12 Books Set Outside of the U.S…But Not in Europe

Books Set Outside US

 

I love a book where the setting is just as much of a character as the actual characters and, more often than not, this happens with books set in exotic locales. There’s something mysterious, sometimes enchanting, and sometimes dangerous about a place that couldn’t be more different from your home. 

When I was putting this list together, the majority of books I’d read set in foreign (to the U.S.) countries took place in Europe (with France crushing other EU countries). So, I thought I’d share those books set outside of the U.S…but also outside of Europe. 

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Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

12 Books Set Outside of the U.S…But Not in Europe

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (my review)
Set in Japan, 1Q84 follows the parallel journeys of Aomame, a female assassin, and Tengo, an aspiring writer, as they enter an alternate reality (the year 1Q84) to solve the mystery of a religious cult and the myth of the “Little People”. Sounds totally ridiculous, but I was engrossed for the full 900+ pages.

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An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (my review)
An absolutely brutal book about a kidnapping set partially in Haiti.

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Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (my review)
Historical fiction based on the true story of Beryl Markham, a British woman raised on a horse farm in 1920’s Kenya, who went on to break the glass ceiling for women in horse training and aviation.

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Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy (my review)
A plot-based page turner where cruise ship vacationers’ children go missing in an unnamed South American country that is extremely similar to Costa Rica.

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Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (my review)
A sweeping epic about an escaped convict who finds friendship, love, and an unbelievable amount of adventure in Bombay (as it was called at the time, now Mumbai), India. PS – the story is supposed to be somewhat autobiographical.

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State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (my review)
I will never un-see the anaconda scene (anyone who has read the book will know exactly what I’m talking about) in this novel about a tribe of people in the Amazon where women can give birth well into their seventies.

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Tangerine by Christine Mangan
A story of a fraught, obsessive friendship and all the wreckage it leaves behind in 1950’s Tangier, Morocco.

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The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson (my review)
A beautifully written story full of generational and cultural clashes about two young Brooklyn girls who are sent to live with their grandmother in Barbados.

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The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (my review)
A collection of linked short stories spotlighting life in the USSR/Russian Federation/Russia from 1937 to present day (including life under Stalin, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and Putin).

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The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso (my review)
This novel is like Grumpy Old Men crossed with Desperate Housewives set in South Africa and involving race. And, ultimately, it’s about friendship and regret.

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Whiskey Tango Foxtrotby David Shafer (my review)
A Burma (aka Myanmar) based non-profit worker (Leila), a directionless heir to a board game empire (Leo), and an one hit wonder self-help guru (Mark) are improbably brought together to prevent an international cabal from taking control of all the world’s information. Huh?! That’s what I thought, but I really enjoyed this debut!

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Youngbloodby Matt Gallagher (my review)
A story about the personal side of war and its complexities that takes place during the Iraq insurgency.

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What are some of your favorite books set outside of the U.S?

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23 Comments

  1. I like that you excluded Europe on your list here. I’m surprised how few of these I’ve read, only Youngblood, Circling the Sun, Shantaram and State of Wonder. Always more books to check out and I tend to enjoy visiting other settings. I’ll be starting Tangerine next.

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  2. Angela wrote:

    Great list! I would say the majority of books I read that are set outside the US are set in Europe, especially England and France, so this list is a good place for me to start to broaden my horizons!

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  3. Brittany S. wrote:

    I appreciate all the backlist books on here! I’ve always heard great things about Murakami, but your description of 1Q84 makes me want to actually read him now. Also very interested in Shantaram and State of Wonder. Would you say any of these are particularly character-driven books?

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  4. I want to get my hands on Tangerine. I think I’d like The Woman Next Door too.

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  5. The only one I’ve read on your list is Circling The Sun. I want to follow up with Out of Africa, written by Karen Blixen, and West With The Night by Beryl Markham, but so far I’ve not done it.
    I like your list. I’m inspired to try to categorize my own books. But I always fail when I come to a book that has multiple locations, both inside the US and outside.

