Around the World in 17 Books

In 2022, I studied 629 hours of foreign languages, mainly Croatian and Modern Greek, plus a 90 day Russian challenge. Now that 2023 has started, I am not particularly tempted by any new language yet, but I do want to continue mastering Croatian, Greek and other languages I’ve previously studied. This makes it hard to set an inspiring new goal. One goal I have committed to, because I’ll do it with a friend, is to read a Chinese novel this year. Which means dusting off my Chinese again. So I had the idea to set a reading-based goal rather than pure numbers of hours spent on X languages.

My goal: Around the World in 17 Books

I looked at my (huge) pile of unread books and decided that the following are a must-read this year, arranged by country:

  • Various Africa and Carribean countries: Conteurs francophones noirs (collection of short stories in French) – contemporary short stories from Congo, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique
  • Australia: Flugi kun kakatuoj (novel in Esperanto) – on Aborigines’ fight against the invader
  • Austria: Anomalija (novel in Bosnian) – the end of the world as a happy end
  • Bosnia: Na drini ćuprija (novel in Serbo-Croatian) – Višegrad from the 16th century till after WWI
  • Chile: La Casa de los espiritus (novel in Spanish) – four generations growing up in Chile
  • China: 姑娘,我们一起合租吧 (novel in Chinese) – one male and three female students living together in Shanghai
  • France: Boumkoeur (novel in French) – on life in the forbidden suburbs
  • Germany: Die verdammte Pflicht: Erinnerungen 1932 bis 1945 (autobiography in German) – Alexander Stahlberg witnessed the transfer of power from Papen to Hitler, attempts to convince Manstein to join the Stauffenberg assassination, and other interesting moments
  • Greece: ΙΣΤΟΡΙΑ (ΚΩΜΙΚΟΤΡΑΓΙΚΗ) ΤΟΥ ΝΕΟΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟΥ ΚΡΑΤΟΥΣ 1830-1974 (nonfiction in Greek) – tongue-in-cheek history of the Greek state
  • Haiti: L’Énigme du retour (novel in French) – a Canadian exilee returning to his native Haiti
  • Indonesia: Ik kom terug (novel in Dutch) – a 100yo mother finally opens up to her son about all that she has seen, during her life centered on the Dutch East Indies
  • Italy: Due di due (novel in Italian) – on Italy through the 1968 student movement and beyond
  • Lebanon: Insciallah (novel in Italian) – a 20th century epic on the civil war in Lebanon
  • Netherlands: Een nieuw sociaal contract (political manifest in Dutch) – reforming the Dutch political system
  • Russia: La strato de Tanja (nonfiction in Esperanto) – Russia 1917-2017 through the people living on one street in St Petersburg
  • Serbia: Deseti život (novel in Serbian) – life in the artist scene in Belgrade in the 2010s
  • USA: The only game in town (nonfiction in English) – on Wall Street and the global economy

These are incidentally in all kinds of languages I want to practice, 10 languages in total, so if I manage to read them all, the problem of language-learning hours will solve itself. (In 2022 I read 50 books, but almost all of them either English or Croatian…)

If you have any books that absolutely should be on this list, feel free to comment or write to me.