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Though all of us know the value of literature and the joy of reading a captivating novel, many of us find ourselves spending more and more time reading online content than actually sitting down with real books.
Before the year comes to a close, consider expanding your horizons by going on a literary journey to another corner of the globe. These beloved works from around the world are just a few titles that might spark your interest!
Russia: Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
One of the best-known works of Russian literature, Crime and Punishment is a fascinating examination of moral suffering and anguish. The novel follows a poor former student living in St. Petersburg. The young man, Rodion Raskolnikov, forms a plan to murder a local pawnbroker, believing that, afterwards, he will be free from poverty and able to live a better life. Instead, Raskolnikov is wracked with guilt and paranoia.
Like other works of Dostoevsky's, Crime and Punishment is a grim look at the darker side of humanity. The novel paints a picture of the struggles of the poor in 19th century Russia while providing timeless insights into the nature of the human psyche. Will Raskolnikov be caught, or will his only punishment be the agony of his own guilty conscience? Read Crime and Punishment to find out!
Chile: The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende
If you've never read a book from the genre of magic realism, let your first novel be Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits. Weaving elements of mysticism into a multi-generational saga, Allende's work tells the tale of the Trueba family from the post-colonial era through the Chilean socialist revolution.
Allende's work is a particularly personal story; her own uncle, the President of Chile, took his own life after being threatened by a military coup in 1973. Her story, following generations of men and women, tells the tale of decades' worth of class and gender struggles in Chile. Life, death, love, and sex all play majors roles in this fascinating novel, which plays out like a powerful, never-ending soap opera. Enrapturing, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, few works capture the essence of Latin America as beautifully as Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits.
Nigeria: Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart is perhaps the most globally-read work of African literature. This fascinating novel follows the life of a Nigerian tribal warrior, Okonkwo, and his relationships with his family and fellow clansmen. Despite his strengths, Okonkwo is far from perfect; ultimately, his moral failings lead to tragedy for both himself and his family.
Chinua Achebe's fascinating novel offers an insider's perspective on African history, tradition, and culture. His work also highlights the ways in which traditional tribal cultures clashed with the proselytizing of Christian missionaries. Powerful, raw, and real, Things Fall Apart offers a humbling perspective on humanity and the moral struggles we all face.
China: Ties That Bind, Ties That Break - Lensey Namioka
A somewhat obscure young adult novel, Ties That Bind, Ties That Break is a book that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. The story follows a young girl, Tao Ailin, and her struggles growing up in China in the early 1900s. Coming from a strict family, Ailin is expected to have her feet broken and bound in preparation for marriage, a painful tradition that would hinder her ability to live a free and independent life. Ailin refuses to have her feet bound, choosing instead to pursue an education and live a life with unbound feet. The consequences are devastating; Ailin suffers rejection from her family, and she loses out on her prospects for a good marriage.
Another novel depicting the ways in which traditional cultures clash with colonial, Western influences, Ties That Bind is a moving coming-of-age story that highlights the struggles women have faced throughout the ages. What will ultimately become of Ailin? Read the novel to find out!
French Algeria: The Stranger - Albert Camus
Meursault is a young French Algerian living in Algiers. His life seems to be devoid of genuine feeling and meaning; when his mother dies, he simply smokes and drinks coffee in front of her coffin. Later, Meursault resolves to help a friend of his get revenge on his girlfriend. The following chain of events ultimately leads to Mersault's imprisonment, where he awaits a trial for his crimes.
Though not an immediate hit when first published, The Stranger has ultimately become one of the most powerful existentialist works of the 20th century. Simple yet profound, this look at the absurd and nonsensical nature of humanity is sure to leave you feeling philosophical.
Most of us have neither the time nor the money to travel to every continent on Earth. If there’s a culture you’re curious about, read a novel written by an author from that country instead! Literature has the power to transport us to lands without us even having to leave the comfort of our own homes. Take advantage of this magical “power of travel” by reading a great book today!