18 Best International Books to Dive Into

Discover our comprehensive guide to the best international books you should try this year, and discover your next favorite novel.

International literature offers readers a glimpse into the diverse cultures, experiences, and perspectives of people worldwide who lived in various times. From gripping thrillers and thought-provoking dramas to heartwarming short stories and inspiring journeys, international books have something for every reader.

Whether you’re looking to escape into a short story of another world or brush up on your World War history, our list of international books written in English is a great place to start. The best books on our list include an eclectic selection from Italy, Japan, Mexico, and more world literature. We have handpicked these best books for their captivating storytelling, unique perspectives, and memorable characters.

They include books covering the globe, from the deserts of Afghanistan to the mountains of Norway, the jungles of Chile, and the plains of Nigeria. This is armchair travel at its best, so add these fascinating novels to your reading list for an exciting read. If you’re interested in this topic, check out our round-up of the best Argentine authors!

1. Karnali Blues, by Buddhisagar

Karnali Blues
Buddhisagar wrote Karnali Blues which is one of the most popular books in Nepal

Karnali Blues, written by Buddhisagar, is one of the most popular books in Nepal. The book’s narrative is conveyed via the recollections of a little boy who lived in a rural hamlet in the far western region of Nepal near the Karnali river. It is about the bond between a father and a son.

A rural nation on the cusp of significant political and social shifts is depicted in this novel in a manner that is both lonely and hopeful, as well as fraught with death and sickness. This tale of a dysfunctional family, painful and happy memories from childhood, and the never-ending fight for one’s life and livelihood is an immediate pleasure for readers anywhere in the world. Check out our guide with the best Czech authors!

“The day was born was a gloomy day, with the sun walking around the edge of the sky and the clouds only gleaming in its southern tail.”

Buddhisagar, Karnali Blues
Karnali Blues
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Buddhisagar (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 429 Pages - 12/27/2021 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

2. The Naked Don’t Fear the Water, by Matthieu Aikins

Matthieu Aikins
The Naked Don’t Fear the Water is a real-life adventure story

The Naked Don’t Fear the Water follows Omar, a young Afghan driver, and interpreter who decides to leave his war-torn nation in 2016 and bids his beloved Laila farewell without knowing when they could one day be reunited. In that year, millions of refugees fled their homes, including him.

Journalist Matthieu Aikins, who resides in Kabul, decides to go with his friend. He must abandon his name and passport to travel undercover with Omar as a refugee. They contact the individuals at the center of the migrant issue on their journey from Afghanistan to Europe by land and water, including smugglers, police, activists, and the men, women, and children escaping violence in the quest for a better life.

“At first light, I leaned against the window and looked down at the mountains.”

Matthieu Aikens, The Naked Don’t Fear the Water
The Naked Don't Fear the Water: An Underground Journey with Afghan Refugees
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Aikins, Matthieu (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 331 Pages - 02/15/2022 (Publication Date) - Harper (Publisher)

3. Black Wave, by Kim Ghattas

Kim Ghattas
Kim Ghattas skillfully combines history, geography, and culture in Black Wave

This novel follows the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, sparked by the Iranian revolution of 1979 and sustained by American policies. In Black Wave, Ghattas challenges commonly held misconceptions about the area she calls home with vibrant storytelling, in-depth historical study, and on-the-ground reporting. She investigates how Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, formerly partners and the two cornerstones of U.S. policy in the region, turned into sworn foes following 1979.

She demonstrates how they manipulated religion in a conflict that transcended geopolitics. The fight for cultural dominance fueled bigotry, repressed artistic expression, and sectarian strife from Egypt to Pakistan. It also resulted in the death of several intellectuals, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the development of ISIS, and Iran’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie.

“Everywhere I went to conduct interviews for this book, from Cairo to Baghdad, from Tehran to Islamabad, I was met with a flood of emotions when I asked people about the impact the year 1979 had on their lives.”

