World Reading Challenge: Books Around The Globe 2021


This year marks the fourth year of our World Reading Challenge. For the past three years we’ve read one book per week, with each book representing a different country or region. This list covers the 45 titles we plan to read this year, which round out our mission of reading the world. Over four years we’ve covered books representing all 195 UN member and observer states around the globe (along with titles from some bonus regions too)! 🥳

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

The World Reading Challenge: Introduction

I first created the World Reading Challenge three years ago, with an aim to read my way around the world. Over the years, it has diversified my reading and transformed my habits; allowing me to explore the world through literature. I’ve been incredibly lucky that many other readers have also joined me in this ambitious challenge. This has been a long term project and I can hardly believe that this year will mark its completion! If you’re curious, these are the books we’ve read in previous years:

The World Reading Challenge: Why?

I started the World Reading Challenge with a plan to make more intentional book selections, and it has changed my reading life. It has taken me to every corner of the globe, teaching me about our diverse cultures and exposing me to perspectives from authors around the world. I’ve unearthed stories I would never have found otherwise, such as those from tiny nations with oral storytelling traditions to those from places where works in translation are difficult to come by. In this extraordinary year, it’s allowed me to travel (in my imagination!) and motivated me to keep reading; more than ever before.

How are the World Reading Challenge books selected?

The books selected are related to the countries in a number of ways; they are either set there, have characters from there, reflect the culture or are by local authors. They include perspectives from natives, migrants, expatriates and visitors alike; as each have unique (and valid) viewpoints. Many other factors weigh into the selection process – popularity, awards, reviews, ratings and availability. Each year I aim to create a diverse (and engaging!) year of reading overall. 

This years World Reading Challenge is an especially interesting one, as the list covers some of the most difficult areas to find literature for. Some of the smallest and most distant countries are reflected in the list below, making for a fascinating year ahead.

Hopefully you find something here to inspire your next read, or even consider taking on the world reading challenge yourself. Wishing you a wonderful year of reading ahead! 🙌

The World Reading Challenge: The Shortlist

If you’re short on time, these are a few of my favourites from the World Reading Challenge (so far!):

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The World Reading Challenge 2021


Books Set Around The World: Andorra - Crewe Train by Rose Macaulay. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

1. Andorra
Crewe Train by Rose Macaulay, 1960

Please note: this novel is only partially set in Andorra.
On the death of her father, a retired clergyman, Denham Dobie is forced to leave her wild and carefree life in Spain and is thrust into the gossiping highbrow circle of her well-meaning relatives in London. Thrown into a world of publishers and writers, this awkward young woman – a tomboy and rebel at heart – sees their society for the self-absorbed, self-satisfied world it is and offers a devastating, and very funny, social commentary within her own moving story. A bitingly funny, elegantly written comedy of manners from the incomparable Rose Macaulay.
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The Road to Andorra by Shirley Deane


Books Set Around The World: Angola - A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

2. Angola
A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa, 2012

On the eve of Angolan independence an agoraphobic woman named Ludo bricks herself into her apartment for 30 years, living off vegetables and the pigeons she lures in with diamonds, burning her furniture and books to stay alive and writing her story on the apartment’s walls. Almost as if we’re eavesdropping, the history of Angola unfolds through the stories of those she sees from her window. As the country goes through various political upheavals from colony to socialist republic to civil war to peace and capitalism, the world outside seeps into Ludo’s life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of someone peeing on a balcony, or a man fleeing his pursuers.
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Another Day of Life by Ryszard Kapuścińskia


Books Set Around The World: Antigua & Barbuda - Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

3. Antigua & Barbuda
Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid (YA), 1985

Annie John is a haunting and provocative story of a young girl growing up on the island of Antigua. A classic coming-of-age story, Kincaid’s novel focuses on a universal, tragic, and often comic theme: the loss of childhood. An adored only child, Annie has until recently lived an idyllic life. She is inseparable from her beautiful mother, a powerful presence, who is the very center of the little girl’s existence. Loved and cherished, Annie grows and thrives within her mother’s benign shadow. Looking back on her childhood, she reflects, “It was in such a paradise that I lived.” When she turns twelve, however, Annie’s life changes, in ways that are often mysterious to her.
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Mr. Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo (about an Antiguan character, set in London)


Books Set Around The World: Belarus - Chernobyl Prayer (Voices from Chernobyl) by Svetlana Alexievich. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

