Monday, April 13, 2009

Alyssa's World Lit List

I recently made a goal to read more books by people of colour, and one of my esteemed mother's remarks about it was to ask whether I was going to read such books in translation? And the answer was no, I was talking about books written in English, in North America and Britain where most of the books I read tend to have been written. And this is still the case. But it did make me think about how little world literature I have read. So when Project Fill In the Gaps waltzed along, I thought my world literature gaps could use some filling. The only problem is I don't really know much about world literature.

This list has been compiled somewhat haphazardly by large geographical area, using things like Wikipedia articles and online reading lists, as well as some items from my usual to-read list. In some cases I've taken into account local book awards, and in some cases I've just picked books because the summary on Amazon made me want to read them. I've unwisely tackled canon, contemporary literary fiction, and genre fiction all at the same time. I've also included a few literary theory must-haves that uni made me curious to read, and some feminist and anti-racist theory, because my reading in that area is... argh, I haven't read anything! My list is pretty arbitrary, and I know there are big big gaps. But if you are reading this and you spot something big I've missed, I'd be ever-so-grateful if you would take a moment to point out any glaring flaws, as I'm open to amendment!

I'm giving myself 25 books of leeway, because I know I've probably put some things on this list I won't actually be able to find. Also posted to my blog.

1. Chinua Achebe - Things Fall Apart (Nigeria)
2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Half of a Yellow Sun (Nigeria)
3. Yvonne Vera - Butterfly Burning (Zimbabwe)
4. Margaret Ogola - The River and the Source (Kenya)
5. Sarah Ladipo Manyika - In Dependence (Nigeria)
6. Bessie Head - When Rain Clouds Gather (Botswana)
7. Ben Okri - The Famished Road (Nigeria)
8. J. M. Coetzee - Disgrace (South Africa)
9. M. G. Vassanji - The Book of Secrets (Kenya)
10. Zakes Mda - Ways of Dying (South Africa)

East Asia
11. Hwang Sok-Yong - The Guest (Korea)
12. Murasaki Shikibu - The Tale of Genji (Japan)
13. Murakami Haruki - Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (Japan)
14. Yoshimoto Banana - Kitchen (Japan)
15. Louis Cha – The Deer and the Cauldron (China)
16. Eileen Chang – Love in a Fallen City (China)
17. Luo Guanzhong - Romance of the Three Kingdoms (China)
18. Qiu Xiaolong - Death of a Red Heroine (China)
19. Jose Rizal - Touch Me Not (Philippines)
20. Wilfrido D. Nolledo - But for the Lovers (Philippines)

South Asia
21. Kiran Desai - The Inheritance of Loss (India)
22. Arvind Adiga - The White Tiger (India)
23. Amitav Ghosh – The Calcutta Chromosome (India)
24. Anuja Chauhan – The Zoya Factor (India)
25. Arundhati Roy - The God of Small Things (India)
26. Mohsin Hamid – Moth Smoke (Pakistan)
27. Altaf Fatima - The One Who Did Not Ask (Pakistan)
28. Jean Arasanayagam - All is Burning (Sri Lanka)
29. Carl Muller - The Jam Fruit Tree (Sri Lanka)
30. Rajiva Wijesinha - Acts of Faith (Sri Lanka)

Middle East
31. Salim Matar - The Woman of the Flask (Iraq)
32. Orhan Pamuk – My Name is Red (Turkey)
33. Alaa Al Aswany - The Yacoubian Building (Egypt)
34. Bahaa Taher - Love in Exile (Egypt)
35. Emile Habiby - The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist (Palestine)
36. Hanan al-Shaykh - Women of Sand and Myrrh (Lebanon)
37. Meir Shalev - The Blue Mountain (Israel)
38. Iraj Pezeshkzad - My Uncle Napoleon (Iran)
39. Simin Daneshvar - Savushun (Iran)
40. Hoda Barakat - The Stone of Laughter (Lebanon)

41. Vladimir Nabokov - Lolita (Russia)
42. Milan Kundera - The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Czechoslovakia)
43. Carlos Ruiz Zafón - The Angel's Game (Spain)
44. James Joyce - Ulysses (Ireland)
45. Miguel de Cervantes - Don Quixote (Spain)
46. Jeanette Winterson - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Britain)
47. Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre (Britain)
48. Marcel Proust - In Search of Lost Time (France)
49. Julia Kristeva - The Old Man and the Wolves (France)
50. Umberto Eco - The Name of the Rose (Italy)

51. Kate Grenville - The Secret River (Australia)
52. Mudrooroo - Wild Cat Falling (Australia)
53. Thomas Keneally - Schindler's List (Australia)
54. Pramoedya Ananta Toer - This Earth of Mankind (Indonesia)
55. Elizabeth Knox - The Vintner's Luck (New Zealand)

56. V S Naipul – A House for Mr Biswas (Trinidad and Tobago)
57. Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys (Dominica)
58. Shani Mootoo - Cereus Blooms at Night (Trinidad)
59. Geoffrey Philp - Benjamin, My Son (Jamaica)
60. Marcia Douglas - Madam Fate (Jamaica)

North America
61. David Foster Wallace - Infine Jest (USA)
62. Leonard Cohen - Beautiful Losers (Canada)
63. Jhumpa Lahiri - Unaccustomed Earth (USA)
64. Shyam Selvadurai - Funny Boy (Canada)
65. Maya Angelou – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (USA)
66. Toni Morrison - The Bluest Eye (USA)
67. Alice Walker - The Colour Purple (USA)
68. Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird (USA)
69. William Faulkner - The Sound and the Fury (USA)
70. Eden Robinson - Blood Sports (Canada)

