Whilst I’ve had time to read (four down, 22 to go!) I haven’t had a huge amount of time to sit down and write – work is incredibly busy, teamed with the ever-joyful process of moving house. So I thought I’d go for the visual:

Map(click to enlarge)

My list/projected list has already changed beyond recognition, based on an utterly scientific method of books that are on special offer for Kindle/anything that catches my eye/stuff that’s been sitting in my to-read pile for years and I’d completely forgotten about. I have no doubt it’ll evolve more the further I go with this, I’m already starting to see some problems with the A-Z method (‘S’ currently has about four novels vying for my attention).

Any recommendations are always welcome – particularly for Oceanic literature from anywhere other than Aus/NZ. That part of the world has a very strong oral tradition and trying to locate anything in book form is proving tricky.

Female authors

Yesterday’s Guardian included an interesting article on the fact that female authors are still under-represented on most bookshelves.

This surprised me somewhat, until doing my own ‘Vida’ count for 2013 (I was on the bus home so its accuracy may be in question) revealed my split was 55% in favour of female authors.

When it comes to choosing what to real next, the gender of the author simply doesn’t occur to me. I read what I think I’m likely to enjoy – sometimes choosing new writers, other times returning to an old favourite. Purely by chance it happened to end up as a fairly even split in 2013.

Out of the 120 books I read last year:

64 were written by women; 56 by men.

However, when we look outside the immediate realm of US/UK authors:
• 1 x Afghanistan
• 3x Australia
• 1 x Brazil
• 1 x Canada
• 1 x France
• 2 x Germany
• 1 x Ireland
• 1 x Sweden

So in terms of non-Western literature, my total is a very poor two out of 120 – hence my decision to take on this reading challenge and shake myself out of my comfort zone. Whilst gender or race doesn’t occur to me when I’m choosing what to read next, I’m doing a far worse job at reading a range of literature from outside the Western canon. Being in the UK probably doesn’t help a great deal in this respect. The occasional Booker Prize nominee may offer something different, but the majority of new literature publicised and discussed in the media falls again into the category of Western.

Part of the problem is I’m a complete class traitor have a penchant for angsty upper-class interwar literature where the biggest problems people face are whether to have an affair or not. Given that angsty upper-class types are generally white westerners by definition this makes reading a variety of authors trickier to approach. The male/female split is fairly balanced but the non-Western perspective is lacking.

The few authors who write about the immigrant/colonial experience still fall into this category – as much as I adore Jean Rhys and Doris Lessing they’re still looking at things from a position of white privilege and it’s this I want to escape. I’m not sure how much being female influences my interest in women authors but I suspect sticking to what I ‘know’ limits my range of reading.

I read a far wider range of literature at uni and I’m hoping that consciously thinking about the background to what I read in 2014 will be the kick I need to find something new and exciting to read.

I still want a Doris Lessing bookmark though.

Image via: FlyingSinger


BooksI read a lot – but it has come to my attention lately that the majority of my reading material stems from a fairly limited canon of dead white people mostly writing during the inter-war period.

In order to broaden my horizons I have decided that 2014 is due to be the year of international reading – 26 books from 26 different authors I have never previously encountered, each coming from a different country.

My own self-imposed rules are:

1. One country for each letter of the alphabet (I’m cheating a little with X and going for Xiānggǎng which is Pinyin for Hong Kong)

2. An author being from a country takes precedence over where it is set (i.e.: a dead white British guy reminiscing over his time spent in Asia during WWII doesn’t count – I want the insider’s perspective).

The list as it currently stands is:

A) Albania. Broken April – Ismail Kadaré
B) Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Bridge on the Drina – Ivo Andrić
C) China. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Sijie Dai
D) Denmark. Borderliners – Peter Høeg
E) Egypt. Palace Walk – Naguib Mahfouz
F) Fiji. We Are the Ocean – Epeli Hau’ofa
G) Ghana. Wife of the Gods – Kwei Quartey
H) Haiti. The Farming of Bones – Edwidge Danticat
I) India. Sea of Poppies – Amitav Ghosh
J) Jamaica. Abeng – Michelle Cliff
K) Kenya. A Grain of Wheat – Ngugi wa Thiong’o
L) Lebanon. Gate of the Sun – Elias Khoury
M) Mozambique. Sleepwalking Land – Mia Couto
N) Nigeria. Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
O) Oman. Oranges in the Sun: Short Stories from the Arabian Gulf – Various
P) Peru. Conversation in the Cathedral – Mario Vargas Llosa
Q) Qatar. The Girl Who Fell to Earth – Sophia Al-Maria
R) Russia. The Master and Margherita – Mikhail Bulgakov
S) Sri Lanka. Funny Boy – Shyam Selvadurai
T) Trinidad & Tobago. Cereus Blooms at Night – Shani Mootoo
U) Ukraine. The Museum of Abandoned Secrets – Oksana Zabuzhko
V) Venezuela. The Lady, The Chef, and the Courtesan – Marisol
W) Western Samoa. Where We Once Belonged – Sia Figiel
X) Hong Kong. A Many-Splendoured Thing – Han Suyin
Y) Yemen. A Land without Jasmine – Wajdi Al-Ahdal
Z) Zimbabwe. Zenzele: A Letter for my Daughter – J. Nozipo Maraire

Image via: Mr T in DC

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