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The ReadDown

Around the World in 32 Books

Travel from Ghana to Thailand through these must-read stories from 32 different countries.

  1. 1
    Half of a Yellow Sun Book Cover Picture
    Half of a Yellow Sun Book Cover Picture

    Nigeria – Half of a Yellow Sun

    by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    With effortless grace, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene.
    Half of a Yellow Sun Book Cover Picture
    Half of a Yellow Sun Book Cover Picture

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  2. 2
    Sea Prayer Book Cover Picture
    Sea Prayer Book Cover Picture

    Syria – Sea Prayer

    by Khaled Hosseini

    A short, powerful, illustrated book written by beloved novelist Khaled Hosseini in response to the current refugee crisis, Sea Prayer is composed in the form of a letter, from a father to his son, on the eve of their journey. Watching over his sleeping son, the father reflects on the dangerous sea-crossing that lies before them. It is also a vivid portrait of their life in Homs, Syria, before the war, and of that city’s swift transformation from a home into a deadly war zone.
    Sea Prayer Book Cover Picture
    Sea Prayer Book Cover Picture

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  3. 3
    Killing Commendatore Book Cover Picture
    Killing Commendatore Book Cover Picture

    Japan – Killing Commendatore

    by Haruki Murakami

    In Killing Commendatore, a thirty-something portrait painter in Tokyo is abandoned by his wife and finds himself holed up in the mountain home of a famous artist, Tomohiko Amada. When he discovers a previously unseen painting in the attic, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances. To close it, he must complete a journey that involves a mysterious ringing bell, a two-foot-high physical manifestation of an Idea, a dapper businessman who lives across the valley, a precocious thirteen-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt during World War II in Vienna, a pit in the woods behind the artist’s home, and an underworld haunted by Double Metaphors.
    Killing Commendatore Book Cover Picture
    Killing Commendatore Book Cover Picture

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  4. 4
    Born a Crime Book Cover Picture
    Born a Crime Book Cover Picture

    South Africa – Born a Crime

    by Trevor Noah

    Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
    Born a Crime Book Cover Picture
    Born a Crime Book Cover Picture

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  5. 5
    The Old Drift Book Cover Picture
    The Old Drift Book Cover Picture

    Zambia – The Old Drift

    by Namwali Serpell

    On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there is a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. In a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives—their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes—emerge through a panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction.
    The Old Drift Book Cover Picture
    The Old Drift Book Cover Picture

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  6. 6
    White Teeth Book Cover Picture
    White Teeth Book Cover Picture

    England – White Teeth

    by Zadie Smith

    White Teeth Book Cover Picture
    White Teeth Book Cover Picture

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  7. 7
    True History of the Kelly Gang Book Cover Picture
    True History of the Kelly Gang Book Cover Picture

    Australia – True History of the Kelly Gang

    by Peter Carey

    True History of the Kelly Gang Book Cover Picture
    True History of the Kelly Gang Book Cover Picture

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  8. 8
    Bangkok Wakes to Rain Book Cover Picture
    Bangkok Wakes to Rain Book Cover Picture

    Thailand – Bangkok Wakes to Rain

    by Pitchaya Sudbanthad

    Bangkok Wakes to Rain Book Cover Picture
    Bangkok Wakes to Rain Book Cover Picture

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  9. 9
    Three Strong Women Book Cover Picture
    Three Strong Women Book Cover Picture

    Senegal – Three Strong Women

    by Marie NDiaye

    The story of three women who say no: Norah, a French-born lawyer who finds herself in Senegal, summoned by her estranged father to save another victim of his paternity; Fanta, who leaves a contented life as a teacher in Dakar to follow her boyfriend back to France, where his depression and dislocation poison everything; and Khady, a penniless widow put out by her husband’s family with nothing but the name of a distant cousin in France. As these three lives intertwine, each woman manages an astonishing feat of self-preservation against those who have made themselves the fastest-growing and most-reviled people in Europe.
    Three Strong Women Book Cover Picture
    Three Strong Women Book Cover Picture

