Global Challenge? Only Just…

With some dexterous juggling, I can just about claim to have completed the Global Reading Challenge (Medium Level) this year. I had to be a little creative with Mexico and place it in Latin America so that I could sort of claim it was South America. But if you forgive me my geographical inaccuracies and the fact that I still owe you two quick reviews for Africa and the 7th Continent, then I can claim VICTORY!!!


The Medium challenge is about reading two books from (or set in) each continent, regardless of genre. I was initially quite ambitious and planned to visit countries where I’d never been (fictionally) before. But the second half of the year became a mad, disorganised scramble to get books off my Netgalley and TBR shelves, so I had to compromise in the end.


Moldova – The Good Life Elsewhere

Poland – Madam Mephisto


Israel – Route de Beit Zera

India – Witness the Night


Australia – Barracuda

Samoa – Blood Jungle Ballet

North America:

Native American reservation: Sherman Alexie

Houston, Texas – Pleasantville

South America:

Mexico – Faces in the Crowd

Costa Rica – Red Summer


Morocco – Fouad Laroui

lastnightLibya – The Dictator’s Last Night by Yasmina Khadra

The author takes us into the warped mind of Ghaddafi as he sits holed up in a secret location, trying to avoid both bombing and the wrath of his own people. There is little here to give you a profound insight into the politics or history of Libya itself, but I found it a precise dissection of a dictator’s mind, how it is possible to become a megalomaniac and lose touch with reality, how power corrupts and idealism can get subverted, how tantrums can turn vicious when you are surrounded by sycophants. I thought it also raised some interesting questions about the appeal of tyrants: how they often play the nationalistic card (us versus the foreign menace, we’re going to make our country great once more etc.), which explains their rise to power and the often confused legacy they leave behind.

7th Continent:

Space – Solaris

voyageCentre of the Earth – Jules Verne

I’d forgotten what fun this classic novel is to read – yes, even when the author enumerates all of the things Axel and his uncle the professor take with them on their expedition. Appeals to the geek in all of us, but also lessons to be learnt about how quickly he gets to the intrigue, how imaginative he is, how endlessly inventive. It’s not even remotely plausible scientifically – that underground sea alone is completely wrong for all sorts of reasons. So it’s not as good as some of his other novels, but still a rollicking read (best discovered in your youth, though).


22 thoughts on “Global Challenge? Only Just…”

  1. Well done! I don’t think I’ve managed to read as widely as you this year, though I have spent plenty of time in Russia and Germany! 🙂

  2. I’m not certain that I’ve ever read the Verne but I do remember a film of it when I was a child which I loved so much I went back to see it a second and a third time. I couldn’t have been more than ten so probably the novel itself would have been a bit beyond me then but because I had seen the film of course I thought I knew the book and have consequently never gone back to it. I must do something about that.

    1. That’s happened to me with other films and books, I have to confess. My favourite Verne is probably 20000 Leagues Under the Sea or From the Earth to the Moon, but this is not bad either.

  3. Congrats on making the challenge! I’m going to give it another go this year. I had a hard time keeping up.

  4. Great post. Think I might give this challenge a go next year. Looking at my own reading this year I haven’t done too bad (Europe = 9 countries, Africa = 1 country, North America = 2 places for definite but probably more, South America = 1 country or two if I also count Mexico, Oceania = 2 countries, Asia = 3 countries and also a book set in Hawaii – a country which apparently belongs to no continent)

    1. I sometimes honestly feel that I do better when it’s not deliberate, planned reading… Sounds like you’ve got a good solid base there, so it would be lovely to see you next year on the challenge.

  5. Very impressive. As a side note, I just want to say how much I adore this cheap but lovely paperback edition of Jules Vernes’ work!

    1. I read most of Jules Verne as a child in Romanian – beautiful hardback editions with coloured illustrations (I think after the originals) published in the 1970s. Here’s a cover example:

  6. I found the warning from Ghaddafi at the end of Derniere Nuit horribly prescient …..I read this with my reading group at American Library of Paris … felt like it was speaking to ‘us’ directly .

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