Cover Image: Around the World in 80 Books

Around the World in 80 Books

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

At once personal and not, looking inwards and globally, and about books and about travel, this book is a little bit of everything. The author, David Damrosch is a retired professor of comparative literature; and his experience and expertise shows, without speaking down to the reader. It is remarkable how Damrosch achieves the tone of conversing with friends while being proficient about his subject – books!

We take a literary Phileas Fogg-ish journey around the world with Damrosch as he introduces us to a wide variety of authors and their books across time and place. From well-known classics to popular contemporary reads and even children’s fiction, Damrosch uses each book to take readers on Fogg’s steps (almost), but not so wacky or fast-paced!!

I admit that the book is long, and so far, I have dipped into only parts of it, skimming over some sections, while truly relishing the opportunity to fully relish others. It can be a tough read in parts, but it is always engaging and compelling.

The book is divided into 16 parts, by regions of the world; each one features five books (or rather five authors). In doing so, Damrosch engages fans of literature and of travel from everywhere; people who are from a specific region of the world, and people who want to learn more about other parts of the world.

In Summary
This is a very cool ‘books about books’ that is great for lovers of literature; it is also a unique ‘travel book’ that is bound to interest anyone who enjoys discovering places. As for myself, I am truly loving the exploration of of people, places, and times that are both familiar and unfamiliar, as well as old and new, through books; well, this book.

And it is sure to leave you with more books on your TBR; or want you to read old favorites once again!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the digital review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to David Damrosch, PENGUIN GROUP The Penguin Press, Penguin Press, and Netgalley for this advanced reader copy of "Around the World in 80 Books: A Literary Journey" for an honest review. 

I love this book. I know there are reviewers talking about the soft sadness behind the presentation, as the author talked of traveling through these pages (and the pages referenced within) in lieu of getting to travel during COVID and about the dense, sometimes dry, pontification on books as thought giving a dissertation thesis on the information-- BUT I loved it.

I loved every place, and I loved all the books listed that I knew, and I loved creating lists of new books to read from the ones I hadn't read. I want to own this book and keep it near me, for when I'm planning when and how to travel the world, both physically in planes, and trains, but also across time and distance in a way our hands can no longer reach, but in which the past is still pressed like a perfect flower in the ink and narratives that it has left behind for us.
Was this review helpful?
Here's a caveat - if you like reading books but don't like reading ABOUT books, this book may not be for you.  While it doesn't include a list of books for each geographical location, it talks more about authors and books and the global audience and works that go beyond the western canon we typically see.  I think it's helpful for those who are looking for good books from around the world to read that they might not encounter otherwise.
Was this review helpful?
This was such an interesting read! I really enjoyed reading through this book and I can't wait to try some of what I read. Great book!
Was this review helpful?
I really wanted to like this book, and perhaps at a different time I would have.  I think I had misunderstood the premise of the book.  I was looking for something, perhaps, not a much a literary comparison of authors and styles and presentations, as more a travelogue presented in books of the times and connecting stories and background to the times of the Fogg journey.  I think as a literary treatise it would excel.  For literature/literary experts, it is probably really interesting and thought provoking.  It was too esoteric for me at the time.  Thank you for giving me access to this book.
Was this review helpful?
This is a really cool book! As an avid traveller, it was really cool to combine my two passions of reading and travel.
I do think this is better suited to having at home and flipping through when you'd like to read about a specific place: it's a bit dry when read in consecutive chunks.

Something I would love to purchase and examine for reading material when I'm going on a trip!!
Was this review helpful?
I take great pleasure in reading a good writer raving about his favorite books. I'd only a read a handful of these books (I'm not very well-read in world lit) so I found many new suggestions. I think I'll start with Judith Schalansky's "Atlas of Remote Islands". There was way too much poetry for me - I guarantee I won't read any of that, but that shows a shallowness in my reading taste, not a problem with the book. Perfect book to dip into a little at a time.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this book,, which was erudite and well written. I am ashamed to say a lot of the novels from more faraway parts of the world were new to me, but the writer ensured that they were given equal weighting with the Western classics.  I think though it is a book to return to again and again, almost as a research text. it is also beautifully written . Thank you to the author, the publishers and to NetGalley for an arc.
Was this review helpful?
*A review copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I knew from the beginning that it is very likely that I will DNF this book. It's interesting, but it is definitely a book you’d either take months or years to go through or skip and choose. After all, this book reads like a research paper or a monologue, and borders on reading a literature analysis textbook of some kind. Despite that, I really liked the introduction by the author where he explained how the idea came about, the power of books and how difficult it was to find a great translation of foreign text.

It follows Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, starting in London and making its way across Europe,   Africa, the Middle East, Asia, South America and finally America, picking 5 notable books from each region that dates back as old as The Hebrew Bible to more recent My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. 

From London:
For most of the books here, I see a correlation to London as it was the setting but all I remember was the drama between the writers and that one rather short section of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, of course, I am biased. Most of these books were written around a similar era, as there was beef between writers. Though, I am very interested in reading Mrs Dalloway. The sections were all interrelated, so some parts make me wonder which book was he referring to.

From Paris:
While in Paris, the author named various people who have made Paris their home, specifically across from Rive Gauche had lived James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Senegalese poet and future Prime Minister Léopold Sédar Senghor and many more. It was that line that made me read the chapter with rose-tinted glasses. The thought of living at the same time.

