Global reading: a failed test

Adam Roberts conducted an exercise to see how globally read he was in terms of fiction.

I started this exercise curious to see, really, how large is the gap in my knowledge of world literature. It turns out: it’s pretty huge. The majority of nation-states listed below are followed by I have never read any fiction from that country. I am, of course, limiting myself to novels written by citizens of the countries concerned (which is to say, I am not counting fiction merely set in that country, or by people born elsewhere who lived in those countries for a while); and I could mumble something here about the unavailability of translations, the need to pay literary translators more and commission them to do more work. But that’s a torn and shabby sort of Get Out Of Jail Free Card. The fact is I am lamentably under-read in non-anglophone literatures and need to do better. K through M is particularly dire, isn’t it?

In my own defence, I have read a lot—and I mean: a lot—of British and American fiction, and a fair whack of fiction from some (but, evidently, not all) European nations too, plus unevenly distributed chunks from Commonwealth and other countries. But the overall picture, for me, is: bleh. 

I  thought it was a fascinating exercise that I expect will highlight how Anglo-Saxon my reading is and therefore how much that view alone has shaped my theology and worldview. If I only considered fiction then it’s going to be very narrow indeed so I decided to give myself a little bit more leeway. Have I read or do I even own a book by an author from other countries? Even though I’ve travelled to a lot of these countries, and I may have read quite a bit about them, I haven’t read anything from them and that’s a big difference. I’m expecting the results to be less than stellar.

All this goes to show that eternity may not quite be long enough to learn all there is to know about the world right now…

Afghanistan – Khalid Hosseini and The Kite Runner. He lives in the US now but I’m counting it.
Albania – I have never read any books from Albania. I tell a lie, turns out we have a copy of a book by Ismail Kadare. Must read it.
Algeria – I have never read any books from Algeria.
Andorra – I have never read any books from Andorra.
Angola – I have never read any books from Angola.
Antigua and Barbuda – I have never read any books from Antigua & Barbuda
Argentina – I have never read any books from Argentina.
Armenia – I have never read any books from Armenia.
Australia – Yes I’ve read some books from Australia! Peterson, Dickson, Jenkins, Hirsch, Frost, Zusak,…
Austria – I have never read any books from Austria.
Azerbaijan – I have never read any books from Azerbaijan.
Bahamas – I have never read any books from the Bahamas.
Bahrain – I have never read any books from Bahrain.
Bangladesh – I have never read any books from Bangladesh.
Barbados – I have never read any books from Barbados.
Belarus – I have never read any books from Belarus.
Belgium – I have read Tintin.
Belize – I have never read any books from Belize.
Benin – I have never read any books from Benin.
Bhutan – I have never read any books from Bhutan.
Bolivia – I have never read any books from Bolivia.
Bosnia and Herzegovina – I have never read any books from Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Botswana – I have never read any books from Botswana.
Brazil – I have read Paulo Coelho and more respectably Leonardo Boff.
Brunei – I have never read any books from Brunei.
Bulgaria – I have never read any books from Bulgaria.
Burkina Faso – I have never read any books from Burkina Faso.
Burundi – I have read books by Simon Guillebaud, I’m going to count that.

Cambodia – I have read about The Killing Fields does that count?
Cameroon – I have never read any books from Cameroon.
Canada – Douglas Coupland, Tim Challies, Yann Martel, Jean Vanier,  there must be more…
Central African Republic – I have never read any books from CAR.
Chad – I have never read any books from Chad.
Chile – I have never read any books from Chile.
China – Watchman Nee, Pastor Lee, Brother Yun
Colombia – I have never read any books from Colombia.
Congo – I have never read any books from Congo.
Costa Rica – I have never read any books from Costa Rica.
Côte d’Ivoire – I have never read any books from the Ivory Coast.
Croatia – I’m going to think about this one…Miroslav Volf
Cuba – And this one….
Cyprus – I have never read any books from Cyprus.
Czech Republic – I have never read any books from the Czech Republic.

Denmark – Søren Kierkegaard, Karen Blixen, 
Djibouti – I have never read any books from Djibouti.
Dominica – I have never read any books from Dominica.

Ecuador – I have never read any books from Ecuador.
Egypt – Hmmm
El Salvador – Oscar Romero.
England – Yes lots..
Equatorial Guinea – I have never read any books from Eq. Guinea.
Eritrea – I have never read any books from Eritrea.
Estonia – I have never read any books from Estonia (unless Tim Heath counts)
Ethiopia – I have never read any books from Ethiopia.

Fiji – I have never read any books from Fiji.
Finland – Tove Jansson
France – Jacques Ellul, Derrida, Satre, Brother Roger of Taize, Asterix of course, Dumas…

Gabon – I have never read any books from Gabon.
Gambia, The – I have never read any books from Gambia.
Germany – Bonhoeffer, Moltmann, Bultmann, Tillich, von Rad, Jeremias etc…
Ghana – I have never read any books from Ghana.
Greece – I must have done – does half of the New Testament count?
Grenada – I have never read any books from Grenada.
Guatemala – I have never read any books from Guatemala.
Guyana – I have never read any books from Guyana.

Haiti – I have never read any books from Haiti.
Honduras – I have never read any books from Honduras.
Hungary – I have never read any books from Hungary

Iceland – I have never read any books from Iceland
India – Oh come on I must have done…
Indonesia – I have never read any books from Indonesia.
Iran – I have never read any books from Iran.
Iraq – I have never read any books from Iraq.
Ireland – Jonathan Swift…
Israel – The Bible, Harari
Italy – Hmmm…some Dante, some Machiavelli, 

Jamaica – I have never read any books from Jamaica
Japan – Yoshimura and does Kazuo Ishiguro count? 
Jordan – I have never read any books from Jordan.

