Things Blogging Has Taught Me: Geography Edition

There are many wonderful skills that I’ve gained from book blogging. But most of the skills I’ve gained were predictable since I’m running a book blog. I mean, obviously I’m going to get better at articulating my thoughts if I’m writing a post every few days. But there is one skill that I definitely did not expect to gain from blogging, and that is an improvement in my geographical knowledge.

Now, if you’ve read my post about why I like stats, you’d know that I love looking at trends and patterns that I find on the WordPress stats page. But that page also includes a map, that keeps track of which country a visitor is viewing our post from. Once a country is listed, the location on the map lights up, and the flag is posted next to the country, as you can see below.

Now I don’t know if this is one of the ways the American curriculum has failed me, but I am terrible at geography. Even if I know that a country exists, I usually don’t know where to find it on a map. And I definitely have no idea what the different flags look like. But running this blog is changing that. After a year and a half of blogging, we’ve had views from over 95 different countries, and each time a we get a view from a new country, I make a point of checking out the location on a map, and to take a moment to glance at its flag.

Confused Mountain GIF by Lidl Voyages

Me anytime someone from a new country visits the blog

If you’d like some examples of ignorance, until we had a view from that location, I never knew that there was a country called Brunei! But there is, and it has a super awesome flag! And I certainly didn’t know how the flag looked for countries like Uzbekistan, Uganda, Honduras, or Nepal! Although to be fair, Spain, Austria, and Sweden also took me by surprise when I saw their flags, because like I said, I have really poor geography skills, which translated in me only recognizing flags from only about 10 different countries.

Now since this is a book blog, I figured this would be fun to recommend books that have unique settings in countries you don’t usually read about. Since in my experience, I tend to read books set in North America or Europe, this list contains books that take place in other countries for some variety. I also tried to pick books where you got a real sense of what that country is like, which further specified this list. Most of these books are also super underrated, with less than 5,000 ratings on Goodreads, so there’s a good chance you haven’t read them yet!

Before I start my recommendations, I just want to put a disclaimer that since I am not from these countries, I am merely recommending these books based on how much I enjoyed the reading experience. I’m not recommending these books based on the accuracy of the setting, since I have no way of judging that. Maybe if there weren’t a pandemic I could have tried to visit these 4 countries before writing this post, but that isn’t an option now. Anyways, on to the recommendations!

Book 1: In A Perfect World

Setting: Egypt

This book is about Caroline, who moves with her family to Egypt for a year, since her mother is opening up an eye clinic in Cairo. In general, I thought this book was fantastic, but the setting particularly stood out to me. I feel as though there are some books I’ve read where I don’t get a sense of what it’s like to live in that place, but that was not the case with this book! Even though I read it 3 years ago, there are so many aspects of the culture, the food, and the people the still stick out in my memory. I remember loving so much about this book, and I’d definitely recommend it for the unique setting alone! Plus there’s a cute romance in this one if I remember correctly!

Book 2: Love From A to Z

Setting: Qatar

Love From A to Z  definitely has a cute romance! I read this book last year and absolutely adored it! It tells the story of Zayneb who goes to live with her aunt for spring break in Qatar. There she makes some friends and explore the country and the culture. This book has great disability rep, and from what I can tell, great Muslim rep as well! I think this book also had one of the most satisfying endings I’ve ever read, so if you’re looking for something that ends happily, I’d pick this one up!

Book 3: Up to This Pointe

Setting: Antarctica

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is antarctic-flag.png

I honestly think this is one of the most unique contemporary settings I’ve ever read about. I mean, can you come up with another book that takes place in Antarctica? This one follows a ballerina named Harper that needs an escape, so she ends up in Antarctica. She’s a descendant of one of the first explorers of the South Pole, and you get to learn a lot about the continent as you follow Harper’s story.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you then let me just mention that this book is by the same author as What I Carry, which is one of my favorite books of 2020 so far! (Thank you Goodreads for helping me make this connection.)

Book 4: Almost American Girl

Setting: South Korea

Almost American Girl is a book that I read just a few months ago. It’s a graphic memoir about Robin Ha’s transition from Seoul, South Korea, to Alabama, USA. Since this is a memoir, you get the personal details from Robin about how different the two countries are. What I find mot interesting about this book Is how Robin’s perception of South Korea changes from when she was a child living there, to when she goes on a return visit years later.