4. Belarus
Chernobyl Prayer (Voices from Chernobyl) by Svetlana Alexievich, 1997

Please note: the disaster took place near the border of modern-day Ukraine and Belarus. Alexievich was born in Ukraine and grew up in Belarus.
A startling history of the Chernobyl disaster by Svetlana Alexievich, the winner of the Nobel prize in literature 2015. On 26 April 1986, at 1.23am, a series of explosions shook the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Flames lit up the sky and radiation escaped to contaminate the land and poison the people for years to come. While officials tried to hush up the accident, Svetlana Alexievich spent years collecting testimonies from survivors – clean-up workers, residents, firefighters, re-settlers, widows, orphans – crafting their voices into a haunting oral history of fear, anger and uncertainty, but also dark humour and love. A chronicle of the past and a warning for our nuclear future, Chernobyl Prayer shows what it is like to bear witness, and remember in a world that wants you to forget.
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The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach


Books Set Around The World: Burkina Faso - Of Water and the Spirit by Malidoma Patrice Somé. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

5. Burkina Faso
Of Water and the Spirit by Malidoma Patrice Somé, 1994

Malidoma Patrice Some was born in a Dagara Village, however he was soon to be abducted to a Jesuit school, where he remained for the next fifteen years, being harshly indoctrinated into European ways of thought and worship. The story tells of his return to his people, his hard initiation back into those people, which lead to his desire to convey their knowledge to the world. Of Water and the Spirit is the result of that desire; it is a sharing of living African traditions, offered in compassion for those struggling with our contemporary crisis of the spirit.
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American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson


Books Set Around The World: Cabo Verde (Cape Verde) - The Last Will & Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo by Germano Almeida. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

6. Cabo Verde (Cape Verde)
The Last Will & Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo by Germano Almeida, 1988

Everyone in Cape Verde knows Señor da Silva. Successful entrepreneur, owner of the island’s first automobile, a most serious, upright, and self-made businessman, Señor da Silva is the local success story. Born an orphan, he never married, he never splurged; one good suit was good enough for him; and he never wandered from the straight and narrow. Or so everyone thought. But when Señor da Silva’s 387-page Last Will and Testament is read aloud; a marathon task on a hot afternoon which exhausts reader after reader; there’s eye-opening news, and not just for the smug nephew so certain of inheriting all Señor da Silva’s property.
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The Trade by Chris Thrall


Books Set Around The World: Cameroon - The Overloaded Ark by Gerald Durrell. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

7. Cameroon
The Overloaded Ark by Gerald Durrell, 1953

The debut book by British naturalist Gerald Durrell. It is the chronicle of a six months collecting trip to the West African colony of British Cameroon – now Cameroon – that Durrell made with the highly regarded aviculturist and ornithologist John Yealland. Their reasons for going on the trip were twofold: “to collect and bring back alive some of the fascinating animals, birds, and reptiles that inhabit the region,” and secondly, for both men to realise a long cherished dream to see Africa.
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Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyono


Books Set Around The World: Central African Republic - Daba’s Travels from Ouadda to Bangui by Makombo Bamboté. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

8. Central African Republic
Daba’s Travels from Ouadda to Bangui by Makombo Bamboté (Childrens), 1970

Daba was born in Ouadda, in what is now the Central African Republic. His mother often told him about the terrible dry season that year, when elephants, buffaloes and antelopes stampeded through the countryside in a frenzied search for water. Even panthers stalked the bush around the village, often carrying innocent sheep. Safe near his parents’ hut, Daba listened to the story time and time again. And as he grew, loved and protected, there grew in him a strength of spirit and a deep love for his native village. But Daba was not destined to live his live in Ouadda. When he was still a young boy, he left his beloved home on the first of a series of journeys that would lead him farther and farther away – even to France. For Daba’s parents wanted him to be educated, a rare and special privilege not often enjoyed by poor village children.
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Batouala by René Maran


Books Set Around The World: Chad - The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

9. Chad
The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary, 1956

Please note: this was also made into a film of the same name.
Morel, a former dentist whose survival in a Nazi concentration camp he attributes to his fixation on the freedom and companionability of elephants, travels to Africa intent on stopping the slaughter. He circulates a petition demanding their killing be made illegal. It attracts two signers: a disgraced American from the Korean War and a call girl described as “just another animal who needed protection.” From here things get really interesting-politically, socially and culturally. 
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African Rice Heart by Emily Star Wilkens


Books Set Around The World: Comoros - A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth by Samantha Weinberg. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

