Category Archives: around the world in 80 books

Around the World in 80 Books: Austria & Mali

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, Nigeria, New Zealand, China, Canada, Jamaica
$2.75- Late fees on the book for Italy
$0- Free eBooks: Scotland, England, Portugal, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Mongolia
$0- Gift: Turkey, Pakistan, Autism in the USA
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem
$1.99- eBook: Basque Country, Japan
$0- Paid review on an interesting read: Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid
______________________________________

Grand Total: $6.73

 

I have some bad news. The next two books were also library reads, but when we went on our latest trip, I forgot to return them. Or renew them. Idiot move that I’ll be paying for. Literally.

Luckily they were both worth it.

 Austria

Man's Search for Meaning

I absolutely loved this book. In fact, I recommended it for our annual Summer Reading Giveaway. If you haven’t entered yet, there’s still a $250 Amazon Gift Card and 8 books up for grabs–including Frankl’s masterpiece

Frankl was a psychiatrist, philosopher and Holocaust Survivor. This book is about his experiences, but primarily about how even in the worst of situations, we can find hope in our lives if we will only prescribe it meaning.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been struggling a little bit as I’ve gotten older with the whole hope thing. When I was younger I could find inspiration around every corner. As I age, I’m finding that to be harder. I felt a lot like Joe from my New Zealand read, only a lot less dramatic:

“I am just a waste…the worst thing I bear is the knowledge that others have borne far worse distress and not buckled like this under it. They have been ennobled by their suffering, have discovered meaning and requital in loss…”

You get discouraged because you’re struggling, and you get frustrated with yourself because you know others have struggled against such greater odds and came out stronger.

You start asking, “What’s wrong with me that I just can’t deal?”

I wasn’t exactly expecting to find the answer in the existential memoir of a Holocaust Survivor. But I did.

Frankl teaches through non-fictional parables how to assign meaning to any suffering–whether it appears to be banal or soul-wrenching. He also notes that just because he’s been through the Holocaust doesn’t diminish the intensity of someone else’s suffering in a less horrific situation.

The entire point isn’t the intensity of our suffering. Suffering will happen to all of us.

It’s about assigning meaning to our suffering, so we can continue to go on, and live a good life while we’re doing it. Even under the worst of circumstances. Even if we don’t believe in God, or are unsure of Her/His existence.

If you’re a human being, it’s a must-read.

Mali

Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali
Monique and the Mango Rains was recommended by my friend Rebecca of The Personal Finance Lawyer. It was powerful.

It was written by a Peace Corps volunteer, which initially made me a little skeptical. For this challenge, I’m really trying to read not only diverse books, but diverse authors. It’s ideal if they’re from the country they’re writing about. Plus, Peace Corps memoirs have a tendency to read like accomplishment journals.

But this book was nothing like that. The entire story was about the friendship she had built with Monique Dembele–the midwife and essential pediatrician in the village Holloway stayed in. Incidentally, you got to learn how people lived in southern Mali in the early 1990s, and about peripheral wars and conflicts.

But the real story was her friendship with this woman who revolutionized Women’s and Children’s Health in her region, despite the barriers she faced. It was beautifully told. I had tears in my eyes at the end.

Parts of it are intense, as apparently female genital cutting was standard practice in Mali, and is still being addressed in many areas of the country if I understand correctly. You’ll also be reading about rape and domestic abuse.

Despite the difficult subject matter, or maybe even because of it, it’s well worth the read. It’s amazing to see how one woman had such a huge impact on an entire region, and reminds us that we, too, can impact those around us for the better despite the challenges we face.

 

 

Have a recommendation for what I should read next? Leave it in the comments! Here’s what’s already in my queue:
Afghanistan: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg recommended by Savvy Working Gal
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
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
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
Romania: Anything by Andre Codrescu recommended by Abigail from I Pick Up Pennies
Croatia: Girl at War by Sara Novi recommened by Erin from TexErin-In-Sydneyland
India: Malguid Days by R.K. Narayan recommended by Michael from Stretch a Dime (I’m giving up my other India read–I just couldn’t get through it. Excited to check out Michael’s recommendation.)

