Book Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday Freebie: 10 Books I Read in The Peace Corps between 1989-1991–Fiction


At various times in my life I have kept a reading log. I’ve done so continuously for many years now, but it wasn’t always that way for me. One exception was during my Peace Corps Service–I noted every book I read in m so-called journal. I was not great at introspection and knew I wasn’t doing the best I could so my journal is not very edifying. But that book list! Yes! In two years I read 84 books. The second year, getting books required walking nearly all day after a packed bus ride into town and, if lucky, a ride home or another packed bus back to the gates of the Agricultural Research Station where I lived.

My sources for books were: The National Library of Malawi (the National Librarian was a friend), The British Council, USIS, and the Peace Corps office book shelves. Slim pickings, you say? You are correct. I read anything. There was no TV in Malawi then and the radio was limited to playing songs like The Dave Clark Five’s “Catch us if You Can.” You can guess how great the radio dramas were. I did not have a shortwave. If I did I could have listened to English lessons!

Three by Anne Tyler

I’m counting these as one book since they are all the same author. My math skills have never been great. (I absolutely HATE these covers, by the way!) Celestial Navigation, Breathing Lessons, and The Accidental Tourist.

Tales of The Raj and Empire

I devoured the Raj Quartet! Later I watched the miniseries equally spellbound. FYI: Since I read the one volume omnibus edition, I’m counting it as one book. The Flame Trees of Thika and The Ice Cream War.


I think everyone brought at least one they had never read and figured they’d read now that they had the time. Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair.

Significant Others

The Joys of Motherhood, A Far Cry From Kensington, A Town Like Alice, A House for Mr. Biswas.

This period expanded my reading horizons considerably. “Multicultural” was not yet a thing. We went to high school and read Steinbeck and Hemingway, Shakespeare and maybe someone else. In college I was given Malcolm X and theater of the absurd. This expanded my education considerably. Except for the Caldecott Award, I knew nothing yet of literary awards like the Booker Prize or others. The books I read in Peace Corps often introduced me to different cultures, prize winners–you name it. Oh, don’t worry, I read  lot of crap too! I went on to read all of Buchi Emecheta, all of Maya Angelou and more.

Sadly, I was very depressed during part of this time so I had absolutely no memory of reading A Town Like Alice when I listened to it in 2011. It is one of my 5-star, life-time favorite books now. Celestial Navigation was another I have no memory of. Since I love Anne Tyler and she is “must read” for me, I blame depression and not the writing. There were others like that.

Have you read any of these? DId you serve anywhere as a volunteer? What got you started reading about other cultures and other points of view? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.

Why not join the fun next week? You can read the rules here.

18 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday Freebie: 10 Books I Read in The Peace Corps between 1989-1991–Fiction

  1. How interesting. I love knowing about people’s reading history. I also love Anne Tyler and have read several of her books. No, I have never done anything like volunteering except for working on our church’s thrift store after I retired! No comparison! Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was in Peace Corps Latvia in ’94-’96 and remember the British Council library and the paperback shelf in the PC office! I used the English Language Library when I lived in Riga in 2006 too, and that’s when I read The Grapes of Wrath, as well as Scar Tissue, neither of which are books I would have picked up otherwise.

    I loved Anne Tyler in high school. Accidental Tourist was my favorite.


  3. What a fabulous experience. Isn’t it serendipitous that at the time in your life you that might have been one where you had a limited selection of books was the time in which you read some of the best books of your life?

    I worked in Yellowstone Park for a summer and all I had to read was The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry. So I read it very, very closely, and now I am very familiar with modern poetry (well, at least up to 1975).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t know you were in the Peace Corps! That must have been such an incredible experience. I have friends who did it too, but I’ve never had any experiences even approaching that. I love seeing your books lists from that time. I read a lot of Anne Tyler in about that time period! I remember loving A Town Like Alice, but so many of the details have faded by now. That’s one that I’d love to reread!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was so interesting! I love that you’ve kept reading logs so much. I did as a child (library summer reading program), and I have for the last 10 years or so, but other than that, no. I’d love to know what I was reading in my 20s and 30s (although I know it wasn’t nearly as much as now; less time).


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