Expats Weigh In With Their Favorite Books About Life, Work and Love Abroad

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The experience of working and living outside one’s home country has long been a source of literary inspiration. We recently published an article about essential reads for those abroad, and asked our readers to chime in with some of their favorites. Here is a selection of books they found interesting as expats:

Memoirs:

“Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse”- Brigid Keenan This is the tale of a woman who trades her glamorous life in London for a life abroad with her diplomat husband in such countries as India, Nepal and Kazakhstan. (Suggested by Clara Wiggins and Liz MacMaster)

“Bringing up Bébé”- Pamela Druckerman This is both a memoir and a guide to how the French raise their children, based on the experiences of Pamela Druckerman, a U.S. expat in Paris, following the birth of her child. (Suggested by Nicole Neroulias Gupte)

“A Million Sticky Kisses”- Sally Rose After achieving her life-long dream of teaching English abroad, the author comes to experience the varying challenges and rewards of expat life in Chile. (Suggested by Sally Rose)

“French Kids Eat Everything”- Karen Le Billon When she moved to France with her young family, Le Billon experienced culture shock in the form of food. All the eating habits her kids had picked up in North America were looked down upon. This is a how-to guide, a memoir, and a cookbook on how she changed the way her family ate. (Suggested by Nicole Neroulias Gupte)

“Big in China”- Alan Paul Writer Alan Paul recounts his American family’s relocation to Beijing, their adventures in China, and his unlikely success in fronting a blues band there. (Suggested by Stella Chen Senning, Joshua Pines and Evelyn Simpson) Disclosure: Mr. Paul is married to a Wall Street Journal editor. He has previously written for the Journal.

“Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy”- Frances Mayes A writer abandons her life in America to buy and restore a villa in the Tuscan countryside, while discovering the joys of Italian life. It was later made into a popular film. (Suggested by Nicole Neroulias Gupte)

“A Year in Provence”- Peter Mayle A witty account of the British author’s first year living in France with his wife, which became a best-seller and inspired a BBC miniseries. (Suggested by Nicole Neroulias Gupte)

“Paris to the Moon”- Adam Gopnik A collection of articles and essays by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, who left New York for Paris with his family and chronicled his life abroad as both an author experiencing the rich culture of Paris and a husband and father. (Suggested by Beth Massa)

“I’m a Stranger Here Myself”- Bill Bryson Upon his return to the U.S. after 20 years in Britain, Bryson discusses his sentiments on returning to a homeland that had undergone major changes since he left. (Suggested by Regine Pocsatko)

“A Lady in France”- Jennie Goutet Setting off to Avignon after dreaming that she will marry a Frenchman, the author embarks on her own international journey, and struggles with personal challenges along the way. (Suggested by Olga Mecking)

“The Woman Who Fell From the Sky”- Jennifer Steil After accepting a post as editor-in-chief of the most influential newspaper in Yemen, the Manhattanite author navigates cultural differences in the conservative Muslim society, falls back in love with her profession, and develops a deep appreciation for life in a country vastly different from her own. (Suggested by Anne O’Connell)

“What About Your Saucepans?”- Lindsay De Feliz The author left an enviable U.S. life behind to relocate to the Dominican Republic with her husband, where she taught scuba and he embarked on a political career. In her time abroad she survived being shot, fought corruption, and went into hiding, all while finding a love for the D.R. and its people. (Suggested by Anne O’Connell)

“Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure”- Sarah Macdonald Despite a negative first impression of the country, author Sarah Macdonald returns to India with her partner after he is posted there. After falling ill in New Delhi, the author decides to explore India on a search for inner peace. (Suggested by Fran Feldman)

“Trailing”- Kristin Louise Duncombe Unexpectedly falling in love with a doctor for Médecins Sans Frontières, the author relocates to East Africa, where she confronts a humanitarian crisis and deals with her own PTSD after an episode of violence. (Suggested by Sine Thieme)

“Dancing in the Fountain”- Karen McCann This memoir is an account of creating a new life abroad (Spain), and how to ‘hit the reset button on your life’. (Suggested by Sine Thieme)

“Chickens, Mules, and Two Old Fools”- Victoria Tweed An English couple experiences culture shock and a variety of adventures after resettling in Andalucia. (Suggested by Sine Thieme)

“I Have Iraq in My Shoe”- Gretchen Berg Following the 2008 recession, an American fashionista packs up and moves to Iraq for a year. (Suggested by Anne O’Connell)

Anthologies:

“Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global” A collection of tales from a variety of individuals who grew up moving between countries, regarding their upbringing and the search for home. Contributors include notable writers such as Isabel Allende and Pat Conroy. (Suggested by Nina Sichel)

“Writing out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads, and Third Culture Kids” A compilation of texts about the experience of Third-Culture Kids, who have grown up between a variety of countries. (Suggested by Nina Sichel)

“Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style” Female expat bloggers in the Netherlands teamed up to write this collection of accounts of their life abroad in Holland. (Suggested by Olga Mecking)
“That’s Paris!” A selection of stories from writers both native and expat living in the City of Lights. (Suggested by Olga Mecking)

Instructional:

“Turning International”- Catherine Transler Psychologist and researcher Catherine Transler explains the social and emotional processes of moving abroad using comprehensive psychological and neurological research, along with helpful exercises to get the most out of your time abroad. (Suggested by Olga Mecking)

“Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour”- Kate Fox Author Kate Fox uses her background in social anthropology to analyze the many quirks of English society and explain them to outsiders. (Suggested by Marta Douglass Willcox and Philip Allega)

“The Mobile Life- A New Approach to Moving Anywhere”- Diane Lemieux, Anne Parker Authors Lemieux and Parker use Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic voyage as inspiration in this book outlining innovative new ways to approach an international move. (Suggested by Deborah Valentine)

“How to Be a Canadian”- Ian and Will Ferguson Comic brothers Ian and Will Ferguson take on the various quirks and stereotypes that make up the Canadian disposition in this “tongue-in-cheek guidebook.” (Suggested by Axel Loss)

“Going Southern: The No-Mess Guide to Success in the South”- Deborah Levine This book tackles the U.S. Southern way of life in a frank manner, teaching any new transplant to the region how to blend into this unique culture. (Suggested by Deborah Levine)

“How to be Danish: From Lego To Lund”- Patrick Kingsley Denmark is becoming a more popular destination for expats and tourists alike, and with this book, Kingsley provides a welcome introduction to how to live in the happiest country in the world. (Suggested by Philip Allega)

“Culture Shock” series A collection of guides to the ways of life, manners, and cultural specifics unique to whichever city, state, or country you wish to travel to. (Suggested by Regine Pocsatko)

“Singing the Lord’s Songs in a Foreign Land” – Kenneth MacHarg A book that uses the Bible as a way to process and interpret the different experiences an expat can have while overseas. (Suggested by Ken MacHarg; Expat wrote about him earlier this year).

Fiction:

“Crazy Rich Asians”- Kevin Kwan A tongue-in-cheek novel about the lives of the fantastically rich, spanning Asia, America, and Europe, and a behind-the-curtain look at Singapore’s upper class. (Suggested by Nicole Neroulias Gupte)

“Rules of the Wild”- Francesca Marciano East Africa is home to this tale of romance, love of (adopted) country, and the society created by expats in Kenya. (Suggested by Gillian Longworth McGuire)

“The Imperfectionists”- Tom Rachman Foreign correspondents in Rome run an English-language newspaper and experience the highs and lows of life overseas. (Suggested by Gillian Longworth McGuire)

“The Expats”- Chris Pavone In this New York Times bestselling thriller, an American woman moves abroad with her husband, and after befriending another expat couple, discovers the life she has been living is not as it seems. (Suggested by Gillian Longworth McGuire)

“Ishq and Mushq”- Priya Basil An Indian woman moves with her family from Uganda to England, and struggles with financial burdens, her husband’s suspected infidelity, and a long-kept secret. (Suggested by Olga Mecking)

“Prague” – Arthur Phillips A group of five American expats move to Budapest, each with their own motives, all hoping for a better life abroad. (Suggested by Joshua Pines)

“Lenin Lives Next Door”- Jennifer Eremeeva A semi-autobiographical tale about an American woman who marries a Russian man, moves to Moscow, and spends years encountering all Russia has to offer. (Suggested by Anne O’Connell)

“The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul”- Deborah Rodriguez American expat Sunny relocates to Afghanistan in the middle of a war, befriending both expats and locals in the coffee shop she runs. (Suggested by Anne O’Connell)

“Americanah”- Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie After falling in love in Nigeria, Ifemelu and Obinze take different paths. Ifemelu immigrates to the U.S. to study, and becomes a successful blogger tackling issues of race in modern-day America. Obinze illegally enters England, and then returns to Nigeria, where he becomes a successful real estate developer. The two reconnect and have to make decisions about how to continue their lives and relationships. (Suggested by Ellen Mahoney and Olga Mecking)