I am, by nature, a rule follower. However, when it comes to travel, you often have to be flexible in your approach, and despite my Type A tendencies, that’s the mindset I’ve taken with this challenge. I am far from the first blogger who’s embraced the “Around the World in 80 Books” challenge, and I assure you, there are well over 80 ways to do this. I fervently believe there is no wrong way to read 80 books (I’m actually almost positive that there’s no wrong way to read at all!), but for the sake of transparency, I’ve outlined my few rules below:
I spent 2015 doing the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, to read 52 different kinds of books in a year. While I loved this challenge, and it inspired me to continue doing reading challenges, it was difficult to keep up with this schedule. (Yes, I know the challenge clearly states you don’t have to read all 52 but–hi, hello Type A over here). My boyfriend and mother often posited that maybe I wasn’t enjoying some of these books as much as I could be because I was so obsessed with the book-a-week schedule I’d set myself on, and though it pains me to admit it, they were probably right.
For this reason, I have no timeline for this challenge. Some of the best adventures happen without an agenda, and I recognize 80 books is no small undertaking. Therefore, I finish when I finish.
I did a lot of research to create my reading list, and I realized there is a lot of variation on how readers chose their books. Some focused on authors from each country, others just on books that took place in each country. Some were not concerned about repeating countries, while others were very strict about where and in what order they’ll read.
So where do I fall?
Well, I do believe each location should only be visited once. With only 80 books and almost 200 countries, this doesn’t seem like too tall of an order (and it helps ward off the issue of getting stuck with only reading American and British authors–kind of defeating the whole purpose of this challenge). I chose to go with the setting of the story rather than the nationality of the author as my guidelines, but other than that, I didn’t have too many parameters on how to choose these books. Some part of the story had to take place in the country it represents, but that could be through flashbacks or even vignettes; it didn’t necessarily have to be the entire story.
Some stories took place in multiple countries, and I theoretically could’ve “double-counted” them. For the sake of logical list-keeping (ahem, still a Type A), I chose not to. However, I did note other countries they could count for in my blog posts, in case that helps you with your own lists (I know I referenced at least a dozen of other “Around the World in 80 Books” bloggers to build my list, so hopefully this is helpful to someone!).
You’ll also notice that some of the locations I chose aren’t even countries in the traditional sense of the word (here’s to you, Hong Kong, Antarctica, French Polynesia, and the North Pole!). The beauty of reading is that I don’t have to concern myself with governance structures and travel regulations like I might if I were actually traveling, so as long as it was in a new part of the world, I didn’t worry myself too much with whether it was a sovereign state.
My goal wasn’t necessarily to give myself an accurate representation of each country. I was mostly just hoping to give myself some guidelines to explore different books and authors. For example, I know “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Unusual Children” isn’t a glimpse into every day Welsh life. My list is a literary checklist more than a cultural exploration, so please consider it as so.
Again, while I love to travel, the nice part of reading my journey is that I don’t have to worry about a logical or inexpensive route to weave my way around the globe. France to Thailand to South Africa to Germany? No problem.
Therefore, there is literally no rhyme or reason to the order in which I’m reading. Sometimes I’ll pick a book because I already own it, sometimes because I’ll discover it in a used bookstore (my favorite place to buy books, because it always seems like literary destiny to finally stumble upon the title you’ve been waiting for), sometimes I’m just dying to read something. I reserve the right to be entirely capricious and arbitrary with my reading order.
However, I promise to finish everything. Although I usually believe that life is too short to finish bad books, a large part of these reading challenges is to expose myself to things I might not read otherwise, and it seems like cheating to not give these texts the full, cover-to-cover chance.
Finally, I want to address the whole purpose of this blog.
First and foremost, I hope to encourage others to read! As a former middle school English teacher, this is something I’m immensely passionate about. So hopefully this challenge will inspire you to start one of your own (or borrow mine–I don’t mind!).
It’s also to catalogue this journey for myself. Reading new things helps you grow as a person, and this log will hopefully be something interesting I can look back on later in life.
Nevertheless, I always find book blogs a little strange in nature. Writing about reading? What?
To avoid spending more time writing about reading than actually doing the reading, this will be a brief endeavor. Each book will have a small snapshot–a 1-2 sentence summary, something I liked about it, a favorite quote, and who I would recommend it for. I’d like to avoid doing a rating system, even though stars are quite brief, because book preference is so subjective. However, readers generally have an idea of what they like to read, so I’ll try to give you an idea of what type of book this is so you can make the decision for yourself. At the end of each month, I’ll give a more detailed recap on common themes, reflections, and so on.