Rest of the world

During my quest, I asked blog visitors to help me choose a book from one extra territory to reflect the many places not featured on my list of 195 UN-recognised nations (plus Taiwan). Book nominations poured in from all over the globe and I drew up a shortlist for people to vote on. After 376 votes, the winner of the Rest of the World poll was The Man in Blue Pyjamas by Jalal Barzanji from Kurdistan. See below for the full results.


  • 34.57% Kurdistan Jalal Barzanji The Man in Blue Pyjamas – a literary memoir by a journalist imprisoned and tortured under Saddam Hussein’s regime
  • 30.05% Catalonia Jaume Cabré Winter Journey – a collection of interlinked short stories (first published in 2001) based on the structure of a Schubert song cycle
  • 13.3% Faroe Islands Heðin Brú The Old Man and His Sons – a novel depicting the transformation of the fishing industry, voted ‘Book of the 20th Century’ by the Faroese
  • 10.9% Native America Louise Erdrich The Round House – a novel about racial injustice, which won the US National Book Award in November 2012
  • 7.98% Basque Country Bernardo Atxaga Seven Houses in France – a historical novel (first published in 2009) about a French army captain who sets out to make his fortune in the jungles of Congo
  • 3.2% Bermuda Brian Burland The Sailor and the Fox – a 1973 novel about the island’s first ever mixed-race prizefight by one of Bermuda’s most notable and controversial writers


  • Antarctic Captain Robert Falcon Scott / Ernest Shackleton South / Apsley Cherry-Garrard The Worst Journey in the World
  • Basque Country Bernardo Atxaga Seven Houses in France  
  • Bermuda Brian Burland The Sailor and the Fox
  • British Virgin Islands Jennie Wheatley Pass it On! A Treasury of Virgin Island Tales
  • Canary Islands Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa Tuareg
  • Catalonia Jaume Cabré Winter Journey
  • Faroe Islands Heðin Brú The Old Man and His Sons
  • Guam Evelyn Flores Dolphin Day
  • Indigenous Aboriginal Australia Doris Pilkington Follow the Rabbit-proof Fence
  • Kurdistan Ava Homa Echoes from the Other Land / Jalal Barzanji The Man in Blue Pyjamas
  • Martinique Mayotte Capecia I am a Martinican WomanThe White Negress
  • Mayan Culture Anon Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Maya
  • Native America Louise Erdrich The Round House / David Treuer Rez Life
  • No Country ed Paul Gubbins Star in a Night Sky: an anthology of Esperanto literature
  • Niue John Pule Burn my Head in Heaven
  • Pitcairn Islands Rowan Metcalfe Transit of Venus
  • Puerto Rico Ana Lydia Vega / Edgardo Rodríguez Julia The RenunciationCortijo’s WakeSan Juan: Memoir of a City
  • Saint Martin Lasana M Sekou Love Songs Make You CryBrotherhood of the Spurs
  • Somaliland Nadifa Mohammed Black Mamba Boy

78 responses

  1. My vote goes for ‘The Old Man And His Sons’ – a fantastic book. What about St Kilda – Karin Altenberg’s Orange-longlisted ‘Island Of Wings’ is worth a read…

    • Thanks Mark. ‘Island Of Wings’ is a bit of a puzzler for me as although it’s set in St Kilda Karin Altenberg herself seems to be Swedish, which would file it under Swedish literature in my book. What do you reckon?

  2. Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe is a great Nigerian book, and I really want to read Let the Right one in by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Swedish) It’s supposed to be great!

    • Thanks Rebecca. I love the Achebe too. I’ll add the Lidqvist to the main list – this one’s for places not represented on that.

      • Anything by Chimamanda Adichie? She’s a Nigerian author too, but massively under-read when compared to Achebe. It’s quite easy to find her, and she has three titles to her name.

        I was looking at the Pakistani authors, and I’d say Kamila Shamsie (Kartography, Broken Verses) and Farooqi’s latest (Between Clay and Dust) are immensely better and fairly under-read when compared to Mohsin Hamid and Mueenuddin perhaps. But that’s just my opinion 🙂

      • Thanks Sharanya. Yes I’ve read Adichie in the past, which is why she’s not on the main list at the moment. I’ll add your Pakistani suggestions to the other list, although I have just read my Pakistani choice – post coming soon.