Kim Ghattas, Black Wave
Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Ghattas, Kim (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 389 Pages - 01/28/2020 (Publication Date) - Henry Holt and Co. (Publisher)

4. The Banda Journal, by Muhammad Fadli

The Banda Journal
Sandra Brown is a New York Times bestselling romance and thriller writer

The Banda Islands in what is now Indonesia are the only site on Earth where nutmeg can be grown; these islands are part of an archipelago. Because of this one-of-a-kind event, the islands have been elevated to the status of a precious commodity throughout their whole history, which contributed to the novel Rest of the World and photographer Muhammad Fadli’s portrayal in The Banda Journal.

The book reflects several trips undertaken to capture life and work in a location that has played an underappreciated but vital part in the development of global capitalism. The book was awarded the 2021 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook of the Year Award.

“We saw many examples of how multimedia was used to deliver strong storytelling, and thought that could be effective for this story.”

Muhammad Fadli, The Banda Journal
THE BANDA JOURNAL / JURNAL BANDA
  • Muhammad Fadli (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 250 Pages - 05/24/2024 (Publication Date) - Jordan, Jordan Edition (Publisher)

5. Ask Iwata, by Satoru Iwata

Satoru Iwata
Ask Iwata contains interviews that discuss Iwata’s leadership philosophy

Ask Iwata is a collection of interviews, speeches, and conversations that offer insight into Iwata’s leadership philosophy and his thoughts on the video game industry and the company he has led for over a decade. Throughout the book, Iwata discusses his approach to management, innovation, and customer satisfaction, sharing his ideas and experiences on topics such as the importance of play, the role of technology in entertainment, and communication in the workplace. He also talks about his passion for video games and how he helped to revolutionize the industry by creating popular games like Brain Age and Nintendogs.

“Simply put, I became president because we had no other option.”

Satoru Iwata, Ask Iwata
Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's Legendary CEO
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Iwata, Satoru (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 139 Pages - 04/13/2021 (Publication Date) - VIZ Media: VIZ Media (Publisher)

6. Leaving the Tarmac, by Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede
Leaving the Tarmac is a memoir that chronicles Aig-Imoukhuede’s journey from his childhood in Nigeria to his successful career

In Leaving the Tarmac, Aig-Imoukhuede shares his experiences growing up in a large family, attending university, and starting his career in the finance sector. He provides insights into the challenges he faced along the way and how he overcame them, offering lessons on the importance of hard work, perseverance, and determination.

Throughout the book, Aig-Imoukhuede also reflects on his experience as a business leader, sharing his thoughts on leadership, innovation, and the role of business in shaping society. He discusses his vision for Africa’s future and how he is working to create opportunities for young people on the continent.

“By the time I reached the bottom of the steps to the plane, the door at the top had been slammed shut.”

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Leaving the Tarmac
Leaving the Tarmac: Buying a Bank in Africa
  • Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 217 Pages - 03/25/2021 (Publication Date) - RedDoor Press (Publisher)

7. The Book of Veles, by Jonas Bendiksen

Jonas Bendiksen
Jonas Bendiksen is a photojournalist from Norway

In The Book of Veles he famously broke away from the practice of photojournalism in 2021 when he created The Book of Veles, a conceptual work about fake news. The work consisted of faked images using CGI to place humans and bears in scenes that Bendiksen had photographed devoid of life, mixed with excerpts from The Book of Veles, a forged ancient text, and AI-generated texts. The work was a departure for Bendiksen from the photojournalism he usually practiced.

Because the deceit was not first acknowledged, his colleagues at Magnum and the curators and audiences at the Visa Pour l’Image festival discovered it when Bendiksen published it on the Magnum Photos website. Before then, the deception was not disclosed. It called into doubt the ability of some of the most highly respected professionals in the photography business to differentiate between actual and phony photographs.

“I travelled to Veles to explore this unlikely hub of misinformation.”

