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Topic: "Around the World" Christmas gift

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Subject: "Around the World" Christmas gift
Date Posted: 11/12/2010 8:45 AM ET
Member Since: 1/14/2009
Posts: 41
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My mother-in-law and I don't have much in commom, but we do enjoy the same kinds of books and have really enjoyed swapping good ones over the years.  For this Christmas, I've decided to give her 7 books, one representing each continent, for an "around the world" gift theme.  I would really love to have suggestions for fiction that meets the following criteria:

1. I am hoping to get the books from PBS so the titles shouldn't be so brand new that there's more than a couple weeks wait for them.  But if it reallly is "the best book ever," I will consider buying it.

2. Can't be too tragic or traumatic; she finds it depressing if there isn't some sort of silver lining, love story, historical view, or something to balance out the sad stuff.

3.  No science fiction, fantasy, bodice-ripper romances; just the regular old "literature and fiction" category.  Mysteries are okay.

Thanks in advance!!!

-- Stefanie

Date Posted: 11/13/2010 8:06 PM ET
Member Since: 2/16/2006
Posts: 907
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   I have few suggestions, but what a good idea!   Just might copy it. For the African continent she might like the #1 Ladies Detective Agency books--they were great and good, clean fiction.

Date Posted: 11/13/2010 10:30 PM ET
Member Since: 9/8/2009
Posts: 625
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Pavilion of Women by Pearl Buck was a great book.

Date Posted: 11/14/2010 3:04 PM ET
Member Since: 11/24/2005
Posts: 5,638
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Last Edited on: 3/7/11 7:15 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/14/2010 5:15 PM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,571
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As much as I love In A Sunburned Country, it's non-fiction and I believe the OP is looking for fiction.  If I'm wrong about that, then you can never go wrong with Bill Bryson.

Here is a selection, one from each continent, to get you started; all are available right now.  I've read all but The Voyage of the Narwhal and they're all terrific reads.  Antarctica is tough as many of the books I've read set there are either horror or science fiction.  Good luck. :-)

Australia~ All the Rivers Run by Nancy Cato


Africa~The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre


Antarctica~The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett


Asia~The Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell


North America~To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee


South America~In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez


Europe~Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier



Last Edited on: 11/14/10 5:16 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/14/2010 8:20 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
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Wow, Sandy -- that's a great list.

Unfortunately, The Voyage of the Narwhal is about a trip to the Arctic, not Antarctica. The only suggestion I have for Antarctica is a very good non-fiction book (Endurance by Lansing) -- maybe others have ideas for fiction.

Sandy's suggestion for Asia (The Distant Land of My Father) is one of my favorite books. Some other suggestions: Zemindar by Fitzgerald,  The Far Pavilions or Shadow of the Moon by M. M. Kaye, or Shogun by Clavell.

There's also always The Thorn Birds by McCullough for Australia (though I'm with Sandy -- if non-fiction is ok, I think Bryson's In a Sunburned Country is terrific).

I love To Kill a Mockingbird for N. America but if OP's MIL has read that, another favorite of mine is One Thousand White Women by Fergus.

For Africa, I also like The Constant Gardener; there's also The Power of One or the classic, Cry, the Beloved Country.

Good luck to the OP -- what a fun idea!!

Date Posted: 11/14/2010 8:49 PM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,571
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Rats! Thanks for the correction on The Voyage of the Narwhal, Deb.  That's what I get for suggesting something I hadn't actually read. LOL!

My first thought for Africa was The Power of One, but it's not available in the system and I was trying to come up with ones readily available. I also loved Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie, but again, it's not available. 

Colleen McCullough's books are wonderful.  Loved The Thorn Birds and Morgan's Run (also about Australia).  (Both are avalable in the system)

Another good one for North America would be Taylor Caldwell's Captains and the Kings or Testimony of Two Men.  (both are available in the system)  I don't believe I've read One Thousand White Women; will have to check it out.

Date Posted: 11/15/2010 10:41 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2010
Posts: 1,207
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Love this idea!  Books are about the only think my MIL and I have in common too!  She has been enjoying my "personal library" since I joined PBS.

Date Posted: 11/17/2010 10:05 PM ET
Member Since: 1/14/2009
Posts: 41
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Thanks for these great ideas!  I am interested in more suggestions, too.

So far, I have only decided on one book ... it's actually a memoir called Ice Bound, about a female doctor working on the scientific research base on Antarctica who diagnoses herself with a breast tumor and has to do surgery on herself.  Supposed to be great.

I think my mother-in-law would enjoy memoirs, but not straight non-fiction.

I will check out all of the suggestions posted here and am grateful for the links!!

Date Posted: 11/18/2010 6:50 AM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,571
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Ice Bound is pretty good; I have it on my shelf. *g*  if you are going with some non-fiction, then check out just about anything by Bill Bryson. In a Sunburned Country is great for Australia, but he's done books about the US, Africa and England, too, as well as an autobiography.  Most of his books are about his adventures traveling and they are all quite humorous.  A Walk in the Woods, about his adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail, cracks me up every time. 

I can't wait to hear what your final selections turn out to be.

Last Edited on: 11/18/10 6:51 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/18/2010 8:46 AM ET
Member Since: 5/17/2009
Posts: 52
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For the continent of Asia how about the book The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini ?

Link to the book in the PBS system~


For the continent of Australia how about Thunderwith  by Libby Hathorn ?

The book isn't in the PBS system but you can find it used online for 1.99.


Thundwith falls into the YA catergory, but is still enjoyable. It has a sad beginning, but things turn out good in the end.


