought-provoking graphic novel.

Feb 7, 2022, 2:31 pm

>30 BLBera: Oh I love the sound of this one! Onto the wishlist!

Feb 9, 2022, 5:42 pm

Welcome! Enjoy touring the world with us!

Edited: Feb 15, 2022, 5:45 pm

18, Violeta is the best novel by Isabel Allende in a while. I've always thought that her historical novels and those set in Chile are her best.

In this one, her protagonist, Violeta del Valle, is born in the midst of the 1920 flu pandemic and ends her story on her deathbed one hundred years later. Violeta is telling her life story to her grandson. She tells about her experiences living through the Great Depression, WWII, a major earthquake, and the Pinochet regime. In her one hundred years, she loses family and friends, and we mourn along with her, especially for the first sixty years. The final forty years seem less detailed than Violeta's early life, but still, she is a great character, and I enjoyed my time with her.

Feb 19, 2022, 6:13 am

>33 BLBera: I haven't read anything by Isabel Allende so far, but I am making a note of this. It sounds great and I love the cover, so striking!

Mar 5, 2022, 10:45 am

25. The Island of Missing Trees is set in Cyprus and England, and I loved this novel.

It centers on the story of Kostos, Greek, and Defne, Turkish, and their love story. The story alternates between present-day London and the 1970s on Cyprus. I'm a little tired of the whole alternating timeline device, but it was OK here. The novel shows the tragedy of Civil War, not only in human terms, but also the harm war does to the environment. Everything is connected.

One of the narrators is a fig tree, who steals the show.

One of the best books I've read this year.

I'd like to find some nonfiction related to Cyprus, so if anyone has suggestions...

Mar 25, 2022, 11:05 am

Given how few the active members of this group are, I should have noticed your thread earlier! I keep hearing about The Island of Missing Trees and I've put it on my list of books to look for once all my books are unpacked.

Apr 21, 2022, 5:53 pm

45. Checkout 19
I loved Pond and was anxious to pick up Bennett's new book. If you are a fan of stream of consciousness novels with no plot, this book is for you. The opening of Checkout 19 gives you a good idea of Bennett's style: "Later on we often had a book with us. Later on. When we were a bit bigger at last though still nowhere near as big as the rest of them we brought over books with us. On loads of books. And sat with them there in the grass by the tree. Just one book, in fact. Just one, that's right. Lots of books, one at a time. That's it, one at a time."

The narrator meanders through bits of her life, telling us about the first story she wrote, about a character, Tarquin Superbus, that she wrote about for years, about her reading, and about various relationships. She sometimes ends an anecdote and then circles back to it. Sometimes not. There's not plot, no discernible chronology.

I enjoyed the novel; it's a bit like reading someone's diary. I know though, that it won't appeal to everyone. If the paragraph I quoted doesn't appeal, this is one you might pass on.

Bennett is an original.

Apr 25, 2022, 9:18 pm

47. Small Things Like These
Every once in a while, I read a book that grabs me, and I immediately know I will buy a copy for my shelves to reread. Claire Keegan's novella is such a book.

It tells the story of Bill Furlong, a coal merchant, in the days leading up to Christmas. He has a lovely family with five daughters and is respected in the community. And he is a good man. When he sees a girl in need, he acts, "...he found himself asking was there any point in being alive without helping one another? Was it possible to carry on along through all the years, the decades, through an entire life, without once being brave enough to go against what was there and yet call yourself a Christian..." It's a good question.

I suspect that this will become a traditional Christmas read for me. A gem.

May 19, 2022, 10:52 am

Happy to see you here, Beth! I know I can count on your recommendations!

May 19, 2022, 1:31 pm

Thanks Janet.

Aug 20, 2022, 5:23 pm

89. Bitter Orange Tree is a lovely, poetic novel about Zuhour, an Omani student in England. Zuhour feels sad and guilty that she didn't appreciate her grandmother when she was alive. The novel is an elegy to Bint Aamir as Zuhour remembers stories from her life. We also see how difficult it is for Zuhour to find connections so far from home, connections that can understand what her grandmother meant to her.

The language is lovely with rich metaphors: "Why don't words come automatically with threads that we can yank to pull them back inside ourselves?" I will look for more works by Alharthi.