Jonas Bendiksen, The Book of Veles
Sale
The Book of Veles
  • Hardcover Book
  • Bendiksen, Jonas (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 146 Pages - 07/13/2021 (Publication Date) - GOST Books (Publisher)

8. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende
The House of the Spirits is written in English by Chilean author Isabel Allende

Published in 1982, The House of the Spirits is considered one of the first works of magical realism in Latin American literature. The novel follows the lives of the Trueba family from the early 20th century to the end of the Pinochet regime in Chile. Through the experiences of multiple generations of the family, Allende explores themes of love, power, and the consequences of political and social upheaval.

The House of the Spirits is a richly layered and atmospheric novel that combines elements of magic, realism, and political commentary. Through its powerful storytelling, Allende creates a vivid and unforgettable portrait of a country and a family and how they are shaped by the forces of history and the spirit world.

“Repent, sinners, foul carrion, unworthy of our Lord’s great sacrifice! Fast! Do penance!”

Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits
The House of the Spirits: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Allende, Isabel (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 504 Pages - 10/27/2015 (Publication Date) - Atria Books (Publisher)

9. The Famished Road, by Ben Okri

Ben Okri
The Famished Road is the first novel by Nigerian author Ben Okri

The Famished Road was first published in 1991 and won the Booker Prize that same year. The novel is set in an imaginary African country. It follows the journey of Azaro, a spirit child who lives between the physical and spiritual worlds.

Through Azaro’s experiences, Okri explores the themes of poverty, political corruption, and the struggle for identity and meaning in a world where the lines between the living and the dead are blurred. As Azaro journeys through the city and encounters various spirits, he witnesses the complexities and contradictions of life and how people’s lives are shaped by their experiences of poverty, violence, and oppression.

“This is what you must be like. Grow wherever life puts you down.”

Ben Okra, The Famished Road
The Famished Road: A Novel (The Famished Road Trilogy)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Okri, Ben (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 514 Pages - 10/25/2016 (Publication Date) - Open Road Media (Publisher)

10. P.S., I Love You, by Cecelia Ahern

Cecelia Ahern
A black and white photo of a young, round-faced, and smiling woman with a blonde, pixie hairstyle wearing a dress

First published in 2004, P.S. I Love You has since become a best-seller and has been adapted into a film of the same name. The love story follows the story of Holly Kennedy, a young woman grieving the loss of her husband, Gerry. After his death, Holly discovers a series of letters that Gerry had written to her before his passing, each one guiding her through a different stage of her grief and encouraging her to move on with her life.

As Holly reads each letter, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and healing, learning to love herself and embrace the future. Along the way, she is supported by her family and friends, who help her to realize that life goes on and that it is possible to find happiness again.

The book is a touching love story and uplifting novel that explores themes of love, loss, and the power of the human spirit. Through its heartwarming story, Cecelia Ahern reminds us of hope and inspiration and that it is possible to find joy and healing even in the darkest of times.

“Whatever lay ahead, she knew she would open her heart and follow where it led her. In the meantime, she would just live.”

Cecelia Ahern, P.S. I Love You
PS, I Love You: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Ahern, Cecelia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 480 Pages - 02/03/2004 (Publication Date) - Hachette Books (Publisher)

11. My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future, by Indra Nooyl

Indra Nooyl
Indra Nooyi was among the first Indian women to ascend the corporate ladder at a renowned American company

As CEO of PepsiCo, she has, throughout her career, established herself as a role model for women of color who strive to achieve success in their careersNooyiyl takes readers behind the scenes of her life, from her childhood in South India to her experiences as an immigrant student in the United States, a working parent, and a business executive, all detailed in this book.

Her book, My Life in Full, provides readers with actionable advice and motivation for managing life’s challenges. Nooyi explains her vision for a workplace and society where young parents are provided enough assistance to follow their professional ambitions. She emphasizes the necessity of having women in decision-making positions while doing so.

