The Fergus Falls Public Library’s fall reading challenge is “Read Around the World.”
The goal of the fall reading program is to inspire people to read books that are set on different continents. I consider the challenge to be an opportunity to read more broadly and adventurously. Often, we settle into devouring books by our favorite author or within a specific genre such as mystery, western, romance, or true crime; but what happens when we venture outside of our standard reading tastes and comfort zones and experience something new? Enlightenment might be part of this type of experience, a greater understanding of other cultures, greater empathy, awareness and improved vocabulary. Perhaps we discover a new favorite book, author, story or place.
In the early 1990s I embarked on reading Ben Okri’s book “The Famished Road,” which won the Man Booker Prize in 1992, an award for outstanding literary fiction.
The story is set in Nigeria and is the coming-of-age tale of the spirit child, Azaro. Truly a beautiful and complex book about the trials of life, it became a favorite; so powerful that the story remains vivid to me more than 20 years later.
There was a period in my life when I just couldn’t seem to read my fill of books about arctic and Antarctic exploration. A journey to either of the poles is sure to be full of adventure. Minnesota’s own Ann Bancroft has literarily forged a path in Antarctic exploration. “Four to the Pole!: The American Women's Expedition to Antarctica” by Nancy Loewen and Ann Bancroft and “No Horizon Is So Far: Two Women and Their Historic Journey Across Antarctica” by Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft are compelling reads. These books validate the intensity of a Minnesota winter and will remind you of how much worse it could get. Both books are excellent reads and will appeal to the adventurer in all of us.
There are major literary awards for books translated from a foreign language; a poignant reminder that wonderfully written books are published across the globe. While these books may take a little more perseverance to discover, it is worth the effort. Explore the National Book Award’s nominees for translated literature to learn more about these books. This year’s long list of 10 titles includes “The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree” by Shokoofeh Azar, a translation from Persian by an anonymous translator. The story, set during the Islamic revolution, deals with family dynamics during unsettled times. “Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982” by Cho Nam-Joo and translated from Korean by Jamie Chang focuses on the narrator's inner emotional life. The book has been translated into several languages with sales exceeding a million.
The Batchelder Award is given to an American publisher for the translation of a children's book from a foreign language. Exploring the books that have received the Batchelder award is the perfect way to introduce your children or grandchildren to excellent literature from around the globe. This year’s award recipient is VIZ Media for “Brave Story” written by Miyuki Miyabe and translated from the Japanese by Alexander O. Smith.
The library’s fall reading challenge has the potential to broaden your world view. The library employees look forward to helping you select a global read.
Gail Hedstrom is the director of the Fergus Falls Public Library.