Reading Lists

  • The Last Soldiers of the Cold War: The Story of the Cuban Five
       March 2015
    Bridging Enigma: Cubans on Cuba Edited by Ambrosio Fornet This special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly (vol. 96, no. 1, Winter 1997) presents Cuban reality as seen by sixteen of the country’s scholars with different points of view.   Cuba Defendida Roberto Fernández Retamar Some of Cuba’s problems are seen here from a revolutionary perspective. The book’s two...
  • Tesla
    Happy Are the Happy Yasmina Reza  John Cullen, tr.  A short advance excerpt from Yasmina Reza’s new novel fairly crackles with electric wit and precise comedic timing. Her award-winning talent as a playwright coupled with a lively prose style lends particular promise to Happy Are the Happy. I anticipate spending a highly enjoyable winter’s evening with this tantalizing little book....
  • Independent People
    Iceland enjoys a powerful literary tradition, underpinned by the old Icelandic sagas and Eddaic poems and also by the Icelanders’ struggle for emotional and spiritual survival during centuries of poverty, hardship, and oppression. A mere sixty years ago, Iceland was still a colony, and a century ago it was the poorest country in Europe. And yet, despite their impoverished conditions through the c...
  • 25 Books that Inspired the World
    As part of World Literature Today magazine’s November 2014 cover feature focusing on central European literature since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the editors invited 25 writers to nominate one book that most influenced their own writing or ways of seeing the world. Nominations were open to any book-length work—written in any language and published since November 1989—as long as it cou...
  • The Feast of the Goat
    A Ukrainian writer looks outside the country for three books that help illuminate what threatens modern Ukraine.  Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea Barbara Demick  This book by American journalist Barbara Demick, who has long lived in South Korea, caused a real explosion in 2006 and is, in my opinion, quite rightly considered one of the best nonfiction books of the...
  • Who is Martha?
    It’s the holiday season once again, and whether you’re shopping for Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas, WLT has a new book for every reader on your list.  For the Beatnik Diane di Prima, The Poetry Deal  (City Lights)   For the Big Bang Addict  Yannick Grannec,The Goddess of Small Victories, ...
  • Meneer Miller
    Ten for Your Consideration, with a Bonus Available in English translation: The Eighth Day, by Mitsuyo Kakuta (Japan) more... The Eighth Day, by Mitsuyo Kakuta (Japan) close . . . Because of th...
  • What to Read Now: Egypt
    The following books offer insights into the hot, gritty quotidian of a desert nation and the machinations of an authoritarian power structure as integral to Egypt’s character as the Nile. The Committee Sonallah Ibrahim Mary St. Germain & Charlene Constable, tr.  The effects of Egypt’s control-obsessed upper echelon on the psyches of everyone occupying the base of the pyramid is hilar...
  • The Cathedral
    World Literatuture Today published an earlier version of this booklist of international environmental literature in its January 2009 issue offering selections from seventeen countries or regions throughout world, from Argentina to the United Kingdom. For this new booklist, I have invited scholars and writers from ten countries not represented in the previous list (or with ex...
  • Waste Land
    In exploring the ever-fluid realities of the contemporary environment, few mediums are as well suited as cinema. Through the recording and manipulation of images, sound, and temporal duration, the cinematic form presents a multisensory experience of the lived world that extends beyond verbal narrative, already so powerful in its own right. Engaging the colors, shapes, and rhythms of a river or a...
  • Summer Reading: On the Beach
    Digital media editor Jen Rickard Blair’s summer reading picks range from multiethnic mystery to dystopian sci-fi. We suspect she’ll read these in a lawn chair or on the couch with her new dog snuggled up into a somewhat precarious position on Jen’s knees, shoulders, head, or toes.   Nest of Worlds Marek S. Huberath. Michael Kandel, tr. I recently read one of Ma...
  • Seven Lives and One Great Love: The Memoirs of a Cat
    Cat people: we aren’t known for much other than spinsterhood, paranoia, emotional and social disconnection. Our one spokesperson who’s more than quaint at best is Catwoman. But lately there’s been a surge of authors speaking out for us, writing literary cat fiction that, as one reviewer said of a book on this list, “even dog lovers should read.” If you need more bonding time with your kitten...