“Looking back, I see how my life is full of this kind of duality competing forces that have pushed and pulled me from one chapter to another. “

Indra Nooyl, My Life in Full
My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Nooyi, Indra (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 09/28/2021 (Publication Date) - Portfolio (Publisher)

12. Killing Moon, by Jo Nesbø

Jo Nesbø
Killing Moon is a Norwegian detective novel

Jo Nesbo wrote Killing Moon, a Norwegian novel that is part of the Harry Hole detective novel series, which includes the eponymous Oslo detective Harry Hole. Harry is assigned to investigate the mysterious death of a woman who recently arrived in Oslo. Harry is drawn deeper into the case and finds himself in a web full of danger and deceit. He must use all his skills and experience to find the killer before it is too late.

Killing Moon is an engaging and riveting thriller that blends elements of mystery and suspense with crime fiction. It’s a gripping and fast-paced story. It is filled with richly drawn characters and intricate plots and will keep readers on their toes from start to finish. This book will appeal to crime fiction fans and readers looking for suspenseful, thrilling reading.

“The truth is that no one lives off the truth and that’s why no one cares about the truth. The truth we make for ourselves is just the sum of what is in someone’s interest, balanced by the power they hold.”

Jo Nesbø, Killing Moon

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13. Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth, by Wole Soyinka

Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth
hronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth is a book by Nobel Prize-winning Nigerian author Wole Soyinka

Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth is a collection of essays and speeches reflecting various topics, including politics, culture, and the human condition. In these essays, Soyinka reflects on his experiences living in Nigeria and other parts of the world, offering insights into the complexities and contradictions of life in the modern world. He discusses the artist’s role in society, the importance of free speech, and how politics and power shape our lives.

Throughout the book, Soyinka’s voice is insightful and engaging. He explores the human experience with wit, humor, and a deep understanding of the world around him. Whether you’re a fan of his work or simply interested in exploring the ideas and perspectives of one of the world’s most celebrated writers, this work is fascinating and thought-provoking.

“It was somewhat gloomy in the audience chamber, and it took a while for the Seeker to grope her way along the wide folds to find the middle parting.”

Wole Soyinka, Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth

14. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins
The Girl on the Train is an English psychological thriller

The Girl on the Train quickly became a best-seller and has since been adapted into a film of the same name, starring Emily Blunt. The novel follows the story of a young girl Rachel Watson, a troubled divorcee who takes the same commuter train daily and becomes obsessed with the seemingly perfect couple she sees through their window.

When the woman she has been watching goes missing, Rachel finds herself drawn into the investigation and embroiled in a web of lies and deceit that threatens to destroy her life. As the mystery unfolds, Rachel’s past comes back to haunt her. She must confront her demons and face the truth about her own life if she hopes to uncover the truth about the missing woman and bring the perpetrator to justice.

“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.”

Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Hawkins, Paula (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 326 Pages - 01/13/2015 (Publication Date) - Riverhead Books (Publisher)

15. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is an international best-seller published in 1988

The Alchemist tells the story of Santiago, a shepherd boy who dreams of discovering a treasure hidden in the Egyptian pyramids. When he decides to pursue his dream, he embarks on a journey that takes him across the desert and introduces him to a series of spiritual guides who help him understand his quest’s true meaning.

Through Santiago’s journey, Coelho explores personal growth, self-discovery, and the pursuit of one’s destiny. The novel is a philosophical allegory that invites readers to reflect on their lives and choices, encouraging them to follow their hearts and trust their instincts.

The Alchemist is a beautifully written and inspiring novel that has touched the hearts of millions of readers around the world. Its simple yet powerful message makes it a timeless classic that will continue to captivate and inspire readers for generations to come. Whether you’re looking for inspiration or want to enjoy a well-written and thought-provoking story, this is a must-read for people of all ages.