Summer Reading #Giveaway Extravaganza

Those of you following the Around the World in 80 Books Challenge know that it is possible to read on a crazy tight budget. Saving money on books isn’t the only thing to be concerned with, though. Reading enriches our lives by expanding our viewpoints and challenging our beliefs. It helps us learn academically and empathetically.

My good friend Meredith runs a monthly virtual book club, and every year I partner with her and a bunch of other fab bloggers by compiling a kick-off to summer book list, including why we think you’ll love each tome.

In addition to sharing our picks, we celebrate the start of summer reading in a big way–with a fantastic giveaway for a $250 Amazon gift card and SEVEN free books! So tune in below for the 20 Best Summer Books List and then make sure to enter the Rafflecopter at the end for your chance to score big. And this year we have a fun bonus–WE ARE GIVING AWAY 100 COPIES OF THE BOOK CLUB’S TOP ALL-TIME PICK, too! 

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

20 Best Summer Books:

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Femme Frugality: “Psychology, philosophy and theology have a way of blending together. In this book, psychologist Viktor Frankl relates his experiences as a prisoner in Hitler’s concentration camps, using it as a way to underpin his philosophy that man can get through anything if he assigns meaning to life. Great for anyone going through a difficult time, or anyone who has detached from organized religion but is still seeking the meaning of life.”
  2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Lindsay of See Mom Click: “If you’ve ever felt like the days are slipping by and you’re just trudging along, The Happiness Project is a must-read. Rubin’s writing really speaks to me, the perfect balance of hard facts and science combined with practical wisdom about proactively making yourself happier and living in the now.”
  3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. Wendy of ABCs and Garden Peas: “An inspiring, food-filled story of the Kingsolver family’s adventure as they move to a farm in southern Appalachia and begin living their lives in a way that works with the local food chain. This year’s 10th Anniversary Edition also gives readers a glimpse into how their family has carried their inspiring “real food” journey with them throughout the next decade.
  4. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline. Mikaela Fleisher of Iris and Honey: “Christina Baker Kline brings an artist and his muse to life in this novel that blends fact and fiction. Based on Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World, Kline gives readers a truly beautiful glimpse into the life of the woman behind the painting.
  5. Red Water by Kristen Mae. Kristen Mae of Abandoning Pretense: “An Amazon best seller, Red Water will slither under your skin and stick there. Erotic, raw, and disturbing, and with deeply flawed but relatable characters, Mae’s sophomore novel is a dark, unflinching examination of the psychology of self-loathing and the secret, unspeakable lust for depravity that lies dormant within us all.”
  6. My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits by Jen Mann. Jen Mann of People I Want to Punch in the Throat: “My Lame Life is a great summer read for teens and adults because it’s a funny and endearing book that is entirely relatable!”
  7. Famished by Meghan O’Flynn. Meghan O’Flynn: “Famished is a bestselling psychological thriller that explores the darkest parts of the human psyche. Hailed as “Thrilling, emotional and depraved,” this novel is one you won’t want to put down.”
  8. Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion: “While not a new publication, Jenny is every one of us: frazzled Mama juggling parenthood and work. When she realizes a family meal is the best shot at quality time with her husband and kids, so begins her journey to make it happen. It’s part cookbook (fabulous, EASY recipes) and part narrative. Witty, relate-able, and educational (I learned how to cook things, you guys!) I was went through Jenny-withdrawal when I finished the book!”
  9. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Shari of Adore Them pick: “Jon Ronson is an incredible author who combines objective observations with his own take on these experiences. For this book he spent years meeting people who had been subject to public shaming. It is fascinating (& horrible) to see how one tweet could ruin someone’s life.”
  10. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying: “The story is told in alternating voices of three best friends as they begin their senior year: one knowing she is OUTTA THERE, one being OK with staying exactly where he is because he has his stories to escape into, and one not feeling like he can or is deserving of going anywhere but right where his father’s crimes put him. I felt so many things while I read this, but mostly that I will now read literally anything this author writes from now on.”