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  6. I don’t know how I’ve never read any of these books! They all sound so good! I recently read Flesh, and Bone, and Water by Luiza Sauma which was really good. Most of it took place in Brazil, but some of it was in London.

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  7. Allison wrote:

    Great list! I loved State of Wonder and Do No Become Alarmed. 1Q84 is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read, but like you, I was totally hooked through the end. This made me start thinking about the books I’ve read that are not set in Europe or the U.S. I think that list is too short and I should seek out books set in other countries more often.

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  8. Madeline wrote:

    Interesting list — something I never thought about. I’m surprised at how many of these I have read — 6 plus Tangerine will come up for me soon.

    Loved 1Q84.

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  9. Gabby wrote:

    An Untamed State was hard to read but also hard to put down…Gay has an incredible gift with words

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  10. Yes, excellent list! I would mention Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, set in Korea and Japan and Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig, set in Burma (now Myanmar.)
    Links to my reviews:
    http://keepthewisdom.blogspot.com/2017/07/pachinko.html
    http://keepthewisdom.blogspot.com/2018/02/miss-burma.html

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  11. Joann Downie wrote:

    Wow!! You found some unique settings!! I like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot-that looks good.
    http://justmeandmyblogreviews.blogspot.com/2018/03/top-ten-tuesday-10-books-that-take.html

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  12. Shantaram and State of Wonder are two of my favorite books *ever* Super list!

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  13. I like that you focused on books set outside of the US and Europe. I’m thinking about adding Tangerine to my TBR. Great list!

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
  14. Thanks for these suggestions – a few to add to my ongoing Around the World in 80 Books reading challenge.

    Posted 3.27.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Perfect!

      Posted 3.28.18 Reply
  15. Bob wrote:

    Okay, I’m a man lost among so many book sites by women; appreciative yet not quite connecting…for lack of a better term I’ve lurked many sites without being stirred to comment. But Sarah, your listing today got me out of the closet. Like Ricki Jill Treleaven, Shantaram and State of Wonder are two of my all-time fiction favorites.

    (Also mentioned here) West With The Night by Beryl Markham blew me away – what a fabulous read. An all-time non-fiction favorite. The woman could write; melodramatic at times, yet worked, added to the ’30s atmosphere. And Beryl loved the semicolon!

    Bob

    Posted 3.28.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Welcome Bob! Book blogs can definitely feel like a female domain, but I’m so glad you felt more comfortable here! I’m a bit of a tomboy, grew up with brothers, and do like to read some books that some people would label as “Books for Guys” (I actually have a recommendation list of just that: https://www.sarahsbookshelves.com/book-recommendation-lists/books-for-boys-new/). And I haven’t read West with the Night yet, but it’s sitting on my shelves…

      Posted 3.28.18 Reply
  16. Woman Next Dorr is going on my list. I loved Circling The Sun and State of Wonder. Very interesting list!

    Posted 3.28.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Hope you love it!

      Posted 3.28.18 Reply
  17. I really need to pick up Circling the Sun. Great choices!

    Lauren @ Always Me

    Posted 3.28.18 Reply
  18. Catherine wrote:

    Wow. I had NO idea you read Murakami. Or that you would make it through a 900 page book! You hate long books. This really piques my interest and makes me think I have to read it.

    Some of my favorite foreign novels are: Song of a Captive Bird, The Forgiven, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty, The Sympathizer, and all of the Crazy Rich Asian novels. Actually, too many to mention- I love Southeast Asian fiction.

    Posted 3.31.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Really?! Yes, 1Q84 was my first…and I read a 900 pager because I hadn’t started the blog yet! Now that I have the blog, I do avoid long ones like the plague 🙂 I’ve also loved What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, but didn’t love Colorless Tsusuki (??) nearly as much.

      I haven’t read any of your Southeastern Asian faves…except crazy Rich Asians, but I’ve had Sympathizer on my list forever!

      Posted 4.11.18 Reply

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