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
The Alchemist
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Coelho, Paulo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 87 Pages - 02/24/2015 (Publication Date) - HarperOne (Publisher)

16. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel that was published in 1985

Margaret Atwood is a highly acclaimed Canadian author and poet, and her most famous book is The Handmaid’s Tale. Published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel that explores the oppressive and totalitarian regime of a future society in which women are stripped of their rights and reduced to the role of reproductive vessels.

The book is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that remains relevant. Its themes of gender, power, and oppression resonate with readers worldwide. If you’re a dystopian fiction fan or looking for a thought-provoking and insightful read, this book is a great choice. The novel is widely considered one of the most important works of feminist literature. It has been translated into over 40 languages. It’s received numerous awards and accolades and has been adapted into a film, a television series, and even an opera.

“Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.”

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid's Tale
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Atwood, Margaret (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 325 Pages - 02/17/1986 (Publication Date) - Ecco (Publisher)

17. Beartown, by Frederik Backman

Frederik Backman
Beartown is a best-selling novel about ice hockey set in a small town

Frederik Backman is a Swedish writer who authored Beartown, a best-selling novel translated into dozens of languages. The novel is set in the small, isolated town of Beartown, where ice hockey is the only thing that matters. The story follows the town’s junior hockey team as they prepare for the biggest game of their lives and this event’s impact on the lives of the players, their families, and the town as a whole.

As the tension builds, the town is forced to confront its deepest fears and secrets, and the lives of its residents are changed forever. Through its complex and richly drawn characters, Beartown explores themes of hope, community, and the power of the human spirit. Beartown is considered an insightful novel that offers a moving portrait of a town and its people and how they are shaped by the unfolding events. Its compelling story and unforgettable characters will surely touch the hearts of readers and leave a lasting impression.

“It doesn’t take a lot to be able to let go of your child. It takes everything.”

Frederik Backman, Beartown
Beartown: A Novel (Beartown Series)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Backman, Fredrik (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 430 Pages - 04/25/2017 (Publication Date) - Atria Books (Publisher)

18. Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami
Kafta on the Shoes is a New York Times bestselling fantasy novel

Kafka on the Shore is a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. It’s a captivating and imaginative story that blends magical realism, philosophy, and surrealism elements to create a unique and unforgettable world. The novel follows two parallel narratives that eventually intersect, each exploring a different protagonist’s journey: Kafka, a teenage runaway, and Nakata, an older man with a childlike mind. As Kafka sets out on his journey, he encounters a cast of strange and mystical characters, each helping him discover more about himself and the world around him.

On the other hand, Nakata embarks on a quest to find his lost cat and finds himself embroiled in a surreal world filled with talking cats, mysterious apparitions, and ancient spirits. Throughout the novel, Murakami’s writing is atmospheric and evocative, drawing readers into a familiar and strange world. With its complex and thought-provoking themes, its memorable characters, and its imaginative and dreamlike landscapes, Kafka on the Shore is a book that will stay with readers long after they’ve turned the final page. Looking for more? Check out our guide with the best Italian authors!

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Kafka on the Shore (Vintage International)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Murakami, Haruki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 448 Pages - 01/18/2005 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

FAQS About Best International Books

What are the best international books?

Many of the books on our list are excellent international books, but some we haven’t mentioned stand out. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a world-famous book about the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo. The novel tells the story of the Buendiá family and their patriarch José Arcadio Buendía who founded the vibrant town.

Can you recommend a book that is set in a different country?

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a classic work of literature set in Africa. It is a narrative about Africa’s encounters with Europe as it established a colonial presence. This novel is a fictional work that highlights issues from the late 1800s and follows the character Okonkwo as he navigates the challenging political landscape.

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best Costa Rican authors!

  • Kate has been writing since she was 10 years old, tapping away on an old typewriter in her childhood bedroom. Today, Kate is a seasoned freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing for print and online media. She’s an avid reader and believes in the power of words to transport readers to new worlds, and inspire and nurture creativity. Kate is also a published author and is currently working on her next project.

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