Read the World Challenge

New year, new challenge started with enthusiasm and momentum, both of which I’ll tire of in three months! Last year’s treat was the Dogwood 52-week photography challenge, and I gave up when one week’s challenge was ‘Forgotten’ and I just ran out of ideas!

This year, I’m going to read my way around the world – at least one piece of fiction from each country. I read ‘too much’ non-fiction, so this will force me to seek out new novels, and it combines my love of reading with my interest in different cultures. So far, most of the novels I read are those long-listed for awards, and basically anything Neil Gaiman writes (that’s not too much of an exaggeration!)

I came across ‘A Year of Reading the World’, Ann Morgan’s list of books from 196 countries, read over an entire year. There’s also ‘Read the World’, where you can browse literature from every country in the world.

But, because I am nothing if not a pedant, I’m making it my own. Some key differences:

1. I’m giving myself more than a year, since I’m hoping this will encourage me to pick up more fiction in the long term. I don’t want to kill myself reading more than 200 novels, and go back to non-fiction next year. This will hopefully also make sure I keep looking into world literature, and researching new writers – and not make the challenge feel like a chore, so I’m more likely to stick with it!

2. Two sources of fiction rather than one novel. This includes short stories, poetry, literary fiction, plays, or any other category representative of a country or culture. I’d like one of these to reflect the past, and the second its present. Our history obviously shapes our identity and therefore our cultures, but there’s no way to know a country if all you’ve read of it is a novel set in a traumatic period in their past. There are so many innovative and exciting stories being told by new writers as well, so researching their work will stop me from reaching for a LM Montgomery as the default representative of Canada, for example.

3. An expanded idea of what a country is. You may know I’ve lived in both Wales and England, so can’t combine their two very different cultures in most circumstances. I also live in Barcelona now, where the ongoing independence movement brings up some important questions about what constitutes a country. Where possible, I would like to respect these movements and read literature from each of these different countries – formal and informal. (This also helps with my relaxed deadlines!)

My main hope is that the challenge encourages me to read novels regularly and keep up-to-date with the literary world. My second hope is that I learn more about different peoples and their histories, so to ensure that each work I start is properly researched and representative. I’ll blog about my journey to crowd-source ideas from you and the broader internet community, share works from across the world, and to share my experience and reviews.

So, to that end! What works of fiction would you recommend for me that represent countries or cultures you know? I’ll post my preliminary list later, and will work my way around the world geographically – starting with Australia!




  1. I was also inspired by Ann Morgan’s reading the world blog. I’m trying to stick with the one year rule and have gotten a lot of books from her list (but not all). I agree, I’ve lived and traveled in the U.K. before and find that England, Wales, and Scotland are completely different animals. If I have time I may add some regional works! Good luck with your challenge!


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