I love to challenge myself to read more diverse books from around the world so I can explore countries and culture. I also love book lists and when my book blogging friend Aloi was hosting the Read the Nobles reading challenge, I thought it would be fun to read around the world with Nobel Prize winning books and made this list of 9 Books Worth Reading from Nobel Prize in Literature Winning Authors.
9 Books Worth Reading from Nobel Prize in Literature Winning Authors
Now according to the official Nobel Prize website, there have been 113 Nobel Prize in Literature winning authors since 1901. With each author writing multiple books, there are certainly plenty of books to choose from. I’ve narrowed down the list to give you the short list of 9 books worth reading from Nobel Prize in Literature Winning Authors. I’ve compiled this list with the help of reviews from my book blogging friends whose opinions I trust and ones I’ve been itching to read myself. So let’s peek at the best of the best, shall we? Books are sorted by country where the book is set in/where author was born.
Note: This post contains affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you. Book synopses are quoted from Goodreads.
Colombia – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel Garcia Marquez tops my list probably because I’ve heard Aloi from Guiltless Reading rave about his work since I’ve known her. I know what it’s like to fall desperately in love with a Hispanic man and while we had our ups and down, it did not take me long to realize my Superhubby was my soul mate.
1. Love in the Time of Cholera* by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Try for FREE with Audible Trial)
In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
This just sounds like an intriguing love story, doesn’t it? A man who won’t give up on the dream to marry his true love? How will Fermina react when she finds out Florentino had 622 affairs while he waited for her?
I started listening to this one on audio but I think with all the Spanish names and places, it might be easier for me to follow a hard copy. Still I enjoyed what I had heard so far and I’m intrigued to see how Florentina’s and Fermina’s story unfolds in Love in the Time of Cholera*.
Egypt – Naguib Mahfouz
For March’s Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge event, my co-host Lucy introduced me to the works of Nobel Prize in Literature winning author Naguib Mahfouz as our theme was North Africa authors. Lucy highly recommended Mahfouz’s Arabian Nights and Days, a retelling of Scheherazade’s story as it frames the infamous Tales of the Arabian Nights.
2. Arabian Nights and Days* by Naguib Mahfouz
Seventeen interlinked tales by the winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature follow such themes as betrayal, intrigue, obsessive love, social injustice, reincarnations, and wrongs righted or made worse.
I started reading the Tales from the Arabian Nights* translated by Sir Richard Burton in March for stories set in North Africa. I loved the beginning of the book as we learn about Scheherazade and why she is telling the 1,001 tales. With 1,001 tales, it is a chunkster of a book that I will have to read little by little. But what I love about Arabian Nights and Days* is that it focuses on Scheherazade’s story herself and a few key stories without sacrificing the magic of the original plus it’s about 800 pages shorter than the full version.
France/US – Ernest Hemingway
I can’t love all the books I ever read and sometimes I have a hard time understanding why an author or book received a particular literary prize. I didn’t quite get why The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer. Based on my intense dislike of Hemingway’s first novel The Sun Also Rises*, I figure I must be missing something about the genius of Hemingway’s work as he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. My book blogging friend Michelle from That’s What She Read’s review of A Moveable Feast said it’s an easy and enjoyable collection of essays about Hemingway’s time in France with his famous friends so hopefully you and I will enjoy it too and I’ll give Hemingway that second chance he deserves.
3. A Moveable Feast* by Ernest Hemingway (FREE with Audible Trial)
Begun in the autumn of 1957 and published posthumously in 1964, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast captures what it meant to be young and poor and writing in Paris during the 1920s. A correspondent for the Toronto Star, Hemingway arrived in Paris in 1921, three years after the trauma of the Great War and at the beginning of the transformation of Europe’s cultural landscape: Braque and Picasso were experimenting with cubist form; James Joyce, long living in self-imposed exile from his native Dublin, had just completed Ulysses; Gertrude Stein held court at 27 Rue de Fleurus, and deemed young Ernest a member of une gneration perdue; and T.S. Eliot was a bank clerk in London. It was during these years that the as-of-yet unpublished young writer gathered the material for his first novel The Sun Also Rises, and the subsequent masterpieces that followed.
