A few years ago, I made a shock discovery: Although I thought of myself as a fairly cosmopolitan, cultured person, my bookshelves told a rather different story about me. Pretty much everything on them was by British and North American writers and there was almost nothing in translation.
Baffled about why I was limiting myself to such a narrow selection of the globe's stories, I decided to make 2012 my year to correct this personal blind spot. I would try to read my way through one book from each of the world's 195 UN-recognized countries (plus Taiwan) and record my adventures on my blog ayearofreadingtheworld.com.
I knew I was going to need some help. And so I asked the world's book lovers to recommend what I should read from different countries. The response was amazing. Hundreds of people contacted me, with many going to great lengths to find, send and even write and translate things for me to read. To this day, I still get contacted by bibliophiles all over the planet with titles to add to my to-read list.
That quest taught me so many things about writing and stories and how literature can connect, shape and change our lives. It introduced me to a huge number of people, many of whom I am still in contact with today. And it opened my eyes to the riches that literature written in languages other than English has to offer.
Of course, it's impossible to read everything. The number of books published in the world easily runs into nine figures (five years ago a software engineer working on Google Books put the figure at 129,864,880, and there are certainly a lot more titles out there now). But my literary travels have brought me into contact with a number of amazing books that deserve more attention. Below are five of my favorites to date:
Ann Morgan is the author of The World Between Two Covers.
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