Friday, December 31, 2010

A Global Resolution: The International Book Challenge

As we move into a new year, many book clubs and individuals are taking various reading challenges that will run to the end of 2011 (I wrote about one of these in my last post). Since I am often a bandwagon-jumper, I decided to come up with a challenge of my own. It wasn't all that difficult, given that I have a fondness for books in translation, revere foreign authors, and hope to someday live in Barcelona.

Thus, my reading challenge for 2011 is The International Book Challenge. It's fairly self-explanatory, but here are a few guidelines ("rules" sounds too strict; reading should be fun):

  • The goal is to read books by as many "foreign" authors as possible. For the purposes of this challenge, foreign means not born in your country.
  • Reading the work in translation is perfectly acceptable; some of you are able to read multiple languages, but most of us are not.
  • Try to step out of your comfort zone. If you've never read a Korean or Somali novelist, ask your local bookseller to suggest a good one; you might be pleasantly surprised.

Here are the achievement levels, based on number of countries "visited" in 2011:

  • Homebody: 0-2 countries visited
  • Budget Traveller: 3-6 countries visited
  • Frequent Flier: 7-9 countries visited
  • Marco Polo: 10 or more countries visited

If you don't think 10 is an achievable number, consider the following partial list of novelists and their country of birth that are "foreign" to me:

  1. Roberto Bolano - Chile
  2. Umberto Ecco - Italy
  3. Carlos Fuentes - Mexico
  4. Amos Oz - Israel
  5. Geraldine Brooks - Australia
  6. Antonio Munoz Molina - Spain
  7. Mikkel Birkegaard - Denmark
  8. Paulo Coelho - Brazil
  9. Henning Mankell - Sweden
  10. Mario Vargas Llosa - Peru

Keep in mind that the list above doesn't mention even one of the "classics:" Alexandre Dumas (France), Anton Chekhov (Russia), Jane Austen (England), or James Joyce (Ireland), to name just a few. So the problem won't be finding enough authors, but rather paring the list down to a manageable number.

While there are no prizes for successfully completing this challenge, I can assure you that as a reader you will gain great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. I may even post a list of the Marco Polo-level folks in a 2011 year end blog, if you send me your names.

Happy New Year, and happy reading.


  1. I visited Barcelona for the first time last year. What a wonderful place! I'm sure I will return.

    I'll join you on this challenge as I love travelling both physically and virtually. So put me down as a potential Marco Polo.

  2. Hi Paul,
    I've joined your challenge.

    When do you open your book store?

  3. Hi Paul
    Please sign me up. Here is the link to my post:
    Thank you.

  4. I only found out that there's a reading challenge thing going on in the Internet.. haven't been in touch with my reading days since forever! Sign me up... I came up with a list of books I want to read, along with other reading challenges, on my page here:

    Can't wait!