What’s On My Bookshelf…

What's on my bookshelfBooks, novels and films from all over the world to inspire you!

Chile

The House of Mist – by María Luisa Bombal. A quick read, set at the turn of the 20th-century, with a clever twist at the end.

The House of the Spirits – by Isabel Allende. Brilliantly incorporating the magical realism genre so popular in Latin American literature, this novel also serves as an intriguing insight into Pinochet’s military dictatorship, from the perspective of the first cousin once removed of the president prior to the coup d’état that plunged Chile into a 17-year-long violent and dangerous regime.

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France

Les Miserables – by Victor Hugo. I stumbled upon this absolute classic while backpacking around South-East Asia, as part of the book-swapping practic most hostels have. (And I haven’t yet seen the film).

The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. These tales of life in 19th-century France are simply gripping and well worth a read.

Paris (City Lit) – by Heather Reyes. This collection of short extracts of literature about Paris is snappy enough to be a quick read, and it perfectly sets the scene for any trip to Paris, describing different neighbourhoods, recounting tales from throughout the centuries and giving the city a facinating context.

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Greece

The Thread – by Victoria Hislop. A novel about several generations of a family from Thassaloniki during the Second World War. Read my review of the book here.

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Italy

Inspector Montalbano – by Andrea Camilleri. A fantastic series of detective novels set in Sicily, which has also been made into several series of television programmes, which are shown on RAI in Italy and occasionally on BBC Four in the UK.

Gomorrah – by Roberto Saviano. A book and (later) a film based on the true story of the mafia around Naples in Campania.

I’m Not Scared – by Niccolò Ammaniti. Admittedly I have only seen the film, but the book surrounds the story of a boy kidnapped and held to ransom in southern Italy during the 1970s. Truly brilliant in my opinion.

The Great Beauty – A stunning film set in modern-day Rome and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, which won the 2014 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Read my review of the film here.

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Russia

Jewel of St Petersburg – by Kate Furnivall. A chic-lit novel recounting the tale of an aristocratic family in St Petersburg before and during the Russian Revolution. The story lacks sufficient historical context in my opinion, and the female protagonist is frustratingly stupid at times.

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South Africa

Cry, The Beloved Country – by Alan Paton. Currently in progress…

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Spain

The Return – by Victoria Hislop. A novel about several generations of a family from Granada during the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship. Read my review of the book here.

Guernica – by Dave Boling. A novel about the bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

Winter in Madrid – by C.J. Sansom. An espionage, yet simultaneously romantic, novel about a group of expats in Madrid in 1940, in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.

L’auberge Espagnole – A great film depicting the life of Erasmus students living in Barcelona. A must-watch for anyone about to go on a Year Abroad!

Films by Pedro Almódovar. This genius director has made some of my favourite Spanish films, including All About My Mother, Return, Broken Embraces and The Skin I Live In. Expect them to be strange but brilliant!

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The United Kingdom

Jeeves & Wooster stories – by P.G. Wodehouse. This series of absolutely hilarious 35 short stories and 11 novels are set in the early 20th century, pre-World War I, in an upper class England full of butlers, gentlemen’s clubs and weekends away visiting friends in stately homes. There is even a play on in London’s West End: Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense. Read my review.

Miss Marple stories – by Agatha Christie. 12 novels and 20 short stories feature Miss Marple, the underestimated but beady-eyed old lady who roams the British countryside solving crimes left, right and centre. How Agatha Christie consistently managed to produce so many crime novels with unique twists and turns that you can never guess, simply boggles me. I’m a huge fan, and prefer Miss Marple to her other characters such as Poirot.

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The United States

The Great Gatsby – by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The infamous novel about live in New York in the 1920s. I also loved everything about Baz Luhrman’s film adaptation, although I had read the book beforehand.

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Worldwide

Samsara & Baraka – Two films shot all around the world, capturing beautiful scenes and interesting snapshots of life in different cultures. Read my review.

Home – a stunning film by the inspirational Yann Arthus-Bertrand about the state of our planet. I had the pleasure of meeting Yann in October 2014 and learning about his latest project: 7 Billion Others.

James Bond – James Bond is notoriously well-travelled and each film is shot in a myriad of different countries across the globe. Read here about a a great Q&A I attended with the scriptwriters of the last five Bond films.

Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism – by Elizabeth Becker. A fascinating in-depth look at the history of the colossal travel and tourism industry, analysing its impact on our world (sometimes good but often very bad) and its future trajectory.

Branding the Nation – by Melissa Aronczyk. Currently in progress…

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Which are your favourite novels and films from abroad? Please comment below as I love to discover new books and films.

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10 Comments »

  1. Norwegian Wood single-handedly evoked an as-yet-unfulfilled desire to visit Japan, On the Road (USA) really did change the way I travel, and Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan) made me want to head East.

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  2. I wouldn’t say that it has inspired me to travel there (more its highlighted the dangers!), but “The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul” by Deborah Rodriguez gave a great insight into different women’s lives in Afghanistan – expats as well as local Afghan women. It was informative and moving whilst maintaining a certain light-heartedness and a great storyline; I read it cover to cover in two days! Thoroughly recommend it 🙂

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  3. Ines of my soul by Isabel Allende. I read it in the final days of my last trip to Chile and was enthralled! It made me wish I had time to visit the whole west coast of South America and all the locations in the book.

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  4. Camino de Perfeccion by Pio Baroja is a real Spanish classic and I found it really engaging. Also enjoyed Tiempo de Vida by Marcos Giralt Torrente. Hope you enjoy!

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