The Sunday Salon & Weekly Geeks: A “Reading Globally” Confession

On Saturday morning I was pondering what to write about this week.  And what to my wondering eyes did appear in my Google Reader?  The latest Weekly Geeks topic, that’s what.  It’s all about “reading globally,” a subject near and dear to my heart and one that I’m feeling a bit guilty about.  So I’d like to take this opportunity to confess my sins …

I began reading globally in 2007, reading authors who were from countries outside the United States.  I “visited” 20 new countries that year, and 20 more countries in 2008.  I set myself a perpetual challenge to read authors from all 192 countries in the world, and kept track of my travels on a map (which is on display at those links).  I was an active member of a Reading Globally group on LibraryThing, and found it a great source of recommendations and discussion.  Yes, I was a veritable Phileas Fogg when it came to reading globally.

And then, in 2009, I ran out of gas.  Six books.  That’s it.  How embarrassing.  My problem was finding books from “new” countries that appealed to me.  You’d think, having visited only 58 of the 192 countries, that there would still be scads of great literature in translation out there.  And I’m sure there is; I just wasn’t discovering it.  I decided to change my travel plans; here’s what I wrote at the time:

I’m thinking of my Reading Across Borders journey like one of those hop on / hop off bus tours in large cities.  For now, I’m going to hop off the bus and go where my mood takes me.  I will probably still read books in translation, but not necessarily from “new” countries.  It might be interesting to read one country’s literature in greater depth.  Whatever I choose to do, I can’t lose sight of the “fun” part of reading!

Well, I hopped off the bus all right.  I’ve been on a global reading hiatus for nine months!  Oh, don’t get me wrong:  I’ve read a few books in translation this year.  I just haven’t been actively seeking new global reading experiences.  But all that is about to change.

Last year, I was very excited about the launch of Belletrista, a bi-monthly magazine featuring the work of women writers the world over.  Every issue has been chock-a-block with interesting selections, not to mention author interviews and other features.  My 2010 reading goals include reading 6 books from Belle’s treasure trove of reviews.  I’m no longer looking exclusively for new countries; rather, I’m combining two interests:  global reading and women writers.  Now I just need to get on with it.

Once I finish my current book (Marilynne Robinsons’s Gilead, which is wonderful), I’ll read my first Belletrista-inspired work: The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa.  This book has been on my wishlist since the Belletrista review, all the way back in September.  I just picked it up from the library yesterday.

I’m ready to hop on the bus again, and am looking forward to more global literature discoveries.

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Read more from The Sunday Salon here.

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8 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon & Weekly Geeks: A “Reading Globally” Confession

  1. I should think you’d struggle to find something worth reading from all those 192 countries. I don’t imagine for example that there’s a heck of a lot available in translation from North Korea. I’m sure there are wonderfully creative people there…but not so sure they’re allowed to publish a heck of a lot that gets translated, and whatever is allowed to be translated would have been through some kind of government censor and therefore be pretty awful I would think.

    • You may be right about that! There’s certainly much more western literature in translation, and I could imagine censorship being an issue for some countries.

  2. I can imagine that it is hard to find titles to read from all 192 countries.

    To be honest, I’d love to be able to start out on one of those reading global challenges that involve reading a book from every country, but I’ve only felt the need to do so when I started blogging and I’m still thinking of a concept that might work for me.

    I do agree that reading needs to remain “fun” and I’m glad to hear you decided to hop off when it got a bit too much for you.

  3. I was thinking the same thing about literature from each country…but perhaps you could count books that are set in that particular country? I admire your effort that you have put in to reading globally…you put me to shame 🙂

  4. I think reading “globally” sounds like a great idea. I’ve been trying to sample more books in translation lately, too. Of course, I look first for books that will be entertaining and hold my interest, whether or not they’re from other countries – but “branching out” is always a good thing to do. Hope you enjoy all your reading this week!

  5. @Iris, Melissa, Joy: I think the important thing is, as Iris said, finding the concept that works for you. I’ve stopped worrying about “visiting” all the countries and just want to be sure I read a decent amount of literature in translation.

  6. Great confession! (can there actually be great confessions?) One has to start somewhere. I don’t think I could ever work towards a goal like the one you had set. It translates into “box” – one I would immediately want to get out of. But that’s just me. I prefer to think of it as a garden or a park where there are many varieties of flora and fauna to enjoy….

    Thanks for the Belletrista plug, btw.

    • Lois, you are so right. I admired other LT members for attempting the “every country” journey and at first it seemed like a big box. But then it became too confining. And when I started seeking out women authors, it was even more difficult (women authors from more obscure countries … a tough combination).

      I plug Belle every chance I get! 🙂

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