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The World Citizen Challenge

December 6, 2008

Edited to add: the challenge blog is up! Go on over to it for the latest info/reading lists/sign-up stuff/etc.!
Whew, here goes.  I’m a little nervous, sending my baby challenge toddling out into the blogosphere.  What if no one signs up because there are so many other challenges out there?  What if it’s just me?  Well, then it’ll just be me.  So, here’s the first reason why you should pay attention to this challenge: it’s non-fiction.  There are a ton of challenges focused on almost every aspect of fiction imaginable, but not very many on non-fiction.  So, hopefully all of those with ‘inner bookworms’ (as Bybee calls it) guilt-tripping you for not reading enough non-fiction will be interested.  And, of course, all of you who love non-fiction should be perking up too! :)

I struggled with what to call this challenge, but I finally decided on World Citizen.  That’s because, in this day and age, it’s important for all of us to know something about the world around us.  Yeah-Americans tend to get the worst rep in this category (although my sister once had a British teacher who told the class that the US has 53 states, so we’re not the only ones), but I think even those of us who already know a substantial amount about the world could always stand to learn a bit more.  And summer is the perfect time to take on a self-learning task! For those of you who have no interest in current international politics, are sick to death of hearing all the world’s problems, that’s ok: you can read history books or culture books or biographies and memoirs.  And I promise not all of the books I’m going to recommend are negative.  And of course, those of you who do have an interest in international stuff are going to be very excited!

There are a bunch of ways to participate in this challenge, because I want as many people as possible so that we can have an intelligent discussion about the world around us and learn from each other.  Of course, if you don’t want to discuss the stuff, that’s fine too.  But after I’ve read a great non-fiction book, I’m always itching to talk about it!  Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.  I’ve arranged the participation levels as if ‘world citizenship’ is a college major.

The Prospie Level So, you’re a prospective high school student trying to decide if this is the right college for you, and you happen to sit in on a world citizenship class. This is for those of you with no time to read another book, but who still want to do something. I’ll be running a different mini-challenge each month of the challenge, and all you have to do to be a prospie is say you want to participate in at least one of them. I promise they’ll be fun, and there will be prizes involved!

The Auditor Level You thought the class sounded interesting, but you didn’t really want to have to worry about attendence or grades or stuff like that. Good thing you can audit. For this level, you just need to declare your interest in the challenge. Anything else you might want to do: the mini-challenges, making a list of potential books, participating in the discussions, etc. is completely up to you. Maybe you want to commit to reading a newspaper or magazine instead of a book-go for it. Also, if you want to choose a different number of books than what I’ve offered in the other levels, come here!

The World Citizenship 101 Level Maybe you’re a freshman trying to decide what to major in, maybe you’re an upperclassman in need of a distribution credit. Either way, you end up in the intro class. For this level, you need to commit to one book.

The Minor Level You’ve taken a couple classes in World Citizenship and decide to go ahead and get the minor. After all, you’ll learn more stuff and you can still have a practical major! For this level, you need to commit to three books, from at least two different categories (those are all listed below).

The Major Level Despite the occasional, impertinent “And what are you going to do with a degree in that?!” question, you’ve realised that World Citizenship is where your passion really lies, so you declare your major. For this level, you need to commit to five books, from at least three different categories.

The Postgraduate Level Four years just wasn’t enough for you! You’ve decided to continue your education in World Citizenship, since you’re a bit obsessive about the whole thing. For this level, you need to commit to seven books, including one book from each category.

Of course, now the big question is: what exactly are these categories? Well, as I see it, there are so many different aspects to the world that you can approach world citizenship from a variety of angles.

Politics: I bet you knew this one was coming. :) There are two kinds of politics: international, which deals with diplomacy and international institutions like the United Nations, and national, which deals with domestic issues like taxes and education and the economy. As long as the national politics you’re reading about isn’t your native country, it counts for this challenge. After all, it’s a national government that decides its country’s diplomacy! Speaking of which, foreign policy really combines international and domestic politics. All books about foreign policy also fall under this category, and feel free to read books about your native country’s foreign policy as well as any other. So, since I’m an American, I could read a book about US foreign policy but not a book about the US supreme court. I could read all about South Africa’s apartheid system.

Economics: the logical next step. Sometimes it’s difficult to seperate economics from politics, but in this case the category is focusing on international economics. So books about international economic organisations like the World Bank or International Monetary Fund would go here, as well as books addressing global poverty, the rise of multi-national corporations, etc. The same rules for politics apply here: you can read stuff about international economics or about domestic economies of countries that aren’t your native one. As an American, I could read a whole book about the Argentinan currency collapse, but I couldn’t read anything about the US dot com burst.

History: because obviously international stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum-leaders are influenced by what’s gone on before. In this case, I’m going to pretty arbitrarily say that history is anything that happened before World War II; later than that, and it belongs in one of the other categories. Why? Well, it seems like most of us have a general idea of international relations from then on: the Cold War, the end of the Cold War, etc. but judging from some of the classmates I had in college, general knowledge of international stuff before WWII breaks down pretty fast. You can pick history books about any country you want (other than your native one), or about the world as a whole, or about a religion.

Culture or Anthropology/Sociology: because even if you aren’t interested in politics or economics or even history, I bet you’re curious about other societies. :) Part of being a world citizen is recognising that other places have different value systems and approaches to life. Books about religion, day-to-day life, and other aspects of culture/society fall in here.

Worldwide Issues: I know that sounds vague, but it’s basically an acknowledgement that there are lots of global things going on that don’t fit neatly into any of the categories above. Here’s where you’d put things like the environment, human trafficking, whether democracy should be spread worldwide, natural disasters, peace movements, weapons of mass destruction, etc.

