Top Ten Books Set in Other Countries

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is about favorite books set in another country.  I’ve been reading a lot of books set outside the U.S., so this was a perfect topic to think about.  The books I’ve listed here are books that aren’t just set in another country but are really about the history and culture of that country.

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  1. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy (England)
  2. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (China)
  3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Scotland)
  4. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Iceland)
  5. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Japan)
  6. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (South Africa)
  7. The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (Israel)
  8. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Vietnam)
  9. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Ghana)
  10. The Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns (New Zealand)
  11. The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (Ireland)
  12. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (France)
  13. The Secret River by Kate Grenville (Australia)
  14. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (Hungary)

It’s worth noting that some of these books, like Outlander and Burial Rites, aren’t by authors with direct ties to those countries. I do think it’s important to read books by residents or natives of those countries — although I still think an author  can write an excellent book about a country if they do their research well and consider the perspectives of people from that country.  What do you think?

I also realize this isn’t the most diverse mix of countries.  I’ve definitely read more books set in the United Kingdom and Europe compared to other parts of the world.  It’s something I’m  working on.  Still, I wanted this list to reflect my favorites even though it’s not as diverse as I might like.

Finally, some of my favorite books are about immigrants to the United States, like The Namesake, Behold the Dreamers, and Americanah.  I didn’t include those books on this list, since they mostly take place here.  But that would be another great top ten list.

There were a lot more I could have included on this list.  What did I miss?  What are your favorites?

14 Comments on “Top Ten Books Set in Other Countries

  1. Ooh! If I’d remembered to do this, I’d have added a couple of Jamaican-set books (A Brief History of Seven Killings, Augustown, The Book of Night Women); one set in Guadaloupe (The Bridge of Beyond); a few Nigerian-set novels (Welcome to Lagos, Half of a Yellow Sun); Eka Kurniawan’s Indonesian epic, Beauty Is A Wound.

  2. I want to read more books set in other countries, especially by writers native to those countries. I’ve come to a temporary standstill but would like to keep going.

    From my last year’s reading, I can recommend Season of Migration to the North (Sudan) An Unnecessary Woman (Lebanon) and Bronze and Sunflower (China).

  3. The Bone People, by Keri Hulme (Booker prize 1987, I think?) was set in New Zealand. Loved that book.

  4. I really loved Homegoing, Burial Rites, and A Tale For the Time Being. I’d also like to read Born a Crime and The Return of the Native soon. Like you, my reading tends to be mostly UK-centric, but I’m always on the look out for books set in other countries.

    • The Return of the Native is one of my all-time favorites so I hope you like it! I thought it was perfect for this list because it’s so much about the land, but really I just love it.

  5. I really like your idea of picking books that reflect the history or development of a country’s culture. That was one of many reasons that I loved Homegoing. And Outlander really fits that category too–I learned a lot about Scottish history and that country’s relationship with France from reading it…repeatedly! I have The Dovekeepers on my TBR shelf, and would love to read it.

    Great list!

    • Outlander may not be the most literary book, but it certainly sparked my interest in Scotland’s history, enough to go there and see it for myself. The Dovekeepers is excellent, I think Hoffman’s novels are hit or miss sometimes but that was one of my favorites.

  6. Homegoing was excellent! I finished the book in January and I still cannot forget the generations that were captured in the stories. Great list by the way!

  7. Great recommendations here! I love a book that can help with my never-ending wanderlust. I have a historical fiction novel that should definitely be considered for this list called “The Jinn and The Sword” by authors Sara Cook and Robert Peacock. The book takes place during the 16th century imperial Ottoman court. Il Lupo, master swordswman, and his small posse crush an assassination attempt on the emperor and solve mysteries surrounding the theft of sacred relics. It is exciting, suspenseful, fun, and beautifully written. Check out the website for more info: http://www.thejinnandthesword.com/
    Hope you will check it out!

  8. Solid list!! I’m currently traveling Australia and looking for books on Vietnam which is where I’m headed next. Hadn’t heard of The Sympathizer yet, so definitely adding that to the list. Also really curious now about reading aussie-based books…hmm…thanks for this!!

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