Without reading translated books, we’re only seeing a tiny sliver of the literature the world has to offer. Authors are writing incredible books in a variety of languages around the world, but only a small percentage make their way to English translations.
If you’re looking for a place to start reading books in translation, Preply has created a great resource for you. They have compiled the most translated books by country, and presented the data in these beautiful maps! You can check out their original post for more information on some of the titles included.
The Most Translated Books of the World
Did you guess the most translated book in the world? It’s The Little Prince, which has been translated to more than 380 different languages! Following after that is The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. These are both considered classics that have had many decades to accumulate translations.
Preply excluded from these numbers religious texts that couldn’t be easily attributed to a single author or country.
The Most Translated Books of North America
I highly recommend taking a moment to try to guess which title from the U.S. is the most translated before you scroll.
Antigua and Barbuda: Annie John by Jamaica KincaidBahamas: Hotel by Arthur HaileyBarbados: In the Castle of my Skin by George LammingCanada: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud MontgomeryCosta Rica: The Lonely Men’s Island by José León SánchezCuba: Reasons of State by Alejo CarpentierDominica: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean RhysDominican Republic: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz*Guatemala: El Señor Presidente by Miguel Ángel AsturiasHaiti: Hadriana in all my Dreams by René DépestreHonduras: Prisión Verde by Ramón Amaya AmadorJamaica: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon JamesMexico: Pedro Páramo by Juan RulfoNicaragua: To Live is to Love by Ernesto CardenalPanama: Aura by Carlos FuentesSaint Kitts and Nevis: Crossing the River by Caryl PhillipsSaint Lucia: Omeros by Derek WalcottTrinidad and Tobago: A Bend in the River by V. S. NaipaulUnited States of America: The Way to Happiness by L. Ron Hubbard
If you’re surprised by that last title, Preply explains:
The most translated single book in North America and the only self-help book on the world map is from the United States: L. Ron Hubbard’s The Way to Happiness. Translated into more than 112 languages, this booklet lists 21 moral commandments for readers to follow.
Hubbard also happens to be the founder of the Church of Scientology, so the unsolicited distribution of these texts in schools and other public buildings has caused quite the controversy. “Ask, and you shall receive” is presumably not one of its guiding principles.
The Most Translated Books of South America
Unsurprisingly, the most translated title on the South American continent is The Alchemist by Paulo Cohelo. Like The Little Prince, it doubles as both a novel and a fable about living well, and it’s still popular decades after publication.
Argentina: The Aleph by Jorge Luis BorgesBolivia: One Hundred Poems for Children by Oscar AlfaroBrazil: The Alchemist by Paulo CoheloChile: 2666 by Roberto BolañoColombia: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García MárquezEcuador: Huasipungo by Jorge IcazaGuyana: Palace of the Peacock by Wilson HarrisParaguay: Son of Man by Augusto Roa BastosPeru: The Green House by Mario Vargas LlosaUruguay: Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo GaleanoVenezuela: Doña Barbara by Rómulo Gallegos
The Most Translated Books in Europe
As you might expect, Europe has many children’s titles that have been published in a variety of languages. Still, it’s interesting to see that this isn’t an exact overlap with their most popular children’s books — it seems like the books that have been around for longer (like Bambi) have the best chance of getting lots of translations, regardless of whether they’re currently the most popular book in that country.
Albania: The General of the Dead Army by Ismail KadareAustria: Bambi, a Life in the Woods by Felix SaltenAzerbaijan: Kamsha by Nizami GanjaviBelarus: The Unwomanly Face of War: an Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana AleksievichBelgium: The Adventures of Tintin by Georges Prosper Remi (Hergé)Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo AndrićBulgaria: Under the Yoke by Ivan VazovCroatia: Croatian God Mars by Miroslav KrležaCzech Republic: The Good Soldier by Švejk Jaroslav HašekDenmark: Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian AndersenEngland: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis CarrolEstonia: The Czar’s Madman by Jaan KrossFinland: Kalevala by Elias LönnrotFrance: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupéryGermany: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick SüskindGreece: The Greek Passion by Nikos KazantzakisHungary: The Tragedy of Man by Imre MadáchIceland: Salka Valka: A Novel of Iceland by Halldór LaxnessIreland: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John BoyneItaly: The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo CollodiLatvia: My System: A Treatise On Chess by Aron NimzowitschLithuania: The Seasons by Kristijonas DonelaitisMacedonia: White Dawns by Kočo RacinMalta: Dun Karm, Poet of Malta by Dun KarmMoldova: Ostinato by Paul GomaMontenegro: The Mountain Wreath by Petar II Petrović-NjegošNetherlands: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankNorway: The Kon-Tiki Expedition by Thor HeyerdahlPoland: Quo Vadis by Henryk Adam Aleksander Pius SienkiewiczPortugal: Baltasar and Blimunda by José SaramagoRomania: The Book of Mirrors by Eugen ChiroviciRussia: Anna Karenina by Leo TolstoyScotland: Treasure Island by Robert Louis StevensonSerbia: Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad PavićSlovakia: Kumewawa, the Son of the Jungle by Tibor SekeljSlovenia: Minuet for Guitar by Vitomil ZupanSpain: Don Quixote by Miguel de CervantesSweden: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid LindgrenSwitzerland: Heidi by Johanna SpyriTurkey: My Name is Red by Orhan PamukUkraine: Testament by Taras ShevchenkoWales: The Pillars of Earth by Ken Follett
The Most Translated Books in Africa
Another fable makes the list on the African continent: The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright by Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has been published in more than 60 languages. These short tales that give insight into the human condition seem to have universal appeal, making them attractive as translation options.
