2020 Reading Challenge: Read a Book in Translation

In 2020, OPL invites patrons to take part in the reading challenge! For each challenge, OPL offers suggestions for titles to read or listen to. As you’re working through the challenge, feel free to tag @omahalibrary on Twitteropens a new window, Instagramopens a new window or Facebookopens a new window to let us know which read you picked up this month!

Three Percentopens a new window, a resource dedicated to promoting and discussing international literature, was founded by the University of Rochester in 2007. Publisher’s Weekly’s extensive Translation Databaseopens a new window was founded a year later. Despite a host of additional efforts, the inspiration behind Three Percent’s name remains: translated literature accounts for only 3% of books published in the United States.

Names like Elena Ferranteopens a new window, Haruki Murakamiopens a new window, and Jo Nesbøopens a new window may occasionally make it to a bestseller list in the U.S., but the reality is that translated literature doesn’t have the same representation here that it has worldwide. Drawing inspiration from the #OwnVoices movement and last year’s “Read a book set in a different country” challenge, OPL challenges you to read from the small, but compelling, category of books in translation.

This selection gives readers the opportunity to experience literary movements from other countries. Try a take on the Japanese I-novel with “Territory of Lightopens a new window” by Yūko Tsushima, or “Slave Old Manopens a new window” by Patrick Chamoiseau, a Martinican and prominent member of the Creolitẻ movement. “Mouthful of Birdsopens a new window” by Argentinian Samanta Schweblin offers elements of the magical realist genre for which her region is known and adds her own unique twists of horror.

Plenty of translated literature belongs in genres closer to realism or historical fiction. To try out these works, pick up “Stalingradopens a new window” by Soviet war reporter Vasiliĭ Grossman, or “Arid Dreamsopens a new window”, a collection of short stories by Thai novelist Dư̄anwāt Phimwanā. “Celestial Bodiesopens a new window” by Omani author Jūkhah Ḥārithī, offers one of my favorite nice subgenres; the story of a country told via the story of a family. There are so many options for this here, but a couple more to try include “Ma Bo'le's Second Lifeopens a new window” by Chinese writer Hong Xiao, and “It Would be Night in Caracasopens a new window” by Venezuealen author Karina Sainz Borgo.

With diversity at its heart, there are some truly unique literary possibilities for this challenge. “Parade: A Folktaleopens a new window” by Japanese author Hiromi Kawakami, “Mars: Storiesopens a new window” by Bosnian writer Asja Bakić, and “Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Deadopens a new window” by Polish author and Man Booker winner Olga Tokarczuk, all very different selections, have elements of fantasy. “Black Mosesopens a new window,” by Congolese-French author Alain Mabanckou, is an adventurous novel known as “Oliver Twist in 1970s Africa.” For readers looking for something in the sci-fi universe, there’s “The Queueopens a new window” by Egyptian novelist Basma Abdel Aziz, “Tentacleopens a new window” by Rita Indiana Hernández or “The Memory Policeopens a new window” by Yōko Ogawa.

These titles and more can be found in this opens a new windowlist

당신에게 행운을 빕니다, buena suerte, sretno ti, โชคดี, bonne chance, jisie ike, viel glück, حظا طيبا وفقك الله and buti na lang (or: good luck) to you, readers!

Starting April 1, 2020, once you complete the 2020 Reading Challenge, enter your reading log online or turn in your completed tracking sheet at your nearest OPL branch and pick up your button prize for completion. All submissions will be entered into a drawing for some fun literary-themed merchandise! All completed tracking sheets or online challenge form entries must be received by December 31, 2020, to be entered into the prize drawing.

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