Challenge yourself to read a book set in each of these 12 countries.
Do you like to do reading challenges? I love them! You can find so many examples around the web, at your local library, from your book club, etc. How do you choose?
I created this Around the World Reading Challenge for anyone looking to expand their reading choices. Travel around the world with books, learn about new places, and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
This challenge is also great for book clubs. It’s only 12 books, so you can pick one each month and fill up a whole year.
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Around the World reading challenge
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get in a reading rut where I’m reading books from the same location, same genre, same time period, and sometimes all of the above! Once that happens, I really need to mix things up. That’s where reading challenges are helpful. A good challenge will help you broaden your horizons and motivate you to pick up a book you wouldn’t normally choose.
This particular reading challenge focuses on the setting. You’ll travel the world from the comfort of your own home as you choose a book set in each of these 12 countries. That’s just one book a month, so this reading challenge is very doable. I’ll even help you out with a few book suggestions for each country listed.
Are you ready to get started?
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Read a Book from Each of These 12 Countries
The first country on our list is Australia. There are a lot of choices for books from classics, to contemporary, to awesome nonfiction.
If you’d rather read a classic, get lost in The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. This familiy saga will sweep you away to the Australian Outback.
When I first created this list, I intentionally chose some countries that would be more challenging. I wanted to stretch my TBR list and find some books outside the more popular locations. One of those regions is SE Asia and I chose the country of Indonesia.
Here are the books I’m considering reading:
Since I love historical fiction books, Love And Death in Bali by Vicki Baum is on my list. Written in 1937, it is set during the Dutch invasion of Bali in 1906.
I’m also considering a nonfiction choice, Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton. It tells the story of the tiny island of Run that became the most lucrative of the Spice Islands in the seventeenth century because of its harvest of nutmeg.
There is a lot of rich and beautiful literature set in Japan. I’ve read several already and there are a few others that I’ve got my eye on.
Perhaps one of the most well-known books set in Japan is Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. You won’t be able to put it down!
Another great historical fiction option is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. This family saga tells the story of four generation of Korean immigrants in Japan.
Now it’s time to head over to the Middle East and read a book set in Afghanistan. There is a vast selection of books to choose from.
If you enjoy reading children’s literature, I’d highly recommend The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. It’s part of a four book series (and the entire series is wonderful) that tells the story of 11-year-old Parvana who has to disguise herself as a boy to help her family after her dad is kidnapped by the Taliban.
You may have already heard of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This story of an unlikely friendship became an instant classic and is probably the first book that people think of when looking for books set in Afghanistan.
This is another country I added to the list to challenge myself. I don’t think I’ve read any books set in Turkey – yet.
Here are some good possibilities:
If you love spy thrillers, give Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon a try. It’s set during World War II in Istanbul.
Or, if you prefer some historical fiction, try The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak. You’ll move back and forth between present time San Francisco and Istanbul during the 1915 Armenian genocide.
You’ll find many wonderful books set in Poland, in particular, you’ll find many great books set during World War II and the Holocaust.
Any book set in Auschwitz fits in this category, which is why I chose The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. It had been on my TBR list for awhile and this challenge was just the push I needed to read it.
If you’d like to choose a book that’s not about the Holocaust, pick up The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst. This classic spy novel is set in the years prior to World War II when intelligence operatives are working overtime during a time of political upheaval.
France, ah France. I do love a good book set in France, from the streets of Paris, to Provence, to South of France. I love them all.
It’s really hard to narrow down the options, but here are a couple to get you started.
My Life in France by Julia Child is a classic and absolutely delightful. If you love reading food memoirs, you’ll have to add this one to your list.
Or, try The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah. This books moves back and forth between present-day Burgundy and the German occupation during World War II. It’s full of secrets, wine, and history.
We’re heading to Africa for our next couple of picks, starting with the country of Ethiopia.
Perhaps one of the best known books set here is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It’s a hefty book (600+ pages), but the story sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go until I finished. Give it a try if you haven’t read it already.
Another choice is Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste. This historical fiction choice is set during the Ethiopian Revolution during the 1970s.
I chose Nigeria because there are some very, very good options to choose from. In fact, I’ve got some books high on my TBR list that I can’t wait to read.
Here are some great options to choose from:
Another choice is Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta. This award winning book is inspired by Nigerian folktales and its war.
Now it’s time to wind up our trip around the world with books set in the Americas, starting with the island of Cuba.
My first recommendation is Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. It’s part love story, part historical fiction, and full of family secrets. I couldn’t put it down. And, if you want more, check out When We Left Cuba.
Or, you can go with the historical romance, The Price of Paradise by Susana López Rubio about a love story spanning 50 years that begins in Havana in 1947.
Now let’s head down to visit the rain forests in Costa Rica. This was another challenging location, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good options.
First, did you realize Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park is set on an island off the coast of Costa Rica? If you’ve always thought about reading this classic, now’s the time to pick it up!
Or, for a nonfiction choice, you can pick up Monkeys Are Made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica by Jack Ewing. It’s a collection of essays of observations and experiences of the author’s three decades of living there.
Finally, our last stop on this literary trip around the world is Chile.
Or, if you want a quicker read, try the middle grade book, The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan, that tells the story of the poet Pablo Neruda.
Are you ready to get started on this Around the World Reading Challenge? I’d love to know the books you pick out for each category!