Angola: The Book of Chameleons by José Eduardo AgualusaBotswana: Maru by Bessie HeadBurundi: Petit Pays by Gaël FayeCameroon: Houseboy by Ferdinand OyonoCape Verde: The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva by Araújo Germano AlmeidaCongo: Broken Glass by Alain MabanckouCôte d’Ivoire: Allah is not Obliged by Ahmadou KouroumaDemocratic Republic of the Congo: Tram 83 by Mwanza MujilaDjibouti: Passage of Tears by Abdourahman A WaberiEgypt: Women at Point Zero by Nawal El SaadawiEthiopia: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw MengestuGhana: The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei ArmahGuinea: The African Child by Camara LayeGuinea-Bissau: The Ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai SilaKenya: The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’oLesotho: Chaka by Thomas MofoloLiberia: The House at Sugar Beach by Helene CooperLibya: In The Country of Men by Hisham MatarMadagascar: The Palace by Claude SimonMalawi: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William KamkwambaMali: Kaïdara: récit initiatique peul by Amadou Hampaté BâMauritania: Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould SlahiMauritius: The Last Brother by Nathacha AppanahMorocco: Racism Explained to My Daughter by Tahar Ben JellounMozambique: Sleepwalking Land by Mia CoutoNigeria: Things Fall Apart by Chinua AchebeRwanda: Left to Tell: One Woman’s Story of Surviving the Rwandan Genocide by Immaculée IlibagizaSenegal: God’s Bits of Wood by Ousmane SembèneSierra Leone: Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael BeahSomalia: Desert Flower by Waris DirieSouth Africa: The Hobbit by J. R. R. TolkienSudan: Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb SalihTanzania: Paradise by Abdulrazak GurnahUganda: Chroniques Abyssiniennes by Moses IsegawaZambia: River God by Wilbur SmithZimbabwe: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
The Most Translated Books in Asia
Pop quiz: who’s the most translated novelist on the Asian continent? Most likely you already got it or are kicking yourself now: it’s Haruki Murakami. Norwegian Wood ties for the most translated book from Asia with Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda.
Afghanistan: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniArmenia: My Name is Aram by William SaroyanCambodia: The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly MamChina: The True Story of Ah Q by Lu XunGeorgia: The Lord of the Panther-Skin by Shota RustaveliIndia: Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa YoganandaIndonesia: Footsteps by Pramoedya Ananta ToerIran: The Blind Owl by Sadegh HedayatIsrael: Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar KeretJapan: Norwegian Wood by Haruki MurakamiKorea (North and South): The Tears of my Soul by Kim Hyon-huiKyrgyzstan: The Place of the Skull by Chinghiz AitmatovLebanon: I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman by Joumana HaddadMalaysia: The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan EngMyanmar: From the Land of Green Ghosts: a Burmese Odyssey by Pascal Khoo ThwePakistan: Poems by Aḥmad FaiẓPhilippines: Mass by F. Sionil JoseSingapore: The Saint in New York by Leslie CharterisSri Lanka: The English Patient by Michael OndaatjeSyria: The Book of Contemplation: Islam and the Crusades by Usama ibn MunqidhTajikistan: Der Tod des Wucherers by Sadriddin AiniThailand: Awaken Healing Energy Through the Tao by Mantak ChiaTimor-Leste: The Crossing: a Story of East Timor by Luís CardosoUzbekistan: The Beggar in the Harem: Impudent Adventures in Old Bukhara by Leonid SolovyovVietnam: Prison Diary by Ho Chi Minh
The Most Translated Books in Oceania
The most translated work from New Zealand is The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, a fantastic children’s story about a Maori girl who has to prove that she is the once in a generation “whale rider,” despite that title traditionally only going to men. It was also made into a movie!
And if you liked this post, you’ll probably also like the infographics of The Most Popular Children’s Books From Every Country In the World!