I’m reading a book by an authour from every country on Earth. Allow me to explain.

Like you, I am a brain in a jar kept alive and sentient by constant immersion in a nutrient-rich mixture of liquid krill and Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper. And while I boast an IQ much higher than any other object immersed in liquid (a pickle, for example) I am physically unable to leave the lab where I am kept. Have you seen Robocop 2? It’s kinda like that. So I have decided to let books be my gateway to the wide world outside my glass brain-agerie.

By reading a book by an authour from every country in the world, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of different places and cultures without actually having to go there. ¿Like, what’s the deal with that upside-down question mark they use in Mexico?

Each book I read will be given a simple rating based on the United Nations Security Level System, the standard measure of excellence throughout the literary world. The Security Level System gives a rating to a country based on how safe it is to visit, and runs like this:

1 = Completely safe

2 = Minimal danger

3 = Low danger

4 = Moderate danger

5 = Substantial danger

6 = Extreme danger

Thus, the lower the UN Security Level System rating, the better a book is. A * after a country’s name indicates a country that has ceased to exist since this blog began, while a ** after a country’s name indicates a country that has come into existence since this blog began.

So pack a bag, grab your reading glasses and join me on a round-trip trip around the world. I promise you won’t regret it!

(NOTE: If you hate reading, you’ll probably regret it.)



November 24, 2010



Meetings With Remarkable Men by G.I. Gurdjieff

Synopsis: The diaries of an Ottoman autodidact who travelled the globe talking to sages, seers, shamen, scientists and other s-related smart people in search of supreme knowledge. I can relate: I once travelled the glove in search of a typing teacher but, alaf, I never founk one. Some believe Gurdjieff was a genius, while others consider Gurdjieff a charlatan. Everyone can agree, however, that his last name looks like the worst Scrabble rack ever.

United Nations SLS rating: 4

Albania Fun Fact: In the 1940s Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha made Albania’s official state religion Atheism, hence the old Albanian adage “’DOG’ is just ‘NOTHING’ spelled backwards”!


November 23, 2010

 The Outsider by Albert Camus

Synopsis: In this classic absurdist novel, an emotionally detached member of the Socs kills a Greaser in cold blood and is condemned to the guillotine, but is saved at the last minute by his brother, Sodapop. This book was also published under the title The Stranger, but you wouldn’t know it.

United Nations SLS rating: 3

Algeria Fun Fact: Largely desert, much of Algeria was once lush grassland. On the upside, there’s now less to mow! 


November 20, 2010



A General Theory Of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa

Synopsis: Set during the civil war that rapidly transformed Angola from ‘the jewel of East Africa’ to ‘the cubic zirconia of East Africa’ to ‘the Angola of East Africa’, a woman holes up in her apartment with her dog to wait until the whole thing blows over. Of course, in revolutionary Africa more things blow up than over, and it’s years before scars of the atrocities committed there heal. And for the dog in the apartment with her, it’s dog years.

United Nations SLS rating: 4

Angola Fun Fact: The Angolan penal code prohibits homosexuality, homosexual acts and enjoying saying the word ‘penal’!

Antigua and Barbuda

November 17, 2010



A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

Synopsis: A scathing condemnation of colonial slavery, during which many slaves were scathed and condemned themselves. This book is a sobering screed against modern-day Caribbean tourism, which Jamaica Kincaid (anyone else find it weird that a lady from a Caribbean island is named after another Caribbean island?) maintains is built on the backs of that region’s poor and downtrodden native inhabitants. But y’know what isn’t sobering? All the margaritas I drank when I vacationed there last winter.

United Nations SLS rating: 1

Antigua and Barbuda Fun Fact: The highest point in Antigua, Mount Obama, is regarded with suspicion by geological ‘birthers’ who claim that it’s originally from Kenya!


November 16, 2010

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

Synopsis: A collection of short stories and essays encompassing themes of time, space, alternate realities, magic, history, religion and mysticism (‘mysticism’, by the way, is my favouirte ‘cism’, right after skepti- and cyni-.) Though JBo’s prose can be a little dense at times, intrepid readers can discover ziggurats of beauty in the undergrowth if they keep their literary machetes sharp and just keep hacking away. In 1986, this book was made into a movie starring David Bowie.

United Nations SLS rating: 3

Argentina Fun Fact: The gauchos, Argentina’s traditional plains-riding cowboys, are dwindling in number, mainly due to their mothers convincing them to pursue careers in medicine and law!







November 12, 2010

Seven Books For Grossman by Morris Lurie

Synopsis: A professor of literature in debt to the mob takes a job as a writer of pornography to make some quick cash and hilarity ensues. Also, pornography ensues. To reach a more highbrow type of lowlife he mimics the prose of famous writers, banging out stories about banging in the style of Vonnegut, Roth and Faulkner. If I had to write a porno version of a William Faulkner novel it’d be Go Down, Moses, because I wouldn’t even have to change the title.

United Nations SLS rating: 1

Australia Fun Fact: The world’s first full-length feature film was released in Australia in 1906 to reviews that read “If you only see one film this year, it’ll be this one, cuz its the only film that exists right now!”