  11. The Most Beautiful by Mayte Garcia. Suzanne of Toulouse & Tonic: “I devoured this book about Prince by his ex-wife Mayte Garcia. At first I was afraid it would be exploitive but after reading reviews carefully, I gave it a try. It was so worth it. A great portion of the book is the story of HER life. It’s interesting and insightful. The parts of her life she shared with Prince are handled in a respectful but honest way. I feel like I actually know something about this enigmatic man now. I still miss him but 4 me, it brought a little peace.”
  12. Redemption Road by John Hart. Lydia of Cluttered Genius: “Redemption Road caught me from page one and had me guessing the entire way through. I don’t generally choose murder mysteries or thrillers, but Hart’s novel has me wanting to find the rest of his books to read more!”
  13. Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center. Natalie of a Turtle’s Life for Me: “Everyone is Beautiful is a heartwarming and humorous look at one woman’s journey through marriage and motherhood as she tries to find small moments of personal fulfillment. The epiphanies and insights she gains along the way are told in a light-hearted manner, but resonate deeply in a way that will have you thinking about it months later. I read this with my book club and we found we were bringing it up again even a year later, because it struck such a deep chord with us.”
  14. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Dani of Meraki Lane: “I loved this book. It explores so many emotionally sensitive topics – infertility, adoption, motherhood, and interracial marriage – and the author did such an amazing job of jumping back and forth between the United States and India. She described each with such vivid detail, and the story truly encapsulated the meaning of the word ‘family.’ It was an easy, yet complex read, and the ending brought me to tears. I highly recommend this one!”
  15. The Twelves Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti. Jana of Jana Says: “I LOVED this book. Dark and twisted and violent and a thriller complimented with a father/daughter/coming of age story told between alternating POV and bouncing back and forth in time until it all catches up to itself. It’s so well done and well written and I cannot recommend it enough.”
  16. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Kimberly of Red Shutters: “It’s the story of a family, torn apart by slavery. One branch of the family aids in the slave trade in Ghana, later becoming involved in conflict with the British, and finally finding their way to America. The other side of the family is sold into slavery and generations later experience an America of incarceration, poverty, and drug abuse. Despite its challenging subject matter, Homegoing is captivating, an extraordinary story about hope, connection, and loss. I couldn’t put it down, and when it did end, I was disappointed–I wanted more. That’s the sign of an extraordinary book!”
  17. The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles. Janine of Confessions of a Mommyaholic: “This is the beginning of a supernatural, romance YA series that struck all the right notes for me. Honestly, think it could be in the leagues of Twilight or even Harry Potter as the writing was superb. Plus, the storyline was unique, fast moving and heart tugging, as well. Therefore, recommend as the perfect summer vacation read.”
  18. The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. Rabia of The Lieber Family: “Lianna’s mom has disappeared. The most plausible explanation is that her frequent sleepwalking took her over a bridge to her death. But on closer inspection, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. And the good looking detective assigned to the case is trying to help, isn’t he? So what really happened? I can’t wait to find out!”
  19. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. Anne of Once Upon a Mom: “I haven’t read this one yet but it looks amazing! It’s a story about a quirky kid with an even quirkier grandma who, after her death, leaves a a series of letters apologizing to people. I’m looking forward to finding out about all of Grandmother’s secrets!”
  20. City Mouse by Stacey Lender. Carrie of Normal Level of Crazy and Meredith of The Mom of the Year: “This defines a beach read for me! So relatable to our own lives as it is all about mom trying to find out exactly where she fits in the in the scheme of suburbia–all that goes along with it. Plus, when a book is described as ‘The Stepford Wives meets Bad Moms’, how can you go wrong?”

