Around the World in 80 Books: Basque Country

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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: RussiaNorwaySwedenMexicoSierra Leone, Spain
$0- Free eBooks: ScotlandEngland
$0- Gift: Turkey
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem

Grand Total: $0 

Today’s book was the first one I spent money on!  I had been wanting to read something from the Basque culture for a while.  I had been watching this one, and it went on sale for $1.99.  So that beautiful zero is gone, but I’m still on track to come up under my goal of $20.


This book was similar to the one I read for Turkey.  Except I have a better grasp of Turkish culture than Basque culture.  I could see how East met West in that volume of folklore.  With this book, I had no background, so any of my observations may be 100% out of whack.  I need to go back and actually read up on the Basque people and their culture to truly get this one, I think.

What I did get was that they were a very resilient people.  Autonomous through many ages, they remained independent even while Rome and the Ottoman empire (and many others) took over Spain.  These were serious foes, but much like the Scottish landscape helped protect its people for so many ages, the Basque’s mountains protected them.  That and their fierce desire for independence, and their willingness to fight for it.

They are very much Christian, and for a minute I wondered if prior to that they were some type of Wiccan or Pagan because of all the fantastic characters and the magic that came into their stories.  They probably were, as all of Europe was, but the more I reflected on it, the more I realized that pretty much all of Europe involved clairvoyant, malevolent witches in their folklore, and that magic was still commonplace in stories even with Christianity’s influence.  It made me wonder at what point they adopted Christianity, though.  For a people that were so fiercely independent, I wonder at what point they adopted that religion, or if they had adopted it before their origins.  I kind of doubt the latter.  I have much, much more reading to do for all the questions this book brought up.

It was worth reading if for nothing else, the intro.  It’s funny, because you can tell it was written a good while ago.  It talks about science and how we know all this fantastic stuff didn’t happen.  But we should let people find peace in the stories.  Maybe even believe in them.  Because what gives us more hope?  Magic and legend or the cold-hard facts of scientific mortality?

Which was a lot of quality food for thought.  But then some of the science they were hanging their hat on was so outdated, it made you realize that what we think we know about the world around us is likely to be completely antiquated in the next centuries.

We know nothing, so we might as well take solace in our folklore.

I’m not sure what’s up next.  I’ve been working on a few non-fiction reads that aren’t a part of the challenge as they’re pretty darn American.  I’ve also been chipping away at a non-fiction beast about what happened when Spain settled Latin America.  It covers century upon century. I’m not sure I’ll read it to its completion before picking up another book, though I will finish it someday.  That’s the beautiful thing about this challenge.  On these lovely, sunny summer days, I can take my time.  Because the only one setting the deadline is me.


If you do have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments!  Just because I’m not in a rush doesn’t mean I’m not looking out for great books from countries I haven’t read or aren’t in my queue.  I’m eleven books in, so I still have a lot of cultures to explore.

Here’s 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: I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani recommended by Guiltless Reader
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
JapanTotto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi recommended by Suburban Finance
EthiopiaThe God Who Begat a Jakal by Nega Mezlekia recommended by Based On a True Story
French AntillesVictoire: My Mother’s Mother by Maryse Conde recommended by Based on A True Story
SurinameThe 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
Italy: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes recommended by Emi from AIP Around the World
Germany: In the Garden of Beasts or Devil in the White City by Erik Larson recommended by Emi from AIP Around the World

10 thoughts on “Around the World in 80 Books: Basque Country

  1. SavvyJames

    No recommendations for you at this time; however, I love the challenge of reading books from 80 countries and doing it in a frugal manner. Best of luck … and happy reading!

  2. Prudence Debtfree

    “But then some of the science they were hanging their hat on was so outdated, it made you realize that what we think we know about the world around us is likely to be completely antiquated in the next centuries.” It’s so important not to have a cultural arrogance as we read books. Have you ever had the experience of reading a book at one time in your life and then reading it again? Only to get a completely different impression of it? The book stays the same, but we evolve in our understanding. I think we have a lot more respect for ancient understandings now than when that book was first written (in 1887! I checked.)

    1. Femme @ femmefrugality

      Absolutely agree. And that’s what the author of the intro was going for. And in 1887 (thanks for the year!) I was impressed. She brought up the science I think to be able to confront the arguments readers of the time would possibly have. I may not have presented that well!

  3. middle_class

    Love this idea. However, I would suggest reading books written by someone native to the country. I read Out of Africa and while it was interesting, it was still a white person’s outside perspective. I also noticed you had Under the Tuscan Sun for Italy. There are so many great Italian novelists. Off the topic of my head, I’m thinking Moravia, Calvino, or Buzzati. For a lighter read, there is a fantastic series of modern detective novels from a Sicilian novelist named Andrea Camilleri.

    1. Femme @ femmefrugality

      Thank you for this. Ultimately, that’s my goal. For Jerusalem it was actually a book by an Australian journalist, so I’m still looking for books from Israel/Palestine. In Emi’s defense, she did suggest Dante’s Inferno, but I had already read it in the past. Will check out these Italian authors for sure! And while I still do want to read Out of Africa, I’m open to more Kenyan books for the challenge!

  4. Pingback: Around the World in 80 Books: Persia | Femme Frugality

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