From Krakow:
This chapter opens with the author’s memories of his grandparents who were in Auschwitz. I was surprised that the author would write about his family’s experiences in a book about books around the world. I can’t remember much from this chapter except the concept of The Periodic Table was very interesting to me. How each story was named after an element, which made me very curious, but not enough to want to read the whole book.

By this time, I am well over 100 pages into this book of 432 pages. I can't say that I have the interest or the attention to read the author's description and thoughts about each book, but I do see some that I'd be interested in adding to my ever-growing TBR. As much as I am intrigued and long to read more, an e-book like this takes too much time and patience to read, both of which I don’t have. How others could finish this book from cover to cover remains a mystery to me.
Was this review helpful?
What a interesting list of books that the author selected to travel around the world. This book was a fun read, and provides insight into books that help you travel the world in your mind.
Was this review helpful?
As a pandemic project and a substitute for global travel, David Damrosch uses Verne's Around the World in 80 Days as a template for his 80 books.  Damrosch has picked and extensive selection of books, old and new, written by inhabitants of the region or seminal works about the regions to great effect.  His selections were well thought out and used books and authors both known to me and unknown and gives great examples and explanations as to why these books were chosen for their respective regions.  I really enjoyed this book and it has added to my to be read titles as I'm now curious to see if I get the same notions out of the readings as Damrosch posits.  I recommend this book to anyone looking to expand their reading genres, locales and authors but needs a good place to start.  Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Press for the free ebook!
Was this review helpful?
This read is fascinating and the kind of nonfiction that fiction and poetry fans will enjoy. It’s essentially a literary itinerary that allows you to take a trip through books, without ever having to leave your cosy reading spot. It begins in London, moving through Europe, to the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It’s a nonfiction book that gives you the immersive escape of a fiction book.

I didn’t connect to every book mentioned, as the choices are based on the author’s own preferences, but I was impressed with the diverse spectrum of titles. It’s a way to revisit old favorites and discover new ones, while traveling across the globe as you turn the pages. One thing to note: this book contains ending spoilers of other books featured!
Was this review helpful?
Around the World in 80 Books by David Damrosch was a literary adventure and a much needed break from the traditional Western canon. Throughout this work, I was exposed to new authors and works that challenged my views on various locations around the world. This book was also perfect for scholars and lay readers alike, unlike other literary collections and criticism, the writing in this book was engaging and lacked jargon. As I read, I felt like Professor Damrosch was very much on the journey alongside me, and I loved the armchair travel this book enabled me to experience. A must read for travel lovers and readers everywhere!
Was this review helpful?
David Damrosch's book "Around the World in 80 books" is the perfect companion for me as I quarantine in my attic after testing positive for Covid.  I was supposed to be traveling this week but alas, found solace in books and in particular this book.  This book satisfied my wanderlust for now and opened up a world of new books that I have added to my list.  This truly is an around the world tour - I was expecting a very heavy western geographical focus so was very pleasantly surprised to see the diversity of countries and writers.  Damrosch's descriptions and insights into each of these books has piqued my interest in expanding my reading.  He also aptly pulls through themes throughout the book.  This was a fun read and I felt like a student again (without having to write papers!)
I recommend this book for people who love to read and experience other cultures and perspectives.
Was this review helpful?
This book is essentially a reading list with list of world destinations. I feel bad for the author because he admits he planned to travel but the pandemic stopped his plans. Because of this, I found the book kind of soulless. I could see referring to this book when looking for a location specific book recommendation, but I wouldn’t sit down and read it.
Was this review helpful?
Such an informative book about books! The concept intrigued me and it was what drew me into the book in the first place. I did find the placing of some of the books weird, such as that of Utopia? I don't know if it's an honest mistake or the author meant it that way. I also wished that there were a lot more women writers featured, but I suppose that's the product of the world's mostly patriarchal history. Ultimately, an enjoyable read and one I think bibliophiles would enjoy.
Was this review helpful?
What a diverse list of books! I certainly added a lot to my TBR. This book was a fun read, providing insights into books that help you travel the world in your mind. I also appreciated the research into the various authors' backstories. A fun book to reference when looking for your next read!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to the Publisher and Author for this Advanced Readers Copy. This book explores the world through 80 books. Some we've heard of and some we've read. Many I had no idea existed. So many new books to be added to my TBR.  We always say we travel through books. The traveling here is about more than just location. Traveling as a reader to more indepth understanding of each book. It's learning about the author's thoughts and the character's actions.
Was this review helpful?
This is an enjoyable book to dip in and out of, gleaning insights as you go along. I started to read this straight through and enjoyed how the author strings together books, ideas, authors, inspiration from one place to the next as he connects a world of seemingly isolated books and places. I enjoyed his research into some of the author's backstories, which helped contextualize the books I had never heard of, or to emphasize books I had heard of but have yet to pick up.  I enjoyed the breadth of the recommendations and can see this being a book I refer to in the future.

***I would like to thank the publisher for access to this book in digital arc format in exchange for an honest review.**
Was this review helpful?
I was excited to dive into this and found the premise really fabulous.  Ultimately, I found my desire to stay on this round the world voyage waned . . . an interesting, erudite dip into Comp Lit but less engaging, overall, than I had initially hoped.
Was this review helpful?