Monday, April 26, 2010

Reading Globally...

Thanks to fellow book blogger Bernadette (Reactions to Reading), I've stumbled upon something called Weekly Geeks, and in particular its challenge for this week - which is all about reading globally.

As I'm someone who is trying to promote broadening your reading horizons to include books from countries like New Zealand (whether you're a New Zealand-based, or overseas, crime fiction fan), and I'm currently participating in and just about finished the Expert level of Dorte's excellent 2010 Global Reading Challenge, this type of reflection seemed right up my alley.

So this week's Weekly Geek task (if you chose to join in, click here), is to share a little about your experiences Reading Globally, by answering some or all of this week's questions. Here are my answers.

Do you deliberately read globally, and if so, do you track your reading in this area?
I try to read as broad a range of crime fiction as possible. I have my favourite 'must read' authors, but I am also always on the lookout for new authors. In the past two years in particular, this has included the conscious decision to expand the non-UK/US authors that I read - although I still read a lot of books from those countries.

Generally, I don't formally track my global reading, although sometimes I stop and reflect on the countries I've covered - particularly when participating in things like the 2010 Global Reading Challenge. Setting can be a very interesting part of crime writing, when it's done well, and so I do enjoy trying new settings, new authors, and new countries.

This year thusfar I've read books from or set in New Zealand (several different towns), Australia, England (big cities and rural areas), Greece, USA (Los Angeles, New York, Navajo reservation, South Dakota), Germany, Antarctica, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brazil, Botswana, Ancient Egypt, and Canada. I also have novels set in or from Bolivia, Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Russia, and Sweden lined up to read soon, amongst others.

Last year, along with more books from or set in some of the places I've read in 2010, I also read several crime and thriller titles from and/or set in Sweden (cities and rural areas), Ireland, Scotland, Colorado ski towns, the Deep South (Alabama etc), New Orleans, Midwest USA, the oceans between Europe and the Pacific,

Have you joined any reading challenges which encourage reading from around the world? If so, what are they? I am participating in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge and am aiming for the expert level which requires me to read 2 books set in different countries of Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America and South America plus 2 books set in Antarctica.
My additional personal challenge is that all the books I’m going to count have to be by new-to-me authors, and in the crime fiction/thriller genre. So far I’ve read 12 books and am partway through my 13th - my second set in Antarctica, THE ICE LIMIT by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Although I have just stumbled upon a New Zealand-written book from 1979 set in Antarctica, so I might switch to that, as it seems more crime/thriller-esque: WHITE FOR DANGER by David Stevens.
I have also just signed up for the 2010 Scandinavian Reading Challenge which requires me to read 6 books set in countries that make up Scandinavia (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, and Sweden) - though I don't think you have to read one book from each country. I will try to read six books from six different authors however (ie no using Stieg Larsson's trilogy as half the challenge, etc), and at least three different countries.
I am also thinking of creating and hosting an ANZAC reading challenge (books from New Zealand and Australia) - stay tuned.

Do you visit bloggers who blog outside of your country? If so, what have you learned from reading their blogs? Consider sharing a couple of links to book bloggers who motivate you to read around the world. Well, given our size it would be hard to just read New Zealand based books blogs, although there are some good ones (e.g. Beattie's Book Blog, Overkill by Vanda Symon, etc), so I do visit a lot of bloggers who blog outside my country. I've learned a lot from many blogs, including author recommendations, crime fiction history I wasn't aware of, authors I wasn't aware of, upcoming events, awards and other things. Overall it's been a real education to the depth and richness of crime and thriller fiction around the world.

There are many fantastic book bloggers who inspire me to think about Global Reading. Here are a couple of examples:
  • DJ's Krimiblog (Danish blogger Dorte, who has created the excellent 2010 Global Reading Challenge, and also writes her own mysteries)
  • Detectives Beyond Borders (the award-winning blog by US-based crime fiction commentator Peter Rozovsky, which looks at global crime fiction outside of the dominant US market - there are many great discussions there too, which is an added bonus).
Where do your reading around the globe book suggestions come from? Magazines? Web sites which feature books in translation? Publishers? Other bloggers? If you have a particularly great site for recommendations, give us a link! A lot come from bloggers and websites - either by stumbling over things when I'm researching a story, or because something was recommended by someone on a blog, or in a comment on my blog, etc. Obviously I hope that my blog (where I share some of these discoveries) is itself a great resource for other readers, particularly for recommendations on New Zealand crime and thriller fiction, but also for other countries and settings.
Other than those bloggers like Bernadette, Dorte, and Peter already mentioned above, some particularly good sites for recommendations include:
There is also a very interesting blog called Murder is Everywhere, which has crime fiction writers from all over the world regularly blogging each week; including Cara Black (France), Leighton Gage (Brazil), Michael Stanley (Africa), and Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Iceland).
Do you read books in translation as part of your global reading experiences? Share some of your favorite books in translation.
Yes, I do. This year I have read several already, as I did last year, translated from languages including Spanish, German, and Swedish. This year I will also be reading translations from Icelandic, Norwegian, and Russian, amongst others.

