A little while ago I went through Wordery’s ‘Around the World in 80 Books’ list and came out of it feeling a little disappointed in myself – not only could I tick off just a handful titles, but I also realised just how narrow my reading world is.
I always used to think my bookshelves showed quite a lot of diversity, given how I’ve got A Game of Thrones nestled in between Life of Pi and Moby Dick. But in going through the Wordery list it became glaringly clear that though I may have read a lot of books by a lot of different authors, my reading taste is shockingly – but perhaps not unsurprisingly – still so very white and so very Western.
Africa, for example, for all its fifty-four countries, is entirely absent from my bookshelves, and Asia only just has a foothold if you count the small part of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy recounting Ricki Tarr’s service in Hong Kong.
Even Europe doesn’t get a lot of representation: barring Dracula and a spot of Tolstoy, I can’t remember the last time I read anything set further east than the Italian coast.
So to rectify that, I’ve decided my next big reading challenge will be an around the world trip of my own. I’ve always felt it’s important to dip every once in a while outside of your cultural comfort zone, especially with this new age of Brexit votes and mandated nationalism making it a sad social norm to ignore anything further afield than the local Post Office. In lieu of having the means to actually visit the many nooks and crannies of the world, literature can be a wonderful way to get a feel for that stuff you can’t always get through documentaries and travel guides – the voice of a place, the emotional undercurrent beneath all the sights.
Now, down to the details. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll go for the full eighty books like Wordery did; on the one hand it’s got a catchy title, but thinking in terms of time and money a target like forty or fifty might be better. As for the distribution, instead of doing a strictly even split across the continents I’m going to focus on countries that currently don’t feature on my shelves at all, specifically those from Asia, Africa and South America. I’ll also try my best to get as many in from Australasia/ Oceania as I can, although I’m not sure how rich the literary pickings will be from Vanuatu or the Federated States of Micronesia.
But that being said, I would also like to add a few books from countries I feel I’ve read quite well, like the UK or USA, so long as they look to some region I’ve not explored before – God knows I’ve read enough London-based books to last a lifetime.
Header image from Martin Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps