Literature has the power to transcend borders and offer a glimpse into the varying, beautiful, and authentic cultures inhabiting every corner of the earth. Although we are bound to our living rooms at the moment, these books will transport our minds to new lands. Here are seven captivating books set in the seven different continents of the world.
ASIA: Family drama meets historical romance in this saga that follows a family living in a vast house in a small town in Bengal. In this house, a widower struggles with his love for an unmarried cousin. Bakul, a motherless daughter, runs wild with Mukunda, an orphan of unknown caste adopted by the family. Confined in a room at the top of the house, a matriarch goes slowly mad. And as Mukunda and Bakul grow, their intense closeness matures into something else.
AFRICA: The lives of a sixteen-year-old Nigerian orphan and a well-off widowed British woman collide in this page-turning #1 New York Times bestseller and book club favorite. The story tells the tale of a friendship that blossoms between two strangers. Both funny and horrific, this haunting story will be one you’ll never forget.
It was Little Bee’s voice that first knocked me out. It’s musical, it’s magical, and it’s joyful. And yet, this sixteen-year-old Nigerian girl has experienced unspeakable horrors. Chris Cleave’s novel is brutal and beautiful at the same time.
NORTH AMERICA: After orphan Odie O’Banion finds himself in trouble with the Lincoln School’s superintendent, he makes the decision to flee the cruel school that Native Americans have been forcibly sent to. Set in Minnesota in 1932, THIS TENDER LAND follows Odie and three other orphans as they run away from their pasts and embark on an adventure down the Mississippi River. In their journey, they meet various characters across the unique American landscape marked by the Great Depression.
For fans of Before We Were Yours and Where the Crawdads Sing, “a gripping, poignant tale swathed in both mythical and mystical overtones” (Bob Drury, New York Times bestselling author) that follows four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the New York Times bestselling author of Ordinary Grace.
1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.
Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will fly into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an enthralling, big-hearted epic that is “more than a simple journey; it is a deeply satisfying odyssey, a quest in search of self and home” (Booklist).
SOUTH AMERICA: A haunting and mesmerizing ghost story unlike any other, SANTA EVITA follows the strange afterlife of Eva Perón, the iconic first lady of Argentina. After her early death, her husband enlists one of the world’s best embalmers, and the dead body of an international icon goes on a fantastical journey that proves that truth is much stranger than fiction. Combining history with magical realism, SANTA EVITA explores issues of gender, power, and celebrity and demonstrates how we weave our modern myths.
Read a Book Set in Central or South America, Written by a Central or South American Author
Eva Perón grew up from her childhood of poverty to reinvent herself as a beauty and would go on to snare Argentina’s dictator, and reign as uncrowned queen of the masses, only to be struck down by cancer at age 33. When her desperate but foxy husband brings Europe’s leading embalmer to Eva’s deathbed to make her immortal, the fantastical comedy of SANTA EVITA begins.
AUSTRALIA: This sweeping romantic saga is set in the Australian outback and highlights the greatest struggles of the heart between faith, family, the land, and love. This story begins in the early part of the twentieth century, as Paddy Cleary moves his wife and nine children to a vast sheep station owned by his older sister. The book ends more than half a century later
EUROPE: Flights is the type of book I’ve learned to treasure, one that’s more about ideas and observations and relationships than the confines of the plot. A translation from a Polish writer, threads include a trek across Warsaw with Chopin’s heart, an act of poisoning, and a missing woman and child. Amidst the heaviness of topics is a lightness of text, as if the words are traveling along with you. The jumps in tones and situations make being lifted from scene to scene feel similar to entering a new stop on a multicountry vacation, with an entirely new landscape to reflect upon and admire.
ANTARCTICA: Rising from the depths of a tragic accident, Colin O’Brady was determined not only to heal but also to exceed every expectation of those surrounding him. Prior to his excursion, no individual had made the trek across Antarctica alone and using only human power—Colin was determined to be the first. This solo journey across a seemingly endless frozen land forced Colin to confront his fears and reflect on the past experiences that led him to this very adventure. To match struggle with even greater intensity, during his excursion Colin was pitted against a British polar explorer, Captain Louis Rudd, who was in a similar pursuit to be “the first.”
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Colin O’Brady’s awe-inspiring memoir spans his triumphant recovery from a tragic accident to his gripping 932-mile solo crossing of Antarctica.
Prior to December 2018, no individual had ever crossed the landmass of Antarctica alone, without support and completely human powered. Yet, Colin O’Brady was determined to do just that, even if, ten years earlier, there was doubt that he’d ever walk again normally. From the depths of a tragic accident, he fought his way back. In a quest to unlock his potential and discover what was possible, he went on to set three mountaineering world records before turning to this historic Antarctic challenge.
O’Brady’s pursuit of a goal that had eluded many others was made even more intense by a head-to-head battle that emerged with British polar explorer Captain Louis Rudd—also striving to be “the first.” Enduring Antarctica’s sub-zero temperatures and pulling a sled that initially weighed 375 pounds—in complete isolation and through a succession of whiteouts, storms, and a series of near disasters—O’Brady persevered.
Alone with his thoughts for nearly two months in the vastness of the frozen continent—gripped by fear and doubt—he reflected on his past, seeking courage and inspiration in the relationships and experiences that had shaped his life.
Honest, deeply moving, filled with moments of vulnerability—and set against the backdrop of some of the most extreme environments on earth, from Mt. Everest to Antarctica—The Impossible First reveals how anyone can reject limits, overcome immense obstacles, and discover what matters most.
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