Welcome to the next installment in my Around the World in 80 Books Challenge! It’s exactly what it sounds like: I’m trying to read 80 books from 80 different countries/cultures around the world, and to add a frugal spin, I’m trying to do it all for under $20.
Here’s my running tally so far:
$0- Library books: Russia, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Spain
$2.75- Late fees on the book for Italy
$0- Free eBooks: Scotland, England
$0- Gift: Turkey, Pakistan
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem
$1.99- eBook: Basque Country, Japan
$0- Paid, and interesting, review: Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid
Grand Total: $6.73
That may not seem like a lot for 15 books, but when you consider I now have 63 to go with only $13.27 left, it puts me a little on edge.
With that in mind, my next barrage of books were free eBooks. I’m finding that these are pretty hit or miss. Self-published books have often been good in terms of formatting and typos in my experience, but the ones that have been made free and available as some type of public service tend to be rougher around the edges.
Panayotis Cacoyannis lives in England, and this book is set largely in London. However, since he was born and raised in Greece, I’m counting this book for his country of origin.
Honestly, I picked this one up solely because it was free and met a country that I had not yet read. It was such a pleasant surprise to read such a fun tome of fiction!
Fun to read, anyways. The content itself deals with death as the main character is an obituary writer who loses quite a few friends and coworkers throughout the book. It also focuses a lot on the paranoia (or is it?) surrounding adultery, and contemplates on what merits art, versus trash, versus just not art. Initially, I was afraid it was going to be a romance novel, but thankfully it wasn’t.
Cacoyannis is a skilled storyteller. You go through the book as oblivious as the first-person protagonist, following his emotions and suspicions up and down. He’s not an entirely sympathetic character. For that reason, he feels like a real human being.
The twist at the end comes with the single, last line of dialogue. When I like a book, I’m often sad to see it end and want more, but this one was ended so brilliantly I actually felt…satisfied. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to me before.
This was less of a book and more of a dissertation, but I didn’t realize that when I downloaded it. I read it and learned a ton from it, so I’m counting it anyways.
It covers the culture of the people of the northern Albanian highlands. As with many highlands, the geographic features of the area has kept the inhabitants both protected and largely isolated, making the culture there extremely unique.
Patriarchal, extended families live together under the same roof, carrying out very specific roles as dictated by their culture’s code of conduct: The Canon of Lek Dukagjini. The canon isn’t completely untainted by outside influences; it was written by a monk in the 15th century. It does accurately reflect the cultural norms and values, but it also introduced consequences for acting against members of the Christian clergy. The author, Albanian himself, thinks that’s a good thing.
He also notes that while slavery has never been a part of the culture, that’s essentially what women are in the Albanian highlands. He cites that they’re born without rights, and are expected to serve in their assigned roles throughout their lives with no choices in regards to which direction their life will take at any given point.
Have I mentioned this is a mafia culture? Honor is the most important thing to the people of the Albanian highlands, and all men (literally male here) are born with it. If someone accuses you of lying in public or strikes you you are robbed of your honor. (There are other ways to lose it, too.)
Once you’re robbed of your honor, the only way to get it back is through blood. As in killing the person who took it from you. After you’ve killed them? You have to go tell their family you killed them, or you’ll lose your honor again. Their family is going to have a blood feud with you, and while the Canon says you can only kill the murderer, Habilaj relates that in modern times they can kill any male in your household, even the babies.
This cycle continues incessantly, unless the most recent blood-taking is formally forgiven by the family’s patriarch. Even then, Habilaj relates that a generations-old blood feud between his family and another was reignited by the other family a generation after his grandfather gave the formal forgiveness.
All males walk around armed with rifles and pistols and knives, but the rifle is the most important from what I could tell.
So it’s a bloody society, but not necessarily a chaotic one. It is highly regulated by the Canon. There’s bits about guest rites and role descriptions, too, in the dissertation.
Have a recommendation for what I should read next? Leave it in the comments! Here’s what’s already in my queue:
Canada: The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat recommeded by Messy Money
Afghanistan: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg recommended by Savvy Working Gal
Nigeria: Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
Philippines: May Day Eve and Other Stories by Nick Joaquin recommended by Guiltless Reader
Iceland: Scarcity in Excess by Arna Mathiesen & Thomas Forget
Sudan: The Wedding of Zein by Tayeb Salih recommended by Kate Wilson
Kenya: Out of Africa by Karen Blixen recommended by Christine from The Wallet Diet
China: Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang
Ethiopia: The God Who Begat a Jakal by Nega Mezlekia recommended by Based On a True Story
French Antilles: Victoire: My Mother’s Mother by Maryse Conde recommended by Based on A True Story
Suriname: The Free Negress Elisabeth by Cynthia McLeod recommended by Based On A True Story
Costa Rica: The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica
France: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr recommended by Our Next Life
Germany: In the Garden of Beasts or Devil in the White City by Erik Larson recommended by Emi from AIP Around the World
Haiti: All Souls Rising by Madison Smartt Bell recommended by Tre from House of Tre
Jamaica: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James recommended by Jana of Jana Say
South Africa: Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton recommended by Emily from The John & Jane Doe Guide to Money & Investing
Australia: In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson recommended by Aaron from When Life Gives You Lemons, Add Vodka