3 Reasons Writers Should Read Translated Books

Anxious People
by Fredrik Backman

I just finished reading a book that I’m recommending to everyone, reader and writer alike. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman will literally make you laugh out loud. It is a story about a would-be bank robber who escapes into an apartment building and takes a group of people at a real estate showing hostage. The voice is amazing. There are more plot twists than a helix. And it was originally published in Sweden.

I’m finding that that alone immediately puts some people off. “I don’t read translated books.” If you are a writer, it is something you need to do for three simple reasons.

Opens Windows

There’s been a lot of talk in the publishing community about the fact that books by BIPOC authors open windows. These books allow young readers to see how people other than themselves live. Guess what? Books published overseas do the same thing. You get to experience not only the geography of other countries but the concerns and cares of these countries as well. As I saw in an article, a feminist novel from Japan will be entirely different from a US feminist novel.

Different Ways to Play with Language

Books from other countries not only tell stories about different things, they also use different turns of phrase. The phrase about how to eat an elephant? It is apparently just a little bit different in Swedish. How is it different? Read the book, my friend. Need a multi-use word for someone who is clueless and/or full-of-themselves? Think capital of Sweden. Read books from other countries and the turns of phrase will be just a little different than our own.

Different Ways to Tell Stories

But so will how they tell stories. The beginning of a story from Thailand will vary as will the ending. The tropes that other cultures use are different from our own. So will the pacing, descriptions and how various characters (POV, villain, sidekick) interact with each other and the story.

Read books originally published in other countries and you may find something you want to try, a new way to tell a story, a new sense of word play. Add these books to your toolkit and see your writing grow.