Kazakhstan – I have never read any books from Kazakhstan.
Kenya – I think maybe Michael Eaton counts…
Korea – Paul Yonggi Cho….
Kuwait – I have never read any books from Kuwait.
Kyrgyzstan – I have never read any books from Kyrgyzstan.

Laos – I have never read any books from Laos.
Latvia – I have never read any books from Latvia.
Lebanon – I have never read any books from Lebanon.
Lesotho – I have never read any books from Lesotho.
Liberia – I have never read any books from Liberia.
Libya – Tertullian?
Liechtenstein – I have never read any books from Liechenstein.
Lithuania – I have never read any books from Lithuania.
Luxembourg – I have never read any books from Luxembourg.

Macedonia – I have never read any books from Macedonia.
Malawi – I have never read any books from Malawi.
Malaysia – I have never read any books from Malaysia.
Maldives – I have never read any books from Maldives.
Malta – I have never read any books from Malta.
Mauritania – I have never read any books from Mauritania.
Mauritius – I have never read any books from Mauritius.
Mexico – Really?

Micronesia – I have never read any books from Micronesia.
Moldova – I have never read any books from Moldova.
Monaco – I have never read any books from Monaco.
Mongolia – I have never read any books from Mongolia.
Montenegro – I have never read any books from Montenegro.
Morocco – I have never read any books from Morocco.
Mozambique – I have never read any books from Mozambique.
Myanmar – I have never read any books from Myanmar.

Namibia – – I have never read any books from Namibia.
Nepal – I have never read any books from Nepal.
Netherlands – Arminius
New Zealand – I have never read any books from New Zealand. Seriously?
Nicaragua – I have never read any books from Nicaragua.
Niger – I have never read any books from Niger.
Nigeria – Chinua Achebe.
Northern Ireland – Hmmm
Norway – Ibsen, Otto, Hallesby, Gaarder, Nesbo

Oman – I have never read any books from Oman.
Palestine – – I have read.
Pakistan – Patrick Sookhdeo, 
Panama – I have never read any books from Panama.
Papua New Guinea – I have never read any books from Papua New Guinean.
Paraguay – I have never read any books from Paraguay.
Peru – Gustavo Gutierrez.
Philippines – I have never read any books from the Philippines.
Poland – I have never read any books from Poland.
Portugal – I have never read any books from Portugal.
Qatar – I have never read any books from Qatar.

Romania – I have never read any books from Romania.
Russia – I started and read 400 pages but did not finish Tolstoy, War and Peace 
Rwanda – Yes.

Saint Lucia – I have never read any books from Saint Lucia
Samoa – I have never read any books from Samoa.
Saudi Arabia – The Qur’an.
Scotland – Campbell, 
Senegal – I have never read any books from Senegal.
Serbia – I have never read any books from Serbia.
Seychelles – I have never read any books from Seychelles.
Sierra Leone – I have never read any books from Sierra Leone.
Singapore – I have never read any books from Singapore – at least I don’t think so.
Slovakia – I have never read any books from Slovakia.
Slovenia – I have never read any books from Slovenia.
Somalia – I have never read any books from Somalia.
South Africa – Mandela, Paton, Lutheli, 
Spain – Zafon, possibly more…

Sri Lanka – Ajith Fernando
Sudan – The Translator.
Suriname – I have never read any books from Suriname.
Swaziland – I have never read any books from Swaziland.
Sweden – Aulen, Mandell, Larsson, Hammarskjöld, Rosling and others
Switzerland – Karl Barth
Syria – I have never read any books from Syria.

Taiwan – I have never read any books from Taiwan.
Tajikistan – I have never read any books from Tajikistan.
Tanzania – I have never read any books from Tanzania.
Thailand – I have never read any books from Thailand.
Togo – I have never read any books from Togo.
Tonga – I have never read any books from Tonga.
Trinidad – I have never read any books from Trinidad.
Tunisia – Augustine.
Turkey – I have never read any books from Turkey.
Uganda – I have never read any books from Uganda.
Ukraine – I have never read any books from Ukraine.
United Arab Emirates – I have never read any books from UAE.
United States – Lots and lots
Uruguay – I have never read any books from Uruguay.
Uzbekistan – I have never read any books from Uzbekistan.
Venezuela – I have never read any books from Venezuela.
Vietnam – I have never read any books from Vietnam.
Wales – Martyn Lloyd-Jones, …
Yemen – I have never read any books from Yemen.
Zambia – I have never read any books from Zambia.
Zimbabwe – I have never read any books from Zimbabwe.

I’m off to India at the end of this week. Someone hit me up with some suggestions

5 thoughts on “Global reading: a failed test”

  1. Richard says:

    Some good ones to add to your list:
    India: anything by Muhammad Yonus is great
    Liberia: This child will be great, is a great book
    DRC: Blood River (does it count?)

    1. Phil Whittall says:

      Thanks for the suggestions but I think Yunus is from Bangladesh!

      1. Richard says:

        Ah, thats right, so then you can also add Bangladesh!
        An even better one: Poor Economics, Abhijit Banerjee (he is Indian) and Esther Duflo (French)

      2. Richard says:

        Turkey: Why nations fail – Daron Acemoglu

        1. Phil Whittall says:

          Keep them coming – great suggestions!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.