So there you have it! Even if you can’t travel right now, you can still discover new places through these four books. These were each books that I really enjoyed, but the setting just made my reading experience a little more exciting! I’d love some recommendations for other books that take place in places other than the US, if you’ve read any that you enjoyed recently. I’ve been in my house for the past two months and could use a change of scenery!

What books have you read featuring books from different countries? Have you read any of these before? Where’s the most exciting place you’ve traveled? Do you know your geography?

41 thoughts on “Things Blogging Has Taught Me: Geography Edition

  1. I totally need to make more of an effort to check my map because I am so bad at pointing out countries! I can point to a continent easily but that’s as far as I get😂
    Love From A to Z is also on my tbr and sounds so good – haven’t heard of the rest though! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly, I’m pretty much glued to the stats page, which is why I check the map out so often. But it seriously has been helpful! I had no idea where so many countries were located before I started blogging!

      Love From A to Z is amazing! I hope you love it whenever you get around to it! And I tried to highlight some books that I thought would be unfamiliar to people. I find that when I recommend popular books, lots of people have already read the books, so it’s not much of a recommendation!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yesss! I love books set outside of the typical countries (UK/US/AUS basically) I think we need way more, but it’s great there are so many good ones out there. I so so adored With Love From A to Z. I read Woven In Moonlight this year and loved it too! It’s a Bolivian fantasy. 😍💛💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For me reading books set in Australia isn’t as typical! But we definitely need more books set in different countries! Recently I have been seeing a bunch of contemporary novels set in more unique settings which makes me so happy!

      I’m so glad to find someone else who loved Love From A to Z! That book warmed my heart when I read it last year! And I’ve seen Woven in Moonlight around the blogosphere, although I haven’t really looked into it that much. But a Bolivian fantasy sounds really cool!

      Like

  3. This is such a fun post ahh! It blows my mind how people from different countries visit + read my blog. I really want to read more books set outside the US! I adore travel and want to be able to travel with characters 😍😂 Plus, it’s amazing getting to learn about new places!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 💕 I had such a fun time writing and formatting this post! And I totally agree! The fact that there are people across the globe who discovered my blog and choose to read it always blows me away whenever I take the time to think about it!

      Same! There are so many stories set in the US, and while they’re great, I’d love to read about places I’ve never been before as well! I haven’t traveled much, although I hope to do more once that becomes possible. In the meantime books help me explore new places, and I especially appreciate the ones that take me to places I’ve never been before. Learning about the culture and the people and the sights and the foods always makes me feel like I’m right there with the main character!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not that bad but I’m also definitely not that good with geography 😂 The only countries I’m convinced I can point out right are my country, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan. Now that you wrote this post, I’m trying to think of books I’ve read that are set on different countries. Awesome post, Malka! And thank you for the book recommendation as well 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d say that before blogging I was pretty bad at geography! I could only point out North American countries, Australia, and Italy for certain. Although I was able to name all of the continents if I was given a map, which is something! But now I’m so much better at geography! I actually know where Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and such can be found on a map, and I recognize their flags as well!

      And it’s really difficult to find books set in other countries! I scrolled through all the books I read on Goodreads, and could only find a few, mostly set in Europe if it wasn’t set in the US! That’s part of what prompted me to write this post!

      Thank you so much! 💕 I’m so happy you enjoyed my post! And I hope that maybe you found something you’d like to read from my short list of recommendations! ❤

      Like

  5. Malka, your mind!!! I love reading your discussions so much ❤ It's so fun to see what insights you have about blogging and books 😭 I really like looking at which countries my audience comes from in the stats page too! It's so amazing that I'm having conversations with people from all over the world. I don't check it as much as I would like though. This post reminded me that I need to ❤ ❤
    I love that you also gave book recommendations in this post! As someone who lives in the Philippines, it's a little tiring to always see books set in the US 🤦🏻‍♀️ I always love it when a book takes place in a place outside the United States, especially a non-Western setting. I adored Love From A to Z, but other books I love that aren't set in the US are:
    – The Henna Wars (f/f with a Bangladeshi MC, set in Ireland)
    – Patron Saints of Nothing (tackles the Philippine president's war on drugs, set in the Philippines)
    – Wicked Fox (didn't really like this but I see how others could, set in Seoul)

    Great post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 💕 That honestly means the world to me since I have so much fun writing my discussions and I always hope that whoever reads it enjoys them! Your comment made me so, so happy! ❤

      I’m quite obsessed with the stats page. I feel as though I write posts like these to justify my obsession! Because I’m always looking at our stats page, I usually notice whenever we get a view from a new country that day. Whenever I take the time to think about it, it’s amazing that I’m having conversations and forming friendships with people all over the world! And learning more about that country in terms of its geography and flag helps me learn a little more about who reads my blog, which is super cool!