        Thanks very much for stopping by – and if you have any ‘Rest of the World’ suggestions, do let me know…

  3. Does this extend to Antarctica, which has no native or permanent inhabitants? If so, South (by Ernest Shackleton) and The Worst Journey in the World (by Apsley Cherry-Garrard) are two of the best polar books I’ve ever read.

    • Very interesting. I think that’s one to throw out to the crowd. Is it possible to have literature from a country where there are no native or permanent inhabitants? Would love to know what others think…

  4. For Reunion Island there are very few books about Reunion written in English.

    Books I haven’t read myself:
    – Reunion: An Island in Search of an Identify by Laurent Medea
    – Monsters and Revolutionaries: Colonial Family Romance and Metissage by Françoise Verges
    (both the above are Social Science books, not novels, but are written by locals).
    – Island Awakening by Lynne Martin (romance).
    – Bourbon Island by Appollo & Lewis Trondheim (graphic novel)
    – ISLAND BORN of FIRE: Volcano Piton de la Fournaise by Dr Robert B. Trombley

    Books I’ve read myself:
    – Crags and Craters: Rambles in the Island of Reunion by William Dudley Olivier (this is my favourite of the three).
    – The Last Colony: An Experience of Reunion Island by Michael Steane (an e-book but full of inaccuracies)
    – Six Months in Reunion: A Clergyman’s Holiday, and How He Passed it by Patrick Beaton (didn’t like this much).
    I’ve written reviews of the above 3 books:

    Unfortunately as far as I know there’s no English translations of books that are well-known on Reunion from authors like Daniel Vaxelaire or Axel Gauvin, although the latter’s books have been translated into German.

  5. Pingback: Books about Reunion and worldwide literature | A Smart Translator's Reunion

  6. For capturing that feeling of “world literature” in a single book, how about considering “Star in a Night Sky – an Anthology of Esperanto Literature” by Paul Gubbins? It contains a little bit of everything, from poetry and short stories to extracts from novels, contributions from authors spanning the globe.

    There’s more information including interviews with the author here.

    • Thanks very much – yes I’ve read all these except for ‘There Was A Country’ before. They are good. However this list is for countries not on my main list – it is for countries that are disputed territories or associated states, things like that (see above). If you have recommendations for those countries, I’d love to hear them

  7. What about Diego Marani’s Last of the Vostyachs or Las Adventures des Inspector Cabillot? Both placeless and unofficial/unreal languages.

  8. A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khalid Hosseini (fiction); takes place in Afghanistan

    Border Passage – Leila Ahmed (non-fiction); takes place in Egypt

    The Shoemaker’s Wife – Adriana Trigiani (fiction); takes place in the Italian Alps

  9. Discover an old new world with Mr Jalal Barzanji and his book: The Man in Blue Pajamas to know how Kurdistan people were patient under the Saddam’s regime.

  10. Patrick Chamoiseau is an extraordinary writer from Martinique. He is one of the most original and unique writers in the French language. His novels Texaco and Solibo magnifique paint a vivid picture of his native island. Worth reading even if they are not on The List.

  11. I’ll be taking a Russian literature class next semester. That should be interesting, but I guess Russian is just the tip of the iceberg for someone who’s literally read books from everywhere. Reading works by every Nobel Prize in Literature laureate would be an intriguing challenge.

  12. Hi, what about literature from Kosovo? I miss it on lists, but I can check if there are some novels available in English.

  13. I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m just amazed! That’s the project I’d always wanted to do, I’m really looking forward to check your recommendations!
    My suggestions:
    Catalonia: any Jaume Cabre’s work, but specially “Voices of Pamano”
    Basque country: Bernardo Atxaga “Obabakoak”, in my opinion much better that “Seven houses in France”
    Galicia: The Carpenter’s Pencil, by Manuel Rivas (or have a look at

    Thanks for your blog!

  14. Just wanted to say I love the project you’ve been doing! As someone almost purely raised on American literature with some British literature thrown in here and there, I’m very impressed with the blog you’ve created.

    Being very interested in minority languages and cultures of Europe, I wanted to mention that the Lesser Languages Series which published the Esperanto Anthology you have listed here also published anthologies of Bretagne, Manx and Galician literature, as well as one on the Norman dialects of the Channel Islands. They plan to release one in the near future focusing on literature in the Ladino language as well.

