Around the World in 80+ Books Part Two

Anyone who watched Animaniacs knows there are more than 80 countries on this planet, And that was before so many Russian states became independent. So I am altering this to be 80+ books. I’m having too much fun, and don’t want to leave any one out. We pick up again in Central Asia, so grab your bags and we’ll get going.

21. For Thailand, I thought of course of one of my favorite books and movies, Anna and the King (movie Title: The King and I) but stumbled across the actual memoirs of Anna Harriette Leonowens. The English Governess and the Siamese Court. Go to the source!

22. Next stop is Cambodia, and while there is a rich history here as well, something more modern might be best. The Rent Collector by Cameron Wright. A story of hope, Goodreads assures me.

23. Love, betrayal, and sacrifice seem to sum up Vietnam, and I am intrigued by a story told during the war but not by soldiers. The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam won an award and international prestige.

24. Glide over water to the Philippines, I wanted to avoid Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, since it takes place all over across time and distance. I greatly enjoyed it and would read a sequel if there were one. But it’s heavy going, and people die ’cause it’s war, and war is hell. Instead, I pick something light, fluffy, and fun. My Imaginary Ex by Mina V. Esguerra is a love story (remember love stories?) that explores one of the most reliable areas of mixed emotions. When friends realize they want to be more than friends.

25. Oh, Malaysia, what can I say? Two books interest me here, but I can only focus on one. And so I pick A Malaysian Journey by Rehman Rashid. A novel of love for an imperfect country, I think it a better choice than The Travel Writer by Simone Lazaroo, but only by a sliver.

26. Indonesia is the setting for a quartet of novels that start with This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Known as the Buru Quartet, the saga of love and strength in a colonial world is enticing.

27. I love Amy Tan, and this novel starts in China but travels to Burma, now known as Myanmar. The title of the book caught my attention, Saving Fish From Drowning.

28. Bangladesh is one of those countries I had never heard of in high school geography. If not for George Harrison, there’s every chance I would still be ignorant of the place. And of course, Bangladesh only separated from Pakistan in 1971, and I graduated a year after that. A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam tells the story of this struggle for identity and freedom.

29. Nepal provided another tough choice, and a couple of titles that intrigued me. Don’t Let The Goats Eat The Loquat Trees, by Thomas Hale is a funny title, and I love goats and loquats. But The Way of the Snow Crane by Andrew James Pritchard has a bird in the title. Goats is more of a memoir, and Snow Crane a thrilling adventure. You decide.

30. For India, I didn’t even have to do any research. If I had, I would have realized this book was made into a mini-series. The Far Pavillion by M.M. Kaye spans the life of a British subject who is orphaned and raised in India. And then he has an interesting life.

31. Daughter of the Wind is a great title, and the story of a young woman who had lots of freedom as a child needing to shoulder responsibilities she never expected would come to her had me hooked in seconds. Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples rates as a slow starter on Goodreads, but may turn out to be a winner.

32. Iran, ancient Persia, may need some good press. Some people in a certain country can easily overlook the history, beauty, and cultures of a place and buy in to negativity. The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani is set in Persia, before the hate grew between east and west. A love story, so you know I’m in!

33. In similar fashion, Iraq’s past is rich and full, and the present full of possibilities. In A Sky So Close, Betool Khedairi weaves a tale of mixed cultures and misleading dreams. Coming of age stories in the States are usually about boys, so it’s refreshing to discover so many female protagonists.

34. How long does a country need to exist before a novel takes place there? Tajikistan has’t reached that level yet, but the guidebook Odyssey Tajikistan and the High Pamirs by Robert Middleton might just be the spark that will get someone thinking.

35. Trains and deserts and years of tradition make up the story in The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov. Seeing a deceased friend off to the traditional final resting place of their clan, Yedigei, the main character, encounters a changing world almost beyond his ability to accept. Highly rated on Goodreads.

36. Overtones of Arabian Nights, a large green parrot, and the Silk Road. Need I say more? Uzbekistan shines through history, and this story appears to bring the magic to life. A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road Hardcover by Christopher Aslan Alexander.

37. Turkmenistan lies against the Caspian Sea, a gem of tradition, beauty, and stark contrasts. The Akhal-Teke horse would be sufficient attraction for me to visit there. The Sacred Horses: Memoirs of a Turkmen Cowboy by Jonathan Maslow has mixed reviews, as some people dislike his methods of navigating through a Communist country. I’d still read it, maybe more so in the belief I would be able to see something in the man others missed.

38. I admit, while I was pretty good at geography in high school, I had never heard of Azerbaijan before this. And that sucks because I missed the chance to read this classic novel, Ali and Nino: A Love Story by Kurban Said. Just at the dawn of World War I, two houses, both alike in dignity. . . wait. Okay, so the story is often compared to Romeo and Juliet, but not only are the houses at odds, their religion and social upbringing are opposed. I suspect there is no happy ending here. Guess I will have to read it to find out.

39. I did not expect Georgia to be so difficult. Novels set there are not coming up on my search. But rather than give up, I present the Top Medieval Poet, Shota Rustaveli and The Knight in the Panther’s Skin. Great title! Adventure and Romance written in the 12th or 13th century, this is the Georgian National Epic Poem. Translated by Venera Urushadze, she obviously loves the work, and we owe her a debt of gratitude. Ms. Urushadze takes the time to explain the nuts and bolts of this style of poetry.

40. Last stop, Turkey. I would use less space listing the writers who don’t have books set in Turkey. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but here’s a partial list: C.S. Forester, Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew), Victoria Holt, L. Ron Hubbard, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. As a now and then member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, I loved the rare events with a Byzantine theme, so that helped me narrow down my choice. And what better view of the period than through Anna of Byzantium by Tracey Barrett? Listed as a Young Adult Historical Fiction, and a hidden gem on Goodreads, I’m adding it to my own Must Read list.

We rest here until next Sunday, Happy Mothers’ Day to those who feel it applies, and here’s a little light entertainment to see you through:

Back on Wednesday with something equally entertaining!

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