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It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

And that’s it, friends! Our list of the 20 Best Summer Books you need to kick back with during all the sun-soaked days ahead of us! As promised, the giveaway for a $250 AMAZON GIFT CARD and copies of some of the titles on this list (Red Water, Famished, My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits, The Sleepwalker, Homegoing and Redemption Road) is below!

UPDATE: BONUS! You’ll also win a copy of my fave: Man’s Search for Meaning!

No better way to keep your reading stash well stocked and you can use the gift card to grab some other titles that are on your own wish list. Sweet!

As long as you are 18 or older, live in the continental United States, and enter before June 16, 2017 at 5:30am EST, you are eligible to win!

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

Also as promised, we are tickled to be giving away 100 COPIES of the favorite title our book club has ever read, This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel! Read the whole post HERE to find out why it is such an exceptional book, and then hop over quickly to enter the giveaway! Thanks to the generosity of Flatiron Books, copies will be sent to the first 100 people who enter the giveaway* (The grand prize winner included! The same giveaway deadline and rules as above apply.) We could go on and on about This Is How It Always Is, but to put it simply: it is important, life-changing, and beautiful. This isn’t just a book you want to read, it’s a book you need to read.

*Note: remember each person can gain multiple entries, so don’t assume that all 100 copies have been claimed when the entries total goes over 100! Meredith will be updating on social media how many copies are left if you want to check in on this as the giveaway progresses!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thanks for joining us in this kick-off to summer reading celebration with this list of the 20 best summer books! Happy summer and happy reading, friends!

It's here! The annual list of the 20 best summer books! All come highly recommended and are perfect reads to kick back with this summer! Plus, check out this incredible giveaway--100 copies of ONE book, a $250 Amazon giftcard and a bunch of new beach reads? Enter now!!

***********************************************************************

***Thank you to Flatiron Books, Jen Mann, Kristen Mae, Meghan O’Flynn, Macmillan Publishers, Anchor Books, and Vintage Books for providing copies of the books for the giveaway. All opinions are entirely our own.***

Book photo in second graphic: depositphotos.com, Image ID:9056658, Copyright:belchonock

Last image credit: depositphotos.com, Image ID:13362963, Copyright:coolfonk

 

Around the World in 80 Books: Jamaica

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, Nigeria, New Zealand, China, Canada
$2.75- Late fees on the book for Italy
$0- Free eBooks: Scotland, England, Portugal, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Mongolia
$0- Gift: Turkey, Pakistan, Autism in the USA
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem
$1.99- eBook: Basque Country, Japan
$0- Paid review on an interesting read: Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid
______________________________________

Grand Total: $6.73

Today’s book also came from the library, and I returned it on time without late fees.

I’m a winner.

Jamaica

A Brief History of Seven Killings

This book, recommended by Jana of Jana Says, was intense.

I can’t say it wasn’t well-written.

It was.

I can’t say it wasn’t an important read.

It was.

But it was a difficult read. Revolving around the assassination attempt on Bob Marley, this book took you deep into the community of his youth. Which was violent. And disturbing.

Murder. Rape. Other violence. All of it extremely graphic.

The way I feel about the experience is a lot like reading a Chuck Palahniuk novel: I can’t deny the author is talented. But the experience was so jarring that I never, ever want to pick up another one of his books.

If you’ve got thicker skin than me, it’s a beautifully executed piece of work. If you don’t, though, it might be worth staying away.

Since I’m allowed to do Adulting Reads out of order, I’m using this one as my book based on a historical event, and it’s number 26/80 for the Around the World in 80 Books challenge.

On Deck Man's Search for Meaning

I’m not sure if there could be two books with more different endings. Frankl himself survived the concentration camps of the Holocaust, but from what I understand, he spent the rest of his life helping others find meaning in their suffering without comparative qualifiers.

Pretty excited to read this one. After the James book, I need a little hope.

Have a recommendation for what I should read next? Leave it in the comments! Here’s what’s already in my queue:
Afghanistan: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg recommended by Savvy Working Gal
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
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
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
Romania: Anything by Andre Codrescu recommended by Abigail from I Pick Up Pennies
Mali: Monique and the Mango Rains recommended by Rebecca from Stapler Confessions
Croatia: Girl at War by Sara Novi recommened by Erin from TexErin-In-Sydneyland
India: Malguid Days by R.K. Narayan recommended by Michael from Stretch a Dime (I’m giving up my other India read–I just couldn’t get through it. Excited to check out Michael’s recommendation.)

Around the World in 80 Books: Canada

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, Nigeria, New Zealand, China
$2.75- Late fees on the book for Italy
$0- Free eBooks: Scotland, England, Portugal, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Mongolia
$0- Gift: Turkey, Pakistan, Autism in the USA
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem
$1.99- eBook: Basque Country, Japan
$0- Paid review on an interesting read: Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid
______________________________________

Grand Total: $6.73

Today’s book also came from the library, so we get to keep that total where it is.

Gold star.

Canada

The Dog Who Wouldn't Be

Viewing via email? Click here to view the title.

My Canada book, recommended by Messy Money, has been on my list since the beginning. I thought it would be a children’s book–a classic, for sure, but written for a young audience. Much like Because of Winn-Dixie.

