Around the World in 80 Books: Sierra Leone and Jerusalem

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Another update for those of you following along on my journey.  For those who are new to it, I’ve joined a challenge when I’m reading 80 books from 80 different countries (or cultures.)  I’m taking as long as I want to, but I have placed a budget of $20 for myself for the entire challenge. I’ve already read and reviewed books for England, Turkey, and Scotland.

Here’s my running tally:

England- $0 (Free e-book)
Turkey- $0 (It was a gift.)
Scotland- $0 (Free e-book)
Grand Total: $0

So I’m pretty much rocking it!  And more great news:  I haven’t spent a penny on either of these new ones.  A Long Way Gone was something I picked up from the library and Hope Street, Jerusalem was a book I won in a giveaway on Mom’s Small Victories.

This book.  Wow.  I’m so glad I read it.  There were a few times early on where I almost set it down for good.  Because it’s intense.  Really intense.  Because what Beah went through was real, and intense.  This book documents his experiences growing up in Sierra Leone in the 90s.  For those of you who aren’t aware (because I wasn’t before I read the book,) there was a civil war going on there at the time, and Beah’s experiences go from normal life as a boy, to victim, to perpetrator (though arguable still a victim in this role,) to saved soul, to vocal advocate.   His story is amazing.  His story is important.  His story spares no details.

It kind of made me ashamed to think of what I was going through during this time in juxtaposition to what he was going through.  He’d mention 1993, I’d flash back to what was important to me then, and then he’d detail how he was witnesses senseless and gory mass murder committed in the name of war.  While we sometimes insulate ourselves against what’s currently happening in our world because it makes us uncomfortable, I think it’s important to know.  The 90s aren’t current anymore, but I do feel like I understand Sierra Leone a ton better than I did before reading this book.  (Granted before this all I knew was that they were suffering due to the Ebola outbreak.)  And it makes me feel like I should be keeping current on other things going on in the world, too, that I’m not immediately made aware of by mass media.

It was recommended by Kate Norris, who is also participating in the challenge (though we all set our own specific guidelines.)  Thanks, Kate!

I have so many feelings about this book.  It’s written by an Australian journalist.  As such, I think I’m going to leave both Israel and Palestine on my list of countries I haven’t read yet.  Because I’d like to get the perspective of the own country’s literature.

Anyways, there’s good and bad parts about it.  It’s a memoir, so she’s documenting her own life.  Her personal life isn’t all that interesting to me.  She has a much younger boyfriend, but she doesn’t delve too far into emotion or details of the relationship. Rather, she paints with sweeping brushstrokes that give you a general idea of the excitement of new romance and then the slow degradation that happens in relationships you don’t tend to.  Would have like a little more detail.

Also, this book is mostly about their dog.  The dog helps her meet some interesting people, and if you’re a dog-lover this might be a spectacular read.  I’m not a dog-hater by any means, but I can’t really empathize with training a puppy or equating your animal to a child.  (It’s cool if you do that, I just haven’t in my life.  Which made the whole thing kind of hard to connect to.)

It was also a bad choice to read this one directly after A Long Way Gone.  After reading about Beah’s horrific experiences, Makler’s opening scene of getting hit in the jaw with a stone felt like whining.  But that’s more due to my timing than the writing itself.

But the good parts of the book were about her encounters with the wide array of people that inhabit Jerusalem and surrounding areas.  And she met many people due to her profession and her job.  Those stories were super interesting.  Might be worth the read just for that.


I think I’m going to take a break from novels set in war-torn countries for a while.  I’m definitely not saying I won’t read anymore in this challenge.  But I need a change of pace.  It can get depressing and I need to find some  happy in the world.  So here’s my on-deck.  Counting it as from Mexico:


Have any other suggestions for me?  Here are the countries I already have covered:

Sweden: Roseanna by Maj Sjowall indirectly recommended by Northern Lights Reading Project
Norway: Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder  recommended by Poor Student
Israel:  Hope Street, Jerusalem by Iris Makler
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

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15 thoughts on “Around the World in 80 Books: Sierra Leone and Jerusalem

  1. kay ~

    Wow, what a cool challenge! I have to admit, though, that I probably wouldn’t purposely read the war book. I really love autobiographies best, but that may be just a bit too much for me. I used to read all kinds of books, but I found they stuck with me for too long afterwards, so I try to stick to happier subjects now. I think I depress too easily when reading about the darker sides of human nature. It really is a great challenge, though. Kudos, always, to gaining more knowledge! 🙂

    1. Femme @ femmefrugality

      I can understand that. On one hand, I think it’s crucial to learn from the experiences of others so we don’t repeat mistakes. On the other, we have to be careful what we feed our minds. I’ve started away from terribly violent movies for this reason after watching Full Metal Jacket.

  2. Petrish @ Debt Free Martini

    I am really impressed that you can find the time to read these books. I do read books still but they all have something to do with business or blogging. You know it would be great to just read a book again just to read a book. Now in these modern times we get so busy that we forget to just stop and enjoy the moment.

    1. Femme @ femmefrugality

      Yeah we all need to take some time for recreation. Most of my reading time is right before I fall asleep. I used to be really slow, but I’ve noticed since I started reading more I’ve gotten a lot quicker!

    1. Femme @ femmefrugality

      I’ll have a lot for you over the course of this challenge! If you check out my Pinterest boards, there’s one for all challenge participants called “Travel the World in Books.” There’s a ton more from other bloggers on there, as well!!

  3. Prudence Debtfree

    Great challenge! I might have to steal this idea for my school. (I’m a teacher.) How about Anna Karenina for Russia? I agree that it’s important to read books about countries ravaged by war. And i agree that it’s important to take a break from them. At my school, there are students from all over the globe – including war-torn countries – and I have a bit of a window into that world. It’s amazing how resilient the human spirit is.

    1. Femme @ femmefrugality

      I remember! A Canadian teacher who isn’t effected by common core. :p I would love love love to hear about the experience if you do use it in school! Could be so cool! I was going back and forth between Anna Karenina and War and Peace for Russia. I’ve read Fathers and Sons before and loved it, but almost feel like you haven’t read a Russian book until you’ve read something so thick it scares you to look at it.

      A lot of respect to your students. I can’t begin to imagine the things they have seen and overcome in their young lives.

  4. Christine @ The Wallet Diet

    What a great idea! I might do this challenge as well 🙂

    I read Out of Africa after my trip to Kenya. It’s a memoir by Karen Blixen and her life as the owner of a coffee plantation there. She accurately and poetically describes the land and people (especially their mannerisms). Her story is quite bitter sweet and it captured that sense of magic that I felt when I was there. I know how corny that sounds but it really is a breathtaking country!

    1. femmefrugality

      Not corny at all! Looking forward to checking that one out! Thanks for the recommendation! And do join…the more the merrier! I’ve gotten several of my recommendations from other bloggers participating. It’s super fun. Let me know if you do….there’s all kind of ways to hook up via social media for it.

  5. Messy Money (@Messy__Money)

    Oh! Now I am a bit scared about my recommendation – because *spoiler it is about a dog. The book is actually marketed as a book for youth but it is a great read no matter what your age and Farley Mowat is an award winning writer.

    1. femmefrugality

      Don’t be scared! It sounds a lot like Because of Winn-Dixie at a cursory glance, and I really enjoyed that one. This one was just advertised as something completely different. And a lot of it was her complaining about taking care of the dog, though there was some pretty deep love for her in it, too. I don’t know. Just not at all what I was expecting. I’m looking forward to my Canadian book, though, no worries. 🙂

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