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.
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.
I highly recommend taking a moment to try to guess which title from the U.S. is the most translated before you scroll.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!