‘Outside the US’ covers a whole lot of ground (I don’t actually read many books set in the States) so I’ve decided to choose books I love (of course), but also try to cover as many different country settings as possible, and stick to writers who are still alive 😀
1 Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
Setting: Lagos, Nigeria, contemporary
Ever since I made a conscious decision to read more Asian and African authors, Okorafor has shot into my Top 10 list of favourite authors (of which there are a great many).
Lagoon is about an extraterrestrial invasion of Lagos (Portuguese for lagoon) , and the three people who get involved in the aliens’ plans for the city.
Science fiction and mythology merge in ways that are exciting, natural and fresh, and I love the fact that, for a change, higher lifeforms aren’t headed straight for the US.
2. Hardboiled/Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto
Setting: Japan, 1990s
This book features two novellas about death and loss. The first is a ghost story, in which a woman, who is hiking in the mountains, recalls that it’s the death anniversary of an ex-lover whom she seems to have all but forgotten.
The second story sees another woman coming to terms with the impending death of her sister. The anticipation of loss is more painful that the loss itself.
3. Fludd by Hilary Mantel
Setting: A fictional town in northern England, 1950s
A stranger comes to town in the shape of Fludd, ostensibly the new curate to Father Angwin, but possibly the dreary town and its alcoholic pastor’s saving grace.
4. Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
Setting: Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, post-WW2
A retired Malaysian judge journeys to her inherited estate in Cameron Highlands where she remembers her sister, who died in a Japanese internment camp, and recalls her own days spent as the apprentice to a mysterious Japanese gardener.
5. A Song of the Wind by Isa Kamari
Setting: Singapore, 1960s-1980s
A coming-of-age tale set in Kampung Tawakala, a village in a Singapore that has long ceased to exist. Ilham is the eldest of four children and his adventures will strike a chord with anyone who lived in Malaysia or Singapore through the 60s and 70s, and affords others a fascinating glimpse of life in this part of the world during those times.
6. My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgewick
Setting: Romania, 17th century
Vampires, but without the tedious trappings of romance and glamour, just a creeping sense of loneliness, menace and doom.
7. The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose by Alice Munro
Setting: Ontario, Canada
Linked stories about the changing relationship between two women over a forty-year span.
8. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Setting: The Elflands
The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor of Elfland finds himself ruling the kingdom when his father and three half-brothers are killed in an airship crash.
9. Serafina by Rachel Hartman
Setting: The Kingdom of Goredd
Serafina Dombegh, a court musician with a secret, must navigate a world in which dragons and humans live, uncomfortably, side by side.
10. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Setting: The Xana Empire
A bandit and the son of a deposed duke join forces against a tyrannical and cruel ruler, but end up as rivals in the first book in a planned ‘silkpunk’ fantasy series inspired by Han Dynasty history and politics.