10. Comoros
A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth by Samantha Weinberg, 2001

Please note: this book travels around a number of different locations, including Comoros.
Just before Christmas in 1938, the young woman curator of a small South African museum spotted a strange-looking fish on a trawler’s deck. It was five feet long, with steel-blue scales, luminescent eyes and remarkable limb-like fins, unlike those of any fish she had ever seen. Determined to preserve her unusual find, she searched for days for a way to save it, but ended up with only the skin and a few bones. A charismatic amateur ichthyologist, J.L.B. Smith, saw a thumbnail sketch of the fish and was thunderstruck. He recognized it as a coelacanth, a creature known from fossils dating back 400 million years and thought to have died out with the dinosaurs. With its extraordinary limbs, the coelacanth was believed to be the first fish to crawl from the sea and evolve into reptiles, mammals and eventually mankind.
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Last of the Pirates: The Search for Bob Denard by Samantha Weinberg


Books Set Around The World: Djibouti - In the United States of Africa by Abdourahman A. Waberi. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

11. Djibouti
In the United States of Africa by Abdourahman A. Waberi, 2006

Please note: Abdourahman A. Waberi is from Djibouti and this book travels around a number of locations.
In a literary reversal as deadly serious as it is wickedly satiric, this novel by the acclaimed French-speaking African writer Abdourahman A. Waberi turns the fortunes of the world upside down. On this reimagined globe a stream of sorry humanity flows from the West, from the slums of America and the squalor of Europe, to escape poverty and desperation in the prosperous United States of Africa. It is in this world that an African doctor on a humanitarian mission to France adopts a child. Now a young artist, this girl, Malaïka, travels to the troubled land of her birth in hope of finding her mother – and perhaps something of her lost self. Her search, at times funny and strange, is also deeply poignant, reminding us at every moment of the turns of fate we call truth.
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The Lonely Men’s Island by José León Sánchez


Books Set Around The World: Dominica - Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

12. Dominica
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, 1966

Please note: Jean Rhys was born and grew up in Dominica.
Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys’s return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.
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Unburnable by Marie-Elena John


Books Set Around The World: Eritrea - My Fathers’ Daughter by Hannah Pool. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

13. Eritrea
My Fathers’ Daughter by Hannah Pool, 2005

In 1974 Hannah Pool was adopted from an orphanage in Eritrea and brought to England by her white adoptive father. She grew up unable to imagine what it must be like to look into the eyes of a blood relative until one day a letter arrived from a brother she never knew she had. Not knowing what to do with the letter, Hannah hid it away. But she was unable to forget it, and ten years later she finally decided to track down her surviving Eritrean family and embarked upon a journey that would take her far from the comfort zone of her metropolitan lifestye to confront the poverty and oppression of a life that could so easily have been her own.
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I Didn’t Do It for You by Michela Wrong


Books Set Around The World: Eswatini (Swaziland) - Scared by Tom Davis. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

14. Eswatini (Swaziland)
Scared by Tom Davis, 2009

Please note: this novel is set in Swaziland.
Stuart Daniels has hit bottom. Once a celebrated and award-winning photojournalist, he is reeling from debt, a broken marriage, and crippling depression. The source of Stuart’s grief is his most famous photo, a snapshot of brutality in the dangerous Congo. A haunting image that indicts him as a passive witness to gross injustice. Stuart is given a one last chance to redeem his career: A make-or-break assignment covering the AIDS crisis in a small African country. It is here that Stuart meets Adanna, a young orphan fighting for survival in a community ravaged by tragedy and disease. But in the face of overwhelming odds, Adanna finds hope in a special dream, where she is visited by an illuminated man and given a precious gift.
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When the Ground Is Hard by Malla Nunn


Books Set Around The World: Gabon - Mema by Daniel M. Mengara. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

15. Gabon
Mema by Daniel M. Mengara, 2003

Mema’s sharp tongue and apparent barrenness makes her a target for dislike and disapproval in her village. When she finally succeeds in having four children, her husband dies in a witchdoctor’s haven, followed by her daughters. Her in-laws accuse her of being a wicked witch who sacrificed her husband and children to the dark forces. In spite of this Mema’s strength and courage cause her to fight for her sons and her family’s rights. In this story of a practical African society her actions owe nothing to Western feminism and the theme of struggle against colonialism is left behind in favour of a struggle between new and old values.
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The Fury and Cries of Women by Angele Rawiri


Books Set Around The World: Guinea - The Dark Child (The African Child) by Camara Laye. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