Among these small, reflective sketches are unforgettable encounters with the members of Hemingway’s slightly rag-tag circle of artists and writers, some also fated to achieve fame and glory, others to fall into obscurity. Here, too, is an evocation of the Paris that Hemingway knew as a young man – a map drawn in his distinct prose of the streets and cafes and bookshops that comprised the city in which he, as a young writer, sometimes struggling against the cold and hunger of near poverty, honed the skills of his craft.
A Moveable Feast is at once an elegy to the remarkable group for expatriates that gathered in Paris during the twenties and a testament to the risks and rewards of the writerly life.
I took French in high school and have always been fascinated by movies and books set in France. I enjoy getting a glimpse of the real lives behind famous people even if it breaks the illusion of their perfection. A Moveable Feast* and Paris during the twenties sounds like a time and place I’d like to travel to to see what these literary greats were like as young and struggling artists pursuing their dreams.
India – Rudyard Kipling
It wouldn’t be a Travel the World in Books list from me without including India, the country of my ancestry, now would it? Rudyard Kipling won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907 and his most acclaimed works are The Jungle Books. I won’t lie, we are Disney fanatics and LOVE the Disney movie version of The Jungle Book but the book it’s based on tops my list too for books worth reading by Nobel Prize in Literature winning authors and the one I’ll be tackling first.
4. The Jungle Book* by Rudyard Kipling
This is a classic story of friendship between man and beast. Saved from the jaws of the evil tiger Shere Khan, young Mowgli is adopted by a wolf pack and taught the law of the jungle by lovable old Baloo the bear and Bhageera the panther. The adventures of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi the snake-fighting mongoose, little Toomai and the elephant’s secret dance, and Kotick the white seal are all part of Mowgli’s extraordinary journey with his animal friends.
I bought the beautiful children’s illustrated edition from Barnes & Noble and can’t wait to read this with my boys after school. We’re all interested to see how the book differs from the movie and the other animals that the book introduces to. We know sometimes classics can be tough to get through so I enjoy the kids versions because they focus on beautiful art and make the story engaging to capture and keep their attention without forgoing the integrity of the original story. The Jungle Book* is sure to be a great story of adventure and family to read with my boys this month.
Japan – Yasunari Kawabata
I love reading about Japan, their strong sense of tradition, family honor and rich history make for incredible stories to transport you into the minds of the characters and really get to know what their culture values. I saw Snow Country* on the Goodreads List of Nobel Prize Laureates and noticed that Yasunari was the first Japanese author to receive the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1968.
5. Snow Country* by Yasunari Kawabata (FREE with Audible Trial)
Nobel Prize-winner Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country is widely considered to be the writer’s masterpiece, a powerful tale of wasted love set amid the desolate beauty of western Japan.
At an isolated mountain hot spring, with snow blanketing every surface, Shimamura, a wealthy dilettante meets Komako, a lowly geisha. She gives herself to him fully and without remorse, despite knowing that their passion cannot last and that the affair can have only one outcome. In chronicling the course of this doomed romance, Kawabata has created a story for the ages, a stunning novel dense in implication and exalting in its sadness.
At less than 200 pages, >Snow Country* sounds like a heartwrenching romance but one where the characters take their chance with love despite what their culture dictates. Yasunari’s poetic style is sure to be a treat for this tale about love and loss.
Mexico/USA – John Steinbeck
Like Hemingway, American author John Steinbeck seems to be an author readers either love or dislike intensely. I have not read any Steinbeck yet and thought The Pearl*, a short novel based on a Mexican folk tale and taking place in Mexico would be a great choice to start with for my Travel the World in Books reading challenge. My book blogging friend Jennine from My Life in Books said “great things come in little packages” in her review of The Pearl.