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North
    The Watchtower Elizabeth Harrower The Watchtower, first published in 1966, is a psychological novel of class and power set in Sydney in the 1940s. Laura, the elder sister, had ambitions to be a doctor like her father (or else a singer), but when her father is on his deathbed, she is removed from her boarding school and enrolled in a Sydney business school. She finds a job as a typist in...
  • Song for Night
       March 2014
    It should go without saying that children bear the brunt of war as a nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Yet Graça Machel’s 1996 UNICEF report on the impact of war on children was new in both scope and topic. Why have we neglected this issue?  In my own explorations, I’ve been struck by how exile is a universal experience of young people who spend all or part of their childhood in a war zone. Exil...
  • Life is More Beautiful Than Paradise
    Translated literature is for grown-ups—or so goes conventional anglophone wisdom. And yet there are excellent translated titles available for younger readers, offering them a broader literary palate.  Since 1968 the US-based Mildred L. Batchelder Award has celebrated translated literature for young readers. This year, Lebanese author Zeina Abirached’s graphic novel A Game for Sw...
  • It’s the holiday season, and whether you’re shopping for Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas, WLT has a new book for every reader on your list.   For the Activist Juliana Spahr & David Buuck, An Army of Lovers (City Lights Books)   For the Armchair Traveler Bill Porter, Yellow River Odyssey (Chin Music Press)   For the Artist  Cathy Marie Buchanan,...
  • What distinguishes the modern surveillance-and-control state from its predecessors is technodeterminism: the use of algorithms, not human beings, to monitor and shape citizens’ attitudes and behavior. A grotesque example of a primitive political order enslaving its subjects is found in Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov’s 1980 novel The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred...
  • Lovetown by Witkowski
    In the print edition of WLT, I recommended LGBT books with a political slant. These books reflect the importance of our role as artists. At the intersection of art and sexuality, art must truly reflect who we are in the context of our worlds and ourselves. These additional books address the journey of that responsibility.   Sea and Fog Etel Adnan Born in Beirut, Lebanon,...
  •    July 2013
    More than a century after the abolition of slavery, the market for human beings is alive and well. From violent abductions and the sale of family members to voluntary participation due to a lack of empowerment and viable alternatives, human trafficking is a global phenomenon that results in the exploitation and victimization of tens of millions of women, men, and...
  •    May 2013
    Writers of narrative or creative nonfiction often “immerse” themselves in places or with subjects for long periods in order to write about subjects intimately and in-depth. But due to familial responsibilities, this kind of reporting demands a kind of uninterrupted time and focus that can be difficult for many women to undertake. Perhaps this is why writers known for “immersion” are...
  •    March 2013
    When we asked Yousef Khanfar, guest editor of our March 2013 issue, to come up with a list of his favorite photography books, he sent us the following list of thirty-two essential titles. These are in addition to the many books by the twenty professional photographers he chose for inclusion in the March issue, whose work captures some of the most powerful and iconic images of our time....
  •    March 2013
    A friend recently came across a book review that described my novel, The Darlings, as a “financial thriller.” She wrinkled her nose. “Financial thriller?” she asked me. “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”   At first blush, finance can seem dry. The language of hedge funds and bond trading is admittedly anything but thrilling. The financial world is, however, wonderful...
  • Testimonial narrative is at once a discrete literary genre and an acknowledgment of the limits of literature itself. Rather than evoking oppression and brutality as fiction might, testimonial literature lays them bare through the words of those who endure and painfully resist, exalting rather than hiding the rough edges of those written out of history.  Biography of a Runaway Slave  Migu...
  • There’s no disputing the excellence of To Kill a Mockingbird, The Trial, and the other creative works that often appear on best-of law-and-lit lists. But there are many more novels, stories, and poems that capture what we seek through the law, how the law works in our lives, and how lawyers’ lives are affected by working in the law. Is Harper Lee’s beloved novel better than Nadi...
  • History is usually about the “big picture”: geopolitics, religious change, social movements. Sometimes, it’s about the “little picture” and called “everyday.” I like the latter—the story of how people ate, dressed, formed bonds and communities, raised children, defined gender, divided labor.  I feel the same about accounts of imagined futures. Some concern clashes of civilizations, b...

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