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, Portugal, Cyprus, Albania
$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
Today’s books were also free eBooks, so thankfully that number stays the same! I’m now officially a quarter of the way done with the challenge with 20/80 books completed.
In case you can’t read that, this is Montenegro by Dr. Ljubo Vujovic. This was a difficult read. The author was very obviously passionate about what he was writing about (his home country,) but the book was formatted so poorly. There were parts that repeated themselves, and I feel like information that was meant to be in the book was left out. There were also some issues of grammar, but I’ve studied a bit of Slavic languages, so the errors made logical sense and didn’t bother me too much.
All that being said, I did learn a lot. The author is the head of of the Tesla Society in Buffalo. I had no idea why there was such a focus on Tesla, so I looked it up. Turns out he was Serbian, which explains all the focus on him. Don’t get me wrong, the man was amazing, and his ideas may still just change the future, despite all the thievery of his genius during his lifetime. (Pretty much, Edison was a massive jerk.) I just didn’t understand the connection until I looked it up.
There was also a lot of history that I somewhat get. For a while, leadership of the country was passed down uncle to nephew, as the leaders were bishops and couldn’t have children of their own. Then one rouge leader went off to get ordained, and came home with a pronouncement from the church that he was Prince. So a traditional monarchy began.
Prior to WWI, the king of Montenegro was known as the father-in-law of Europe because his daughters were married to various princes and other royalty around the continent. Given the causes for that first world war, that’s probably pretty significant.
He was super tight with the Romanovs.
There’s also this gorgeous, well-preserved region around Lake Skadar, where the only herons in Europe live. And quite a few extremely well-preserved Medieval towns.
The pictures were gorgeous, from the king and his family to the towns to the wildlife. I just wish it had been better formatted, because I wanted to learn/understand more.
This book was an auto-biography of a Mongolian transplant to London. It was fascinating, and just the kind of book that’s perfect for this challenge. Ichinkhorloo grew up in Soviet Mongolia with what she describes as a happy childhood. It did, indeed, sound very happy. She lived with her parents in the city. Both her mother and father were well-educated professionals. She grew up without religion, though unbeknownst to her, her grandfather was a Buddhist leader practicing in secrecy.
She spent summers with her grandmother on the plains, which was more of the life I was expecting to read about. I wasn’t expecting to find an empowered mother, and city living. I’ve lived in towns smaller than the one she grew up in. That stereotype is one Ichinkhorloo wants to push up against not because it’s shameful in any way, shape or form, but because after the fall of the Soviets, it hampers Mongolia’s ability to step up economically.
She went to study abroad, and ended up a single mother to two in London, trying to conquer the English language, and trying to finish her degree all at the same time. Her struggles were so raw, and her ability to overcome them was inspiring.
Quick side story. When I was young, I belonged to a minority religion in my area. One time, a kid got up in front of the class for a history presentation and started ripping on my religion. I sat there for what felt like hours, but was probably more like 90 seconds, before I blew up.
The teacher waited to teach the unit on my religion until a day I was absent.
But that kid apologized to me. He wanted to learn where he was wrong. We became great friends.
He was Catholic, and invited me to a Catholic Club meeting after school one day. He had taken the time to learn about my religion, and while Catholicism was no mystery to me, I figured I owed it to him to go.
What I saw shocked me. Just like my own religion, all these young people were bearing their testimonies. They talked about past youth trips, and cried as they recounted their experiences with the Holy Ghost.
It was the first time in my life that I actualized that other people really felt like they had the answers, too, and that beyond being good people with a partial truth, they had found a truth and access to spirituality that was equally deep for them as mine was for me.
I no longer identify with that religion, or any religion, really. But when Ichinkhorloo started talking about a spiritual intervention that saved her life, the verbage she used so reminded me of everything I was familiar with about Christianity. I thought for sure some missionaries changed her life and she was going to start praising Jesus.
But that wasn’t it at all. It was a sect of Buddhism that saved her, and gave her the sanity she needed to overcome all of her struggles and strife. While I no longer think I have a monopoly on spiritual correctness, I did experience a mini-flashback to that Catholic meeting. I like Buddhism a lot, but to hear someone’s first-hand recount of the radical change that their life underwent as a result of its teachings, sounding so much like what we often hear in our culture around Christianity, was different.
And by different, I mean that it pointed out how much we all are the same when it really gets down to it.
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 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 VodkaRomania: Anything by Andre Codrescu recommended by Abigail from I Pick Up Pennies
New Zealand: The Bone People by Keri Hulme recommended by Emma from Money Can Buy Me Happiness
Mali: Monique and the Mango Rains recommended by Rebecca from Stapler Confessions