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7 Non-American Books Worth Reading - Part I

Priya is pursuing her undergrad in Law and Business Administration. She loves translated books, world cinema and French chic.

Growing up, I devoured books written by American authors. In retrospect, I used to read ‘popular’ books that usually meant books by white Americans about white Americans. There’s nothing wrong with those books. But it was much later that I realized I had read mostly American authors. So, I changed my reading habits and explored books by authors from other countries. It was a fascinating journey to hear and experience different voices, perspectives and expectations, and I read several books from historical murder mysteries to the lives of Bengali immigrants. I have listed some of my favourite books that I believe are worth reading and hope that you too would enjoy them. Soon to add a Part II.

It was a fascinating journey to hear and experience the lives of different people.

It was a fascinating journey to hear and experience the lives of different people.

7 Non-American Books Worth Reading - Part I

BookAuthorCountry of Origin

The Name of the Rose

Umberto Eco

Italy

White Teeth

Zadie Smith

England

When Veronika Decides to Die

Paulo Coelho

Brazil

The Blind Assassin

Margaret Atwood

Canada

Girl, Woman and Other

Bernadine Evaristo

England

My Name is Red

Orhan Pamuk

Turkey

The Big Green Tent

Lyudmila Ulitskaya

Russia

1. The Name of the Rose

Umberto Eco

The entire book is a stunning portrayal of life in an Italian monastery set in the year, 1327 AD. At its heart, it is a murder mystery, which is interspersed with themes of Christianity, the prevailing political climate and the insidious tug of power between the Pope and the King. Spread over seven days, the story is narrated in the first person by a young novice called Adso who, with his master, investigates the series of deaths within the walls of the aedeificum. Inadvertently, they stumbled upon the web of secrets that should’ve stayed uncovered. It was quite unlike the usual mystery novels, where a trail of breadcrumbs leads to the murderer. On the contrary, it was complex, intricate and thoughtful, with consistent red herrings employed to distract the reader. A marvellous book.

2. White Teeth

Zadie Smith (English)

I loved the distinct voice of the narrator; offbeat, smug and perspicuous. The story was centered in England, with a host of eclectic characters, acting and interacting with each other, across the several decades post-WWII. I found the ending quite fitting. What started the relationship between Archie and Samad was based on a false, uninspiring notion that also served as a conclusion.

3. When Veronika Decides to Die

Paulo Coelho (Brazilian)

When I read this book, I found it heavy, unnecessary and quite listless. To be fair, I was probably fourteen or fifteen. It was about a young Slovenian girl, Veronika, who attempted to commit suicide. She was institutionalized in a mental hospital, with only a few days to live. There’s very little I remember of what happened between the pages—she made acquaintances with the other patients, found love and tried to escape the hospital. But what made me recommend this book was its ending, so beautiful and bittersweet that I remember it even five years later.

4. The Blind Assassin

Margaret Atwood (Canadian)

The Blind Assassin would take you on a riveting journey of a story embedded in story embedded in another story. It is a cunning tale crafted with immersive language. The events unfold through the protagonist, Iris Chase and the book she had published under her sister’s name. There were signs all along, behind the actions of her sister who drove a car off the bridge, and scrutiny is much recommended while reading this book.

5. Girl, Woman and Other

Bernadine Evaristo (English)

You might read none of my recommendations, but I plead with you to give this book a chance. It spans across generations of Black women, biracial women, and a transgender—twelve in total—and provides us with a glimpse into their lives, so mundane and myriad yet exciting and powerful. There is a different protagonist in each chapter, and their experiences and thoughts are without overlap. The narration was woven together to stir the heart and immerse the reader into a picture rarely found in mainstream books.

6. My Name is Red

Orhan Pamuk (Turkish)

Set in Istanbul during the rule of the Ottoman Empire, this book takes us through a long-winded story that is narrated by several characters. But it’s not limited to humans, but takes on unusual narrators as well—a coin, the colour red, a corpse, a dog, and even Satan. In the first chapter, we learn that there has been a murder of a miniaturist who was working on a book commissioned by the Sultan. But the story wasn’t so much focused on solving the crime as it was about discovering the reason behind the crime. I felt the book stretched itself too thin, with its numerous voices, but the setting was wonderful and refreshing.

7. The Big Green Tent

Lyudmila Ulitskaya (Russian)

The story follows three principal characters, Sanya, Ilya and Mikha, as they come of age and navigate their lives through the tumultuous years of the Soviet Union. The book is Anti-Soviet and discusses (through its characters) the rigours and apathy of the system, and the manner through which it sought to control the population. Having never learned much about Russia, this was a wonderful way to delve into Russian literature, music, societal hierarchy, and the brutality of the erstwhile KGB.

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© 2021 Priya Barua

Comments

Priya Barua (author) on June 06, 2021:

Thanks for taking the time to comment

@Anya

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on June 06, 2021:

Interesting and informative hub - thank you!

Priya Barua (author) on June 06, 2021:

Glad you enjoyed the list, @Rawan

Rawan Osama from Egypt on June 06, 2021:

Very interesting

Thanks for sharing it with us

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