Are you an enthusiastic reader who just doesn’t have the time to read all the books you’ve ever wanted? Do you have a TBR pile that rises with every passing year? If you’re caught up in a whirlwind of exams and work, and you can only read a few books a year but you want to make the maximum use of it, then here’s some advice: make sure you choose to read books from different countries.
Nothing teaches you about reality than stories portraying characters belonging to different cultures. After all, going by the popular saying, reading is supposed to open up doorways to other dimensions, and lets you travel the world in your armchair… but you’re not truly likely to do that if you’re only reading books by authors from the US and UK. Authors write what they know, regardless of genre.
1. Learn About Other Cultures
There are vast differences in the cultures of the East and the West. One of the driving factors for the clear divisions we see among these societies is because, more often than not, we don’t really understand how the different cultures work. From the food to the greetings to the clothing, every culture has a uniqueness to it unmatched by another.
But, most importantly, you get to discover forgotten cultures and tribes from the ancient world. When you read about them and their traditions, their innovations, their contributions, their food and clothes, you carry the remnants of their existence with you wherever you go, helping to keep the memory of them alive.
2. Be More Tolerant and Accepting of Differences
When you know how different societies work and of the different upbringings of people, you learn to be more accepting of differences.
While you don’t necessarily have to accept the cultures, you still learn develop empathy towards them. You begin to understand that not everyone has the freedom or the restrictions that you do, and what is normal to you may be a novelty to someone else.
You learn of how some societies are extremely hospitable, going out of their way to help strangers. You learn of how some cultures are more family-oriented, and how some are more individualistic. When you’re exposed to so many different ideas and customs, you begin to realise that you cannot label one as right and disregard everything else.
3. Learn About Geography and Food
“Rightly or wrongly, we tend to regard literary works as windows on other worlds,” says Ann Morgan, author of Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer. In her book, she describes herself as a “literary xenophobe,” after realising that she only stuck to books written by British and North American authors.
For her, making the conscious decision to seek out foreign-language books was a turning point: not only did she discover so many different books that are so well-written that they would have been bestsellers in the Western world, but she also learnt about geography and history in the most interesting way possible.
You can follow her example and actively seek out books from different countries. Ask for recommendations from people living there, and start reading. You’ll learn about food — vivid descriptions that’ll make you salivate — and you’ll learn about geography — landscapes that’ll have you daydreaming.
Hunt for translated works. If a foreign-language book isn’t available in your language, request the author or the publisher for a translation, which would also definitely make the author happy.
Sharika Hafeez is a nerd, and she’s proud of it. Growing up, she fell in love with books and writing, and is currently following her undergraduate degree (for some mysterious reasons) in Physics. She likes procrastinating by watching the stars with a steaming cup of tea, composing poetry in her head.