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4 Classic Books From Abroad

Updated on March 3, 2014

A classic book is a book which is well known and accepted as being noteworthy. In that case, we all know, and some are frankly tired of, classic English books such as Little Women or Wuthering Heights. If you want to catch up on the classics yet still be entertained, picking up foreign ones would be a good idea, since in some the translation is usually more recent and therefore in language you understand better.


1. French — ‘Nobody’s Boy’ by Hector Malot

Sans famille

Tough times step in for a boy’s foster parents, and he is sold to a traveling street entertainer with a few dogs and a monkey. Together they trek across France and neighboring countries, seeking shelter in sometimes questionable places. This book has quite a few plot twists, and an ending you’re sure to…well, that would be a spoiler.

I read this one last summer and it is honestly the best classic I’ve ever read. Simply beautiful. There are also some movie renditions and an anime, which can all be found on YouTube.

If you can speak French, this movie might be worth watching:

2. Russian — ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Братья Карамазовы

When their father, Fyodor Karamazov, is murdered, three brothers – Mitya, Ivan, Alyosha, and their “bastard half-brother” Smerdyakov’s lives are changed irrevocably. During the span of the murder and trial, Dostoyevsky executed an amazing portrayal of jealousy, human motivation and resolve.

This book was supposed to have a sequel, but Fyodor Dostoyevsky died before he could write one. With or without a sequel, this book is not to miss!

3. Japanese — ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ by Haruki Murakami

ねじまき鳥クロニクル

In the Tokyo Suburbs, a young man named Toru Okada leaves behind his old life of reading, cooking, and listening to jazz music to search for his missing wife (which began as a simple search for her cat). This journey is pretty strange, guided by a succession of interesting characters, each with their own story to tell.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle begins as the most ordinary book, but quickly morphs into something bizarre and very strange. Just let yourself get carried away by the tide with this one — don’t think too much or your head will explode!

4. Spanish — ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Cien Años de Soledad

Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez is undoubtedly the most well-known Spanish author. Looking for a book to read to supplement your Spanish studies? Pick up a Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez. Whether you read it in Spanish or not, One Hundred Years of Solitude is an amazing book. It tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the family, through which you basically see the whole of humanity.

Problems, myths, love and mystery are themes that run through this book, which is simply a must-read.

If you've read any of these, which was your favorite?

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