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  10. 10
    Human Acts Book Cover Picture
    Human Acts Book Cover Picture

    South Korea – Human Acts

    by Han Kang

    In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed. The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho’s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho’s own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.
    Human Acts Book Cover Picture
    Human Acts Book Cover Picture

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  11. 11
    Girls of Riyadh Book Cover Picture
    Girls of Riyadh Book Cover Picture

    Saudi Arabia – Girls of Riyadh

    by Rajaa Alsanea

    When Rajaa Alsanea boldly chose to open up the hidden world of Saudi women—their private lives and their conflicts with the traditions of their culture—she caused a sensation across the Arab world. Now in English, Alsanea’s tale of the personal struggles of four young upper-class women offers Westerners an unprecedented glimpse into a society often veiled from view. Living in restrictive Riyadh but traveling all over the globe, these modern Saudi women literally and figuratively shed traditional garb as they search for love, fulfillment, and their place somewhere in between Western society and their Islamic home.
    Girls of Riyadh Book Cover Picture
    Girls of Riyadh Book Cover Picture

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  12. 12
    The April 3rd Incident Book Cover Picture
    The April 3rd Incident Book Cover Picture

    China – The April 3rd Incident

    by Yu Hua

    From one of China’s most famous contemporary writers, who celebrated novel To Live catapulted him to international fame, here is a stunning collection of stories, selected from the best of Yu Hua’s early work, that shows his far-reaching influence on a pivotal period in Chinese literature.
    The April 3rd Incident Book Cover Picture
    The April 3rd Incident Book Cover Picture

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  13. 13
    Girl at War Book Cover Picture
    Girl at War Book Cover Picture

    Croatia – Girl at War

    by Sara Novic

    Zagreb, 1991. Ana Jurić is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world. In 2001, haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before.
    Girl at War Book Cover Picture
    Girl at War Book Cover Picture

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  14. 14
    The Innocent Book Cover Picture
    The Innocent Book Cover Picture

    Germany – The Innocent

    by Ian McEwan

    A member of a British-American surveillance team in Cold War Berlin finds himself in too deep in this masterful work from the author of Atonement. Twenty-five-year-old Leonard Marnham’s intelligence work—tunneling under a Russian communications center to tap the phone lines to Moscow—offers him a welcome opportunity to begin shedding his own unwanted innocence, even if he is only a bit player in a grim international comedy of errors. His relationship with Maria Eckdorf, an enigmatic and beautiful West Berliner, likewise promises to loosen the bonds of his ordinary life. But the promise turns to horror in the course of one terrible evening—a night when Marnham learns just how much of his innocence he’s willing to shed.
    The Innocent Book Cover Picture
    The Innocent Book Cover Picture

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  15. 15
    The Map of Love Book Cover Picture
    The Map of Love Book Cover Picture

    Egypt – The Map of Love

    by Ahdaf Soueif

    In 1900 the recently widows Anna Winterbourne left England for Egypt, an outpost of the Empire roiling with political sentiment. She soon found herself enraptured by the real Egypt and in love with Sharif Pasha al-Baroudi, an Egyptian nationalist. When Isabel, in an attempt to discover the truth behind her heritage, reenacts Anna’s excursion to Egypt, the story of her great-grandparents unravels before her, revealing startling parallels for her own life.
    The Map of Love Book Cover Picture
    The Map of Love Book Cover Picture

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  16. 16
    Adèle Book Cover Picture
    Adèle Book Cover Picture

    France – Adèle

    by Leila Slimani

    Adèle appears to have the perfect life: She is a successful journalist in Paris who lives in a beautiful apartment with her surgeon husband and their young son. But underneath the surface, she is bored–and consumed by an insatiable need for sex. Driven less by pleasure than compulsion, Adèle organizes her day around her extramarital affairs, arriving late to work and lying to her husband about where she’s been, until she becomes ensnared in a trap of her own making.
    Adèle Book Cover Picture
    Adèle Book Cover Picture