I was so convinced of this that when I picked it up from the library, I decided to start reading it with my child at bedtime. It’s not particularly thick, so we’d read until they passed out every single night. Bedtime had a new lure of excitement as we’d wonder what would happen in the “dog book” tonight.

As we read, I realized that while Mowat was a child in the story, it wasn’t necessarily a book written for children. I had almost no reservations reading it to my kid, but we did have to stop a lot to explain what happened.

Mowat writes about even the most mundane things with such poetry that he made me care about things I don’t normally care about. Like attempting to sail a boat down a “creek” created by sewage drain off. Or washing a dog. Or, to be honest, hunting.

The book itself is akin to a Laura Ingalls Wilder tome, except Mowat doesn’t seem to mind if his robust vocabulary shows–even if it’s challenging to the reader. Set largely in depression-era Saskatoon, it chronicles his childhood and family relationships through the lens of the life of the dog who accompanied him for much of it.

At the end, somewhat predictably but still sadly and in an unexpected way, the dog dies.

This was the part I was worried the most about with my child. After all, we lost a family pet ourselves less than a year ago.

Far from being devastated, they rolled over and asked me, “What pet is Farley going to get next?”

The kid wanted a sequel.

I’m not sure if I need to review mortality with my kiddos or if a loss young in life calloused them. Or, perhaps, the memory of the loss is there, but they’re so young that the memory of the actual companion has faded–and with it, the visceral part of the grief.

Regardless, we absolutely loved this book. Its style was unexpected and endeared me to Mowat’s writing. He’s definitely one of the authors I’ll be coming back to after this challenge is over.

Also, since it was a memoir of sorts, it counted towards this month’s Adulting Read.

On Deck A Brief History of Seven Killings

I so badly wanted to have this one done and review this month, but, alas, I have about 200 pages left. You’ll just have to wait until March to hear about Jamaica!

Have a recommendation for what I should read next? Leave it in the comments! Here’s what’s already in my queue:
Afghanistan: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg recommended by Savvy Working Gal
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
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 Says
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
Romania: Anything by Andre Codrescu recommended by Abigail from I Pick Up Pennies
Mali: Monique and the Mango Rains recommended by Rebecca from Stapler Confessions
Croatia: Girl at War by Sara Novi recommened by Erin from TexErin-In-Sydneyland

Around the World in 80 Books: China

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, Nigeria, New Zealand
$2.75- Late fees on the book for Italy
$0- Free eBooks: Scotland, England, Portugal, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Mongolia
$0- Gift: Turkey, Pakistan, Autism in the USA
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem
$1.99- eBook: Basque Country, Japan
$0- Paid review on an interesting read: Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid
______________________________________

Grand Total: $6.73

Today’s book came from the library, so the total stays the same! Score!

I also wanted to let you guys know about a new challenge I’m doing called Adulting Reads. There is a theme for each month, so I’ll be choosing some books from diverse authors across the world that match the theme each month when possible.

This month’s theme was politics or current events. While today’s pick is a few years old, it’s more current than I’ve ever been on China and definitely covers a lot of political background I was otherwise unfamiliar with.

If you want to join us in February, you can join and find more info here. The next theme is memoirs.

China

Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

Viewing in email? Click here to view the title.

Like I said, I had a very limited knowledge of modern Chinese history. I had read and loved
Now the Hell Will Start
years ago, but that really taught me more about why the US was in China during WWII and what we did–particularly within the context of African-American regiments.

So this was different. In it, Chang follows the life of two migrant workers over the course of a few years in the mid to late 2000’s. She also covers her own family’s history as essential refugees and emigrants during and after the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong, which happened from 1966-1976.

Both were extremely interesting, but my biggest complaint about this book is that it should have been two. She tried to tie the lives of these girls together with her own family history, but it was a bit of a stretch. It led to her jumping around between the narratives which was jarring and confusing at times.

But when it comes down to it, I would have read both books had they been independently written.

The Transient Lives of Migrant Workers in China

The migrant worker sections of the book took place largely in Dongguan, which is an immense manufacturing city. Its rise, and the rise of similar though mostly smaller cities that facilitate the same ends, has completely upended traditional Chinese values.

