Women in Translation Month 2019 TBR

In case you’re unfamiliar with Women in Translation Month, or #WITmonth, this Twitter account is a good place to start.  But it’s pretty self explanatory: in the month of August, should you feel inclined, you can challenge yourself to read books by women (or nonbinary folk) which were initially written in a language other than English.  These can either be books written or translated by a woman, or both, and you can read one or ten or twenty or however many you like.  I wrote a little recommendations post last year that you can check out, and this year I thought I’d share my TBR with you guys.

I can already tell you this TBR is overly ambitious, but I want to give myself a lot of options, so here we are.  Linking all of these to Book Depository in case you’d like to pick up any for yourself.


I’ve been going a little NYRB classics crazy in my recent hauls, and I’ve been saving all of these for this month.

White Walls by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambell and Antonina W. Bouis

This is a short story collection that I’ve had on my TBR for about a year (I THINK this was recommended to me by Ren but correct me if I’m wrong?!) but I only picked up a copy recently.  The amount of Russian lit I’ve read is painfully lacking (I actually think the only translated Russian book I’ve ever read is War and Peace) so I’m looking forward to expanding my repertoire a little bit.

The Door by Magda Szabo, translated from the Hungarian by Lex Rix

I put this on my latest 5 star reads prediction list without knowing much about it; sometimes you’ve just gotta go off a vibe.  Plus, introduction by Ali Smith!  Yes please.

Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang, translated from the Chinese by Karen S. Kingsbury and Eileen Chang, &
Little Reunions by Eileen Chang, translated from the Chinese by Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz

I’ve never read Eileen Chang before but I know Claire loves her and that’s good enough for me!  I’m almost certain I’ll start with Love in a Fallen City, but I picked up Little Reunions recently so I wanted to include it as an option here in case I’m up for both.

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin, translated from the Chinese by Bonnie Huie

I feel like this is a bit of a modern cult classic that I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about.  I think it has to do with queer students in Taiwan; that’s all I need to know, really.


Valerie (or The Faculty of Dreams in the UK) by Sara Stridsberg, translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner

This is the only ARC I’ve got on this list.  I didn’t read any of the Man Booker International longlist this year (though I will be picking up Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk in a couple of days, which I’m not including in this post as I have to finish it before August), but The Faculty of Dreams, or now Valerie in the US, is the one whose premise excited me the most off that list.  And I have heard nothing but good things.

Purge by Sofi Oksanen, translated from the Finnish by Lola Rogers

This was another one of my 5 star read predictions; and again, I know next to nothing about it.  That’s my favorite way to go into books, as I’m sure you can tell by now.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

Ogawa’s collection Revenge was as close to perfection as I think I’ve ever read in a short story collection.  So I’m interested in seeing how her writing works for me in a longer format.

Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays by Christa Wolf, translated from the German by Jan van Heurk

This has been on my TBR for literally years.  Hannah has given it the coveted title of her favorite book, I adored Wolf’s Medea, I put this on my 2019 Backlist TBR (which I am kind of failing at – or at least, I’m behind by 2.5 books at this point).  Anyway, all things considered, I just need to read this immediately.  I mean, it’s a novel about Cassandra.  And then four essays.  There is nothing that could go wrong here.

I am almost certainly not going to finish, or even start, all of these books.  And I might end up reading a couple of other non-WIT things (I know I’m going to be seduced by the Booker longlist, but after my frustrating experience with the Women’s Prize this year I’m going to try to resist, so I can save some of my literary prize stamina for next year’s WP).  But this is a selection of titles that I am very, very excited about at this point.  We’ve got Russian, Hungarian, Chinese, Swedish, Finnish, Japanese, and German language books on this list and that’s a variety that excites me very much indeed.

What’s your favorite book by a woman in translation?  Are you planning on taking part in #WITmonth, and what are you looking forward to reading?  And have you read any of these books?  Come chat with me in the comments!  And if you’ve done your own TBR or recommendations posts for #WITmonth, feel free to link them here so I can check them out.

40 thoughts on “Women in Translation Month 2019 TBR

  1. This is SUCH a good TBR and ugh, those editions are to die for! I’m excited to see how we both get on with Chang for the first time, and yay for more Yoko Ogawa!

