Friday, September 27, 2013

She reads around the world |
Get a global perspective

Take a look at your bookshelf. Are most of the titles written by US or UK authors?

Mine are.

Ann Morgan is a reader much like you and me -- a writer and editor with a college degree under her belt, a healthy amount of curiosity, a love of the written word, and the self-awareness to know that globalizing her perspective would take a certain degree of radical commitment.

In this case, a 365 day challenge to read 196 books from around the world.

Her personal  challenge:
In 2012, the world came to London for the Olympics and I went out to meet it. I read my way around all the globe’s 196 independent countries – plus one extra territory chosen by blog visitors – sampling one book from every nation.
Morgan started with a quest to solidify The List. No easy feat, this. How to go about finding legit books, quality books, from sometimes obscure publishers with hard-to-discover titles by lesser-known authors?

She took the quest to the net:
...I asked for your help. I invited you to tell me what’s hot in Russia, what’s cool in Malawi, and what’s downright smoking in Iceland. The books could be classics or current favourites. They could be obscure folk tales or commercial triumphs. They could be novels, short stories, memoirs, biographies, narrative poems or a mixture of all these things. All I asked was that they had some claim to be considered part of the literature of a country somewhere in the world — oh, and that they were good.
"Good," of course, is subjective. But that wasn't the point.

Picture by Diane Cordell
The point was to look out from the eye-holes of people whose worlds look entirely different from ours --
from hers.

And isn't that why writing (and reading) is so important? Literature tracks the human experience. Books magic us into the existence of those who are not like us. The Other, the academics call these people for whom many of us lack empathy -- whom we might even fear -- until we strive to toward understanding, compelled by their stories.

I grew up in white bread Daytona Beach, Florida. After finishing undergrad in Central Texas, I hiked over to Tucson for an MFA and a tech job. No world traveler, that's for sure. I'd never consider myself cosmopolitan. And I don't have the money or time to go abroad and globeallivant in any deliberate way.

This challenge may be just the thing for these state-side-bound toes.

For 2014, I think I might take a crack at it.

What are your thoughts about this challenge? About the power of writing? How have you attempted to globalize your perspective?

Learn more about Ann Morgan:
Publishing Perspectives
BBC Culture