Want to travel the world from your favorite reading chair? While I hope that you’ll be able to take some actual trips, you can also travel through the pages of a book with this read-around-the-world challenge!
If you’re looking for a reading goal that isn’t too difficult to complete, this travel-themed reading challenge is the perfect one to undertake in the new year.
12 prompts for 12 months that will allow you to read your way across seven continents and multiple genres!
Below you will find each month’s prompts, as well as book suggestions. You’ll also find links below to lists of books ranging from novels to memoirs covering a variety of cities and topics.
Bookmark this post so you can revisit it throughout the year and have easy access to all the book lists.
January: A Book Set in Antarctica
January may be one of the coldest months of the year, but at least you aren’t in Antarctica! Kick off the first month of the Read Around the World Challenge with a book set in Antarctica.
- Alone in Antarctica by Felicity Aston (Memoir)
- Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton (History)
- My Last Continent by Midge Raymond (Romance)
- Alone on the Ice by David Roberts (Survival)
February: A Book Set in Africa
Moving on to February, the next stop on the Read Around the World Challenge takes us to Africa. This vast and diverse continent is home to 54 different countries.
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Historical Fiction, Ghana)
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Memoir, South Africa)
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Historical Fiction, Nigeria)
- We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Contemporary, Zimbabwe)
Reading Suggestions: Best Books Set in Africa
March: A Historical Fiction Book Set Abroad
For March, try reading a historical fiction book set in a country other than your own. Choose from any country around the world, as long as it’s not your own!
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Korea and Japan)
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (France)
- The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (India)
- A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Russia)
April: A Travel Memoir
There’s no better way to live vicariously through someone else’s adventures than by reading a travel memoir. Escape on a daring hike or mountain climb, or travel to faraway places while reading a travel memoir. Here are some of my top picks of books to read this month…
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- World Travel by Anthony Bourdain
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Reading Suggestions: Brilliant Travel Memoirs by Women
May: A Book Set in Asia
Moving on to a new continent, May will transport you to Asia! Asia is the largest continent in the world by size and population and is home to 48 different countries.
- Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Contemporary Romance, Singapore)
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Fiction, India)
- Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick (Nonfiction, North Korea)
- Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad (Historical Fiction, Thailand)
June: A Nonfiction Book About Another Country
While it can be fun to escape into a fictional book, this month is all about learning through nonfiction. (And nonfiction books can be really fun and entertaining too!)
For June, select a nonfiction book that is about a different country than your own.
- The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell (Denmark)
- Black and British by David Olusoga (United Kingdom)
- Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman (France)
- Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford (Mongolia)
July: A Book Set in Australia
Next up is a book set in Australia!
Australia is both a country and a continent (also known as Oceania.) Oceania is made up of 14 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and many Pacific island nations.
- In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson (Memoir, Australia)
- Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh (Thriller, New Zealand)
- The Exiles by Christina Baker Cline (Historical Fiction, Australia)
- Four Corners by Kira Salak (Memoir, Papua New Guinea)
Reading Suggestions: Best Books Set in Australia
August: A Book Set in North America
August takes us to North America.
While this continent is dominated by the United States, Mexico, and Canada, there are actually 23 countries total encompassing the regions of Central America and the Caribbean.
- I, Rigoberta Menchú by Rigoberta Menchú (Memoir, Guatemala)
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Historical Fiction, United States)
- Like Water for Chocolates by Laura Esquivel (Fiction, Mexico)
- Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (Young Adult, Canada)
September: A Classic Novel Set Abroad
In September, the goal is to read a classic novel set in a foreign country. While there’s no one definition for “classic literature” it typically refers to something that was published at least several decades ago but has staying power that can last for centuries or longer.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (England)
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia)
- Dracula by Bram Stoker (Romania)
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (India)
October: A Fantasy Book Set Abroad
Fantasy is a fun genre to escape into. While many fantasy books are set in fantasy worlds, some of them are set in real places around the world too.
- The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Russia)
- Circe by Madeline Miller (Greece)
- Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria)
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Czech Republic)
November: A Book Set in South America
The last continent to read from is South America. While South America is quite large in size, it actually only has 12 countries, most of which are Spanish-speaking.
- The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Fiction, Chile)
- Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams (Memoir, Peru)
- Marching Powder by Thomas McFadden and Rusty Young (Nonfiction, Bolivia)
- Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Historical Fiction, Colombia)
Reading Suggestions: Exciting Books Set in South America
December: A Work of Translated Fiction
On to the last month of the year. Finally, for the month of December, your goal is to read a work of translated fiction by an international author from any country around the world.
- Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Fiction, Japan)
- The Stranger by Albert Camus (Psychological Thriller, France)
- My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (Autobiography, Italy)
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Fiction, Brazil)
Travel Reading Challenge
That’s all for the Read Around the World Challenge prompts! Let me know in the comments below if you’re going to participate, and which month you’re most anticipating.
And please do just jump into the current month if you found this challenge after the start of the new year, don’t wait until next year to start.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I choose my own book?
Yes! Choose any book that meets the challenge prompt for that month. In fact, if you really enjoy a book, we’d love to hear about it.
Can I recommend a book for a future month?
We always love book recommendations! If there’s a book you think we should know about for one of the upcoming months, tell us about it. But please only recommend books that you’ve read.
Can I join the Challenge after January?
You can join our year-long reading challenge at any time. Simply jump into the current month, or start at the beginning. How you choose to participate is up to you, any month is a great time to start!