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  17. 17
    Normal People Book Cover Picture
    Normal People Book Cover Picture

    Ireland – Normal People

    by Sally Rooney

    At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal. A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.
    Normal People Book Cover Picture
    Normal People Book Cover Picture

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  18. 18
    Love in the Time of Cholera Book Cover Picture
    Love in the Time of Cholera Book Cover Picture

    Colombia – Love in the time of Cholera

    by Gabriel García Márquez

    In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
    Love in the Time of Cholera Book Cover Picture
    Love in the Time of Cholera Book Cover Picture

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  19. 19
    We Were the Lucky Ones Book Cover Picture
    We Were the Lucky Ones Book Cover Picture

    Poland – We Were the Lucky Ones

    by Georgia Hunter

    It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.
    We Were the Lucky Ones Book Cover Picture
    We Were the Lucky Ones Book Cover Picture

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  20. 20
    The High Mountains of Portugal Book Cover Picture
    The High Mountains of Portugal Book Cover Picture

    Portugal – The High Mountains of Portugal

    by Yann Martel

    In Lisbon in 1904, a young man named Tomás discovers an old journal. It hints at the existence of an extraordinary artifact that—if he can find it—would redefine history. Traveling in one of Europe’s earliest automobiles, he sets out in search of this strange treasure. Thirty-five years later, a Portuguese pathologist devoted to the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie finds himself at the center of a mystery of his own and drawn into the consequences of Tomás’s quest. Fifty years on, a Canadian senator takes refuge in his ancestral village in northern Portugal, grieving the loss of his beloved wife. But he arrives with an unusual companion: a chimpanzee. And there the century-old quest will come to an unexpected conclusion.
    The High Mountains of Portugal Book Cover Picture
    The High Mountains of Portugal Book Cover Picture

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  21. 21
    The God of Small Things Book Cover Picture
    The God of Small Things Book Cover Picture

    India – The God of Small Things

    by Arundhati Roy

    Compared favorably to the works of Faulkner and Dickens, Arundhati Roy’s modern classic is equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevocably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest.
    The God of Small Things Book Cover Picture
    The God of Small Things Book Cover Picture

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  22. 22
    Dust Book Cover Picture
    Dust Book Cover Picture

    Kenya – Dust

    by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

    When a young man is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi, his grief-stricken father and sister bring his body back to their crumbling home in the Kenyan drylands. But the murder has stirred up memories long since buried, precipitating a series of events no one could have foreseen. As the truth unfolds, we come to learn the secrets held by this parched landscape, hidden deep within the shared past of a family and their conflicted nation. Spanning Kenya’s turbulent 1950s and 1960s, Dust is spellbinding debut from a breathtaking new voice in literature.
    Dust Book Cover Picture
    Dust Book Cover Picture

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  23. 23
    The Shadow of the Wind Book Cover Picture
    The Shadow of the Wind Book Cover Picture

    Spain – The Shadow of the Wind

    by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

    Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in what he finds in the “cemetery of lost books,” a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.
    The Shadow of the Wind Book Cover Picture
    The Shadow of the Wind Book Cover Picture

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  24. 24
    How to Love a Jamaican Book Cover Picture
    How to Love a Jamaican Book Cover Picture

    Jamaica – How to Love a Jamaican

    by Alexia Arthurs

    Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret—Alexia Arthurs navigates these tensions to extraordinary effect in her debut collection about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life.
    How to Love a Jamaican Book Cover Picture
    How to Love a Jamaican Book Cover Picture

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  25. 25
    The Glass Palace Book Cover Picture
    The Glass Palace Book Cover Picture

    Myanmar – The Glass Palace

    by Amitav Ghosh

    Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the Burmese Queen, whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her. The struggles that have made Burma, India, and Malaya the places they are today are illuminated in this wonderful novel by the writer Chitra Divakaruni calls “a master storyteller.”
    The Glass Palace Book Cover Picture
    The Glass Palace Book Cover Picture