16. Guinea
The Dark Child (The African Child) by Camara Laye, 1954

The Dark Child is a distinct and graceful memoir of Camara Laye’s youth in the village of Koroussa, French Guinea. Long regarded Africa’s preeminent Francophone novelist, Laye herein marvels over his mother’s supernatural powers, his father’s distinction as the village goldsmith, and his own passage into manhood, which is marked by animistic beliefs and bloody rituals of primeval origin. Eventually, he must choose between this unique place and the academic success that lures him to distant cities. More than autobiography of one boy, this is the universal story of sacred traditions struggling against the encroachment of a modern world. A passionate and deeply affecting record, The Dark Child is a classic of African literature.
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The King of Kahel by Tierno Monénembo


Books Set Around The World: Guinea Bissau - The Ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

17. Guinea Bissau
The Ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila, 1995

Please note: This was the first novel from Guinea Bissau to be translated into English.
The Ultimate Tragedy is a tale of love and emerging political awareness in an Africa beginning to challenge Portuguese colonial rule. Ndani leaves her village to seek a better life in the capital, finding work as a maid for a Portuguese family. The mistress of the house, Dona Deolinda, embarks on a mission to save Ndani’s soul through religious teaching, but the master of the house has less righteous intentions. Ndani is expelled from the house and drifts towards home, where she becomes the wife of a village chief. He has built a mansion and a school to flaunt his power to the local Portuguese administrator, but he abandons Ndani when he finds she’s not a virgin. She eventually finds love with the school’s teacher, but in tumultuous times, making a future with an educated black man involves a series of hurdles.
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Anos Ku Ta Manda by Yasmina Nuny (Poetry)


Books Set Around The World: Jordan - Into the Wadi by Michele Drouart. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

18. Jordan
Into the Wadi by Michele Drouart, 2000

Please note: this title can be hard to find and sometimes rather expensive!
Into the Wadi is the true story of a young Australian woman who meets a fellow student at an American university who is from Jordan. They return to Jordan to live with his family, and then marry. Written against the versions of Arab and Muslim culture found in such popular texts as Not Without My Daughter, Princess and Sold; Michele Drouart’s memoir is a sensitive, compelling exploration of cultural similarity and difference, of family, exile and belonging and the complexities of human relationships.
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Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan by Norma Khouri


Books Set Around The World: Kazakhstan - The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

19. Kazakhstan
The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov, 2014

A haunting Russian tale about the environmental legacy of the Cold War. Yerzhan grows up in a remote part of Kazakhstan where the Soviets tests atomic weapons. As a young boy he falls in love with the neighbour’s daughter and one evening, to impress her, he dives into a forbidden lake. The radio-active water changes Yerzhan. He will never grow into a man. While the girl he loves becomes a beautiful woman.
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In Search Of Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins


Books Set Around The World: Kuwait - The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

20. Kuwait
The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi, 2012

Daring and bold, The Bamboo Stalk takes an unflinching look at the universal struggles of identity, race, and class as they intersect between two disparate societies: Kuwait and the Philippines. Josephine comes to Kuwait from the Philippines to work as a maid, where she meets Rashid, a spoiled but kind-hearted only son. Josephine, with all the wide-eyed naivety of youth, believes she has found true love. But when she becomes pregnant, and with the rumble of the Gulf War growing ever louder, Rashid abandons her and sends her back home with their baby son José. Brought up struggling with his dual identity in the Philippines, José clings to the hope of returning to his father’s country when he turns eighteen. But will Kuwait be any more welcoming to him?
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Small Kingdoms by Anastasia Hobbet


Books Set Around The World: Liechtenstein - Ludmila: A Story Of Liechtenstein by Paul Gallico. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

21. Liechtenstein
Ludmila: A Story Of Liechtenstein by Paul Gallico (Childrens), 1954

Please note: this title is a children’s short story.
The Weakling was a little Liechtenstein cow with great ambitions. She wished to be the champion milk producer of the year, wear her milking stool as a crown and lead the procession of herds down the mountainside in the age old Liechtenstein harvest ceremony. But alas, she was small and the poor quality of her yield gave her no hope of realizing her desire. A charming tale for young and old captures the spirit of the ancient Principality of Liechtenstein and creates an enduring legend of this enchanting country.
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Stamping Grounds by Charlie Connelly


Books Set Around The World: Lithuania - Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

22. Lithuania
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (YA), 2011

Please note: this is a young-adult book about a Lithuanian girl.
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
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Forest of the Gods by Balys Sruoga


