Seven Continents Book Challenge

As part of the reading for my DIY Writer’s Summer Camp, I’ve been setting some time aside for reading. (And cheating a bit – I’ve been listening to an audiobook while excavating La Casa de Tontería). One of the exercises this week is to think about favourite books, and voila! here’s a questionnaire courtesy of Julie at Happy Catholic (and co-host of my favorite podcast “A Good Book Is Hard to Find”).

1. What is your favourite book set in Europe? Who is your favourite European author?

Declare by Tim Powers, which is a spy novel crossed with a tale of the supernatural. It has an excellent audio version. But NONE of my friends have liked it – in fact, Tōn’s exact words were “It hurt my head.”
So as a consolation to the weak-skulled, I include my second-favorite: La plaça del Diamant by Mercé Rodoreda (translated to English by the late David H. Rosenthal as The Time of the Doves). It is the simple, beautiful, haunting story of a Catalan woman living through the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath.
P.G. Wodehouse (although he received US citizenship late in life).

2. What is your favourite book set in North America? Who is your favourite North American author?

In years past, I would have to say The Stand by Stephen King, which is a tale of good vs. evil in a time of plague.  Unfortunately, Mr. King decided to replace it with a “complete and uncut” version, thus proving that editors are paid for a reason.

Therefore, it’s Glimmerglass by Marly Youmans, which mixes poetic fantasy with American gothic.

But favourite author from North America? Argh! Gene Wolfe? Tim Powers? Flannery O’Connor? John C. Wright?

I will go with Dean Koontz because I am reading his previously-published works, and he’s consistently good.

3. What is your favourite book set in South America? Who is your favourite South American author?

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. It’s very sad, and sometimes the writer seems to be looking down on his Peruvian protagonist/investigator, but it’s also about love and loss.

Jorge Luis Borges for the win.

4. What is your favourite book set in Asia? Who is your favourite Asian author?

It’s funny that Julie names Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was because I always think of it as the land that David Lo Pan ruled before showing up in the movie Big Trouble in Little China. (See the parody with Mr. James Hong himself.)

Seriously, I tend to read nonfiction like the poet Yorifume Yaguchi’s autobiography The Wing-Beaten Air. I keep finding interesting things especially about art and poetry. I HIGHLY recommend Liu Ping’s The Art of Catholic Church in China if you use Kindle.

But I digress.

I’m fond of the haiku master Matsuo Bashō, who also collected local stories and wrote down his impressions as he traveled through Japan. Quite by accident, I found a used copy of Donald Keene’s translation of The Narrow Road to Oku, illustrated by the esteemed Miyata Masayuki. It’s my favourite overall.

Author John C.H. Wu continues to surprise, since he wrote about many topics: history, law, theology, and poetry.

5. What is your favourite book set in Australasia? Who is your favourite antipodean author?

At one time I read a lot of Janet Frame’s short stories, but I can’t remember the name of anything set in her native New Zealand. It was a long time ago. How about the poem “The Man from Snowy River”  by Banjo Patterson? Does that count?

6. Have you ever read, or do you know of, any books written by authors in Antarctica/ the Arctic?

Do I?! Obviously this questionnaire was not written by a Canadian.

I think there’s a law that if you live in Alaska, Canada or the upper states but don’t read enough books set in the Arctic, you’re deported to Death Valley.  Starting with Julie of the Wolves and moving onto Jack London’s works, I have read many.  I read Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat in bits and pieces over the years because Uncle Russ loved it. (Seriously, he bought copies of it to hand out to people.)

My favourite?

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg, a book I enjoyed right until the very last paragraph, when I realized it was the end. Quoth me, “NO!!!” I never saw the movie because the protagonist thinks more than speaks, and her relationships (sexual and not) would be hard to translate to the screen.

7. Who are your favourite African authors & books set in Africa?

I have no favourite African author per se, although Chinua Achebe comes to mind because Things Fall Apart was so gripping. To choose a book, I’d have to re-read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.


3 thoughts on “Seven Continents Book Challenge

    • You’re welcome! And also thank YOU for all your book/movie reviews over the years. I would never have learned about Takashi Nagai if you hadn’t praised Fr. Glynn’s biography.

      • Actually, the more I think about it… various booksellers should also thank you – I’ve vastly increased my library due to your reommendations!

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