Interestingly, some of my very favourite books as a youngster were in translation - the Asterix comics (from French), and the Agaton Sax comic detective stories (from Swedish). So I guess I was reading translated fiction from an early age, even if I didn't realise it at the time.

One of the first translated crime/mystery novels I read (since I returned to NZ in late 2008), was THE MURDER FARM by Andrea Maria Schenkel. In my review for the June 2009 issue of Good Reading magazine, I said:

"When Schenkel released her debut novel, Tannöd, in her native Germany in 2006, it quickly became a spectacular commercial and critical success, selling more than 300,000 copies, being optioned for film adaptation, and winning top crime-writing awards.

Now available in English translation, The Murder Farm is a unique take on the traditional crime novel; a tale of murder sans detective. Inspired by the unsolved real-life Hinterkaifeck murders in 1922, and with nods towards Truman Capote’s groundbreaking In Cold Blood, Schenkel weaves a fictional tale of an isolated farming family brutally slaughtered by an unknown attacker in post-war rural Bavaria.

The tale unfolds through speculative and rumour-filled testimony from local villagers, third person narrative following various suspicious characters, and passages of pious prayer or hymns. This inter-cutting of varying styles and voices could potentially frustrate readers in lesser hands, but Schenkel strikes a nice balance, and the story unfolds in an engrossing fashion, with various reveals, sub-text, uncovered secrets and hints snowballing towards the final, unexpected denouement.

The novel is short, at fewer than 200 pages, and the language is often clipped and punchy (although it’s hard to tell how much of that is due to translation), but Schenkel ably evokes a telling portrait of a prejudiced and bleak rural community."

Is there a particular country, or countries, which you would like to learn more about? Why? I've always been interested in a wide variety of places, and learning about both the culture and myths/legends of diverse peoples from around the globe - so nowhere in particular, but many places overall. I've travelled to around 25 countries, and intend to visit many more - both physically and via books.
Do you try to read globally? What are some of your favourite non UK/US crime novels or writers? Are you participating in any reading challenges? Please share your thoughts and comments.


  1. Craig - Thanks so much for sharing your responses to this Weekly Geeks. You've offered such a wealth of resources for books to read and blogs to visit! And I agree with you (and Bernadette) that Dj's Krimiblog, Reactions to Reading, Mysteries in Paradse and The Big Beat from Badsville are excellent blogs. They offer terrific recommendations from all over the world, and they're all an education in themselves. So is another blog I visit regularly: Crime Watch. Maybe you've heard of it? ; )

  2. Oh you do get around Craig. Have any idea what crime fiction is coming out of Finland? I thought I'd try to find something for each country for the Scandinavian challenge but Finland has me stumped at the moment. I was having trouble finding something that tickled my fancy for the South American leg of the global challenge but I have recommendations now so I won't be far behind you.

    There is an Aussie Authors Challenge already but I like the idea of an Anzac challenge better - I realised that quite a few Aussie authors actually set their books outside Oz so I haven't read that many set here this year. I was thinking about trying to find books set in different states of Australia which is not as easy as it should be (almost all of the crime fiction you come across is set in Sydney or somewhere in Victoria) so would be happy to add NZ's North and South islands or something like that.

  3. oh and don't forget to add your link at the weekly geeks Mr Linky so other people can find your blog. Someone always does a wrap up post of Weekly Geeks participants (they do a new post containing snippets from some of the week's posts that are linked at the original post)

  4. Hi
    Saw your link at Weekly Geeks. you have a great blog! I'll be following it from now on.

  5. Craig,
    Please excuse me for posting this as a comment, but I couldn't find an email address to send it off-list.
    I have been trying, on the average of once a week, to add this great blog of yours to our list of links at "Murder is Everywhere".
    But for some inexplicable reason, Blogger doesn't want to do it.
    Have you run into this problem before?
    Any suggestions?

  6. Hi Bernadette in Australia,

    Finland, try Jim Thompson's SNOW ANGELS, it's an excellent police procedural with a strong sense of Finland and the Finish people.

    Up Against the Wall is another book set in Helsinki, the writer's name escapes me now.


  7. Hi Craig,

    I've read Maria Schenkel's Murder Farm, Ice Cold and just started her latest book, BUNKER.

    Her style of writing is unusual.