South America
71. Gabriel Garcia Marquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude (Colombia)
72. Laura Esquivel - Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico)
73. Isabel Allende - House of Spirits (Chile)
74. Paul Coelho - The Alchemist (Brazil)
75. Luisa Valenzuela - He Who Searches (Argentina)
76. Carlos Fuentes - Terra Nostra (Mexico)
77. Jorge Luis Borges - Collected Stories (Argentina)
78. Roberto Bolaño - 2666 (Chile)
79. Reinaldo Arenas - The Palace of the White Skunks (Cuba)
80. Juan José Saer - The Event (Argentina)

Literary, Feminist, and Antiracist Theory
81. bell hooks - Feminist Theory: From Margin to Centre
82. Simone DeBeauvoir - The Second Sex
83. Luce Irigaray – This Sex Which Is Not One
84. Helene Cixous – The Laugh of the Medusa
85. Homi Bhabha – The Location of Culture
86. Michel Foucault – History of Sexulity
87. Sherene Razack - Looking White People in the Eye
88. Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum - Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
89. Anne Bishop – Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression
90. Paul Kivel - Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice

And also...
91. Hsien-Yung Pai - Wandering in the Garden, Waking from a Dream: Tales of Taipei Characters (Taipei)
92. Ye Zhaoyan - Nanjing 1937: A Love Story (China)
93. Salman Rushdie - Midnight's Children (Britain)
94. Michael Winter - This All Happened (Canada)
95. Nalo Hopkinson - Brown Girl in the Ring (Canada)
96. Hiromi Goto - Chorus of Mushrooms (Canada)
97. Octavia E. Butler - Fledgling (USA)
98. Romesh Gunesekera - Reef (Sri Lanka)
99. ed. Makeda Silvera - Piece of My Heart: A Lesbian of Colour Anthology
100. Thomas Bernhard - The Loser (Germany)


PurpleClover said...

Wow - a pretty cool way to categorize!

Alps said...

Very cool list, Alyssa. I've only read The God of Small Things. Excellent, but get your tissues ready. This makes me want to make a whole new list. No, focus! Focus!

Emily Cross said...

Ooooohhh!!! such a brilliant idea! I love it!

moonrat said...

wonderful, wonderful list!!! please keep us posted on how they go!!

bc i can't resist meddling--are you a murakami fan already? the reason i ask--i tried to start with HARDBOILED WONDERLAND and absolutely could not make myself read it. since then, i've heard that it's one of his least accessable, and that his best is WIND-UP BIRD. i put the latter on my 100 list, and plan to give him another shot.

moonrat said...

haha word verification: wayinter, as in, i am wayinter this list.

Anonymous said...

Alyssa, this is a fabulous list. You've picked some of the most challenging and rewarding works in all of literature. I may incorporate your idea and some of your selections into my reading plans. said...

Alyssa, give thanks for inclusion on a list that includes some of my must reads:

Amitav Ghosh – The Calcutta Chromosome
Arundhati Roy - The God of Small Things
Chinua Achebe - Things Fall Apart
J. M. Coetzee - Disgrace
Orhan Pamuk – My Name is Red


Leslie said...

Alyssa - love the way you organized your list! I had similar goals when I compiled my list, but I did not organize it as such. I am trying to diversify my reading also and expand it to include more international authors. Additionally, I threw in world religions, science and metaphysical topics. In five years, I hope to know a little bit more about everything :)

Alyssa said...

Thanks, everyone! I'm looking forward to writing back and letting you know if my list still seems like a good idea after I've actually started trying to find the books!

Moonrat: I'm not a huge Murakami fan yet, but I expect I will be. I've only read Wind-up Bird so far. The reason I chose Hardboiled Wonderland is that I read a few pages from the middle over an ex-partner's shoulder ages ago, and it has been on my reading list since! I did rather like those few pages.

Geoffrey: I'm honoured to be visited by an author from my list! I guess that's probably a good omen! I'm quite looking forward to your book.

Leslie: Yeah, my goal is to know more in five years, too. It's a good idea to include science and world religion as well! I see myself making another list of 100 in five years time, so perhaps I'll do that too next time.

Jen A said...

Wow, this is an incredible list. You've already made a new list of 100 for me to start five years from now :)

katrina said...

Great list, I'm trying to read around the world in the next few years - not that my list reflects that - will be coming back to your list for suggestions

Sarah said...

Hi Alyssa,
I'm v. flattered to have made it on to your world lit list! You've put together a wonderfully eclectic list including many of my personal favourites. If you're looking for suggestions, one small change that I might make to this list would be to read Mohsin Hamid's second book (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) before you read Moth Smoke. Both are good books, but his second book is, I think, much stronger than his first - a really excellent and thought-provoking read.
Thanks again!

M. said...

Thanks for sharing this list--you just added a few more names to my list of books to buy.

I know you already have novels by them on your list, but I highly recommend Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians and Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah. And since you're looking into feminist theory, have you read How to Suppress Women's Writing by Joanna Russ? It's a fascinating analysis of the various reasons works by women have been excluded from the literary canon.

Oh, one other thing--since your focus is on world literature, have you thought about adding any books on postcolonial theory? If nothing else, Edward Said's Orientalism would make for a nice addition.

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

What a wonderful list, and what a great idea. I may have to borrow some of your titles 5 years from now, when I've finished Fill in the Gaps List One!

Alyssa said...

Thanks for the suggestions! I will definitely look into those books. Sarah, I did look at The Reluctant Fundamendalist as an option and may just end up reading it after all. Both sound really interesting.

The theory... I hadn't heard of the Joanna Russ but will check it out. I do particularly mean to read Orientalism... I've read an excerpt but not the whole thing. But even a list of 100 can't accomodate one's entire to-read list!