A book is a ship that also time travels.

Read Around the World

Reading is a different kind of travel

I'm taking a trip around the world.

Rather than a "Best of the Best",

these are books that

moved me and stayed with me.

A growing list.

A personal list of favorites

 

In no particular order- Top 3

Argentina
Focus: Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Speculative.
The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges

This book opened my mind as a teen. I learned about infinity and time and building layers into a work so that every reading becomes richer.

El Escarabajo

A Goddess gives life to a lapis lazuli beetle, who gets set onto a royal ring and falls in love with an Egyptian princess. I read it as a teenager and it blew me away.

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The night upside down. A great story that blends reality and fantasy until the reader doubts both. Cortazar lived in Belgium for a while, like me. There is a description in one of his stories about a cafe-- Is it possible I might know which one he meant?

Canada
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Anne was my best friend when I was 9. That's it. All I'm going to say.

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I had this edition growing up. This book spooked me and enthralled me. It didn't want to let me go. I remember wishing she was wrong and not seeing the future.

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This one made me fall in love with Alice Munro. The way that she interwove these short stories was magical to me. I was excited when I discovered the connection in each.

Sweden, Finnland & Denmark
The brothers Lionheart

Astrid Lindgren's fantasy was a go-to as a kid. After rereading I was struck by just how adult the subject matter is at times. I remember it was a bit controversial and now I see why. Full of adventures and commentary. A bittersweet ending.

The year of the hare

This book is hilarious from its very premise. A jaded journalist abandons everything after he saves a hare and embarks on an adventure across the Finnish countryside. I laughed and laughed and had to go to Finland after.

The Library of Shadows

A second-hand bookshop, a secret society with connections to the Library of Alexandria, and people who can manipulate you and ensnare you by reading aloud. All the elements to make a bookworm swoon. Plus, a backdrop of Copenhagen.

United Kingdom
Focus: Fantasy and Speculative.
The Colour of Magic

The Colour of Magic was my gateway drug to Discworld. His inept protagonist is as endearing as he is funny. It still makes me wish I were British and witty. Follow that walking trunk everyone!

The Subtle Knife

I liked the Golden Compass. I like the rest of the series even more. To this day whenever I sit on a bench at the park, I think there might be someone next to me in a parallel universe.

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Need I say anything? I was older, but JK Rowling made me wish I could be 11 again just to wait for my letter. I'm a huge fan.

Japan
Uganda, Nigeria & Ghana
Tropical Fish

I love coming of age stories so this intertwining tales about several Ugandan teenagers was right up my alley. This is not a book about race or a political statement, even though those realities lurk in the background. It is an intimate story about adolescence and people connecting with each other.

Americanh

This is a love story that starts in Lagos, moves to the United States and London, and back. It explores race and identity and inequality from a very modern, Nigerian perspective. It is witty and sad and bitter and hopeful all at the same time.

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This book was a breath of fresh air. It tells the story of a young girl who moves to Europe. Her impressions are spot on: sometimes fun, sometimes bitter, always poignant. The women are lovely. So alive you want to meet them for coffee.

Spain
La catedral del Mar

I loved everything about this book: The cemetery of forgotten books, the idea of the special relationship between book and reader, and the mixing of reality and fiction with the backdrop of the post-war Barcelona. This book kept surprising me and enchanting me.

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This book wowed me. It tells the story of Arnau, as his life unfolds between his forbidden love for a Jew, his brother's role as an inquisitor, all during the construction of the great Cathedral of the Sea in Barcelona. Beautiful and impossible to put down.

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This book takes you on a veritable journey from Spain to Morocco. Sira's transformation from a naive young girl, to successful couturier, and to ally spy, is impossible to resist. One of those stories you have to read in one go, and when you look up after the last page you feel you're floating, as if the world around you had changed while you were gone.

More to come...

