Cameron Moreno is a graduate student pursuing a master of fine arts in creative writing. 

Happy International Literacy Day, Hilltoppers!

Fifty years ago, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designated Sept. 8 as International Literacy Day in an effort to encourage and raise awareness about literacy to education systems all around the world.

To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of popular books that explore different cultures and parts of the world.

1. “Life of Pi” (2001) by Yann Martel

After a shipwreck leaves him stranded in the ocean, Piscine “Pi” Patel is left to the presence of only himself, the sea, and a Bengal tiger. Pi has to navigate both survival and adolescence through spirituality and self-discovery.

Not only will this book make you want to pet a tiger (though please don’t do that), it will give you insight into a several religions and their respective belief systems, such as Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. Additionally, the first-person narrative will have you feeling everything the character does in his struggle to survive.

2. “Memoirs of a Geisha” (1997) by Arthur Golden

The story follows Chiyo Sakamoto, a young girl who is taken from her home and sold into a life of subjugation during the 1920s. The novel follows her time as a geisha during and after World War II. Publisher Penguin describes it as a brilliant work of historical fiction that “presents with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha.”

Chiyo’s narrative will transport you to another time period and make you feel as though you are living through her eyes in this complicated era.

3. “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank (1947; published in English in 1952)

Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl, documents her life as the Nazi’s invade the Netherlands in the 1940s. While she is in hiding for two years, she discovers her courage and just how much the human spirit can endure.

Though you may have read this book in high school, it is a great reminder of how far we have progressed as a society. And even if you didn’t read it in high school, it is still a great read.

4. “Eat, Pray, Love” (2007) by Elizabeth Gilbert

When Elizabeth Gilbert finds herself in a rut, she leaves everything behind to explore the world. Taking on three different countries — Italy, India and Bali — she embraces the culture and lifestyles of these countries and gains lasting friendships along the way.

This memoir will inspire readers to study for that test they’ve been dreading, get a good job, save a lot of money and dump their job — and then travel across the world to discover cultures they have been curious about exploring.

5. “The Sun Also Rises” (1926) by Ernest Hemingway

Described by publisher Scribner as “the quintessential novel of the Lost Generation”, “The Sun Also Rises” follows a group of friends who plan to travel from Paris to Spain to witness the traditional bullfights and the running of the bulls. Along the way, these characters embrace European culture while two of the main characters, Jake and Lady Brett, struggle with their admittance to true love.

Many people call this one of the greatest books written by Hemingway, and it is easy to see why. The novel’s romance (or lack thereof) is relatable and will make you want to take some time to travel, drink, and see bullfighting in real life.


Perhaps writer and producer George R.R. Martin said it best.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” Martin said. “The man who never reads only lives once.”

Pick up one of these books, and celebrate International Literacy Day by living another life.