Take 10: Not Lost in Translation

As part of our Summer Reading challenges this year we threw out an interesting dare – read a book that was translated in English from another language. There are a ton of good stories to read in languages like French, Russian, or Chinese, but not all get translated into English. Those that do are definitely worth reading.

We’ve put together a list of some great titles you should check out, even beyond our summer reading challenge. Give one of these a try – you might get caught up in the story, but you shouldn’t get lost in translation.

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The Art of Hearing Heartbeats – Jan-Philipp Sendker

  • A successful lawyer suddenly disappears leaving behind his wife and daughter. Neither have any idea where he might be until they discover an old love letter written years ago to a woman in Burma. Daughter Julia takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of her father’s past as she uncovers a tale that will reaffirm the listener’s belief in the power of love.

The Bat – Jo Nesbo

  • When a young Norwegian girl taking a gap year in Sydney is murdered, Harry is sent to Australia to assist with the investigation. (First in a series)

The Feast of the Goat – Mario Vargas Llosa

  • Returning to her native Dominican Republic, forty-nine-year-old Urania Cabral discovers that Rafael Trujillo, the depraved dictator called “the Goat,” still reigns over his inner circle, which includes Urania’s father, with brutality and blackmail.

Ines of My Soul – Isabel Allende

  • A work of historical fiction chronicles the brave deeds and passionate loves of a spirited woman who journeyed to the New World and helped found a nation.

1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

  • An ode to George Orwell’s “1984” told in alternating male and female voices relates the stories of Aomame, an assassin for a secret organization who discovers that she has been transported to an alternate reality, and Tengo, a mathematics lecturer and novice writer.

My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante

  • Beginning in the 1950s Elena and Lila grow up in Naples, Italy, mirroring two different aspects of their nation. (First in a series)

Palace Walk – Najib Mahfouz

  • The first book of the Cairo Trilogy recreates turn-of-the-century Cairo, with characters who are simultaneously disciplined and sensual.

Silent House – Orhan Pamuk

  • Awaiting the arrival of her grandchildren in her home outside Istanbul, bed-ridden widow Fatma shares memories and grievances with her late husband’s illegitimate son until his cousin, a right-wing nationalist, involves the family in the Turkish military coup of 1980.

Suite Francaise – Irene Nemirovsky

  • A story of life in France under the Nazi occupation includes two parts–“Storm in June,” set amid the chaotic 1940 exodus from Paris, and “Dolce,” set in a German-occupied village rife with resentment, resistance, and collaboration.

 The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu

  • Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project’s signal is received by an alien civilization on the brink of destruction, which plans to invade Earth; meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion.

Annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus, which offers much more book and author information.

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