Reading Around The World

After learning of someone who spent a year reading books from around the world – all 196 independent countries – I found this to be intriguing.  (To view her blog, go to As an avid reader and someone interested in other cultures and customs, I developed my own Reading Around The World series focusing on 63 countries that Peace Corps (PC) is involved in (plus former countries). I’ll also list books I’ve read from countries not served by PC. Any book marked with ^ indicates it is a PC story. These books consist of a variety of different topics, but all are about the culture, history and/or customs of the country listed. Recommendations are encouraged! For books on my country of service (Morocco ’16-18), go here.

Eastern Europe & Central Asia


Armenia: My Grandmother: An Armenian-Turkish Memoir by Fethiye Cetin

Azerbaijan*: Ali and Nino by Kurban Said

Bosnia-Herzegovina*: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks; Rose of Sarajevo by Ayse Kukin; War Childhood by Jasminko Halilovic; The Judgement of Richard Richter lby Igor Stiks; The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway; Genocide on the Drina River by Edina Becirevic; Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood by Barbara Demick; 

Bulgaria*: The Shadow Lands by Elizabeth Kostova


Czech Republic*: The Bloodletters Daughter by Linda Lafferty



Georgia: Ali and Nino by Kurban Said



Kyrgyz Republic:  I am Me Because of You by Karen Lawrence^





Poland*:  The Girl from Krakow by Alex Rosenberg


Russia*: The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport; Between Love & Honor by Alexandra Lapierre

Slovak Republic*

Turkey*: My Grandmother: An Armenian-Turkish Memoir by Fethiye Cetin; Without A Country by Ayse Kulin; Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen; Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk; 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak; The Girl in the Tree by Sebnem Isiguzel; Walking on the Ceiling by Aysegul Savas


Ukraine: Beyond the Shadow of Night by Ray Kingfisher; Savaged Lands by Lana Kortchik


South America: The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard; State of Wonder by Ann Patchett


Bolivia*: The Puma Years by Laura Coleman

Brazil*: Never Stop Walking: A Memoir of Finding Home Across the World by Christina Rickardsson

Chile*: Ten Women by Marcela Serrano; Clandestine in Chile by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Colombia: Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras; The Gringo Brought His Mother by Geneva Sanders^

Ecuador: Living Poor A Peace Corps Chronicle by Moritz Thomsen^



Peru: Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams; Bel Canto by Ann Patchett



Venezuela*: Making it Happen: Peace Corps and Venezuela^ by Mike Kendellen


Dominican Republic: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez; In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Eastern Caribbean: A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid



Central America & Mexico


Costa Rica

El Salvador*

Guatemala: Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience by Marjorie DeMoss Casebolt^; The President by Miguel Angel Asturias

Honduras*: The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

+Mexico: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins; The Empress: A Novel by Laura Martinez-Belli; The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia; Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia



Asia: The Wishing Tree by John Shors

Afghanistan*: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini; The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad; The Broken Circle by Enjeela Ahmadi-Miller

Bangladesh*: I Remember Abbu by Humayun Azad

Cambodia: First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung; The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine by Somaly Mam; Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back by Katya Cengel

China: River Town by Peter Hessler^; Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang; Out of Mao’s Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China by Phillip P. Pan; The Emperor Far Away by David Eimer; Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman; Dreaming in Chinese-Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love and Language by Deborah Fallows; Life by Lu Yao; The Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present by Peter Hessler; 

India*: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy; Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri; Staying On by Paul Scott; Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo; Beneath the Marble Sky by John Shors; The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C Morais; A Princess Remembers by Gayatri Devi; The Last Queen of India by Michelle Moran; Sideways on a Scooter by Miranda Kennedy

Indonesia: The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman; Nirzona by Abidah El Khalieqy; The Birdwoman’s Palate by Laksmi Pamuntjak; The Question of Red by Laksmi Pamuntjak; Letters from a Javanese Princess by  Raden Adjeng Kartini; Bali: Heaven and Hell by Phil Jarrett

Malaysia*: The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Mongolia: Walking the Gobi by Helen Thayer

Myanmar (Burma): A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker; The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker


Pakistan*: Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa; I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai


South Korea*: The Golden Orchard by Flora Ahn; The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See; If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha; Korea: The Impossible Country by Daniel Tudor

Sri Lanka*

Thailand: The Beach by Alex Garland


Africa: Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan; African Visas by Maria Thomas; African Friends and Money Matters: Observations from Africa by David E. Maranz

Benin: Murder in Benin-Kate Puzey’s Death in the Peace Corps by Aaron Kase^

Botswana: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Burkino Faso*: Service Disrupted by Tyler Lloyd^

Burundi*: Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder; Small Country by Gael Faye

Cameroon: How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Cape Verde*

Central African Republic*



Cote d’Ivoire*: Nine Hills to Nambinkaha by Sarah Erdman^; The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan

Ethiopia: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Equatorial Guinea*



Ghana: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi; Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi



Kenya*:  West with the Night by Beryl Markham; A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o; Unbowed by Wangari Maathai


Liberia: This Child Will be Great by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Madagascar: Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo; Return to the Enchanted Island by Johary Ravaloson


Mali*: Badass Librarians from Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer; Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway^

