Biographies, memoirs and novels are one of the most powerful ways to enhance cultural intelligence. Even if the culture in the book is very different from one you encounter regularly, the very act of stepping into another world as we’re allowed to do through narrative writing is powerful. As promised, here are some of my favorites. I’d love to hear yours to add to the list.




  • White Man’s Grave by Dooling (Sierra Leone)
  • Poisonwood Bible by Kingsolver (Belgian Congo)


  • Eat, Pray, Love by Gilbert (India and Indonesia; also includes Italy)
  • Kiterunner and Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini (Afghanistan and Pakistan)
  • Shantaram by Roberts (India)
  • Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian (China)
  • Three Cups of Tea by Mortensen (Afghanistan and Pakistan)
  • White Tiger by Adiga (India)


  • Brother’s K and Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky (Russia)
  • Dinner with Persophone (Greece)

Latin America

  • Translated Woman by Behar (Mexico)
  • The Wondrous, Brief Life of Oscar Wao by Diaz (Dominican Republic)

Middle East

  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Nafizi

U.S.: Intercultural Relationships

  • Faith Club by Idliby, Oliver, and Warner (Muslim, Jewish, and Christian)
  • Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth by Lahiri (Indian-Americans)
  • Man Gone Down by Thomas (African American)
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Fadiman (Hmong-Americans)

This list is VERY incomplete. Please feel free to suggest your own favorites.

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