Books Set Around The World: Maldives - Gatecrashing Paradise: Misadventure in the Real Maldives by Tom Chesshyre. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

23. Maldives
Gatecrashing Paradise: Misadventure in the Real Maldives by Tom Chesshyre, 2014

Away from the five-star hotels and beyond luxury hideaways, Tom Chesshyre travels to see the real, unexplored Maldives, skirting around the archipelago’s periphery, staying at simple guesthouses, and using cargo ships and ferries. He discovers that beyond the glossy brochures lies an almost undiscovered country that is brimming with life, yet also a paradise teetering on the brink of trouble. In the Maldives outsiders used to be banned from islands not officially endorsed as tourist resorts, but now a thousand sandy shores can be visited in this remote nation deep in the Indian Ocean the flattest on Earth.
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Dhon Hiyala and Ali Fulhu by Abdullah Sadiq (PDF link)


Books Set Around The World: Mali - Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

24. Mali
Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway, 2006

Monique and the Mango Rains is the compelling story of a rare friendship between a young Peace Corps volunteer and a midwife who became a legend. Monique Dembele saved lives and dispensed hope in a place where childbirth is a life-and-death matter. This book tells of her unquenchable passion to better the lives of women and children in the face of poverty, unhappy marriages, and endless backbreaking work. Monique’s buoyant humour and willingness to defy tradition were uniquely hers. In the course of this deeply personal narrative, as readers immerse themselves in the rhythms of West African village life, they come to know Monique as friend, mother, and inspired woman.
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Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali by Djibril Tamsir Niane or Mamadou Kouyaté (Tellers)


Books Set Around The World: Marshall Islands - Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Island by Peter Rudiak-Gould. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

25. Marshall Islands
Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Island by Peter Rudiak-Gould, 2009

Just one month after his 21st birthday, Peter Rudiak-Gould moved to Ujae, a remote atoll in the Marshall Islands located 70 miles from the nearest telephone, car, store, or tourist, and 2,000 miles from the closest continent. He spent the next year there, living among its 450 inhabitants and teaching English to its schoolchildren. At first blush, Surviving Paradise is a thoughtful and laugh-out-loud hilarious documentation of Rudiak-Gould’s efforts to cope with daily life on Ujae as his idealistic expectations of a tropical paradise confront harsh reality. But Rudiak-Gould goes beyond the personal, interweaving his own story with fascinating political, linguistic, and ecological digressions about the Marshall Islands.
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Melal: A Novel of the Pacific by Robert Barclay


Books Set Around The World: Mauritania - A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

26. Mauritania
A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo, 2017

Please note: this novel takes place across four countries; Uganda, Somalia, Mauritania and Nigeria.
In A Moonless, Starless Sky Okeowo weaves together four narratives that form a powerful tapestry of modern Africa: a young couple, kidnap victims of Joseph Kony’s LRA; a Mauritanian waging a lonely campaign against modern-day slavery; a women’s basketball team flourishing amid war-torn Somalia; and a vigilante who takes up arms against the extremist group Boko Haram. This debut book by one of America’s most acclaimed young journalists illuminates the inner lives of ordinary people doing the extraordinary–lives that are too often hidden, underreported, or ignored by the rest of the world.
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The Desert and the Drum by Mbarek Ould Beyrouk


Books Set Around The World: Moldova - The Good Life Elsewhere by Vladimir Lorchenkov. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

27. Moldova
The Good Life Elsewhere by Vladimir Lorchenkov, 2008

The Good Life Elsewhere is a very funny book. It is also a very sad one. Moldovan writer Vladimir Lorchenkov tells the story of a group of villagers and their tragicomic efforts, against all odds and at any cost, to emigrate from Europe’s most impoverished nation to Italy for work. The Good Life Elsewhere aims to present the complexity of a new Europe, where allegiances shift but memories are rooted in place. The book integrates small-scale human follies with strategic partnerships, unification plans, and the Soviet legacies that still hang over the former Eastern Bloc.
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Playing the Moldovans at Tennis by Tony Hawks


Books Set Around The World: Monaco - Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman by Stefan Zweig. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

28. Monaco
Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman by Stefan Zweig, 1925

The dramatic disappearance of the wife of a wealthy businessman from a small hotel on the French Riviera prompts a distinguished English widow to recount her fleeting encounter with a young aristocrat many years before in Monte Carlo. Impulsively following the broken man as he stumbles from the roulette table, she embarks on twenty-four hours of ecstasy, redemption and betrayal which will haunt her life forever.
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Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb


