3 Novels that Show the World

In my life, I’ve had a desire to learn what life is like outside of the Americas. I haven’t been able to leave the continent, but I’ve searched for the next best thing; and that is reading about experiences people have in different parts of the world. If you’ve ever wanted to read books that have alternative views on life and leave the reader in amazement then I recommend these three influential books as a good place to start.


1. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram explores and exposes life in an Australian maximum security prison, the slums of Bombay, the rural towns in India, 5 star hotels, and the seedy underbelly of the city.  Filled with themes of friendship, escape, love, and agony, Shataram’s 933 pages fly by and leave the reader inspired and dignified. Shantaram is a fiction novel that is currently being worked into a movie.


2. What is the What by Dave Eggers

This novel of fiction follows Valentino Achak Deng’s escape from Sudan on foot, followed by militias and government bombers. The search for freedom is accomplished for Deng and his group, the Lost Boys, and they eventually make it to the United States. The story highlights the challenge, heartache, and promise of living in the United States and Sudan. The mixture of humor and trial throughout the novel lead to a feeling of enlightenment for the reader.


In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar

In the Country of Men follows the life of nine year old Suleiman in Libya during the Qaddafi reign. Suleiman gets caught in the whirlwind of parental issues where his fathers anti-Qaddafi actions lead to terror, while his mothers drug abuse leaves him turning to others. The books depiction of a child caught in a nightmare highlights the anguish of trying to live through political oppression.

If you have any books to add to the list feel free to share in the comments below.



  1. It’s always a neat experience being able to read about a different place and compare it to life in the US–and I think it’s awesome that books have been able to supply you with this means of “experiencing” a glimpse of the world outside the States.
    I remember having to read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns back in high school, both by Khaled Hosseini, and those are really dig into the lives of the Afghanis both in the states and back home. I remember that I really liked both of them and they both contained universal themes of redemption, love, the darkness within the Afghani community, and how escaping a culture is easier said than done. I think those are two great choices for an “outside the US expedition.”

  2. Traveling is amazing. I’ve been to Mexico and Ireland. Highly recommend both countries. I had never really thought about the similarities between traveling and reading before this post. They both can give you different perspectives on life and make you think about they way you think. Cool observation.

  3. These books look very interesting. I always loved that reading allows us to go places that we will probably never get to visit. And not just places that are impossible to visit, like Narnia or Hogwarts, but continents and countries that we would never have the time to visit. That’s one benefit of reading. They are always cheaper than a plane ticket.

  4. This isn’t necessarily a non-fiction book, but I would highly recommend reading Tale of Genji for anyone who is interested in medieval Japan. The edition I have comes with pictures and extensive footnotes and is really enjoyable to read (despite being so long. :D)

  5. In the Country of Men sounds especially interesting to me. I support the idea of travelling as much as possible. There’s much more to be experienced outside of one’s own country, I think. To integrate into different cultures promotes understanding and builds character.

  6. These all look really interesting. I don’t read much non-fiction outside of classes, but I’m not as opposed to it as I used to be. And I love traveling. I’ve been to Canada (it wasn’t for very long, like an hour) and in many states within the US. But I have a brother who lives in Switzerland with his wife and I often find myself wondering what his life is like over there, six hours ahead of me. This is the same with strangers whom I’ve never met. Like, what is Prince Harry doing right now in so-in-so country? Anyways these look like some great recommendations to start looking into experiences of others outside of America.

  7. I loved your post because instead of saying why you liked them, you gave me a general overview of what the book was about, like the Jacket Copy. It made me want to read them more because they sounded interesting. Thanks for the recommendations!

  8. As someone who has been lucky enough to go outside the country I can definitely say that it is both an amazing and life changing experience. It’s one that I wish everyone was able to grasp but as you say the next best thing is to read about real life places, whether in fiction or non fiction books. And even some fantasy places can lead you to learning about real places.

  9. Books are a great way to travel if you can’t do it in person. It’s not quite the same, but there is too much in the universe for one person to experience in person in one lifetime, and books can offer a condensed experience that allows people to explore other worlds and alternate realities without leaving their couch.

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