Wednesday, July 20, 2016

10 Books Set Outside the USA

I'm a big fan of reading books set in different countries, so much so that I am participating in Around the World in 80 Books.  I feel like I get to travel to another world, another country, another continent without the expenses.  I learn about other cultures, histories, and times through this world of reading.

Karen wrote a post yesterday about this topic, but I didn't notice that it was inspired by a link-up.  After seeing Heather's post about 10 Books that she enjoys that are set in other countries (besides the USA), I knew I needed to jump on that post idea.  After all, my love for the following books inspired my interest in the Around the World book challenge.  So, I will be linking as well with The Broke and The Bookish my recommendations as well for the Top 10 Books Set Outside the USA.

1.  The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (England) - I don't re-read books.  I can't think of one novel that I've read more than once, except this one.  I took a class in university about Children's Literature. I remember re-reading the book then (having read it as a young girl) and enjoying it. Unfortunately, I was too hungover most lecture days that I don't remember much else about the class. I'm glad I re-read it again (and again) at different stages of adulthood. It's even more delightful of a story the third (and fourth) time. I'm a sucker for a transformation story, and the combined transformations of characters and the garden is a winner. 

2.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (Guernsey, United Kingdom) - Delightful.  That is the word that I use to describe this book.  It made me giggle.  It made me cry.  It gave me warm feelings all over. 

3.  The Ed Loy series by Declan Hughes (5 books in all, set in Ireland) - Gritty, dark, suspenseful mysteries that follow the cases of private detective Ed Loy.  The underworld of Dublin comes to life in these books.

4.  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (France, during the German occupation of WWII) - A book that has received a lot of attention, deservedly so, in my opinion.  If you like historical fiction, read this book. If you like strong female characters, read this book. And, have a box of Kleenex next to you for the last 50 pages or so...and preferably don't read those pages in public.

5.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Germany) - Yes, another WWII book.  Yes, another book that has received a lot of praise.  Remember that I said I don't re-read books?  I plan to re-read this one this year.  I want to experience it again.  The characters are brilliant, and a love of books and stories are prevalent.  The narrator is unique and poignant.

6.  Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Lithuania/Serbia) - Last WWII book, I promise.  I love a historical fiction book that actually expands my knowledge. This book did just that. While reading, I found myself googling things about Lithuania, the Balkans, and Stalin. This book is heart-wrenching, even horrific at times, with tales of brutality, starvation, disease, and loss...but it is wonderful and beautiful, and I highly recommend it.

7.  Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Iceland) - I'm certainly glad I didn't discard this one just because it is based on a true story set in Iceland in the 1800s, and I was slightly intimidated by it. What a beauty of a book; heavy with dark imagery, but beautiful nonetheless. As I was reading, I wanted to know more and more of Agnes's story. I became emotionally invested in her and other characters.

8.  Saving Francesca & The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta (Australia) - For YA fans, I have so much love for these books.  They follow the same group of friends but different lead character in each book; in Saving Francesca, from a high school girl's perspective, and in The Piper's Son, a twenty-something year old boy.  Both are stories of self-growth and finding oneself with the spirit of Sydney suburbs accurately depicted.

9.  The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi (Afghanistan) - If you've read Khaled Hosseini's books (which I recommend as well) and found them fascinating and powerful, then add this to your "to read" list. A captivating book that is both emotional and educational about two generations of Afghan women who faced hardships including abuse (physical, sexual, verbal, emotional), loss, loneliness, abandonment, betrayal, and more. If you are like me, you'll read this book, then want to go save alllllll the girls of the world that are denied opportunities and treated as inferiors for being female.

10.  The Power of the Dog and The Cartel by Don Winslow (Mexico) - Ruthless, brutal, and violent. Think The Godfather; instead of The Mafia, it focuses on Mexican drug cartels. No, not The Godfather. That isn't violent or horrific enough. Think The Sopranos multiplied by 1000.  This is an epic story spanning decades about the rise of Mexican drug cartels, the DEA that hunts them, and the effects of the drug trade to all involved and surrounded by it.  Much like Law & Order: SVU takes real stories and headlines and fictionalizes them for a television show, the author has done the same for these books. 

Have you read any of these?  What others would you recommend?

Linking up for Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and The Bookish


  1. I thought of The Nightingale too!! I really need to re-read The Secret Garden someday. What a great story. The Book Thief is so unique in the realm of WWII books. Your "around the world in 80 books" challenge is a great way to diversify your reading!!

  2. I'm currently reading Secret Daughter (for your challenge!) which is partially set in India. Based on my experience there, this book is SO accurate and descriptive, especially when it comes to describing the people and life on the street!

  3. oh what a lovely list. the secret garden is just perfection and now i need to go re-read it. i'm not super into historical books but some of these sound interesting!

    xoxo cheshire kat

  4. I intended to read Between Shades of Gray a few years ago. It looked like such an emotional investment that I kept putting it off. Same with Skeletons at the Feast.

  5. I have read ZERO of those... I think I need to expand my reading list a bit I guess :) haha

  6. Finished The Nightingale yesterday. SO good. I need to move The Book Thief up my TBR list because I feel a WWII book kick coming on. Can't wait to read The Power of the Dog and Cartel.

  7. Somehow I've never read The Secret Garden, although I was mesmerized by the movie when I was a kid. It was one of my favorites. I fantasized and still do about discovering a secret garden. I may have to read it sometime. I like all your picks. I actually haven't read any of them yet.

  8. I love The Secret Garden. I already have several of these on my TBR and I need to get around to them!

  9. Love, love, love The Nightingale and The Book Thief. Both are such powerful WWII novels and they've stayed with me for so long. I need to read Between Shades of Grey and The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and The Power of The Dog/The Cartel because all sound so interesting in their own ways. Plus, if you're recommending them, then I have a feeling that I'll like them a lot! So many great books, so little time!

  10. I love historical fiction and a favorite era is certainly WWII so I'm fine with you including ALL the books from that time period! I've been wanting to pick up The Nightingale since it came out.

  11. I love The Book Thief so, so much. I think it's about time for another read.

  12. the book thief is one of the only other books i reread (the other being pride and prejudice, duh) regularly. it gets me every time. Guernsey is one of my favourite books of all time, so fun. i have only read that one twice, but like 6 years apart so it's not really something i reread often either haha.
    i love jamie and the broke & the bookish. i'm always looking at her top ten prompts to see if there is something i want to join in on.

  13. I have many of these on my "To Read" list, and, as you know, I LOVED The Nightingale! So good.

    For some reason I was kind of surprised to see that you don't really reread books. I don't reread tons of books, but if I really loved a book (or if it's just been a really long time since I've read it), I like to revisit it from time to time. I kind of equate it to rewatching a favorite movie or TV series. (I don't know if you do that either, though.)


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