I prefer to feel the air of another country rather than watching it from TV, and hear the real stories behind the touristic brochures. But sometimes it is not possible, or it is hard to find someone who would say a word.
In these cases my way is to read a book written by an insider, sometimes even risking their own life in it as well. Of course, books and movies might lack some real tastes and smells that you can sense only at the very place, but they can give an insight to something extreme that otherwise would be impossible or deathly to experience.
I really want to share three books that I find interesting and revealing, and that have given me a lot personally.
1. Gomorra by Roberto Saviano
A book that reveals the reality of Campania area in Italy, the cruelty of one of the strongest mafias in the world. Italy and areas around Naples are open for anyone to visit, but it is a rare case to witness some of these events as a tourist. Mafia works very underground but still affects everyone’s life in the country, even abroad. The movie going with same title directed by Matteo Garrone gives a good support with images after reading the book.
2. A thousand splendid suns by Khaled Hosseini
A heart-breaking story of three generations of women living in Afghanistan. The book gives an insight to the life of normal human beings, and how their world is changed by different invaders, most recent and cruel being the talebans. The first book of the author, The kite runner, as well as the movie made of it, is worth of checking.
3. Nothing to envy: Ordinary lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
This book is written by an American journalist that has created a story collecting material by interviewing the people that has escaped from North Korea. In the case of this country, it is quite impossible to get any information or experience the real life in person. So the stories of North Koreans themselves, or a book like this that puts all the pieces together, is the only way to get a look to the culture of propaganda, the culture of a closed country.
My own copy of the closed country, in Finnish.
Creating New Culture,