Brighten Youth Education Centre




Committed bibliophiles like a bit of variety. Even those who would consider themselves well-read love the thrill that comes from finding a new title, or, even better, a whole new author, who we adore but previously knew nothing about.

With an increasing number of international works available in translation, particularly in languages other than English, unearthing such gems is becoming more and more likely.

However, in order to reap such rewards, we need to get a little adventurous.

Last December the TED-ED community began discussing books that were required reading for students around the world. Some works remained popular in many countries, including The Diary of Anne Frank (1947), Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1958), Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace (1869) and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960).

However, the forum was full of slightly more obscure suggestions of both conventional and modern classics. Perhaps the oldest was the Analects of Confucius, compiled sometime between 475BC and 221BC, and required reading in China, where the work is used to encourage values such as respect for parents and critical thinking.

The oldest European offering was the German classic Faust (1787) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which tells the story of a scholar who, when dissatisfied with life, makes a pact with the devil and offers an eternity of service in hell in return for a lifetime of prodigious ability and happiness.

The book raises various philosophical debates surrounding the relationship between science and spirituality, and reason and passion.

Modern classics include Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), the reflections of a Pakistani man living in America before and after the events of September 11, 2001. The book treats the contemporary struggle for self-identity with great skill and compassion, becoming an international best-seller and recipient of numerous prestigious prizes.

Or there was Andrea Hirata's Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Troops, 2005) in Indonesia, which tells the story of 10 students in a remote village who, with the help of two inspiring teachers, learn to stand up for themselves and their community.

The work champions numerous virtues, including self-sacrifice and comradeship.

Lastly, there were those works that, despite being well regarded in some countries, are yet to gain global recognition.

Michael Smith's Ice Man: The Adventures of an Irish Antarctic Hero (2003) was first published in the Republic of Ireland as an autobiography of Tom Crean. Designed for younger readers, it describes the life of an Irish boy who runs away from home at 15 to join numerous polar exploration teams.

So, the next time you're stuck for your next great read, check out something more international.


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