Sunday, 23 January 2011

Sunday Salon: Where around the world do you read?

So Memory over at Stella Matutina has a post today about books she's read by authors from different countries. That got me thinking.  How widely do I read?  Is as widely as I hoped?  What do I want to read, and from where?  So today I'd like to take a little trip around my bookshelves and the world, to talk about:


You and I know, Gentle Reader, that there is a whole wide wonderful world of books out there.  Published in almost every language (because some are only spoken languages, they can't be written in words and therefore no books exist in that language), books come from every corner of the lovely planet.  They cover every genre, every possible idea that has flitted across man's mind.  What I'm interested in talking about is fiction, and because I'm me, particularly mystery, and fantasy/science fiction, my two main interests in fiction.

Last year this is where I read from:
Canada (my home country and nationality):  14
USA:  26
Britain: 24
Scandinavia (including Iceland): 7
Russia: 2
New Zealand: 2
Ireland: 2

Well, not nearly as world covering as I would like!  I am thrilled that I have read so many from Canada, which is one of my personal challenges every year any way.  I am delighted that I am expanding my reading to Ireland, to New Zealand, to Russia.  There are so many other countries to try.  I usually have Fred Vargas for France, but I haven't seen her new book yet.  One country in particular I do want to read more from is Australia, which hasn't made it on my list yet for several years now. 

I want to explain here that I do sometimes base my reading on where books come from.  I have a finite amount of time, so I do look for books from other countries, authors who write mysteries that sound interesting.  I like to read good books. I guess I'd say that I don't care where a book comes from, so long as it is good, but that makes it sound like I'm in search of the book, without the flavour that a different perspective and setting gives.  I am interested in the differences in viewpoints, in how we see the world, and what living somewhere else means when we tell stories.  I want to read more fiction set (or from) Central and South America, as well as Africa.  I do have on my to-read shelves books by Deon Meyer (South Africa), Andrea Camilleri (Italy), Alexander McCall Smith (Zimbabwe), Karen Healey (New Zealand), Jenny Erpenbeck (Germany; the last two are library books), Tolstoy (Russia), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Argentina)......As our world grows closer in ability to communicate, I'd like to know what mysteries, what poetry and literature is like in other countries.  I think how we tell stories is one of the best ways into a different culture.  It's like where we stand in the world does affect how we perceive the world, our relationship to it.  So a writer in Canada has a different perspective than a writer from The Netherlands, or China, or New Zealand.  I like that. There is always room to read more from other places, so my question to you is:

Do you,  my Gentle Readers,  read around the world?  Do you have any favourite authors that are from another country?  Who are they?  What do you look for?  Tell me who you recommend - from your country, or who you love from another one. 

Here is my list - because fair is fair, and these are writers that I've come to love and seek out, whose books are imprinted on me and inform me about the world and the times they were written in - it is only a partial list, representative only for the UK and the US, where I read most widely from:

Artur Indridason - Iceland
Fred Vargas - France
Isaac Babel - Russia
Henryk Sienkiewicz - Poland
Henning Mankell - Sweden
Jo Nesbo - Norway
Peter Hoeg - Smilla's Sense of Snow - Denmark
Kerry Greenwood - New Zealand
Ian Rankin - Scotland
Phil Rickman - England
Jane Austen -   "
Charles de Lint - Canada
Robin Hobb - USA
Giles Blunt - Canada

Mary Oliver - US
Nikki Giovanni - "
Evgeny Yevtuschenko - Russia
Wendy Cope - England
Carol Ann Duffy - "

Books I have to take with me wherever I go

I also asked Memory if she had taken any particular books with her when she moved to New Zealand - books that she had to have with her, that she had to know were safe, and were with her to read, while she waits for the rest of her books to arrive.  I asked her because when I moved to England 10 years ago, I sent most of the books I couldn't replace ahead of me by boat (after dispersing much of the rest of  my library), and I kept a few special books with me to bring in my luggage on the airplane.  At that time, they were:
 The 2000 move -  Books I Brought in my Luggage
*If  You Want to Write - Brenda Euland
In the Garden of Iden - Kage Baker
*Bellwether - Connie Willis
*Black and Blue - Ian Rankin
Immortal Poems - Oscar Williams
Writing Down the Bones - Natalie Goldberg
*The Encyclopedia of Dreams - Rosemary Ellen Guiley
Animal Dreams - Barbara Kingsolver
*Smilla's Sense of  Snow - Peter Hoeg
*Persuasion  - Jane Austen
*Pride and Prejudice - "
*Dreams Underfoot - Charles De Lint
Tea With The Black Dragon - R.A. MacAvoy
*The Language of the Night - Ursula K. LeGuin
*The 20th Century North American Ephemeris
Secrets from a Star-Gazer's Notebook - Debbi Kempton Smith
The Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb

I know, that was a lot to pack into two suitcases!  In 2000, of course, pre Sept 11, we could have two heavy suitcases.

Now though, I look at that list, and I wonder, would I take the same books with me if  I had to move to another country?  Some I would, and some I wouldn't.  I marked the ones I think I would take with me still, on the plane, with at asterisk *.  The rest on the list would be shipped instead!  I still love them all......The astericks ones are mostly because I know it would be cheaper to bring them with me than to replace them, and these are ones I would replace, absolutely.  This post is so long now that I will save the other books I would bring with me now, for another post. Because of course in the interim, I have new books and authors that I've discovered and love (Jo Nesbo, Phil Rickman, Gile Blunt, Louise Penny, Mary Oliver....the list goes on!) that I would have to take my favourites with me on the plane, to keep them safe with me.

