#T5W: Books Not Set In Or Inspired By The Western World


Welcome to another Top 5 Wednesday. This time we’re talking about non-Westernized fiction. Meaning it takes place somewhere in the world that isn’t North America, the UK, or Europe. I actually like that she was careful to include the idea of fantasy worlds, so Middle Earth still counts as the United Kingdom, considering that’s the inspiration for it. I was sad to discover that once you exclude European countries, I found this list difficult. I definitely want to have more varied answers for something like this, but I think that was definitely the point. To inspire us to read outside of our usual haunts.

5. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. This is a graphic novel set primarily in Iran, and it concerns itself heavily with Iran’s people and politics. The second volume does take place partially in France, but it’s still from the perspective of someone from an entirely different culture. It’s also a non-fiction memoir, so there’s a lot to be gleaned here if you’re interested in a new experience.

4. Beast by Donna Jo Napoli. A Persian-inspired Beauty and the Beast retelling. So while this one is fantasy, it’s not Western. The closest we get is the Beast traveling to France in order to hide, and that only in the last third. It does a fantastic job with the story, meaning it’s familiar but also treads new ground. If you love fairy tales, it’s a new spin with a lot of fascinating culture incorporated.

3. Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist. It was tempting to mention Let the Right One In, but everyone knows about that one. I never see anyone mention Little Star. Set in Sweden, like all of Lindqvist’s books, it follows two young girls with a strange and deadly connection to one another. It’s a very intense ride if you’re a fan of horror or thrillers, and the setting is a character in itself.

2. The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris. I will keep mentioning this book until everyone reads it apparently. Another fantasy novel, but this one inspired by Scandinavia and it’s old gods and goddesses. I could’ve gone with Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman here, as well, but I feel this story injects more personality into the retelling. Any time you delve into the myths of another culture, you get a sense of that culture’s roots, and that’s very true here.

1. Uzumaki by Junji Ito. Set on a fictional island in Japan, this horror tale takes specific Japanese symbols and turns them sinister. It’s one of those stories that when you do a little digging and start to understand the significance of the spiral in Japanese culture, you understand how subversive Junji Ito is being here. I find that anytime you approach a culture that’s foreign to you and examine their horror stories, it gives a lot of insight into what’s shaped them. Japan is rich with ghost stories and tales like this, that are wholly unique from a Western perspective.

Thanks for reading and happy geeking!

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