Happy Europe Day, wonderful readers! When was the last time you’ve checked your TBR pile and purposefully decided to diversify it? If you have a look at it right now, what’s the proportion of British or American authors to foreign authors?
I’ll be honest. I’m a proud European and there isn’t one drop of English blood running through my veins. Yet, while researching for this piece, I went straight to my Goodreads and was horrified to realise I’ve not read a foreign author in over a year. I know. I honestly had to pause and analyse how it happened. I have the privilege, knowledge, and possibility to read in three languages, and even if not, there are plenty of great translations. Yet, my reads are mostly by British or American authors.
So I decided to ask you too if that’s the case for you. In my case, a mix of factors led to the lack of diversity in my TBR and finished piles. Firstly, I live and work as a journalist in the UK, which means I’m surrounded by British media more than anything else. An echo chamber, if you will. Secondly, there’s much more exposure in the media for English authors, which is a shame. My favourite booktubers on YouTube also constantly recommend mostly English authors.
Don’t get me wrong, American and British literature are both just as valuable and worth reading as any other. But sometimes they can take over, as they did for me and I’m sure they might have done for you too. So, in celebration of Europe Day, a day of unity, prosperity, and mutual support between nations, within the European Union and beyond, I made a list of five books by authors within the EU you might want to add to your reading list.
I intentionally chose names that haven’t been as promoted, if at all, in English media, with the exception of Carlos Ruiz Zafon, whom I couldn’t help but include. That being said, here are five books by five European authors worth considering for your next read.
1. ‘The Book of Mirrors’ by E.O. Chirovici
Author nationality: Romanian
A complex and well-developed psychological thriller, Chirovici’s The Book of Mirrors tells the story of a cold murder case and explores the twisted paths of memory, particularly when it deals with shock and trauma. The protagonist, Peter Katz, a high-profile literary agent, receives an unfinished manuscript. He is intrigued to find out the author, Richard Flynn, had been a close friend of a famous professor who was brutally killed back in the 1980s. The agent sets out on a quest to find the full manuscript and piece together the true story of Professor Wieder’s murder.
Although written by a Romanian author, The Book of Mirrors was actually written in English first, and then Chirovici translated it himself into his first language, which is why I thought this would be a great one to add on the list, as it’s not a translation.
2. ‘Don’t Move’ by Margaret Mazzantini
Author nationality: Italian
A family drama of tragic proportions, Don’t Move tells the story of an apparently successful surgeon, Timoteo, whose daughter suffers an accident that throws her in a coma. Taken over by fear and agony at the possibility he might lose his little girl, Timoteo starts reflecting upon his most devastating mistakes in life and ends up confessing his greatest secret to his unconscious daughter.
The plot sounds a lot like a Celeste Ng-style novel: full of tensions, atmosphere, and suspense, while exploring the fragility of human life, and how bad a person can sometimes mess up their life.
3. ‘Angel Station’ by Jáchym Topol
Author nationality: Czech
Known for his poetical depictions of post-Communist Prague, Topol explores three wrong paths to happiness: drugs, money, and religion, in this novel named after a train station in a poor district of the Czech capital. Angel Station follows an addict, a shop owner, and a religious preacher, in their quest to find peace through mundane ways. Topol’s writing is what sets him apart, weaving poetry, dark humour, and masterful prose in a challenging to translate but well-received work of Eastern European literature.
As an Eastern European myself, I wanted to include a book that depicted a post-Communist country, as readers based in the West are not always familiar with the repercussions of the regime on the part of Europe it dominated until only three decades ago. This one is definitely worth considering if you’re looking to experiment with genres.
4. ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Author nationality: Spanish
A book about books and a classic of atmospherical post-Bellic settings, The Shadow of the Wind tells the story of a passionate reader who found solace in one author’s work. But when he soon discovers someone has been destroying the books he loves so much, determined to save the author’s work or at least uncover the reason behind the violation, Daniel, the protagonist, embarks on a bookish quest that’s not just about the smell of fresh ink and the turning of yellowing pages.
Playing at the border between realism and fantasy, Zafon does a great job of setting the gothic, mysterious atmosphere and making this book about books an unconventional adventure story you’ll follow with your heart in your throat.
5. ‘Welcome to America’ by Lina Boström Knausgård
Author nationality: Swedish
Welcome to America tells the story of a family shattered by grief, with the daughter’s sudden silence after her father dies bearing a heavier reason than anyone might expect. The book sets itself apart through its mute narrator, who although may never speak again, takes the reader along on her emotional journey to coming to terms with her father’s death, the guilt associated with it, her family’s ways of dealing with it, and her newfound silence.
Knausgård was nominated for Sweden’s August Prize for Best Fiction Book of the Year in 2016 for Welcome to America.
You don’t have to be European to celebrate the meaning of Europe Day. Today, we at Coffee Time Reviews encourage you to pause and analyse the books you read, the music you listen to, the shows you watch, and the YouTubers you’re subscribed to, and if they’re predominantly one category (one race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality), we urge you to consider diversifying. This list of book recommendations isn’t here only to mark Europe Day and promote the European Union, but to urge you to support other authors, creators, and artists, who may not have had the same media exposure. It’s about their talent, not where they come from. Happy day of unity!
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