Whenever anyone asks me why I like to read books from around the world I always think back to this quote.

“Most often the parcel was posted in Stockholm, but three times from London, twice from Paris, twice from Copenhagen, once from Madrid, once from Bonn, and once from Pensacola, Florida.  The detective superintendent had had to look it up in an atlas.”

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

It is a throw away reference to Pensacola but one that highlights that there are people all over the world without the same frame of reference as an American like me.  I don’t live in a world where Pensacola is unknown but I’ve had to look up lots of other cities in books I’ve read.  It is good to see things from someone else’s perspective.

What else have I learned from reading books set all over the world?  Here’s a few things off the top of my head.

  • I have a basic knowledge of the English school system thanks to Harry Potter and every other book about British boarding schools.
  • I know the geography of Lagos Nigeria thanks to Lagoon.
  • I only buy organic bananas now after reading Banana.
  • I have a rough idea of what it takes to walk the Camino de Santiago after reading accounts of the pilgrimage.
  • I have an idea of the brutality of the war in Sierra Leone after reading Michaela De Prince’s memoir.
  • I know way more than I ever thought I would about Taoist mythology after reading Kylie Chen’s books.

Sometimes you read things that you may not like when you read books that are aimed towards a different audience than you.  That’s good.  It is important to learn to read a different opinion and analyze the strengths and weaknesses instead of having a knee jerk response.  Open your mind and see things from someone else’s perspective.

Why do you think it is important to read books from around the world?



8 Replies to “Why Read Books from Around the World?”

  1. I love this post! I grew up in a part of the world that doesn’t get featured much, if ever, in English-speaking books, and to me it’s always been fascinating to read about American and European characters and how they live by quite different norms. I feel like by now I know enough about those cultures though, and am very much curious to learn about others and perhaps see my own culture reflected in a story one day. 🙂

  2. Great topic.
    I keep stumbling across the metaphor that books can be mirrors, windows, or doors. Reading books set in other places definitely gives you both a window into someone else’s experience, and a door to vicariously live a life you’d never get a chance to otherwise. As part of my masters’ degree in teaching ESL, I remember writing a paper about the amount of cross cultural perspective I’d gained by reading widely. Not only other countries–reading from the POV of other races, genders, and socio economic groups within the US as well. I think the building of empathy and broadening of experience are two of the most important things books do for us!

  3. It’s a huge world out there and there’s so much to learn and experience. There is a lot we don’t want to find out, or rather, choose to turn a blind eye to, but that is part of the beauty of books — they open our eyes up. The world isn’t always pretty; that’s just the way it it is.

  4. You make excellent points, Heather. We don’t read diversely expecting to like everything, but to learn and enlarge our perspectives. There are a lot of tough realities out there and reading them is not always easy. But worth it.

  5. I love reading books about other cultures and countries to learn about what other people experience and how they live. It helps me be more empathetic to understand where others come from and how their life experiences shape their way of thinking and personality. I love to escape to another world and get lost in a place that’s different from my own. Thanks for linking up with us to discuss this important topic!

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