While eldest sons are traditionally the empowered ones in a family, they are also the inheritors. So they by and large stay home on family farms. Daughters, on the other hand, have a lot more freedom to go to the cities and pursue their own independence.

Because there wasn’t a whole lot of rural enforcement for the one child policy, there are younger sons go out to the cities, too.

From Chang’s own words:

The continuing link to a family farm has stabilized China in an age of mass migration. Its cities have not spawned the shantytown slums of so much of the developing world, because the migrant who fails in the city can always return home and find someone there.

It’s interesting because through the young women that Chang follows, you can see how both their individual lives and the identity of the nation are changing so quickly that values and world views are very much in flux.

I picked out some quotes to show what I mean:

If other people don’t understand you yet, your modesty would be seen not as a sign of virtue but of incompetence.

That one Chang pulled from Square and Round which is a hugely popular Chinese self-help book. It’s pertinent because it shows how old values, such as modesty, are being rethought and in some cases placed on the other side of the line of morality.

As the migrant workers explore their own values, they shared some sentiments I wasn’t in love with (not that my approval is a measure of validity), and others that spoke to me deeply.

From a young woman named Min:

A person cannot grow up through happiness. Happiness makes a person shallow. It is only through suffering that we grow up, transform, and come to a better understanding of life!

While that sucks, it’s also true. And a very healthy way to look at change and adversity.

Another came from a woman named Chunming, who was perpetually looking to improve herself and her life. She saw huge amounts of wealth in her life, interspersed between periods of struggle.

Before she ended up pursuing a business of her own, she went back and forth on the idea. This argument against the idea struck me as poignant:

My friends, the ones who are all bosses of their own trading companies, are trying to talk me into starting my own company. They make twenty or thirty thousand yuan a month. But if I did that, my life would be just about making money. I want to keep raising the quality of my life. I want to find new kinds of happiness.

When I jumped to self-employment, that was something I struggled with myself. I quickly learned it’s all about setting healthy boundaries. Well, that and hella good budgeting.

After I had set this book down, I picked up a picture book with my kids. We flipped to the last page, and in some type of serendipity saw that the book had been made in, of all places, Dongguan. Though perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising given the scale of manufacturing in the city. We probably use multiple things made there everyday.

factory girls china

The Cultural Revolution

Then there was the portion with her family history, which was super interesting. Her grandfather was arguably one of the first casualties of the war between old and new China. The rest of her family, including her father, went to Taiwan just before things started getting super crazy with the Cultural Revolution, and he and his siblings emigrated from there to American in order to get their education and start a new life.

The Cultural Revolution was something I wasn’t overly familiar with. Essentially, as power shifted, there was a rebellion against all things old, including a time-honored reverence for education. A period of anti-intellectualism was born, and, along with it, a dark period of Chinese history. So dark, in fact, that many Chinese people won’t talk about it today. It’s easier to let it go than to obsess over the pain.

Some of Chang’s uncles and other relatives stayed behind and were sent to work camps because they were not only highly educated, but also academics. Despite staying out of allegiance to communism, they were stripped of their dignity and a decent portion of their lives.

Was it a frustrating read? Yes, but only because of the narrative’s construction. If you could get over the fact that transitions were anything but smooth, the content itself was well worth picking up the book.

I’ll end with one of the more thought-provoking old, Chinese values that blew my Western mind:

In traditional Chinese society, maintaining harmony with others was the key to living in the world. The moral compass was not necessarily right or wrong; it was your relationship with the people around you.

On Deck

The Dog Who Wouldn't BeA Brief History of Seven Killings

I know I said I was reading my India book next, but that one’s on my back burner for now. I’m currently reading The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be (my Canada selection) with my kiddo at bed time. I know it’s building their vocabulary because it’s building mine!

The other one, my Jamaican pick, is decidedly a book I would never read with my children ever. Expertly written, but…we’ll get into it next time. After I’ve finished reading. 🙂

 

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
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
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 Says
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
Romania: Anything by Andre Codrescu recommended by Abigail from I Pick Up Pennies
Mali: Monique and the Mango Rains recommended by Rebecca from Stapler Confessions
Croatia: Girl at War by Sara Novi recommened by Erin from TexErin-In-Sydneyland

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