The FIFA World Cup is pretty much unavoidable at the moment but in my opinion the endless amount of matches on TV makes for comfortable background noise. (Poland and Columbia are playing while I type this.)

A few days ago, I came up with an interesting little challenge to see how widely read I am in an international sense. The rules are simple:

  • If I read a book that was written by a native of a World Cup country I got three points
  • If I couldn’t manage this I would have to settle for a  book set in a World Cup country for one point
  • Those World Cup countries that I had no literary connection to got a big fat zero points.

To take part you don’t have to post a full blog post. Just calculate your score and comment below or share on Twitter using #LitWorldCup.

Read below to see how I fared…

Image result for world cup team list

Group A: I had to settle for meagre settings points. Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist finishes up in Egypt, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes has origins in Saudi Arabia and even though I have read some Russian short stories I felt that these couldn’t possibly count to I had to settle for Katherine Rundell’s The Wolf Wilder. I got zero for Uruguay. TOTAL: 3pts

Group B: For Spain, I previously reviewed the creepy Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba. Portugal gets a single point because Peter Murtagh finishes his Buen Camino! journey at the ‘end of the world’ at Finisterre. Morocco and Iran get zero points. TOTAL: 4pts

GROUP C: France gets three points due to Pierre Lemaitre incredible Detective Camille trilogy. Three points also for Australia thanks to Richard Flanagan’s Man Booker winning The Narrow Road To The Deep North. Zero points for Denmark and Peru. TOTAL: 6pts

GROUP D: Full marks for Iceland due to Arnaldur Indriðason’s bleak Detective Erlendur series. I have listened to several of these on audible. Argentina gets a single point because Ian Lacey ends up there after cycling from Alaska in Half The World Away. Croatia and Nigeria miss out. TOTAL: 4pts

GROUP E: Set in Brazil, I loved Daniel Galera’s  The Shape Of Bones. This would be a great World Cup read right now. Alain de Botton is Swiss born so  I am going to claim his excellent book The Consolations of Philosophy for the full three points. William Finnegan found a surfers’ paradise in Costa Rica in his Pulitzer Prize winning memoir Barbarian Days. I have a feeling that Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole ended up in Serbia but I am not going to award the point until I confirm this. TOTAL: 7pts

GROUP F: Germany gives me full marks through Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done. Han Kang’s incredible work, Human Acts, gives me full marks for South Korea. A couple of years ago I read a hilarious novel called The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Sweden’s Jonas Jonasson. That leaves Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece, The Border Trilogy, to give me a single point for setting. TOTAL: 10pts

GROUP G: At push I get a settings point for a Brussels scene in Joseph Conrad’s classic Heart Of Darkness. So far, the literature of Panama has eluded me. In primary school, I read Eoin Colfer’s Benny and Omar so this gives me a single point for Tunisia. England is the easiest of them all so I am going to plug recent read The Pier Falls, a riveting collection of short stories from Mark Haddon. TOTAL: 4pts

GROUP H: I loved Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez’ novel The Sound of Things Falling.  I am a huge fan of Japanese literature so I will just mention my last good read, Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. I travelled in Poland for a week and found Władysław Szpilman‘s account of WWII atrocity, The Pianist, a difficult read. As far as I know, I have not read anything from Senegal. TOTAL: 9pts 

That leaves me with a final score of 47 out of a maximum of 96.

Reaction: I would regard myself as being fairly well read but it seems that I need to cast my net wider when it comes to Africa and South America. A couple of countries surprised me in that I either read a lot or I read none at all. Overall, I am happy with this score and would be interested to see how others would score in comparison.

How do you score? Do you have any good reading recommendations for the countries from which I am yet to read a book? Please share and let me know!