In her first novel, this Australian author weaves a captivating, poignant story of a girl's reckoning with her mother's death, her adjustments to a new family and lifestyle, her conflict with a bully, and her love of a ``magical'' dingo dog. After her free-spirited mother dies of cancer, Lara, 14, is warmly welcomed by her long-remarried father into his new family. Her step siblings accept her, but her stepmother remains aloof and critical. When Lara seeks emotional release on a hilltop during a storm, a majestic dog appears and becomes her solace, greeting her whenever she flees the turmoil of her daily life. She names him Thunderwith, but, in a dramatic climax, learns that he is really Rover, the bully's abused farm dog. Lara realizes that Thunderwith filled a void until she could accept the spiritual rather than the physical presence of her mother. Characters are deftly drawn, and the plot, enriched by aboriginal mystique, unfolds with ease. Powerful themes of self-realization, family, peer pressure, and nature emerge against a scenic backdrop of the remote Wallingat Forest in New South Wales. 

Last Edited on: 11/18/10 9:06 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/21/2010 6:05 PM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2007
Posts: 4,815
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Stefanie, I put this list of linked PBS tags together for the Historical Fiction group, but they aren't limited to historical fiction and include a number of location tags (including Africa, Australia, Antarctica, New Zealand, Norway and other exotic locations), which might be helpful.  They aren't Historical Fiction tags, just books that members have tagged because they (mostly) take place in another country.

Date Posted: 11/21/2010 7:01 PM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2007
Posts: 4,815
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One additional thought, while you're at it -- why not make it "around with world with powerful/brave/inspiring/insert-adjective-here women"?  You're already off to a good start with the doctor from Antarctica, and here are some others:

Europe -- *Under the Tuscan Sun or Home: A Memoir of my Early Years or *The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.

Africa -- *To the Heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa (not currently available via PBS)

Europe or Asia: *Eat, Pray, Love

Australia: The Girl from Botany Bay

Middle East -- *Reading Lolita in Tehran or Stolen Lives: 20 Years in a Desert Jail (an Oprah book) or *Leap of Faith

North America -- there are biographies of everyone from *Sacajawea to *Laura Ingalls Wilder to Hillary Clinton to *Katherine Hepburn to Abigail Adams

To fill in any gaps: *Miles from Nowhere: A Round the World Bicycle Adventure (not currently available via PBS) or Parrot Pie for Breakfast

Titles with a * are ones I've read personally, enjoyed, and feel meet your described needs for your MIL.

Last Edited on: 11/21/10 7:02 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/22/2010 6:49 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
Posts: 36,445
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Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith,

Sister Kate (about Ned kelly's sister)

Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie (kids book but VERY australian)

Blinky Bill

Playing Beatie Bow

As an Australian these are what I would choose to represent my country. All are fiction, all are required reading in most schools.

Date Posted: 11/22/2010 6:52 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
Posts: 36,445
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oh another one that is weird but good. Picnic At hanging rock.  its also a movie.

Date Posted: 12/4/2010 9:55 AM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2010
Posts: 12
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'Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence' by Doris Pilkington is a really good book about Australia and it's a true story. They made a movie about it.

Subject: Love it!
Date Posted: 12/4/2010 4:51 PM ET
Member Since: 10/30/2010
Posts: 495
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Very creative.

"bodice-ripper romances"  LOL

Date Posted: 12/26/2010 5:57 PM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,571
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So Stefanie, what books did you end up giving and how did your MIL like your choices?

Date Posted: 12/26/2010 7:00 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Besides The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith to represent Australia, I'd like to recommend Fringe of Leaves, by Patrick White, because the reader is a woman, and the central character in this period-piece  is a female who starts out in England as a young girl who does farm chores, and after marriage to a young aristocrat in delicate'  health,  a momentous voyage on a sailing ship that is shipwrecked off the coast of Australia, a period of time as a captive of aborigines, and an alliance (for survival) with an escapee from an infamous penal colony, a period of time in the household of the colonial Governour,  emerges a fully-realized "woman to be dealt with" (and this in the late 1700s!)   I bet your MIL would like it . . . . .

For China, did anyone recommend Wild Swans?    Someone should have . . . . .

Date Posted: 12/26/2010 7:13 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Stefanie:  If the MIL is an "older woman",  try to find her a copy of The Book of Eve, by Constance Beresford-Howe------it's about a Canadian woman who saw that her husband, upon his retirement, was going to become a real "drag", hypochondriac, expecting to be waited on hand and foot, never going out to church, theater, movies, dancing, or dining . . . . . . . .so she acted.  I cheered for her as I read this one!

Date Posted: 1/31/2011 7:18 PM ET
Member Since: 1/14/2009
Posts: 41
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I have to tell you, this was absolutely the most fun Christmas gift I have ever given anyone!  I think I'm going to do this every year and just work my way from country to country.  I wrote on the first page of each book:  Christmas 2010, name of country."  I can't wait to read them myself when she passes them on to me!  Thanks for all of the suggestions.  Many of them are now on my own wish list! Here is what I ended up with:


The Secret River, by Kate Grenville - Australia

Astrid and Veronika, by Linda Olsson - Sweden (Europe)

The Silk Harmony Factory, by Tash Aw - Malaysia (Asia)

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Adicihie - Nigeria (Africa)

The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver - Mexico (North America)

Fortune's Daughter, by Isabel Allende - Chile (South America)

Ice Bound, by Jerri Nielsen - Antarctica

Date Posted: 2/16/2011 10:07 PM ET
Member Since: 1/14/2009
Posts: 41
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So I just found out that my mother-in-law was so delighted with this gift that she purchased and tacked onto the wall a huge world map so she can stick pins in whichever countries are represented by the books I give her.  I may have to do this more often than just Christmas!