Around the world in ten books

A fun and enlightening end to a weekend at Bath Festivals, Scott Peck and Ann Morgan picked their top ten books from around the world.

Around the world in ten books

Scott Peck likes a challenge. He previously decided to read and review a short story every day, for a whole year! Ann Morgan also decided to spend 2012 reading a book from every UN recognised country - plus one more, voted for on Twitter. The coming together of these two folk made for an energetic and hilarious trip around the world - missing out the whole of America, they get enough attention after all - stopping off in Asia, Africa and Europe, with some hilarious facts along the way. Here are their pick of the books...get googling!

1. China's The Dark Road by Ma Jian

Focussed on China's one child policy, this book follows the plight of two 'family planning refugees' as they navigate their way around the country, coming across all manner of horrors, from backstreet abortion clinics to foetus restaurants. Not for the faint hearted, nor for the younger teenager. But if you can stomach it, a powerful, enlightening work that addresses reproductive rights.

2. South Korea's The Vegetarian by Han Kang

A woman inexplicably becomes a veggie, going against her family and country traditions, in essence, rejecting her own culture. This was explained as a fantastically written translation from the female dominated, and incredibly strong lit culture of SK.

3. Japan's The Push Man and Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Short stories in comic book form, again addressing backstreet abortions and murder. The author has issue with Manga's failure to look at real life, so has combined a gritty and real reflection of Japanese society, with a comic aesthetic.

4. Angola's Our Mosaic

A collection of stories based around the idea of shanty towns, with many different voices speaking and questioning the very essence of story telling. Interestingly, Anne found it very difficult to find English translations of French and Portuguese speaking African countries, and ended up putting a call out on Twitter for translators of this book!

5. Pakistan's The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

Lyrical writing, that was locked in a chest for 30 years by the late author, before his wife discovered it and sent it to her son to publish. There's a real sense of love and connection with the Middle Eastern land, as the book follows different stories through the tribal countryside of the FATA.

6. Turkey's The Flea Palace by Elif Shafak

Based in and around a Turkey apartment block, following the various inhabitants through their daily life. Scott described one passage that has stuck with him, where a 2.5 page description follows a one minute silence throughout the whole block, right down to street level.

7. Denmark's The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth

Reacting to regular polls placing Scandinavian societies as the happiest people in the world, the writer set about busting myths and working out why people might develop certain habits in these environments. He looks at the history of stereotypes and the various different qualities of life in each country.

8. Holland's The Black Lake by Hella S. Haasse

Described by Scott as the closest to perfect as he's ever found in a book, a colonial Dutch plantation owner's son befriends the housekeeper's son, growing and exploring together, but never fully able to bridge the differences in their backgrounds. Although it's told through the naive eyes of the child, the adult reader is painfully aware of the darker signs at play in the book.

9. Germany's Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes

A funny book about Hitler, quite possibly the first of its kind. Hitler wakes up in 2011 in a field, and has no memory beyond being in the bunker in 1945. Everyone assumes he's an actor, as he is still speaking in the same violent vitriol, and he becomes an instant YouTube hit. He lands a TV deal and the book is - despite being a book about Hitler - a very astute comment on the modern media. Scott's only issue was that this wasn't pushed far enough, and could possibly have had more of a powerful conclusion.

10. Belgrade's Lake Como by Srdjan Valjarevic

A layabout writer gets his friend to apply for a writing scholarship for him at Rockefeller Foundation, and gets accepted. While on the course he discovers the pomposity of the writers taking part, and something of his own drive.

Image courtesy of Mark Doliner


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