6. The Pearl* by John Steinbeck
Like his father and grandfather before him, Kino is a poor diver, gathering pearls from the gulf beds that once brought great wealth to the kings of Spain and now provide Kino, Juana, and their infant son with meager subsistence. Then, on a day like any other, Kino emerges from the sea with a pearl as large as a sea gull’s egg, as “perfect as the moon.” With the pearl comes hope, the promise of comfort and of security…
A story of classic simplicity, based on a Mexican folk tale, The Pearl explores the secrets of man’s nature, greed, the darkest depths of evil, and the luminous possibilities of love.
I love learning about different cultures through their folk and fairy tales and this folk tale about Kino is one I have not read before. At less than 100 pages, The Pearl* packs a powerful punch, one you can easily read in a day and a great book to see if you are a Steinbeck fan. I loved this book, though it haunted me and really made me think.
Norway – Sigrid Undset
I think my friend Lucy from Fictional 100 and the Northern Lights Reading Project is rubbing off on me. Her reviews of these books that take place in the Northern Lights countries with their harsh yet beautiful wintry conditions and centuries old sagas have me intrigued. Since Lucy called the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy among her favorite novels, I had to include it in my Nobel Prize for Literature books worth reading.
7. Kristin Lavransdatter Trilogy* by Sigrid Undset
In her great historical epic Kristin Lavransdatter, set in fourteenth-century Norway, Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset tells the life story of one passionate and headstrong woman. Painting a richly detailed backdrop, Undset immerses readers in the day-to-day life, social conventions, and political and religious undercurrents of the period. Now in one volume, Tiina Nunnally’s award-winning definitive translation brings this remarkable work to life with clarity and lyrical beauty.
As a young girl, Kristin is deeply devoted to her father, a kind and courageous man. But when as a student in a convent school she meets the charming and impetuous Erlend Nikulaussøn, she defies her parents in pursuit of her own desires. Her saga continues through her marriage to Erlend, their tumultuous life together raising seven sons as Erlend seeks to strengthen his political influence, and finally their estrangement as the world around them tumbles into uncertainty.
With its captivating heroine and emotional potency, Kristin Lavransdatter is the masterwork of Norway’s most beloved author, one of the twentieth century’s most prodigious and engaged literary minds and, in Nunnally’s exquisite translation, a story that continues to enthrall.
This one is a trilogy so together the three books are over 1000 pages. But the Kristin Lavransdatter Trilogy* sounds like such a wonderful read to immerse ourselves in 14-century Norway, a time and place different than anything we might have experienced. I enjoy period pieces like this and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which are rich in historical detail and give you a true sense of the culture at the time in all their brawn and beauty.
Portugal – Jose Saramago
Though both these stories take place in a dystopian society, they would still qualify for our Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge since the author is Portugese. And this 2 book series sounds unlike any other dystopians I’ve read so far.
A city is hit by an epidemic of “white blindness” that spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and assaulting women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides her charges—among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears—through the barren streets, and their procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. As Blindness reclaims the age-old story of a plague, it evokes the vivid and trembling horrors of the twentieth century, leaving readers with a powerful vision of the human spirit that’s bound both by weakness and exhilarating strength.
Now this series not be normally books I would pick up but this review of Blindness and it’s sequel Seeing by Guiltless Reading had me reconsider my hasty judgment. Sometimes we need to read not just to be entertained but to challenge ourselves beyond our usual realm of thinking and it sounds like Blindness* and Seeing* would do just that.
Other popular books by Jose Saramago include Death with Interruptions*.
Whenever I need a great book recommendation, I turn to my book blogging friends instead of Amazon or Goodreads for their advice. I know they’ve got good taste! There are so many Nobel Prize of Literature Books that I hope my list of the 10 best books worth reading will help you choose one to start reading so you can travel the world in books with us. So, tell which Nobel Prize winning books will you read and where will your reading journey take you?