Germany
Focus: Mostly Fantasy and Speculative.
The Neverending Story

I felt in love with the Neverending story before the movie came out. A favorite to this day, with themes that still resonate.

Siddharta

This book certainly shaped me. A spiritual and physical adventure that makes you question everything. Demian was also a great one.

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I love the world building. The mix of real Venetian sites with fantastical creatures and magical characters. The whole series is a treat.

Japan
Beauty and Sadness

I didn't love this book when I first read it. Now I think I was too young. It did lead me to read more about Japan and become mesmerized by its culture. On further reads, I understood its brilliance. It has a subtlety that seeps inside you and leaves a footprint of beauty so extreme it saddens.

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This one I adored. It is quintessentially Japanese in style: with descriptions filled with nostalgia and longing. With relationships that are calm and collected in appearance, with love that runs deep under the constraints of propriety. Beautiful.

IQ84

This one is a recent read. I was floored. The creativity and imagination blew me away. I fell for the vibrant cast of characters and a dystopian world that feels too close for comfort.

United States
Focus: Fantasy and Speculative. So tough to pick just 3. I will rotate.
The End of Eternity

Even though Foundation is more popular, memories of this book kept coming back to me for years. Time travel, mind-twisting plot, love... What more to ask?

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Ray Bradbury is of my favorite writers. A prescient book that no book-lover can resist. I read it so often I know excerpts by heart (not ashamed).

The chronicles of Thomas Covenant

This book changed the way I looked at fantasy. It's a portal fantasy with a dark, embittered and cynical writer for a character. In his real modern life, he has leprosy. In the Land, well, read it... Rich in contrast and layers. The trilogy is worth it.

India & China
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Pearl S. Buck wasn't Chinese but lived there half her life and this novel effortlessly contrasts both cultures. It made me long to visit China and see it for myself. I loved Kwei-lan and sometimes wanted to scream at her and at her husband. In the end, I wished I could visit them and spend time. That's when you know you've found a great book.

The White Tiger

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Especially because of its vibrant character and the ideas of freedom and non-conformity that he embodies. The world he inhabits comes alive with sounds and smells but it is his determination and courage that make the tale compelling and universal.

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People

This book is sweet and charming. It's the story of an Indian government official who, bored with retirement, opens a Marriage Bureau. Both respectful of the tradition of arranged marriage and at times seeming to rebel against it, the book is full of colorful and lovable characters.

France & Belgium
The Little Prince

My mother used to read this story to me when I was very little. It has forever a place in my heart. A pilot crashes in the desert and befriends a small child from another planet. Heartwarming and spiritual, philosophical and enchanting. Grown-ups don't get it.

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An admirably prolific writer (500 published works) my favorites from Simenon were always the detective stories of Inspector Maigret. In this one, the interesting approach is his focus less on solving the case (he solves it by instinct at the very beginning) but rather in exploring everyone's motivations.

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Even though Amelie is Belgian, this novel is set in Japan where she was raised. The perspective is from a young child and is essentially a story about growing up. But nothing about it is ordinary. Soulful and brash and even wry at times, it never leaves you indifferent. I love the contemplative and almost egocentric style.

Russia & Croatia
The Captain's Daughter

When I read this novel as a teenager my favorite part was the love story and the adventurous Grinev. Later I realized what it taught me about the intricacies of the historical setting (18th century Russia), and the commentary on the revolution weaved within.

The Death of Ivan Ilych

This novel frightened me--like everything does which forces us to face our mortality. What I liked about it was its intensity, how alive it feels despite it dealing with the subject of death. I didn't know at the time it was Tolstoy's comeback attempt after a profound nine-year case of writer's block. In the end, there is hope for all of us.

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I read this one very recently and I really appreciated the treatment of the impact of war on a child and from a kid's perspective. It's a coming of age story that moves from Zagreb (Croatia) to New York and I loved Ana and the way she sees America with her new eyes.

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© 2018 by Alicia J. Novo. United States.