    There are a couple on here I haven’t heard of before, so I’ll definitely be looking into them as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting! I didn’t know about this, but I’m picking up Convenience Store Woman this month, which is in translation from Japanese. I find there’s not a lot of books in translation that I’m particularly interested in, because most of the stuff that gets translated is very “literary fiction” and in general I prefer genre fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wasn’t planning on taking part in this, because I tend not to get on with reading challenges. But I think you’ve convinced me to try to read one book in translation in November. And Cassandra by Christa Wolf sounds amazing? This is the first I’ve heard of it, but it sounds like something I have to try!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay, I’m glad to hear that!! I actually don’t like reading challenges either (especially readathons with a bunch of arbitrary challenges that people bend to suit whatever they were going to read anyway so what’s the POINT), but month-long themed reading tends to work for me every now and then.

      Cassandra sounds SO good. I adore the character and the only Cassandra-focused retelling I’ve read (The Cassandra by Sharma Shields) really didn’t work for me. I really enjoyed Wolf’s Medea as well, so if you haven’t checked that one out either I’d recommend it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Those NYRB classics covers are gorgeous!
    I really need to incorporate more translations into my reading in general, but thanks for the reminder that WIT month is coming up- I’ll try to fit in a couple! My August TBR is so undecided right now because I’m not sure how much I want to read for the Man Booker, but I have especially been meaning to finally get around to Han Kang’s Human Acts. Seems like this is the time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aren’t they?? I’m obsessed!

      Same here, much as I love to advocate for translated fiction, 94% of what I’ve read this year (according to my Google spreadsheet) is English language. So, that’s depressing. Hopefully I’ll get that percentage way down next month.

      Human Acts is my favorite Kang, so naturally I would recommend that! Excited to see which one(s) you end up choosing! I’m so worried I’ll get sucked into the Booker again, but I’m really determined to stay on task with WITmonth.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think I’ve only read 4 translations this year, and only Fever Dream was written by a woman. That’s a sad percentage as well.

        I really loved The Vegetarian, and am even more encouraged to know that Human Acts is your favorite Kang novel! I really must prioritize it. And of course, I’ll look forward to your translation reviews!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I adored The Vegetarian so much and I wasn’t sure anything would be able to top it, but Human Acts did. I don’t want to hype it up too much as it’s very different, but it does ruminate on a lot of the same themes as The Vegetarian (namely: is it possible to live as a human without committing violence) which I found fascinating.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. White Walls is one of my favorites!!! So yes, it was probably me that recommended it. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it! And I love that cover of Notes on a Crocodile, it is perfect.

    I’m excited for Women in Translation month too and thankful you put it on my radar last year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh fab, I thought it was you but the fact that it was fiction gave me pause. I’m really excited to read it!

      Oh yay I’m excited to see what you end up picking up this year. I’m always looking to put more translated nonfiction on my radar. And last year I read The Only Girl in the World off your recommendation and ended up loving it!


  6. I really love this idea and I’m always trying to read more books in translation. Not sure if my August TBR can handle any more books but I’m adding a couple of titles anyway! I just finished Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead so maybe I can count that!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. CASSANDRA!!!!!
    This is such a great TBR! I really hope you get to as many as possible because they all sound brilliant. I haven’t properly made my mind up whether I’ll try to participate (I am so bad at reading difficult books at the moment!), but if I do I will finally get to Human Acts. I know I have been saying tha for years but maybe this really is the month!

    Liked by 1 person


      I really hope I get to as many as possible too! I will be housesitting for 10 days in August so hopefully having time to myself will help give me more time to read.

      I’m really excited to see what you pick up if you do end up participating. I don’t think you need to read difficult books! There are probably translated romances, right? But yes, Human Acts, do read that!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I own so very few translated books and none of them are genre fiction I think. Although I own more than one Allende book – maybe I should finally get to her? most translated fiction I own that I haven’t read are books by dead Russian authors, all of them male.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You should definitely get to Allende and report back because I’ve never read her and I feel like I wouldn’t like her, but I’m also not sure? I’m excited about the one Russian book on my list, as I was convinced that all Russian authors were dead white men before realizing that was a pretty dumb assumption.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thing is, I’d read Allende in German – I don’t know how much that would change my reaction to it?
        I really need to read female russian authors because how have I even not done that?

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I so, so hope you love Love in a Fallen City! I have yet to read Little Reunions and have heard some mixed things about it, so maybe not the best place to start with Eileen Chang (or at least don’t give up on her entirely if you don’t get on with that one!). Also curious to hear your thoughts on Notes of a Crocodile, that one is on my TBR as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope so too and I’m sure I will! I’ve heard mixed things as well so I think I’ll start with Love in a Fallen City for that reason – it seems like more of a crowd-pleaser. And I’ve heard such brilliant things about Notes of a Crocodile so I’m really looking forward to that one!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s