This summer, I spent my reading time in a part of the world I’ve never explored before. Setting aside the two books I’d been reading at the time, I started in the Netherlands and read through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. It was a lot of fun, and I loved getting to know a whole different set of cultural traditions, histories, and politics.
So I tried listing my favorite books first, but as it turns out, it’s actually easier to list my non-favorites. Unintentionally, I chose mostly books set between the 1960s and the 1980s, mostly dealing with the aftermath of Communism in that region. This gave them all a feeling of connectedness and made the whole experience a very cohesive one; it’s also what makes it so difficult to choose one favorite over others. Here is my best attempt to rank them, favorite to least favorite:
Nine Rabbits / The Storm / The Green Shore
The Door / The Tiger’s Wife
Mendelssohn is on the Roof
Accident: A Day’s News / A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism
Beware of Pity
The White Castle
July 17–19, Germany: Accident: A Day’s News, by Christa Wolf
July 19–25, Czech Republic: Mendelssohn is on the Roof, by Jiří Weil
July 25–August 4, Austria: Beware of Pity, by Stefan Zweig
August 5–17, Hungary: The Door, by Magda Szabó
August 18–25, Croatia: A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism, by Slavenka Drakulić
August 26–31, Serbia: The Tiger’s Wife, by Téa Obreht
August 26–September 6, Bulgaria: Nine Rabbits, by Virginia Zaharieva
September 3–15, Greece: The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos
September 15–22, Turkey: The White Castle, by Orhan Pamuk
September 22–30, United States: American Canopy, by Eric Rutkow
I haven’t been able to do reading challenges for a few years because with my anxiety issues they tend to overwhelm me, and I don’t want reading to be something stressful in my life. But this challenge happened to begin just days after we moved to a new state, when I was in the process of job hunting and needed something to both fill the time between interviews and distract me from the agony of job hunting. It worked out perfectly.
I was really enjoying the books I was reading before I began this trip—Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder and Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li—and it was difficult to put them down for four months! But as much as I look forward to picking them up again, the wait was worth it for this experience.