Around the World in 80 Books: Austria & Mali

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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: 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.


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.


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.)

5 thoughts on “Around the World in 80 Books: Austria & Mali

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Yes. With the caveat of mental health issues, we do have choice. Even within those issues we can find meaning, even if our lives don’t function the same way as everyone else’s. One cool thing I found out about Frankl after reading this is that before the war, he worked in a mental health hospital, and diagnosed everyone as “cured” in order to save them from eugenics or experimentation. Random tangent, but thought it was another testament to what a decent human being this guy was.

  1. Jana @ Jana Says

    I’ve never read the Frankl book and right now, I think it’s too intense for me. Maybe one day I’ll get to it.

    My husband’s cousin is joining the Peace Corps in about two weeks (OMG, I had no idea what a process it is!) so I’ll have to recommend the second book to him.

  2. Nicole

    Stopping by from SMYB. I love this challenge! I have all sorts of recommendations!! Nadia Sashimi has some great books set in Afghanistan. Viet Than Nyugen wrote a book that overlaps characters living in Vietnam and US, it’s called The Refugees. It’s a great collection of short stories. The Dry by Jane Harper is set in Australia. It’s a suspense/mystery getting a lot of buzz right now. I just read it and the writing is excellent. I could go on and on 🙂 I love to recommend good books 🙂


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