Often writers are asked which are their favorite books. There are so many of them!
When I look at my Goodreads list of top 40 favorite books I see there is a definite multicultural theme: 30 are set in other countries, written by foreign authors or about expats. A few examples:
Poisonwood Bible, B. Kingsolver; Crime and Punishment, F. Dostoyevsky; Zorba the Greek, N. Kazantzakis; Tales of Wonder, H. Smith; Tortilla Curtain ,T.C Boyle; Small Kingdoms, A. Hobbet; Caravans and Hawaii, J. Michener; The Thorn Birds, C. McCullough; Pillars of the Earth, K. Follett; I’m a Stranger Here Myself, B. Bryson; The Paris Wife, P. McLain; Lost in Translation, N. Mones (the novel is not the same story as the movie by the same name).
I guess it is no surprise that my own novel, A Place in the World is multicultural and set in Colombia. (The protagonist is a young biologist who marries a colombiano and goes to live on his family’s coffee finca surrounded by cloud forests. Calamities befall the couple and Alicia ends up running the finca herself and refusing to leave. See my Home page for more.) I was an expat for most of my life so exploring this theme of being rootless and wanting to belong somewhere came naturally for me.
Even my favorite books that don’t fit the multicultural criteria have something in common with the list above: being the outsider. Examples are: The Help, K. Stockett; East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. East of Eden may be my favorite book of all time. I was about 19 and living in Costa Rica when I discovered it – never knowing that I would someday move to northern California and end up working in the Salinas Valley for several years. When I arrived there I felt such a connection to Monterey County and to John Steinbeck, as if it was a familiar place and he was a friend. His humanity reaches out from his writing and across the years – it’s magical. Read everything he’s written!
Poisonwood Bible is Barbara Kingsolver’s masterpiece to my mind. I enjoyed her other books but this one, an African odyssey, is truly literary. Likewise I like most anything T.C. Boyle pens, but Tortilla Curtain, about illegal immigration, the” have and have-nots”, struck a chord with me. Caravans is my favorite Michener novel because it is so exotic – the Afghan setting alone makes it worth revisiting today. Pillars of the Earth is simply Ken Follett’s very best – and if you haven’t read it put it next on your list.
As for Nonfiction, Tales of Wonder, By Huston Smith (he also wrote the famous Religions of World), is a warm and fascinating memoir about a boy growing up in China almost a century ago. In a completely different style, is Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself, – a funny take on coming home after living abroad for many years. It had me laughing out loud. I LOVE him!
Here are a few more Books I have known and loved – an eclectic and incomplete list…
Rebecca, D. DuMaurier
To kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.
More recent but hardly new:
City of Light, L. Belfer
Angle of Repose, W. Stegner
All the Pretty Horses, C. McCarthy
Shipping News, A. Proulx
Foreign Affairs, A. Lurie,
The Road from Coorain, J. Ker Conway,
Smilla’s Sense of Snow, P. Hoag
The Colour (also)The Road Home, R. Tremain
The Kite Runner, K. Hosseini
The Cave, Jose Saramago,
Dreaming in Cuban, C. Garcia,
If you like my examples you can see my whole list at Goodreads. I reviewed many of them and rated most – or perhaps all of them. Click on the left or go to: http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/7603649-cinda-mackinnon?order=a&sort=rating
So did you read and like any of these? What are YOUR favorite books?