    In Eastern Germany, there’s a small ethnic group of Slavs called the Sorbs, or Lusatians, with their own language. It so happens that the British Library in London has the greatest collection of Sorbian literature and writing in the world if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know much about their literary history myself, other than that there is a history, albeit small. But if you wanted another very small language and culture to extend your list, there’s one to look into.

    Anyway, best of luck in discovering more world literature!

    • Marvellous – thanks Felix. Yes, minority language groups are fascinating, aren’t they? I think there are some 7,000 in the world – and more than 800 of those are in Papua New Guinea alone. I’ve never heard of Ladino or the Sorbs. Great to have a heads up about them.

  15. I am surprised that nobody has mentioned Abkhazia: while the little republic is not going to get international diplomatic recognition (other than by Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela) any time soon, they have at least one well known author, Fazil Iskander. Quite a few of his books are available in English translation, too.

    • Thanks. Quite a few of the books I read during my project were by exiled writers. Tibet would certainly have been a fascinating one. I wonder what Tibetan literature in English people would recommend…

  16. You should definitely check out A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. It’s set in Chechnya. It is by far the most incredible book I have ever read. It brought me to tears.

  17. Hi Anna,

    I came across your blog by accident while browsing the net and I just wanted to say this is such a great and inspiring undertaking!

    Best of luck for your next literary endeavor 🙂


  18. I could recomend ‘Siberian Education’ by Nicolai Lilin. The author is from the mostly unrecognised state of Transnistria in Eastern Europe.

  19. This is not a country recommendation, but have you considered the languages which don’t have a territorial base? I’m thinking of Yiddish (anything by Isaac Bashevis Singer) and Esperanto, but there are others. If you’ve never read Singer’s Satan in Goray, or a volume of his short stories, you should

  20. Hi Ann! Just Beautiful!
    Even though Puerto Rico is an un-incorporated territory of the USA, it has its very own and particular background and culture; we consider ourselves a country. Among the many great works of Puertorican literature, I will suggest 4 that trully depict our idiosyncrasy, each from a different time period. I believe they’ve all been translated to english. Enjoy!!!
    Manuel Zeno Gandía/ La Charca
    René Marquez/ La Carreta
    Luis Rafael Sánchez/ La Guaracha del Macho Camacho
    Esmeralda Santiago/ Cuando yo era Puertorriqueña

  21. This is such an inspiring project you took on. I think I’ll try doing likewise, only that I wont try squeezing all of them in a year…maybe within a lifetime, though! I’m going to try getting all these books where possible…Amazon might help for some of them but if you could provide sourcing info where possible, that would wonderful. Thanks!

  22. I was wondering if you might be able to assist…I am looking for something from Aruba. I came upon a poet Henry Habibe but there only seems to be Spanish and Dutch translations. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  23. Hello Ann,

    The ‘A Year of Reading The World’ you assembled is terrific! I hope you will add the following:

    Hong Kong: The Expatriates + The Piano Lesson by Janice Y.K. Lee

    Janice Lee was born in HK, spent her childhood there, and still visits her parents there.

    Malaysia: The Gift of Rain + The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

    These were short- & long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
    The Garden of Evening Mists won the Man Asian Literary Prize

    Malaysia: The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw

    This was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2005

    Malaysia: Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw

    Malaysia/China: Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw

    This was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2013

    Singapore: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

    Singapore: Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kirsten Chen

    Sri Lanka: Wave by Sorani Deraniyagala

    Ann, I have read all ten titles/books. Each one was difficult to put down, to close. Also … we have something in common. Choral singing! I have been singing for 25+ years, first ten years in San Francisco when I lived there, and in Boston & Cambridge, Mass since 2000 when I moved to New England. Presently, I’m an alto with The Boston Cecilia. Do read about our history, and music director, Nicholas White. Nicholas is an alum of Cambridge also.

    Happy New Year + Cheers!


  24. Hi Ann, I just watched your TED talk in my English class. I am from Colombia, I checked your list and I loved that you read Delirium, one of my favorites. I would suggest Oblivion by Héctor Abad Faciolince. Great project!

  25. Hi, great reading! Can I suggest two books from the Netherlands: Captain Jan and Character. Both are about the stubbornness of Dutch people and their fight against things wrong (in their opinion). Please let me know what you thought of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s