      I find that I really enjoy writing discussion posts with some recommendations in them as well, so you’ll probably end up seeing a lot more posts with that kind of formatting in the future! The second I had the idea for this post in particular though, I knew I needed to recommend some books with unique settings. It was really difficult to find some recommendations with the specifications I had in mind! I wanted to list 5 books, but I genuinely couldn’t think of a 5th non-US/non-European book that I liked, even after scrolling through every book I had read on Goodreads! (That being said I was looking for very specific kinds of books, which limited my options more.) I’d love to see more non-US settings for myself, and I live in the US, so I can only imagine how frustrating it is to see the US/UK as the default setting when you don’t even live there!

      Love From A to Z was fantastic! It’s the kind of book that I’m debating rereading because I just loved it so much! And for me a reread is high praise!

      I’m so glad that you left me some recommendations! I think I’m most interested in Patron Saints of Nothing at the moment. Someone else recommended it to me in the comments, and I read a really good review right after while blog hopping, so now I really want to read it! Plus, all of the recommendations were from people living in the Philippines, which makes me think that the setting and representation is going to be amazing! As for The Henna Wars, I’ve heard such great things about it, but I never knew it was set in Ireland! I’ll probably get that book out from my library, since it’s slowly reopening and I now have access to so many more books! And for Wicked Fox, I heard so many great things, but I’m not the biggest fantasy lover. So even though the setting sounds amazing, I probably won’t up reading that one. But, you never know! Maybe one day I’ll give it a chance!

      Thank you so much! 💗

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Book blogging is certainly great for showing us how far our words are going and it is a bonus to get a quick geography lesson at the same time. I feel like I need to read more books because I really only read books with boring US/UK settings. I loved that part of Daughter of Smoke and Bone was set in Prague in the Czech Republic but now I feel like I need to do some around the word reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely so cool to be able to interact with bloggers around the world! I never thought I’d be able to experience friendships with people from so many different countries, since I’ve barely traveled! And being able to learn geography in such an informal manner has been very effective! I’ve learned so much just by taking a look at the WordPress map every once in a while!

      I feel like the US/UK is the default setting, and if you want to read about someplace else you need to put effort into finding those books. In fact it was really difficult coming up with books to recommend because of this! I would have loved to recommend more books, but I just couldn’t think of any!

      I haven’t read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but I have heard that it’s set in Prague before, which sounds really cool! I hope you find some more awesome books set around the globe that you enjoy!

      Like

    1. Thanks! I have a lot of fun looking up the different countries I don’t know much about! It’s a really fun way for me to learn something new!

      And I’m so glad you enjoyed my recommendations! I’ve found I really like including some recommendations books that fit the theme of my discussion posts! That way if anyone was interested in the topic I spent a whole post talking about, they have the books I most enjoyed about that topic right there!

      Like

  7. Oh it’s definitely American curriculum failing you! But it is AWESOME that you are so eager to learn about other countries! I am the same way, I loooove finding out about other places. Funny enough, I was going to mention Qatar as soon as I saw your post heading, that book made me NEED to go to Qatar! Egypt sounds amazing too! And I REALLY want to read Up to This Pointe because of Antarctica! Like such an incredibly unique setting! Such a great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be fair, I only really started paying attention to my teachers in middle school. So it’s possible I had a fantastic geography lesson in elementary school, and I just have no recollection because I wasn’t listening in the first place. But I still think it’s more likely that the American curriculum failed me!

      I just think it’s so cool! I’m talking to people around the world! I want to know more about where they live! Plus I’d love to travel more, and I feel like before I do I should get to know where I’m traveling to.

      Yes! Qatar was such a cool setting! Also, I just loved that book in general, so I was more than happy to talk about it in this post! And I really think that In a Perfect World did a great job of incorporating Egypt as a focal point of the story. I’d highly recommend it! (I mean, that’s kinda obvious, otherwise it wouldn’t be on this list in the first place, but you know what I’m trying to say.) And I’d LOVE to hear what you think about Up to This Pointe once you read it! The setting is so incredibly unique, and you really get to learn so much about Antarctica as you read!

