Books Set Outside the U.S.

Check out Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish.

Also known as the majority of my favorite books! I haven’t done Top Ten Tuesday in a while, but I can’t pass this one up, and as usual my list will probably end up with a random number like seventeen, or ninety (whenever I can get myself to stop adding books).

Also, I had to exclude England as well as the US, because (1) the list would be unmanageably long if I didn’t and (2) I’ve probably always read just as many British authors as I have American ones. This is not, however, true of the rest of the UK, Canada, Australia, or other largely English-speaking countries.


The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, set in South Korea.

Euphoria, by Lily King, set in Papua New Guinea.

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, set in the Congo.

Out, by Natsuo Kirino, set in Japan.

Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, set in Nigeria.

The Diving Pool, by Yoko Ogawa, also set in Japan (I tried to just choose one per country but Japan is too difficult for me, there are too many favorites).

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera, set in the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia at the time).

Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, set in Iran and Austria.

Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent, set in Iceland.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, set in a lot of different places that actually do include the U.S., but I’m choosing this book as representative of all his books (which are all meant to be in the same universe anyway), because it’s my favorite.

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini, set in Afghanistan.

The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver, set in Mexico.

The Girl in the Road, by Monica Byrne, set mostly in/between India and Ethiopia, plus several other countries in Africa.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark, set in Scotland.

I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai, set in Pakistan.

Aya, by Marguerite Abouet, set in Ivory Coast.

Baby’s in Black, by Arne Bellstorf, set in Germany.

Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta, set in Nigeria (okay Nigeria is difficult to limit too, because obviously I have to have Chinua Achebe on here, and yeah).

The Kitchen God’s Wife, by Amy Tan, technically set in San Francisco, but most of the story takes place in China (like most of Amy Tan’s books).

Almost all of these books are on my favorites list—meaning I gave them at least four, probably five stars on Goodreads—and most of them are by authors whose other books I have also adored. Putting together this list has made me want to read them all again, even the ones I just barely finished (The VegetarianOut, and The Diving Pool were all within the last couple months).

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ed Hoornaert says:

    The poisonwood Bible has made a lot of TTT’s. Not mine, though; my representative from the Congo is The African Queen. My TTT.


    1. Gwen says:

      I haven’t read The African Queen, but I do like the movie. The Poisonwood Bible is one of my most favorite books, though.


  2. Jan Hicks says:

    Lots of great books on that list. I really want to read The Vegetarian, Out, and Aya. I am always sad when I remember that I once had a ruthless clear out of books, to make space for new ones, and gave all my Barbara Kingsolver books away.


    1. Gwen says:

      Ohh, I know that feeling. We moved so many times in the first few years we were married, and in the stress of each move I think I lost something I ended up regretting.

      I’m still basking in how much I loved The Vegetarian and Out. I’ve read another of Natsuo Kirino’s already, and both she and Han Kang have at least one more book that I can’t wait to read. Aya was one that I really enjoyed despite not liking any of the characters all that much. It’s very well done, and I remember liking the imagery a lot.


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