2019 Reading Challenge: Read a book set in a different country than your own

In 2019, OPL invites patrons to take part in the reading challenge! Each month, OPL will highlight a theme and offer suggestions for titles to read or listen to. As you’re working through the challenge, feel free to tag @omahalibrary on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to let us know which read you picked up this month!

OPL’s featured reading challenge theme for June is “Read a book set in a different country than your own.” Reading fiction from international writers is my favorite way to think about the diversities and similarities of life across the world, and I’m delighted to highlight some of that work for you! This theme invites you to go on a trip for yourself, and our collection is ready to take you anywhere. Browse the internationally-set books below and more on this list, opens a new window.

We’ll travel through the literary world alphabetically, starting in Africa. “My Sister the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite, from Nigeria, is a hilarious, dark read that delivers on its surprising title. If you’re mourning the end of “Game of Thrones,” pick up “Who Fears Death” by Nnedi Okorafor, set in post-apocalyptic Africa, and slated for TV development with none other than George R.R. Martin himself on board. For a fictional read that will bring up some real world questions about tourism and colonialism, “This Mournable Body” by Tsitsi Dangarembga, set in Zimbabwe, is a great fit.

In the Americas, head to Canada with “Split Tooth” by Tagaq or “Corba Clutch” by A.J. Devlin. To visit Mexico, pick up “Sea Monsters” by Chloe Arijdis or “The Murmur of Bees” by Sofia Segovia. In Brazil, try “I Didn’t Talk” by Beatriz Bracher, or head to Peru and Chile with the truly strange “Albina and the Dog-Men.” A quick tour to the Caribbean gives us “Wicked Weeds” by Pedro Cabiya, “The Third Hotel” by Laura Van den Berg and “Sugar Money” by Jane Harris. Lastly, check out Latin America’s offerings with “The Ladies of Managua,” set in Nicaragua, by Eleni Gage or Guatemala-set “Hard Red Spring” by Kelly Kerney.

We stop only for a brief sojourn in Antarctica, as, understandably, there’s only a little fiction set here. Try some exciting sci-fi withAustral” by Paul J. McAuley, some fiction about astronomy withThe Comet Seekers” by Helen Sedgewick, or explore both human and inhuman nature with “Everland” by Rebecca Hunt.

Heading over to Asia, get your investigative novel fix on the border of Russia withDisappearing Earth” by Julia Phillips. Hong Kong-setSomewhere Only We Knowis Maureen Goo’s latest adventurous, sweet YA romance. To learn a little about an important cultural site in Japan, look for “Convenience Store Woman” by Sayaka Murata. Explore some Korean mythology through fantasy withWicked Fox” by Kat Cho, or, for some engaging non-fiction, look no further thanChina in Ten Wordsby Hua Yu. Lastly, I recommend “Bangkok Wakes to Rain” by Pitchaya Sudbanthad, set in Thailand and consisting of a variety of tenuously linked short stories.

Though not a separate continent, the Middle East deserves a quick tour of its own. “Beirut Hellfire Society” by Rawi Hage, is a sometimes-funny and consistently poignant story from Lebanon, while “The Diamond Setter” by Moshik Sakal or “The Parisian, Or, Al-Barisi” by Isabella Hammad, are more somber looks at Israel and Palestine, respectively. One of my favorite reads from 2018, “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid, also starts off in this region.

If you missed the Nordic noir trend in 2018, this is a great excuse to visit Europe and pick up Icelandic-set “The Legacy” by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Follow a chaotic progression through various occupied Slavic countries in the Medieval era with “The Galley Slave” by Drago Jančar, or explore themes of immigration and religious tension in Norway viaNorth of Dawn” by Nuruddin Farah. If historical fiction is your preferred genre, try “Transcription” by Kate Atkinson, set in World War II England.

In Oceania, tryThe People in the Trees” by Hanya Yanagihara, set in Micronesia and having to do with research ethics, immortality, and turtles. If a surreal political epic is your bag, look no further than Indonesia’sBeauty Is A Wound” by Eka Kurniawan. For a more realism-oriented read, head to New Zealand withThe Forrests” by Emily Perkins. Let’s round out the region in Australia with a thriller: “Scrublands” by Chris Hammer, some horror: “The Bus on Thursday” by Shirley Barrett, and a little historic adventure:A Long Way from Home” by Peter Carey.

That’s just a quick tour through what we have waiting for you to enjoy this summer. Explore these titles and more of OPL's international offerings on this book list., opens a new window Bon voyage to you readers preparing for an international literary adventure!