Books Set Around The World: Mongolia - The Blue Sky by Galsan Tschinag. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

29. Mongolia
The Blue Sky by Galsan Tschinag, 1997

In the Altai Mountains of northern Mongolia, the nomadic Tuvan people’s ancient way of life is colliding with the pervasive influence of modernity. For the young shepherd boy Dshurukuwaa, the confrontation comes in stages. First his older siblings leave the family yurt to attend a distant boarding school, followed by the death of his beloved grandmother and with it, the connection to the tribe’s traditions and deep relationship to the land. But the greatest tragedy strikes when his dog – “all that was left to me” – dies after ingesting poison set out by the boy’s father to protect the herd from wolves. His despairing questions to the Heavenly Blue Sky are answered only by the silence of the wind.
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All This Belongs to Me by Petra Hůlová


Books Set Around The World: Montenegro - The Son by Andrej Nikolaidis. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

30. Montenegro
The Son by Andrej Nikolaidis, 2006

Winner of the European Prize for Literature in 2011: The Son follows one night in the life of a hero with no name, a writer whose life is falling apart. That afternoon, his wife left him, while for many years he has been in conflict with his father, who blames him for his mother’s death. Incapable of finding inner calm, he leaves into the warm, Mediterranean night, in the city of Ulcinj, itself a multilayered mixture of European dimensions, African influences, and the communist past.
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A Lullaby for No One’s Vuk (A Lullaby for No Man’s Wolf) by Ksenija Popović (Xenia Popovich), 2012


Books Set Around The World: Namibia - The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo by Peter Orner. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

31. Namibia
The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo by Peter Orner, 2006

Set in Namibia just after independence in the early 1990s, Peter Orner’s first novel is a chronicle of the long days, short loves, and cold nights at Goas, an all-boys Catholic primary school so deep in the veld that “even the baboons feel sorry for us.” Though physically isolated in semi-desert beneath a relentless sun, the people of Goas create an alternate, more fertile universe through the stories they tell each other. The book’s central character is Mavala Shikongo, a combat veteran who fought in Namibia’s long war for independence against South Africa.
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The Purple Violet of Oshaantu by Neshani Andreas, 2001


Books Set Around The World: Niger - Harmattan by Gavin Weston. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

32. Niger
Harmattan by Gavin Weston, 2011

Harmattan (from an Arabic word meaning destructive wind) tells the story of Haoua, a young girl growing up in a remote village in the Republic of Niger. Spirited independent and intelligent, Haoua has benefitted from a stable home life and a loving and attentive mother. She enjoys working and playing with her siblings and friends. Haoua worships her elder brother, Abdelkrim, a serving soldier who sends money home to support the family. But, on his last home visit, Abdelkrim quarrels with their father accusing him of gambling away the money he sends and being the cause of their mothers worsening health. It also emerges that their father plans to take a second wife.
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In Sorcery’s Shadow by Paul Stoller


Books Set Around The World: Palau - Short Stories from Small Islands, Tales Shared in Palau by Alan Dean Foster. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

33. Palau
Short Stories from Small Islands, Tales Shared in Palau by Alan Dean Foster, 2005

Please note: this title can be rather hard to find, so purchase links have not been included. I was lucky to borrow a copy from a university library in the Netherlands.
Short Stories from Small Islands, Tales Shared in Palau is a compendium of eight oral history tales from the islands around Palau. The stories were produced during the 9th Festival of Pacific Arts held in Palau, July 2004.

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Being a Palauan by Homer G. Barnett


Books Set Around The World: Qatar - Love Comes Later by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

34. Qatar
Love Comes Later by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, 2009

When newlywed Abdulla loses his wife and unborn child in a car accident, the world seems to crumble beneath his feet. Thrust back into living in the family compound, he goes through the motions—work, eat, sleep, repeat. Blaming himself for their deaths, he decides to never marry again but knows that culturally, this is not an option. Three years later, he’s faced with an arranged marriage to his cousin Hind, whom he hasn’t seen in years. Hard-pressed to find a way out, he consents to a yearlong engagement and tries to find a way to end it. What he doesn’t count on, and is unaware of, is Hind’s own reluctance to marry.
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The Corsair by Abdulaziz Al-Mahmoud


Books Set Around The World: Saint Kitts & Nevis - Caribbean Chemistry: Tales from St. Kitts by Christopher Vanier. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