Dec 5, 2022, 12:24 pm

130. The Guest Cat
If not for my book club, I probably wouldn't have picked up this little book. Translated from Japanese, it tells the story of a couple of writers who befriend a neighbor's cat. Lovely and poetic. I am not a cat lover, and I still appreciated the book, which shows the bond we can have with our pets. I will be interested to see how the discussion goes.

Jan 14, 2023, 9:31 am

The Man Who Could Move Clouds is an unusual memoir, focused on dreams and ghosts. As Rojas Contreras says, "This is a memoir of the ghostly -- amnesia, hallucination, the historical specter of the past -- which celebrates cultural understandings of truth that are, at heart, Colombian. The stories in this memoir are the true lived experience of those who lived it, as told to me..."

This isn't a linear story, and it is very much centered on Rojas Contreras' identity as Colombian. When Ingrid, her mother, and an aunt all dream of Ingrid's grandfather Nono, a curandero, the dreams send Ingrid and her mother back to Colombia. This memoir is an account of that journey.

I really liked this, but if ghosts and dreams are not your thing, you may want to pass.

Apr 16, 2023, 11:23 am

41. Just the Plague
It seems that recently I have mostly reserved books in the library; I don't do much as much browsing as I used to. But browsing does pay off, as seen in this book by Ludmila Ulitskaya.

It's a slim volume, originally written as a play in the 1980s. Now Ulitskaya revisits it, and it is a novel that, as the author states, "has acquired a new significance."

It's set in 1939 and based on true events. Stalin is in power and people are pretty fearful of the NKVD, the secret police. During this time, Dr. Rudolf Meier, of the Anti Plague Institute, is working on a vaccine for the Plague. He is called to Moscow to report on his progress but has unknowingly become exposed to the pneumonic plague and soon falls ill. His colleagues in the Commisariat of Public Health rush to contain it but have to ask for help from the NKVD, which certainly has the capacity to find and contain people who were exposed. However, the arrival of the infamous Black Marias causes terror in the unsuspecting with some unfortunate consequences.

Ulitskaya packs a lot in this short novel -- LOTS of characters -- and she gives us a rather ambiguous view of the situation. It turns out that a totalitarian state has an excellent mechanism for controlling the plague. We just have to question the cost of this efficiency. And, of course, once the NKVD, with its "High Personage" (Lavrentiy Beria) is brought into the picture, it may be difficult to rein it in. The first reaction of the High Personage is, "We'll help with the lists, and with the liquidation." The Commissar of Health had to explain that liquidation is not needed in this case. But if you are a hammer...

Really interesting and surprisingly relevant little novel. I'm glad I discovered it.

Apr 16, 2023, 12:21 pm

>44 BLBera: Female author, politics and alternate history... That's a book bullet for me!

Apr 16, 2023, 5:05 pm

I hope you can find a copy.

May 5, 2023, 12:10 pm

>43 BLBera: My wife recently read this book and liked it a lot.

May 11, 2023, 2:27 pm

>44 BLBera: That one goes on my WL!

Jan 11, 9:48 am

5. Space Invaders
This very short novel is a series of vignettes narrated by a group of classmates, starting in 1980 when they were ten years old. It ends in 1991, a year after Pinochet left power. At this point, the classmates were dispersed but still trying to make sense of what happened.

School lives are regimented, lots of lines and, of course, uniforms: "Our uniforms neat. Top button of the shirt fastened, tie knotted, dark jumper below the knee, blue socks pulled up, pants perfectly ironed, school crest sewn on at the proper chest height, no threads dangling, shoes freshly shined." But while they live with a lot of rules, lots of things don't make sense to them, as unfamiliar words appear in the news: politics, "degollados." Family members disappear, some never to return.

All of these glimpses into life during the Pinochet regime (1973-1990) give the reader a good idea how oppressive it was to live in Chile at this time. Although this novel is short, it is very descriptive, building atmosphere with details. I have another novel by Fernández The Twilight Zone that I will pick up soon.

If anyone would like my copy of this short novel, PM me your address, and I will send it your way.

Jan 11, 12:50 pm

>49 BLBera: I have her non-fiction work Voyager: Constellations of Memory on tap to read.....soonish?

Jan 11, 3:23 pm

Have you read any of her fiction, Liz? The one you mentioned sounds good.