This is my challenge – which I’ve chosen to accept – I want to try to read one book from every country in the world! Preferably a classic, something of the ‘best’ that the country has to offer, unless that is one that I’ve already read. My preference is for a novel, or an epic poem; but if I can’t get that, then any poetry, a play or something else will do; if I can’t find a book by a native I’ll take a novel or other book written about the country by someone else, though I’d rather read a native voice. I’m aiming for a work that can tell me a lot about the country and its people. If I can, I’ll read it in the original language (which will slow me down a lot!) I’ve settled down to a rate of one book a month and it’s my intention to post my impressions of one of the books on the first of each month. I find I’ve already covered a lot of countries. But will I be able to find something for every land? Let’s see!
As to the definition of a ‘country’, I don’t intend to limit myself to any particular list (which will anyway probably be out of date by the time I finish.) I hope to include at least some territories, should-be countries and once-were countries if possible. I’m reading them in order of population size – largest to smallest. Of course I’d already read books from quite a few countries before I started this project in 2011, so I’m going to read another one from those places.
Everyone gets to set their own rules – mine are: no audio books (great as they are, they count as a passive rather than an active reading experience for me); and no unpublished or, if at all possible, self-published books (I want anyone to be able to follow my trail). I will always love reading printed books (and, I have to admit, seeing them decorating my bookshelf) so I will give them preference over e-books, though this will no doubt become harder as the project proceeds. And although I want to avoid translations as much as possible, since I’ve only managed to read in ten languages I will unfortunately often be dependent on a second-hand version. My comments aren’t meant to be sophisticated literary criticism, just to give someone who might be tempted to give the title a try an idea as to what it’s like to read.
Lately my ‘month overseas’ has expanded to include also reading a title of travel literature on the country, listening to its music, trying to play some, watching its films (where possible), and trying to learn some of its language if it’s one I don’t know.
I live in Sydney, Australia. I work in a library there so you would think it would be easy to gather all these books, but actually we had very few of them (and anyway, I love owning a copy and seeing the books gathering on my shelf, something like a physical bookmark of how far through my world-reading project I am.) I will read almost everything and despite trying to include some of the best books from each place in Tirelessreader, I’m not a literary snob! High-brow or low-brow both work for me, and I love reading non-fiction too. I also have running projects to read a travel book from each country (which I’m not yet sure will be possible), and to read through a list of classic literature. Plus, working in a library I’m always giving into temptation as other interesting things pass my eyes.
I’m not sure how I have time but I do have other interests. I love learning languages and can speak a dozen or so, as well as playing music (badly) and what we call bushwalking (walking in the countryside). I enjoy doing translations.
This project had two main inspirations: a blog by one of our borrowers who tried to read a writer from each letter of the alphabet (and almost succeeded); and the Lonely Planet’s The Travel Book which attempts to list one book for every country and territory, and from which I culled my initial list (although many of the titles are non-fiction, whereas here I’m trying to read fiction if at all possible).