15 International Fiction Books That Will Help You Still Feel Connected with the World
The books we read can help us connect to the world—even when we're otherwise isolated from it.
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A good story
In the time of closed borders and the novel coronavirus, it’s important to know that we are all in this together. Here are a few books of international fiction that help you feel connected with the world, even when quarantined in your own home. If you’re looking for more words of comfort beyond books, here are positive quotes to help you see the glass half full.
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The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The story of a traveling shepherd boy has captured the hearts of millions of readers around the world. Written by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist is a classic story that encourages everyone to look to their hearts and go after their dreams. Here’s a great quote to get started: “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” If you’re looking for more books to add to your reading list, here are a few books that will inspire you to travel the world.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko by Korean American author Min Jin Lee has swept the United States since it was published back in 2017. The New York Times describes Pachinko as a story that “chronicles four generations of an ethnic Korean family, first in Japanese-occupied Korea in the early 20th century, then in Japan itself from the years before World War II to the late 1980s.” These are the 20 best books to give to someone who has read everything.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah is the third novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The story describes the journey of two Nigerians, Ifemelu and Obinze, who travel to the United States and the United Kingdom in search of belonging and a new home. If you prefer having your stories read to you, here are 30 of the best audiobooks to listen to now.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the 2017 debut of Scottish author Gail Honeyman. The book won the 2017 Costa Debut Novel Award and was even the inaugural pick for Reese Witherspoon’s book club. The book follows the regular life of protagonist Eleanor, who develops an unlikely friendship with Raymond, a colleague who works in IT at her office, exploring how opening up her heart may lead to changes she never could have expected.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A classic story that has withstood the test of time, Pride and Prejudice provides an escape to 19th-century rural England with Elizabeth and Darcy’s romance. If you haven’t read this story yet, there’s still time. These are 19 more good books you should have read by now.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Originally written in Italian and then translated into English, My Brilliant Friend tells the story of two young girls, Elena and Lila, in Italy and how life changes in their country and their ever-evolving friendship. Europa Editions writes that “Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.” For a mega-binge, read these books that were turned into huge TV shows, and then watch the shows!
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
A Man Called Ove by Swedish author Fredrick Backman tells the story of Ove, an older gentleman who develops an unexpected relationship with a new family next door, changing his perspective on his life. It goes to show that in this day and age, it’s good to know your neighbors and know that you’re not alone. This woman’s love of books led her to find the love of her life.
Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Vol. 1 by Marcel Proust
This pensive masterpiece is a must-read for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. Though published more than 100 years ago, Proust’s story is still applicable to modern life. According to Penguin Random House: “Though In Search of Lost Time is saturated with details of French bourgeois and aristocratic life at the turn of the century, it retains its freshness for readers today because Proust’s concerns—the meaning of love and time, as understood through an individual’s memories—are always relevant.” Check out these ways to (legally) listen to free audiobooks online.
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
Sophie’s World by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder allows the reader to think about life and philosophy in a variety of ways. A girl named Sophie finds in her mail two questions that anyone of any age, especially now, can find relevant: “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?” These are the 50 stories to read before you turn 50.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince is a charming story by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that has been translated into more than 250 languages and sold millions of copies around the world. On the surface, it’s the story of a young traveler who shows up in the desert and talks to a pilot, but there’s so much more to this little story than that. Pick up a copy for yourself and read quotes like: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” The Little Prince is also among these 18 classic books you can read in a day.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Normal People by Irish writer Sally Rooney was published in 2018 to great praise, including being longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. It’s a modern point of view on relationships. NPR describes the book as “a compulsive, psychologically astute will-they-or-won’t-they love story involving two of the most sympathetic people you’re liable to meet between covers. Although hailed as a voice of millennials, Rooney offers plenty to appeal to readers across genders and generations.”
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
A story about a Greek man named Zorba and his and his town’s life doubles as the story between God and man. Originally published in 1946, the Greek novel has achieved worldwide recognition and fame and was even made into an Oscar-winning film. Here are 18 books that are now hit movies.
Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi
Celestial Bodies was the winner of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize and was the first Arabic novel to win the prestigious award. Though Celestial Bodies is Alharthi’s second novel, it was the first novel by an Omani woman ever translated into English. The New York Times describes the book as “spanning several generations, from the final decades of the 19th century to the early years of the new millennium.” They add that “it also marks an innovative reimagining of the family saga.” These are the best 14 reads from the Quarantine Book Club.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
This story of two orphan sisters who struggle toward adulthood has been lauded by many critics and is included in the Guardian‘s 100 best novels. An older New York Times review stated that the book is “about people who have not managed to connect with a place, a purpose, a routine or another person. It’s about the immensely resourceful sadness of a certain kind of American, someone who has fallen out of history and is trying to invent a life without assistance of any kind, without even recognizing that there are precedents. It is about a woman who is so far from everyone else that it would be presumptuous to put a name to her frame of mind.” Housekeeping won numerous awards and Marilynne Robinson herself won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 after being a finalist in 1982.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
While things look grim because of COVID-19, get lost in this dystopian novel about a father and a son wandering through a barren landscape, learning about the world around them and each other. Written by the award-winning American author Cormac McCarthy, The Road will bring hope even when it doesn’t seem like there’s any hope left. For more options for traveling without leaving your chair, check out these virtual day trips you can take online.