35. Saint Kitts & Nevis
Caribbean Chemistry: Tales from St. Kitts by Christopher Vanier, 2009

Ah, to be an embryo again. Christopher Vanier’s story begins where we all do, conception. Set in 1940s and 1950s on the Caribbean island of St Kitts and beset by a troubled colonial legacy, both Christopher and his island yearn for independence. Vanier recalls the mischief of an island childhood: giving his baby brother to an ungrateful monkey, sneaking out to the cinema after school hours, hair-raising jaunts on a volcano, disastrous experiments involving a rocket… Is this boy lost in the plain sailing of childhood or can he turn his curiosity into Caribbean Chemistry? This is a story of self-discovery, told candidly in language rich enough to eat: Breadfruit, breadnut, bamboo, lignum vitae, marouba, weedee, and calabash. Funny and engaging, a story about breaking the barriers of identity and finding them again.
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The Final Passage by Caryl Phillips


Books Set Around The World: Saint Vincent & The Grenadines - The Moon Is Following Me by Cecil Browne. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

36. Saint Vincent & The Grenadines
The Moon Is Following Me by Cecil Browne, 2010

This collection of short stories recalls an era when the village was the centre of life in the Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Nostalgic, but not sentimental, these stories are based on real events and relate the experiences of a range of characters striving to make a name for themselves; they are people in search of a larger stage. The title story, The Moon Is Following Me, paints a picture of school life as it was in the seventies. It features a headmaster who is fond of rum and a teacher who works for half a day only, but it is essentially a story of young love and hope.
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Night Diver by Elizabeth Lowell


Books Set Around The World: San Marino - Smoke Into Flame by Jane Arbor. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

37. San Marino
Smoke Into Flame by Jane Arbor, 1975

Please note: this title is a Harlequin Romance, making it a little different to our usual selections!
Clare Yorke arrives in the tiny Italian republic of San Marino expecting to marry Bruno Cavour. But when Bruno and his family decide that marriage isn’t such a good idea, Clare is stranded in a foreign country with no job and no fiancé. To her rescue arrives the handsome Tarquin Roscuro. He offers Clare a post and takes her mind off Bruno. Once again, Clare finds herself falling in love. But will her affections be returned? Can she hope for marriage? Or does another woman, namely the attractive Jaquetta Fiore, stand in the way of a passionate romance?
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The Republic of San Marino by Giuseppe Rossi


Books Set Around The World: Senegal - God’s Bits of Wood by Ousmane Sembène. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

38. Senegal
God’s Bits of Wood by Ousmane Sembène, 1960

Please note: this is primarily set in Senegal and is by a Senegalese author.
In 1947 the workers on the Dakar-Niger Railway came out on strike. Throughout this novel, written from the workers’ perspective, the community social tensions emerge, and increase as the strike lengthens. Ousmane Sembène envinces the color, passion, and tragedy of those formative years in the history of West Africa.
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So Long A Letter by Mariama Bâ


Books Set Around The World: Seychelles - Brothers of the Sea by D.R. Sherman. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

39. Seychelles
Brothers of the Sea by D.R. Sherman (YA), 1966

Story of a teenage boy and a dolphin set against the background of the Seychelles. In this tropical island “paradise” the boy Paul and his father live in imminent danger of eviction and starvation. When in an extraordinary underwater adventure the boy meets a dolphin, he discovers that the fortunes of his father, his girl friend and himself now all depend on his beloved “brother of the sea.”
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The Edge of Eden by Helen Benedict


Books Set Around The World: South Sudan - They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, Benjamin Ajak. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

40. South Sudan
They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, Benjamin Ajak, 2005

Benjamin, Alepho, and Benson were raised among the Dinka tribe of Sudan. Their world was an insulated, close-knit community of grass-roofed cottages, cattle herders, and tribal councils. The lions and pythons that prowled beyond the village fences were the greatest threat they knew. All that changed the night the government-armed Murahiliin began attacking their villages. Amid the chaos, screams, conflagration, and gunfire, 5-year-old Benson and 7-year-old Benjamin fled into the dark night. Two years later, Alepho, age 7, was forced to do the same. Across the Southern Sudan, over the next 5 years, thousands of other boys did likewise, joining this stream of child refugees that became known as the Lost Boys.
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A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park


Books Set Around The World: Turkmenistan - The Tale of Aypi by Ak Welsapar. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

