Top Ten Books Set Outside the USA

It’s been a couple of months since I wrote a Top Ten Tuesdays post, but I’m back!

The meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  The blog hop features lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to connect with bloggers who love the books you do.


American authors — and American settings — dominate much of contemporary literature in English, but this week’s theme whisks us across the world.

The theme is top ten non-books with non-USA settings. Considering that I have immediate family in the Canada and the Netherlands as well as the US (with a son who used to live in England), I have a focus on the world that means this theme should be right up my alley.

VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Jumbee, by Pamela Keyes

This intelligent and ingenious YA novel is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera in contemporary times. I list its setting as the Virgin Islands because the author lived there, but in truth the story is set on the fictional island of Cariba.

FRANCE — The Three Musketeers, by Alexander Dumas

I absolutely loved this book growing up — so much so that I’ll watch any movie rendition of it, no matter how execrable. And most of them are. One thing I don’t understand, though. If they’re musketeers, i.e. soldiers who use muskets, why do they always fight with swords?

CANADA — The Toothpaste Genie, by Frances Duncan

With no oil lamps to live in these days, where can a poor genie live? How about inside a tube of toothpaste! Back when I taught elementary school, I read this book to my nine- and ten-year old students and they loved it. I did too — it’s silly but fun, as when the anglophone girl wishes to talk to her cat.  Turns out Fifi (the cat) speaks French … and suddenly the girl can only parlez vous.

FINLAND — Winter Fire, by William R Trotter.

Erich Ziegler, a German intelligence officer in Finland during WWII meets composer Jean Sibelius and finds that his 8th Symphony may actually exist and Ziegler, a conductor as well as a hard-fighting hero, wants to present the work to the world. In one of those life-imitates-art moments, fragments of Sibelius’s 8th were found last year in an attic — which is a big deal for an orchestral oboist like me. I hope I get a chance to play it some day.

ENGLAND — Emma, by Jane Austen

As this list attests, I lean toward the classics.  I don’t really need to write a blurb for this well-known tale, do I? It’s set near south of London in Surrey.

CENTRAL AFRICA — The African Queen, by C.S. Forester

To be honest, I prefer the movie over the book. Forester, who also wrote the Horatio Hornblower books, was more interested in the boat than his characters. I love the movie so much that I wrote a science fiction retelling, entitled Escapee.

CANADA — Still Life, by Louise Penny

This is the first book starring Inspector Gamache, and it remains my favorite in the series. The mysteries set in the Quebec hamlet of Three Pines are the best, in my opinion. They’re all exceptionally deep and intelligen, though.

SCOTLAND — Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

Strong-willed and sensual Claire Randall leads a double life with a husband in the 20th century, and another in the 18th. I wonder … does that make her liable for arrest as a bigamist?

RUSSIA — The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I haven’t read book this in ages, but I went through a Dostoevsky phase at one time and my favorites are either this one or The Gambler.

What about you? What are some of your favorite books with settings outside the US? Tell us about it in the comments.




  1. Lots of great picks here! Emma (and all of Jane Austen’s novels) are huge favorites of mine!

    1. In looking at other people’s TTT’s, I’ve been surprised Austen isn’t represented more often.

  2. I’ve watched a few Musketeers dramatizations — my sentimental favorite stars…Oliver Pratt, Charlie Sheen, Christopher O’Donnell, and…Tim Curry. As far an adaption goes, it is VERY fast and loose, but Pratt’s Porthos is fun.

    1. I remember that one — and yes, Oliver Pratt stole the show.

      1. It’s a little hard to watch these days, though, what with Charlie Sheen’s disintegration — so strange to see him acting seriously.

  3. A toothpaste genie, huh? Sound fun. 🙂
    I thought of Austen, but P&P makes it on more than its fair share of my lists….

    1. Emma is my favorite Austen book, though I must admit that some of the P & P movies are superior to any Emma.

  4. You have a very diverse collection here and lots of places covered. I like it. I haven’t read any of them but I do love Outlander the show and I love the Three Musketeers story!

    1. If you haven’t seen The African Queen, I highly recommend you watch the movie. You have my permission to forgo the book; it’s forgettable..

  5. Love the diverse collection of books here. I read Three Musketeers growing up as well and loved it.

  6. I completely forgot about Emma! I read it last year for one of my English courses at college and it was pretty good! Also my first Austen experience!
    Great post this week for TTT Ed!

    1. Although I like Austen in general, P & P and Emma are by far her best, IMHO. Sense and Sensibility is much better in its movie adaptations than it is in the book, as is Persuasion: both of them have great stories, but they’re written primarily in exposition rather than scenes that come alive.

  7. Doi! The Three Musketeers, I totally could have done that one! Great pick. Have you see the BBC1 television series, The Musketeers? I think it’s a pretty good adaptation of the novel.
    The Toothpaste Genie and Winter Fire both sound *fantastic*. I’ll have to add them to my TBR.

    1. I’ve missed the BBC1 series. If it’s a faithful to the novel, I’ll have to see if it’s on Netflix. I tried reading it in French, a long time ago. The language is extremely simple, a la James Patterson (he was Patterson before James was), so I managed until my willpower waned 1/4 through.

  8. Good to ‘meet’ an orchestral oboist! Winter Fire sounds very interesting – music & WW2 = wonderful. I bought a secondhand copy of African Queen last week but if Forester is more interested in the boat than the characters it sounds like it might end up going back to the op shop. Thanks for dropping in on my blog & commenting 🙂

    1. You might love African Queen, so don’t let me prejudice you. It’s considered something of a classic, but for my money, it’s one of those rare classics that’s actually better on-screen than on-page, like The English Patient, Gone with the Wind, or Sense and Sensibility. (Ducks head in anticipation of rotten tomatoes from Janeites, lovers of books thick enough to sink ships, and Canadian Literature PhD’s.)

  9. I love Outlander! The later books in the series are also set in France and Central America, if I remember correctly. 🙂

    If there were no years of overlap where both of her husbands were married to her and alive, wouldn’t she just be a widow? Haha

    1. Either a widow or — gasp! — an UNDEAD from the 1750’s to 1900’s, when she was born again. She found religion? Or perhaps she’s actually a zombie. I never thought of this possibility before.

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