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  26. 26
    Doctor Zhivago Book Cover Picture
    Doctor Zhivago Book Cover Picture

    Russia – Doctor Zhivago

    by Boris Pasternak

    Doctor Zhivago is the story of the life and loves of a poet/physician during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Taking his family from Moscow to what he hopes will be shelter in the Ural Mountains, Zhivago finds himself instead embroiled in the battle between the Whites and the Reds. Set against this backdrop of cruelty and strife is Zhivago’s love for the tender and beautiful Lara, the very embodiment of the pain and chaos of those cataclysmic times. Pevear and Volokhonsky masterfully restore the spirit of Pasternak’s original—his style, rhythms, voicings, and tone—in this beautiful translation of a classic of world literature.
    Doctor Zhivago Book Cover Picture
    Doctor Zhivago Book Cover Picture

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  27. 27
    Caramelo Book Cover Picture
    Caramelo Book Cover Picture

    Mexico – Caramelo

    by Sandra Cisneros

    Every year, Ceyala “Lala” Reyes’ family—aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and Lala’s six older brothers—packs up three cars and, in a wild ride, drive from Chicago to the Little Grandfather and Awful Grandmother’s house in Mexico City for the summer. Struggling to find a voice above the boom of her brothers and to understand her place on this side of the border and that, Lala is a shrewd observer of family life. But when she starts telling the Awful Grandmother’s life story, seeking clues to how she got to be so awful, grandmother accuses Lala of exaggerating. Soon, a multigenerational family narrative turns into a whirlwind exploration of storytelling, lies, and life. Like the cherished rebozo, or shawl, that has been passed down through generations of Reyes women, Caramelo is alive with the vibrations of history, family, and love.
    Caramelo Book Cover Picture
    Caramelo Book Cover Picture

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  28. 28
    The World in Half Book Cover Picture
    The World in Half Book Cover Picture

    Panama – The World in Half

    by Cristina Henriquez

    Miraflores never knew her father, and never thought he wanted to know her. But when she returns to the Chicago suburb where she grew up to care for her ailing mother, she discovers that her mother and father were greatly in love, and that her father had wanted a daughter more than she could have imagined. Now, Miraflores secretly plots a trip to Panama, in search of the man she hopes can heal her mother-and who can help her find the pieces of her own identity. What she finds is unexpected, exhilarating, and holds the power to change the course of her life.
    The World in Half Book Cover Picture
    The World in Half Book Cover Picture

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  29. 29
    Next Year in Havana Book Cover Picture
    Next Year in Havana Book Cover Picture

    Cuba – Next Year in Havana

    by Chanel Cleeton

    Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary… Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.
    Next Year in Havana Book Cover Picture
    Next Year in Havana Book Cover Picture

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  30. 30
    Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon Book Cover Picture
    Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon Book Cover Picture

    Brazil – Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon

    by Jorge Amado

    Ilhéus in 1925 is a booming town with a record cacao crop and aspirations for progress, but the traditional ways prevail. When Colonel Mendonça discovers his wife in bed with a lover, he shoots and kills them both. No one imagines that a bedraggled migrant worker who turns up in town–least of all Gabriela herself–will be the agent of change. Nacib Saad has just lost the cook at his popular café and in desperation hires Gabriela. To his surprise she turns out to be a great beauty as well as a wonderful cook and an enchanting boon to his business. But what would people say if Nacib were to marry her?
    Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon Book Cover Picture
    Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon Book Cover Picture

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  31. 31
    Homegoing Book Cover Picture
    Homegoing Book Cover Picture

    Ghana – Homegoing

    by Yaa Gyasi

    Homegoing Book Cover Picture
    Homegoing Book Cover Picture

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  32. 32
    Knife Book Cover Picture
    Knife Book Cover Picture

    Norway – Knife

    by Jo Nesbo

    Knife Book Cover Picture
    Knife Book Cover Picture

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