Thursday, May 29, 2014

Armchair BEA - Beyond the Borders

Fun topic for today's Armchair BEA! I love books that transport me to a different world, let me travel someplace I have never been before, or give me insight into a different culture. I think that is one of books' primary purposes (besides entertainment).

My various book groups have really helped me to branch out to more diverse reading over the past 10 years or so. I often read books for book clubs that I might not have picked up on my own but that I end up enjoying...and very often, those are books set in other places or immersed in other cultures.

For the past 4 years, I have participated in Book Journey's Where Are You Reading Challenge, so I have tracked books set in various states, as well as in other countries. Last year, I read these books set in 13 different countries around the world:

Australia: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, Tales of Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan, Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Canada: In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood
England: The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein, Crispin -The Cross of Lead by Avi, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Japan: The Yokota Officer's Club by Sarah Bird, The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Agawa
North Korea: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson 
Germany: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, City of Women by David Gilham
France: The Infinity Ring #2: Divide and Conquer by Carrie Ryan
ItalyBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
South Africa: The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh
Russia: Dreams of My Russian Summers by Andre Makine
Ireland: In the Woods by Tana French
Lithuania: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
ScotlandFlyaway by Lucy Christopher

Of these, I would say that  The Orphan Master's Son had a particularly strong (and scary) sense of place, and The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein, City of Women by David Gilham, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh, Dreams of My Russian Summers by Andre Makine, and Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys all had a strong sense of place but in a particular time in history.

So far, in 2014, I've visited 3 different countries listed in my Where Are You Reading Challenge:
France: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Czechoslovakia: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
India: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
India is one place I seem to visit frequently in books - oddly, it is the only place that I have a separate category for on this blog! You can see all the books I've read set in India here.

I love to make top ten lists, and three of my past lists fit perfectly with this topic:
It was fun going down memory lane, remembering all of these wonderful books that expanded my horizons and broadened my views! I would love to hear about your transporting reading experiences.


  1. Oh good, the Light Between Oceans is on my TBR and will qualify for Australia. I still want to read Orphan Masters Son also. I tend towards Asia and Europe so need some more books covering Africa . Thanks for the suggestions.

    I am going to start a Travel the World Through Books Reading Challenge in the summer. Here's my post, hope you will join me.

  2. Oh my, I've only read one of those. I'm about to do a magic trick - watch my TBR pile grow!

  3. I have been working with an English teacher at my school. Each of her students are required to read a book set in some other part of the world, she prefers that they are written by authors from those countries, not an easy task when I have to get books into over 150 students' hands. Some of their favorites are: Revolution by Donnelly (France); In Darkness by Lake (Haiti); Memoirs of a Geisha (Japan); Between Shades of Gray (Lithuania); and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by See (China). One of my favorite books set in another culture is The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, set in South Africa.

  4. If you like colonial India so different from modern India go for Rumer Godden. Gorgeous writing.

  5. Glad to see three Aussie book on your list! Stolen's descriptions of the outback were fantastic, but the story did fall away in the second half. Shaun Tan's work is incredible, but not necessarily typical of any environment that I have ever seen!!
    Indian lit has been one of my favs over the year - I loved God of Small Things - a lot!

    Brona's Books