Mauritania*: The Desert and the Drum by Mbarfek Ould Beyrouk



Namibia: Grandma 64 Joins the Peace Corps and Lands in Namibia by Anne Baker^


Nigeria*: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe; Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo; The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

Republic of Congo*: King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild; Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa by Jason K. Stearns

Rwanda: An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesaagina

Sao Tome and Principe*



Sierra Leone: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

Somalia*: Keeping Hope Alive: One Woman 90,000 Lives by Dr. Hawa Abdi

South Africa: A Conspiracy of Mothers by Colleen van Niekerk; Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela; Born a Crime: Stories of a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Sudan*: Emma’s War: Love, Betrayal and Death in the Sudan by Deborah Scroggins


Tanzania: Hard Rain by Irma Venter

The Gambia


Uganda: The Queen of Katwe – The Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster by Tim Crothers; Kintu by Jennifer Makumbi

Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo)*


Zimbabwe*: The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu; Diamond Boy by Michael Williams

Pacific Islands:

Cook Islands*

Fiji: Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by J. Maarten Troost

Kiribati*: The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

Marshall Islands*



Papua New Guinea*: Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff


Solomon Islands*: Journeys in a Small Canoe: The Life and Times of a Solomon Islander by Lloyd Maepeza Gina



Vanuatu: Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by J. Maarten Troost

North Africa/Middle East:  Baghdad Without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia by Tony Horwitz; Exit West by Mohsin Hamid; From Muhammed to Burj Khalifa by Michael Rank; From Beirut to Jerusalam by Thomas L Friedman; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah by Tim Mackintosh-Smith


Iran*: Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi; The Last Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan; Then They Came for Me by Maziar Bahari; A Sliver of Light-Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran by Shane Bauer; Revolutionary Ride by Lois Pryce

Jordan*: Married to a Bedouin by Marguerite van Geldermalsen; Queen Noor by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Libya*: The Return by Hisham Matar


+Morocco: For books on my country of service go here.


Tunisia*: The Ardent Swarm by Yamen Manai

Yemen*: I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali

Peace Corps Related

~All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps Spirit of the 1960’s by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman

~Living on the Edge, fiction by Peace Corps writers

~A Life Inspired: Tales of Peace Corps Service

~Voices of the Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Kentucky Volunteers

Other cultures

(this will not include various books on United States, France, and the UK because I’ve read an overabundance of those over the years)

Antarctica: The Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton

Antigua: A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

Austria: The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

Belgium: War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans

Borneo: Stranger in the Forest by Eric Hansen

Cuba: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton; Cuba Diaries by Isadora Tattlin; The Passion According to Carmela by Marco Aguinis

Easter Island: The Statues that Walked by Terry Hunt; Wide as the Wind by Edward Stanton

Egypt: The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George; Cleopatra A Novel by Stacy Schiff; Sipping from the Nile: My Exodus from Egypt by Jean Naggar; Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz

Germany: Your Perfect Year by Charlotte Lucas; The First Mrs. Rothschild by Sara Aharoi; In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; Night by Elie Wiesel; The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

Greece: The House by the River by Lena Manta

Haiti: Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

Iceland: A Fist or a Heart by Kristin Eiriksdottir

Iraq: Memories from Baghdad: Memos from Iraq by Ramzi Jawad; Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea; The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity by Nadia Murad

Israel: About the Night by Anat Talshir; Goodbye Paris, Shalom Tel Aviv by Marco Koskas; The Art of Leaving by Ayelet Tsabari; Bethlehem: Biography of a Town by Nicholas Blincoe; The First Mrs. Rothschild by Sara Aharoni; Rise and Kill First by Ronen Bergman

Italy: From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home by Tembi Locke; Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Japan: The Great Passage by Shion Miura; The Diplomat’s Daughter by Karin Tanabe; Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro

Kazakhstan: The Dead Wander in the Desert by Rollan Seisenbayev

North Korea: Without You, There is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim; Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick; Somewhere Inside by Laura and Lisa Ling; An American Spy Inside North Korea

Norway: This Life or the Next by Demian Vitanza

Palestine: About the Night by Anat Talshir; A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

Russia: A Train to Potevka by Mike Ramsdell; Beyond Siberia by Sharon Dirlam; The Big Green Tent by Lyudmila Ulitskaya; True Memoirs of Little K by Adrienne Sharp

Saudi Arabia: Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson; Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

Spain: All This I Will Give to You by Delores Redondo; The Imposter: A True Story by Javier Cercas

Singapore: The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg

Sweden: The Dark Heart by Joakim Palmkvist; A Drop of Midnight: A Memoir by Jason Timbuktu Diakite; The Man Who Played with Fire by Jan Stocklassa

Switzerland: Portrait of a Girl by Dorthe Binkert

Syria: Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

Taiwan: Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan

Tajikistan: Don’t Go Out After Dark: A Memoir of Civil War by Mike Kendellen

Tibet: Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer; Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama by Dalai Lama XIV

+Vietnam: A Short Ride in the Jungle: The Ho Chi Minh Trail by Motorcycle by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent; The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen; Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong; So Happiness to Meet You by Karin Esterhammer

UAE: My Vision by Mohammed Rashid Al Maktoum

*Indicates a former PC Country

^Indicates written by a PCV regarding their service

italics books indicates on my To Read list

italics country indicates I’ve traveled there

+indicates countries I’ve lived in

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