Carl's Sci-Fi Experience

In one of those amazing coincidences that fill our lives, I just finished re-reading In the Garden of Iden by Kadge Baker, this morning.  I read it for Carl's Sci-Fi Challenge, and now realize it also falls in the Historical Challenge since most of it is set in 16th Century England, in 1555 as Mary takes to the throne. I read this also  to honor Kadge, who passed away last year.  She is one of my favourite female SF writers, and I wanted to see if I loved her first book as much as when I first read it.  Well, while I was upstairs looking at my books to see what I had brought with me 10 years ago, I came across some old journals that held, of all things, lists of books I'd read, going back to 1993!! So that's where they are! I said to myself, and then started flipping through, to see if any titles jumped out at me for what I'd bring over.  I found that it in 1998 I read In the Garden of Iden for the very first time, and this is what I wrote:
  "1st novel, very good! Wonderful SF, interesting characters, great history.  Solidly good!"
So I'm going to let that be my review today, because the book is just as good today for me as it was then.  Highly recommended.

The Year of the Ian Rankin re-read
So, this is by no means an exhaustive or even complete list of books that I love from around the world.  I keep wanting to put Alexander Pushkin on, but I haven't read him in years.  This just reminds me that the more I read, the more I find to love, but also that there are old favourites wanting to be reread, and I have decided that this will be the year I revisit my favourite Scottish writer, Ian Rankin, and his detective John Rebus.  I miss reading new Rebus!  I know he's retired (and personally I am glad Rankin left him alive), but I had years and years of reading him, and I miss him under my tree.  There is only one John Rebus, and so this year I am rereading him in order.  I have no set date for starting, and it's very loose - no schedule.  I'm not sure if I will get done reading the 16 books in the series, this year.  If you are interested, drop me a line or let me know in the comments, and we can read the books together and talk about them here whenever we are ready. 
** I have just discovered I am missing the first 4 books in the series, so I have to go buy them and then I can start.

Happy reading wherever you are in the world, Gentle Reader!


Gavin said...

A year of re-reading Rankin sounds exciting! Over the last few years we've slowly collected all of his titles and I may have to try re-reading them at some point. I've signed up for The Sci-Fi Experience but because of the TBR dare I'm having to wait 'til February so I can get TBR books from my library! Have agreat week, Susan.

Susan said...

Gavin: Thank you! Let me know if you want to join in reading a book or two - I might get around to posting a 'what's next' when I create the page for him. What are you hoping to read for Carl's Sci Fi Experience?

Julia Smith said...

I like your intention to read your way around the world. I'm certain I've read only a fraction of my own way. The bulk of my authors come from the UK, the States, Canada and Australia. But I have read a translated Russian urban paranormal author - Sergei Lukyanenko.

Literary Feline said...

My reading around the world stats are pathetic. :-( I keep track of nationality of authors each year but I rarely post the results in my round up because it's pretty embarrassing. I admit I haven't made a huge effort in the last couple of years to try and balance it out, but if you were to look at my TBR shelves, you'd see a wide variety. Still mostly American just the same. Of course, what good do the books do just sitting on my shelves? Something I need to work on in the future.

I do enjoy books set in other countries and, like you, am always on the look out for mysteries set overseas.

I'm in the process of packing to move (as you know) and am really struggling with what books to set aside so I have handy before, during and right after the move. I'm not sure I'll be able to get to them, but I want them there just in case, you know? Fortunately, we aren't planning to move too far away, which makes it a bit easier. I'm not sure what I'd do if we were moving overseas. I doubt I'd be able to take nearly as many books with me as I own.

I haven't read any of Ian Rankin's books but I do own the first couple in his series, I believe.

I hope you have a great week, Susan!

DesLily said...

I seem to be obsessed with old victorian england mystery books, to which I can thank Carl.

Gavin said...

Susan - A 'what's next" page for the Rankin books would be great. I am definitely interested in reading a couple of his books again. I was hoping to re-read some Le Guin for the Sci-Fi Experience and maybe the new Iain M Banks and Greg Bear if I can get them from the library. Have a great week!

Anonymous said...

I pay particular attention to setting, but I don't usually make a note of where the author is from. Most of the authors I read are English-speaking: U.S., United Kingdom, and Australia. Last year I think I read some translations from Japan, Spain, Turkey... and I think that's it. Your post has got me inspired - I must read more widely now.

Memory said...

I love your question about which books I brought. :) I'm writing a post about it, though I'm not sure when I'll get it up. I seem to be chock full of post ideas these days, and it's tough to fit them in around the reviews!

Susan said...

Julia: I just read the first one in that series - it's very good, isn't it? Nightwatch is out of print now (at least for now) so I'm hoping to find the others soon. And my journey around the world is a long one! lol

Literary Feline: I'll let you and Gavin know when I'm ready to start Ian Rankin reading journey then, thanks! And i know about being embarrassed by how little I read from other countries. I think it goes to Eva's (A striped Armchair) post from last week when she asked what makes a person well-read. I always think that reading books from other cultures helps in that area, too, expanding our awareness of the world.

You know I wish you all the luck with your move!

Deslily: are you talking about a specific series? or just in general, old victorian have me mystified, what did Carl get you reading?? lol

Gavin: Ok! I will do a page up for Rankin, or something on my sidebar, for you and Literary Feline. I should have the first book by the end of the week unless I have to go through Amazon to get it.

I hope you do get to your library books before the Sci-Fi challenge runs out, your books do look good!

Stephanie: you are more widely read than me, since I have read little Japanese or Turkish writers so far! Which books did you read?

Memory: Good, I'm glad I inspired you! I'm very curious about what came with you directly, and what's following in boxes - what you couldn't bare to part with.