12 August 2015

Around The World In 80 Books Challenge

You might remember the crazy A to Z Blogging Challenge I did back in April where I had to blog every day during the month (with the exception of Sundays). That was a huge challenge for me and probably tedious for our blog followers, but I managed to accomplish it, much to my own surprise.

Well, now it's time for another challenge - Around the World in 80 Books. And it would be so much fun if you participate too! You like to read, don't you? After all, you're sitting here reading this blog just now. Why not join in and read 80 different books? Come on - it will be fun!

The Rules

There's only one rule:

1 - Each book has to be set in a different country.

Wait, Sorry, Here's Some More Rules

I like rules when I'm the one making them up. When it comes to following rules, well that's a whole different story. So here are a few more rules. Feel free to ignore them.

2 - Read books that you wouldn't normally pick up.

Try different genres. For example, did you know that there is a whole raft of "bonnet lit" books out there? Chaste romance novels set in Amish country. If you don't normally read romance novels, maybe you want to try one to tick the States off of your country list. I read one once. It was a pretty interesting way to learn more about Amish culture. I found it oddly compelling.

3 - If you start a book and end up hating it, finish it anyways.

Then think about why you didn't like it. Do a little critical reflection. Sometimes it's good to stretch yourself by doing things you don't enjoy. At least that's what my mother used to say about lima beans. By the way, I still don't like them.

4 - Don't set any time limits.  

Just enjoy reading. There's enough pressure in the world without worrying about completing a silly book challenge by a particular deadline.

So, who's in?

If you want to join in, leave a comment here or on Facebook and let me know. I would love to have some reading companions!

If you're looking for a book to get started on, I just finished When Red is Black by Qiu Xiaolong. It's a fun little murder mystery set in China. Now, I'm in the middle of On the Cold Coasts by Vilborg Davidsdottir. I picked it because it is set in Iceland, a place I know little about but which fascinates me. Sadly, I'm not finding the book too fascinating, but I'm going to finish it (refer to rule #3).

Any recommendations on books you think I should read? Especially something set in Azerbaijan that's written in English?


You can find more information about the challenge, book ideas, resources and a more structured approach (some people read all 80 books in a calendar year) on Good Reads.

National Geographic has a list of classic travel books from around the world to inspire you.

If you want a list of countries so that you can start planning your reading list, you can use the official UN list or you can expand things a bit and use the Traveler's Century Club's list of countries and territories. They include places which aren't independent countries but have their own special status due to geography, politics, culture etc. Like Scotland - as part of the United Kingdom, it isn't recognized as a separate country, but it has its own cultural traditions and a devolved government so it counts as a separate place according to the Traveler's Century Club.


  1. I'm in. Is this like a virtual book club?!

    1. Yay! It will be so much fun to have a reading comrade!

      I hadn't really thought about how it might work. A couple of thoughts - I could post once a month on FB and folks can comment and share what they're reading, offer suggestions for books in other countries etc. Goodreads also has a reading group on 80 Books Around the World. They read a few books together (virtually) each month. Starting on August 15th, they're doing Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall set in England. I was thinking of giving that a go. Maybe you would be interested in checking that out with me? Really open to suggestions and ideas on how to virtually connect with others on our reading.

      Also, have you read The Luminaries? It won the Booker Prize a few years ago and I remember that there was a lot of publicity about it in the NZ Herald etc. at the time. I was going to read that for New Zealand.

  2. Well, this sounds fun. I guess I need to find books set in different places... And start a list of the places, so I can keep track!

    1. Fun! Another reading comrade!

      I started off with an Excel spreadsheet to track my books and countries. You can also make reading lists in Goodreads. I'm experimenting with that just now.

  3. What an interesting idea. I just finished "Bury Me Standing" written by Isabel Fonseca (an American living in London) about the modern Gypsies of Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Very interesting and informative, not only about the Gypsies but also about our modern social and cultural values/judgments as a whole.
    Where should I place this on the literary globe? I think i'll just stick a pin in Eastern Europe for now and move on to Umberto Eco's "The Prague Cemetery" so far set in late 19th century Paris..
    Good reading to all. And thanks for the inclusive human idea Cynical Sailor.

