The non-western books that everyone needs to read
Inspired by The Guardian, here are nine brilliant non-Western books (books with authors, characters or settings from beyond Europe or North America) to add a bit of diversity to your reading list.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Saleem is born at the stroke of midnight the day India gains independence. He has a strange gift of telepathy which lets him hear the thoughts of the other thousand children born as the same time as him, who all have special powers. His story is full of highs and lows, love and loss as he gets separated from his home and tries to find his way back.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
José Arcadio Buendía founds the town of Macondo, a metaphor for Colombia, and this book follows the growth of his family for the next hundred years. It shows how the next seven generations are haunted by the actions and choices of their ancestors, and blends the everyday and the mundane with magic and mystery.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
In this Mexican Cinderella story, Tita is the least favourite child of her controlling mother Elena, and has the power to make whoever tastes her food feel the emotions she was feeling when she cooked. Her head and her heart battle between marrying for love and marrying for convenience as she struggles for her independence.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
A man in suburban Tokyo searches for his cat. He soon realises that his wife is missing too. The following novel, part detective story, part marriage-breakdown, part WWII memoir, explores the intersecting lives of Toru Okada and a depressed teenager, a war veteran, a politician and a psychic prostitute.
I am Malala by Malala Yousafza
Everyone’s heard of the girl in Taliban-controlled Pakistan who was shot on the school bus home for trying to get an education. It’s incredible to hear Malala’s own take on the story which takes her from Swat Valley to the United Nations.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This amazing novelist/activist creates five distinct characters whose stories span a decade as Biafra fights to become a separate state to Nigeria in the 60s. The book deals with hope and disappointment and shows how strong people can be in the face of the atrocities of war.
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
This young adult fantasy story is beautifully written and is heavily influenced by Hindu myths such as Shiva and Parvati and The Ramayana. Maya has to deal with ruling a kingdom at just seventeen and a prophecy that says her marriage will end in death and destruction.
A Bird Is Not a Stone
This is a collection of emotional poetry written by Palestinians and translated into English and Gaelic by various British poets. Some light-hearted, some tear-jerking, the poems combine violence and hope to make a beautiful depiction of everyday life in Palestine.
Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John
Naive Dantala lives with a street gang in northern Nigeria under a kuka tree. He runs away to a mosque when the gang’s mission to burn down the political HQ backfires, and has to choose what kind of Muslim, and what kind of person, he wants to be.