41. Turkmenistan
The Tale of Aypi by Ak Welsapar, 2015

The Tale of Aypi follows the fate of a group of Turkmen fishermen dwelling on the coast of the Caspian Sea. The fear of losing their ancestral home looms over the entire village. This injustice is being made to look like a voluntary initiative on the part of the fishermen themselves, whilst the ruling powers cynically attempt to confiscate their land. One brave fisherman from the village rises up to confront them and fights for his native shore, as a response to an act of cruelty inflicted on a defenceless young woman centuries ago. This unjustly executed soul returns as a ghost during this troubled time to exact a terrible revenge on the men of the village.
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Daily Life in Turkmenbashy’s Golden Age by Sam Tranum


Books Set Around The World: Tuvalu - Where The Hell Is Tuvalu? by Philip Ells. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

42. Tuvalu
Where The Hell Is Tuvalu? by Philip Ells, 2002

How does a young city lawyer end up as the people’s lawyer of the fourth-smallest country in the world, 18,000 kilometres from home? We’ve all thought about getting off the treadmill, turning life on its head and doing something worthwhile. Philip Ells dreamed of turquoise seas, sandy beaches and palm trees, and he found these in the tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu. But neither his ‘voluntary service overseas’ briefing pack nor his legal training could prepare him for what happened there.
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Tuvalu: A History by Simati Faaniu (Editor)


Books Set Around The World: Vatican City - The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

43. Vatican City
The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo, 2020

During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired. Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.
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Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross


Books Set Around The World: Yemen - The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

44. Yemen
The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers, 2018

The Monk of Mokha is the exhilarating true story of a young Yemeni American man, raised in San Francisco, who dreams of resurrecting the ancient art of Yemeni coffee but finds himself trapped in Sana’a by civil war. Mokhtar Alkhanshali is twenty-four and working as a doorman when he discovers the astonishing history of coffee and Yemen’s central place in it. He leaves San Francisco and travels deep into his ancestral homeland to tour terraced farms high in the country’s rugged mountains and meet beleagured but determined farmers. But when war engulfs the country and Saudi bombs rain down, Mokhtar has to find a way out of Yemen without sacrificing his dreams or abandoning his people.
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Henna House by Nomi Eve


Books Set Around The World: Zambia - Patchwork by Ellen Banda-Aaku. For more books that inspire travel visit www.taleway.com. reading challenge 2021, world reading challenge, world books, books around the world, travel inspiration, world travel, novels set around the world, world novels, books and travel, travel reads, travel books, reading list, books to read, books set in different countries, reading challenge ideas

45. Zambia
Patchwork by Ellen Banda-Aaku, 2011

Winner of the Penguin Prize for African Writing 2010. Destined from birth to inhabit two very different worlds – that of her father, the wealthy Joseph Sakavungo, and that of her mother, his mistress – this emotive tale takes us to the heart of a young girl’s attempts to come to terms with her own identity and fashion a future for herself from the patchwork of the life she was born into. Beautifully constructed, warm and wise, this is a novel that will transport the reader to a world in which we can all become more of the sum of our parts.
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The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell


What do you think of the World Reading Challenge?

Are you thinking of joining the world reading challenge? What are you reading this year? Have you read any of these titles before? Do you have a recommendation for a great book I might have missed? I’d love to hear more about your ideas for this world reading challenge in the comments below!

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11 comments
  1. Finally! I already ordered 10 books and started reading Crewe Trains. I hope I’ll find a friend who loves reading as much as I do and we can have a little book club for the world reading challenge. Thanks for all the great suggestions!
    Love from Germany

    1. Hi Simone, thanks so much for your kind words! I’m so happy to hear that you’ll be following along and hope you’ll be able to share the challenge too! Please keep me posted if you find any new favourite books this year, I’d love to see how you progress. Hope you have a wonderful year of reading ahead! Love from Australia ☺️

  2. Hi Ash,
    This is an amazing list, especially the less well known countries. I am hoping to squeeze some of these into my already crowded reading aspirations:)
    Do you have a tick list? Apologies if I have overlooked it.
    Margaret

    1. Hi Margaret! Thanks so much for your kind words, these lists are always such a pleasure to put together! It was much harder to unearth some of these gems this year. Fingers crossed you can join us in reading some of these, I’m really looking forward to the reading year ahead. I haven’t published these as a checklist as yet, but am planning to add one in future – I’ll keep you posted!

    1. Hi Amy! Thanks so much! I haven’t published a printable list just yet, but am certainly planning to in future!

  3. I just discovered this list and want to do the challenge..I am fascinated by the concept of reading books set around the world.

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