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    31 Underrated Foreign Novels You Should Read

    Time to expand your preferences.


    1. Afghanistan – The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

    Harper Collins

    A true story of a young entrepreneur who creates a thriving business for herself while withstanding atrocities from the Taliban.

    2. Algeria – The Stranger by Albert Camus

    Vintage International

    An apathetic, amoral man describes his life before and after he commits murder. The novel compels the readers to muse over the absurdity of human life.

    3. Australia — The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

    Allen and Unwin

    A disturbing tale that revolves around ten women who wake up from their drugged sleep to find they are abducted and locked in a compound somewhere deep in the Australian outback.

    4. Bangladesh – A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

    John Murray (UK)

    Set during the Bangladesh War of Independence, a young widow tries desperately to keep her children safe from death and horror.

    5. Brazil — The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

    José Olympio Editora

    A cosmopolitan narrator meets a poor, doomed 19-year-old typist who unconsciously teaches him about poverty, love, and life before misfortune strikes her in the end.

    6. Cambodia — First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung


    A harrowing autobiography that recounts the life of an affluent young girl, whose idyllic childhood is destroyed after Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army takes over Cambodia.

    7. Canada — Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

    Penguin Random

    Jared, a 16-year-old weed cookie baker with a crazy, irresponsible family, keeps finding himself in strange magical situations after every alcohol-induced blackout.

    8. China — Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

    Random House

    Pearl and May, living a carefree life in Shanghai, find their lives uprooted after the Japanese bombs their city, and force them to journey across the Pacific to the shores of America.

    9. Denmark — The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

    Dutton Adult

    After getting demoted Carl Mørck wants to sit idle until his retirement, but instead gets caught in a cold case of a liberal politician who disappeared mysteriously.

    10. Egypt — Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz


    An orthodox Muslim family falls apart after revolution breaks out against the British in 1919.

    11. France — The End of Eddie by Eduord Louis

    Farrar, Straus and Giroux

    A memoir of a young gay boy who struggles through hunger, poverty, prejudice, and abuse while growing up in a small town in Northern France.

    12. Germany — Perfume by Patrick Süskind

    Penguin Books

    A man, with heightened olfactory acuity, is driven by an insatiable urge to smell the scents of virgin girls and goes on a killing spree to preserve their essence as perfumes.

    13. Guatemala — I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchú


    A contemporary work of literature that captures the trials and tribulations of the Indian community in present-day Latin America.

    14. Haiti — Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat


    Nozias, a poor fisherman, hopes to give his little girl a better life and decides to send her off with an acquaintance. Instead, he finds that she has gone missing on the night of her seventh birthday.

    15. India — Babyji by Abha Dawesar


    A bold and intense tale of a 16-year-old lesbian who experiences sexual awakening with her classmate, her maid, and an elegant older divorcée.

    16. Iran — My Uncle Napoleon by Iraj Pezeshkzad

    Modern Library

    This humorous novel recounts the tale of a nameless narrator who struggles to unite with his lover while his dad and his neurotic uncle keep conspiring against each other.

    17. Italy — I'm Not Scared by Niccolò Ammaniti


    A nightmarish story of a nine-year-old who stumbles upon the terrible schemes of his fellow villagers but continues to follow the path of truth, despite being threatened by everyone.

    18. Japan — The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

    Minotaur Books

    An intricate thriller about a man who helps his neighbour cover up murder she committed in panic.

    19. Kenya — A Grain of Wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

    Heinemann Educational Books

    Set during the Mau Mau rebellion and Kenya's independence from Britain, the story revolves around the group of villagers whose lives turn topsy-turvy during the 1952–1960 Emergency.

    20. Korea — Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

    Grand Central Publishing

    Sunja's unplanned pregnancy brings shame to her family, forcing her to move to Japan after a young minister offers to marry her. It retells the saga of four generations struggling to secure peaceful life in the face of wartime hardship and social discrimination.

    21. Malaysia — The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng


    A retired Supreme Court judge finds herself strangely falling in love with a Japanese a self-exiled gardener after he refuses to build an impressive garden for her deceased sister.

    22. Nigeria — Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


    Three characters go through an upheaval after the Biafran War erupts and threatens to complicate their already entangled lives.

    23. Pakistan — The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

    Houghton Mifflin

    A young Pakistani man discusses his life with an uneasy American stranger, revealing how it changed after the September 11 attack in the U.S.

    24. Russia — Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky


    A young man kills an unscrupulous pawnbroker to escape his poverty-stricken life but is tormented by the fear of prosecution.

    25. South Africa — The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer

    Penguin Books

    Set during the Apartheid, a white conservative entrepreneur buys a weekend farm and tries to restore it, only to discover nature obstructing him.

    26. Spain — The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

    Penguin Books

    A young boy in post-war Barcelona picks up an enchanting book from an old secret library, and later uncovers the mystery behind its obscure author.

    27. Sri Lanka — Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai


    A coming-of-age story of a gay Tamil boy growing up in war-torn Colombo.

    28. Turkey — Memed, My Hawk by Yaşar Kemal

    NYRB Classics

    An inspiring tale of a kind-hearted boy who turns into a roving brigand and fights for his people after he faces cruelties under a local landowner.

    29. Uzbekistan — The Railway by Hamid Ismailov

    Random House UK

    An assortment of different characters retells their lives surrounding a railway station in the tiny town of Gilas.

    30. Vietnam — The Best We Could Do by Thi Biu

    Harry N. Abrams

    A bestselling graphic novel that explores a family's daring escape from war-torn Vietnam, and their subsequent struggles in rebuilding a new life for themselves.

    31. Zimbabwe — Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera

    Farrar, Straus and Giroux

    Set in the black township of Makokoba in 1940, the novel explores an intense, bittersweet love between a construction worker and an aspiring nurse.