    1. The book about Gypsies sounds really interesting! I've read Eco's "The Name of the Rose" but nothing else my him. I had been thinking about his "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana" for Italy. Have you read that one?

    2. Eco is one of my favorite modern writers so in my opinion "...Queen Loana" (or any of his writings) is well worth your time. Although, with that being said, this book is not like "The Name..." and not for everyone because even though it is a short read it is a slow read about childhood memories (my thought - it is Eco's anti-Proust idea regarding the value of childhood memories, but what do I know).

    3. It sounds like you know quite a bit :-) Very much looking forward to reading Queen Loana now. Have you read any of his non-fiction work on semiotics?

    4. Loved "Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language." As for "A Theory of Semiotics;" I read it but readily admit that parts of it went over my head - like taking a shower with a cockroach. Can a cockroach every be truly clean? Are they even dirty to begin with? Next time you bathe with a roach you should stick around, long enough, to at least see if he uses soap or just takes a drink. Maybe they have been unfairly slandered all these long centuries.
      Love your writing/style. Thank you for sharing.

    5. Thanks for the nice compliment Don!

  4. Sounds like an interesting challenge which I don't currently have the time for. Good luck.

  5. Well I should probably be in. Too bad I can't count all the many books I read on our month on the boat. whole days would go by with my nose in a book. Currently I am reading a light mystery by Jinx Swartz called Troubled Sea. It's not one of her best in my opinion, but I will finish it. It is set in the Sea of Cortez. Rule #3 is going to be my downfall. First, I am terrible with rules of any kind because I instinctively want to break them. Second, if I feel like a book is a waste of my time I do tend to abandon it. But I will try.

    1. I feel heady with all of this rule-making power! I can't believe people might actually follow them. I'm pretty sure I'll break Rule #3 at some point, so feel free to break it too :-)

      I read one of Jinx Scwartz's books once. Can't remember which one, but it was a fun mystery.

  6. I read a lot and started this challenge with no time limit a few months ago. I have kept a log of what books I have read since I started my job 7.5 years ago. I take public transportation and read mainly on the park and ride. I went back and looked at what I read, and chose the books that I liked and started my list from there, kind of a head start. My other rule on counting a book is that if a book takes place in several countries, the only country that counts is the country most of the action takes place in. If a book as two primary countries then only one country will count on the list. I am up to 37 countries. I am a WWII history nerd so there is a number of books on the list that deal with that. Here are some suggestions from some hard to find countries:
    Elephant Company - Burma
    Bonaboo Handshake - D.R. Congo
    Hatred for Tulips - Netherlands (a good book, with a jaw dropping twist at the end, although the Netherlands is an easy country)
    Moses Expedition - Jordon
    Cellist of Sarajevo - Bosnia
    Ambushed - Sierra Leone (by Ian Stewart)
    Code Talker - Solomon Islands
    Shantaram - India (an easy country to find, but a great look at the culture. warning it is 900+ pages long, but most of it is a page turner)
    Escape from Camp 14 - North Korea

    1. 37 countries - that's amazing! I used to enjoy reading to and from work on the train. So much more enjoyable than trying to fight my way through traffic. Thanks so much for the suggestions!

  7. Okay - I'm in and I'd just like to say up front that I plan on breaking some rules. I made a list of things I've read over the last years to highlight weak points. Do you have any suggestions for Oman, Qatar, Ws, Ys, or Zs ? I just finished reading Cutting for Stone (Ethiopia) and The Garden of Evening Mists (Malaysia), which I can both highly recommend. Too bad you didn't like your Iceland book. Halldor Laxness' Independent People is one of my all-time favs. Would love to see reading lists from everyone !

    1. Fantastic! I'll do a blog post next week as a follow-up and share the suggestions folks have given so far and put out a call for everyone to share their reading lists. I'm definitely going to check out your Ethiopia suggestion!

  8. This is an interesting idea (and I wonder how many such books I've already reviewed).


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