We're about two weeks away from the unofficial start of summer, so it's time for me to start putting my summer reading challenge together. This will be my fourth year of creating my own personal summer reading challenge. Over the past few years, I have spent the summers in Middle Earth, the American South, and my family's homeland of Germany. This year, I'm expanding my horizons and going globetrotting. That's right, I'll be reading a classic novel from every continent (excluding Antarctica, obviously) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This will not only expose me to literary traditions that I have never experienced before, but will also pay tribute to the globetrotting I plan to do later this year (heading to London and Paris!). After lots of thought and research, I've come up with six books to represent the cultures of the six inhabited continents:
Africa: Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (South Africa). This is one of the most famous works of South African literature. A world wide bestseller since its publication in 1948, this novel tells the story of Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom as they face the racial and political injustice of apartheid.
North America: The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery (Canada). Of course I am very familiar with L. M. Montgomery's works through the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon series, but this is one that I have never read. Intended for an older audience, this is the story of 29 year old Valancy Sterling who feels stifled and unloved in the confines of her middle-class society. When she is diagnosed with a fatal heart condition, Valancy decides to strike out on her own and find freedom, life, and love on her own terms.
Europe: Wandering Stars by Sholem Aleichem (Ukraine). The world of 19th century Yiddish theater is brought to life by Ukrainian Jewish author Sholem Aleichem (of Fiddler on the Roof fame). Young friends Reizel and Leibel fall under the spell of a traveling acting company and decide to run away together and join them. Unfortunately, they are separated by accident, and they spend many years touring around Europe, wondering if they will ever meet again.
South America: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Columbia). One of Colombian author and Nobel Prize winner Marquez's well known works, this novel explores the complicated love triangle of Fermina Daza, her husband Juvenal Urbino, and the lover of her youth, Florentino Ariza.
Asia: Snow County by Yasunari Kawabata (Japan). Kawabata's sparse, spare novels helped make him the first Japanese author to win the Nobel Prize for literature. In this novel, he tells us of an affair between a wealthy man and a mountain geisha who gives him her heart.
Australia: My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin (Australia). One of Australia's most important novels, this story by Miles Franklin tells the story of a young girl growing up in the Australian bush in the early 20th century.
So there you have it, that's were my summer reading travels will take me. If you have read any of these books, please feel free to share your opinion of them. And if you would like to read along, feel free to do that as well. My bags are packed, my passport is in hand, and the world of literature lies before me. Bon Voyage!
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