      Thank you! 💕

      Like

  8. I love this post so much, especially because I also enjoy looking at the map of where people are reading our blog from. And I love reading books with all the different countries when most books take place in the US, or in the UK. (Most in the US, though.) I adore Love From A to Z! It’s such a sweet novel and it was great to see Qatar. I really loved A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh, because it takes place in a small town in New Zealand (the author is also from NZ) and it was so interesting reading about the country. Same about Jane Harper’s mysteries that take place in Australia. As for YA, I think Darius the Great Is Not Okay is incredible – the book itself is good, and it has a main character who is visiting Iran (and his grandparents) for the first time, which is the country his mother is from. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 💕 The map is so interesting to look at! It’s so cool how people from so far away are reading the words I posted here in the US!

      Most of the books I read definitely take place in the US. In fact, I’m even surprised whenever I realize that a book is set in the UK! I’d love to read more stories from other countries because it’s such a great way to learn about different places!

      Love From A to Z is one of the cutest books that I’ve read! The fact that it was set in Qatar just helped to make that book even more spectacular!

      I’ve heard Nalini Singh’s name around a lot but I’ve never really looked into any of her books. I’ll have to look into A Madness of Sunshine now! And while I have read a few books set in Australia already, I’d definitely love to read more!

      And I’ve heard such great things about Darius the Great is Not Okay! I keep meaning to pick up a copy for myself, but somehow that hasn’t happened yet! Hopefully it will eventually! I’d love to read a book set in Iran!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I absolutely love this idea for a post, and now this makes me want to learn about all the countries that show up on my views map and read books from all of them 😀 And wow, Up to this Pointe truly does sound unique – I don’t think I’ve heard of any other contemporary set in Antarctica!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! ❤ I haven’t been researching every country, but I definitely think I’ve learned a lot more about geography from the stats page and my research than I ever did from all my years in school! 😆

      And I’d definitely love to read a book set in all the countries that show up on our stats map, but I’m not sure all those books have been published yet! (And if they have I either haven’t heard of them, or am not interested in the synopsis).

      Also, yes! Up to This Pointe definitely has a unique setting! And you really do get to learn a lot about Antarctica! But also, just as a whole I really enjoyed this book and the character’s emotional journey and growth. I’d definitely recommend it, if you’re interested!

      Like

  10. Okay so I love this idea for a post so, so very much! I also spend a decent amount of time staring at the map in my stats, amazed by people visiting my tiny blog from so many different countries. It always impresses me and makes me so happy 😀
    Aaaah Up to This Pointe sounds like such a lovely read and such an original setting, I’ll have to check it out 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! ❤ It’s so cool to see how people from so many different countries are interested in what I have to say! I always freak out about it to Chana every time we get a view from a country that hasn’t visited our blog before. This means that she has to deal with me randomly messaging her PERU! or UGANDA! every once in a while. Thankfully, she doesn’t mind how excited I get over it!

      Up to This Pointe is really good! I read it a few years back, yet so much of the main character’s emotional journey has stuck with me, along with all the cool things you learn about Antarctica! I’d definitely recommend it!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. oh, i love this post so much, malka!! i wouldn’t say i’m absolutely terrible at geography, since i have a pretty decent visual memory, but i definitely could be better lmao. but yes to love from a to z!! i love that it wasn’t set in a western country, and doha was really brought to life from all the descriptions. and i’ve also heard good things about almost american girl, so i’m glad to hear that you enjoyed that book!! i didn’t know it was a memoir, so i’m more excited to read it now 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! 💕

      I have a pretty good visual memory as well, but since I never really saw a labelled map of the world growing up, I never got to put that memory to use! Right now, having a labelled map on WordPress is doing the job of teaching me what I missed in elementary school. I guess it’s better late than never!

      Love From A to Z was just fantastic! Every time I think of it I have a new surge of love for everything that book did! And the fact that it had such a unique setting was one of the things that drew me in to read it in the first place!

      Almost American Girl was really good! I thought it was a really interesting memoir, and it focused a lot on culture and identity and belonging. It’s set both in the US and in Seoul, and I really feel as though I gained a lot by reading about this author’s experience moving to America and having to deal with such a new place, after living in South Korea and the totally different culture and lifestyle there. That’s one of the reasons this memoir stuck out so much to me when I was looking for books to put on this list!

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