Around the World in 26 Books
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
A wonderful thing about the world of books is that there is always more reading to be done. Well, beloved book nerds, this week we shared some recommended best-book lists about everything from fierce female chefs to Mafia reads for the beach, from delicious music books to the best in lesbian fiction. Plus, we rounded up today’s must-reads from Chile and Colombia. Continuing on that global theme, here are the wonderful writings we recommend you check out from nations near and far.
As the U.S. and Cuba began to make amends in 2015, we looked to its contemporary literature for shifts in focus. From a collection penned by underground Generation Zero authors that intentionally departs from stereotypical tropical tales to a story of women trapped in a hurricane where one must tell her life story before she dies, here are four new and familiar literary voices from the island and its diaspora.
Turkey: beautiful, historic, empiric, evolving. And all of this surfaces in the nation’s literature. Turkey’s best-known author, Orhan Pamuk, will take you from Istanbul all the way to the country’s eastern borders. Other writers weave unique Turkish mythology with a distinct cosmopolitanism, much like its most famous city, the so-called bridge between East and West in books about rebellion, architecture and curious human-animal relationships. Here is OZY’s bookworm guide to Turkey.
Once known for its tradition of magical realism, Mexican fiction has embraced transnationalism, showing that Mexico is not just a place, but a way of considering the world and observing how the world is reflected in your home country. From the collection New Voices, Old Traditions by writers under 40 to a humorous, well-textured novel about the “theft” of Mexico from the U.S., these four books will get you well acquainted with some of the best lit in the country.
In the literature of a language that even has a word for piles of unread books that accumulate on shelves and bedside tables — tsundoku — it can be hard to know where to start. Here are four compelling reads, from a hefty, two-volume historical novel that follows a 400-year-old fracas between Japanese pirate clans to a short story that revisits the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Of course, there’s also a Haruki Murakami book on the list.
More than 25 years after the end of apartheid in South Africa, the country’s writing scene is buzzing with great stories. The Thunder That Roars is a tale about a traveling reporter who is unsettled by the discoveries of troubling stories about his country and his family. Songeziwe Mahlangu’s debut novel explores life’s in-between states. And the ambitious An Imperfect Blessing tackles both the historical and personal in a crucial year for the protagonist and the country.
Immigration brings with it new literary voices. Many in this new generation aren’t mourning their exile, the way an earlier generation of immigrant writers has been portrayed, says Michael Jacklin, professor of literature at the University of Wollongong; rather, these are authors using their own ethnic experiences to “construct a new way of being, of thinking about themselves.” Here are three books he recommends, in translated Arabic, Spanish and Vietnamese.
African science fiction has arrived in spurts, but the largely undiscovered bright spot is the short story genre where Africans are central, complex participants in story lines. The Rare Earth, for example, is a dark and thrilling sci-fi take on the all-too-familiar warlord-turned-messiah trope. And The Sale plays heavily with derogatory colonial stereotypes, imagining a Zimbabwean future gone wrong with 21st-century colonial overlords and hormone-delivering health drones. That’s just two on this list of must-reads.
And some poetry too:
Female Caribbean Poets to Watch: From the strong words of Jamaican poet Shara McCallum to the unblinking dive into both privilege and catastrophe by Haitian writer Lenelle Moïse, these writers call attention to the female Caribbean diaspora in memorable missives about their homeland.