Memoirs/Autobiographies: so, for any of the categories above, feel free to read biographies. But memoirs and autobiographies are inherently less trustworthy, so I feel that they need to be pulled out into their own category. I certainly think that they’ll spark some great discussions, and are very valuable, but they’re not the same as ‘third person’ non-fiction.

Now that I’ve gotten all of that out there, it’s about time I tell you the dates, isn’t it? The challenge will run throughout 2009. Originally, I was just going to make it four months, but with all that’s happening in the world, I think it’d be fun to do the whole year!

I hope after reading all of this that some of you are still interested. I know it’s complicated, but I was trying to make it as broad as possible.:) If you want to join in, but have no idea what books to pick, I’m planning a challenge blog and have recommendations for each category over there (I also go into more detail about the different categories). It’ll be up before Christmas. And of course, I expect all of you might have some suggestions too! I’d like the blog to become a discussion hub, with any luck. The world is such a fascinating place, and I love to talk about it. :D

62 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2008 4:35 pm

    This sounds very cool; I will join, but I am not sure what level yet. There will be at least two of us.

    One question though— during what time period will the challenge run– over the summer? all year?

  2. December 6, 2008 4:52 pm

    I’m in at the Minor level! I may step it up beyond that, but I’ll start there. Can I ask a favor???? Can you list some books in the categories that you’ve enjoyed? You always read such interesting stuff!

  3. December 6, 2008 5:01 pm

    This sounds very interesting! I’ve never done a challenge before because I’m not sure I like the idea of “forcing” myself to read certain things in a certain time period (I generally don’t plan ahead with what I’m going to read, I just read whatever I feel like it at the time). However, given my interests I think I could do this one without too much feeling that I’m forcing things.

    I really like the idea of discussing what we’re reading, too! So, I will need to think a bit more about what I want to read and what level I could commit to, but I’ll probably participate!

  4. December 6, 2008 5:23 pm

    Grrr. I wasn’t going to join more challenges, you know? :P But this is too good to resist. Not only because you’re hosting and I’m sure you’ll make it great, but also because I think it will be very enriching for me. I think I’m interested in doing the Minor Level too. King Leopold’s ghost would classify as history, right? And I remember Debi mentioning a really interesting sounding book on Fair Trade that I could maybe use for Economics. But like Chris said, I’d so love to get some recommendations for you!

  5. December 6, 2008 5:29 pm

    this sounds great! I too would like to know when…

  6. December 6, 2008 6:03 pm

    Great challenge! I’m going to join, but I’m going to take a few days to think about my level of commitment.

  7. December 6, 2008 6:18 pm

    That’s a very interesting challenge. I will probably join but want to see the list of suggested books and think about it a bit more first.

  8. December 6, 2008 7:00 pm

    Wow this sounds like a great challenge, I will definitely be joining but I’m not sure which level yet.

  9. December 6, 2008 7:50 pm

    I’ll be in for this. Probably at the Major level. This will be fun!


  10. December 6, 2008 8:54 pm

    Count me in! I’m not sure which level, but I’ll definitely read something for this challenge. :)

  11. December 6, 2008 9:21 pm

    Being a book slut, I’m trying to figure out how to bring this one home without offending any of the three challenges I created for 2009 (as well as Heather’s Fairie Queene group read). I’m not real good with the whole commitment thing, though, so even though majoring is tempting, I think I’ll stick with the minor.

  12. December 7, 2008 12:59 am

    This sounds like a great challenge!! Since I’ll probably never get to post-graduate level in real life, I might as well go for it here! I’m not super intelligent in most these areas, but I still find them fascinating. I’ll start on my list soon!

  13. December 7, 2008 2:55 am

    What a wonderful challenge idea! I was going to be limiting my challenges for the coming year like many other people but this just sounds too fantastic and interesting to pass up. So, I’m in – will have a think about the level I am going to jump in at. Thanks!

  14. December 7, 2008 5:35 am

    Oh Eva, I’m not sure if I should hug you or if I should turn off the computer and run away as fast as I can! Actually, there’s no question…I definitely want to hug you! I’m severely cutting down on the number of challenges I’m doing, but NO WAY am I passing this one up! I’m sooooo incredibly excited about it! (Which ought to be quite apparent by the number of exclamation points I seem to throwing out there.)

    I think I’ll officially sign up at the Major Level, but unofficially shoot for the Postgraduate Level. Oh Eva, thank you so much for hosting this. These sort of books have recently become some of my favorite kind of reads, and honestly that’s in large part to you! I, of course, will not be able to discuss them anywhere near as eloquently and as intelligently as you, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

    Quick question–do we need to have a set list? Will a potential pool to choose from be okay?

  15. December 7, 2008 7:05 am

    I’m joining too. I’m going for the Minor level, I never read enough non-fiction.
    I have a quick question though, does travel writing fit in anywhere, I have Blood River about a journalists journey through the Congo that sounds great.
    And can I post a list as I go along, as I have no idea (excpet the above about what I may read).

    Good to see you back posting xx

  16. December 7, 2008 7:24 am

    I’m also going to try and read each issue of National Geographic released in 2009 as they have some great articles and may broaden my limited knowlege of the world.

  17. December 7, 2008 6:40 pm

    This challenge is a great one to expand my scope of the world and it’s prevailing issues. I don’t read much non-fiction but this would be a great incentive to read.

  18. December 7, 2008 8:05 pm

    Eva, I rarely join challenges, but yours offers so many interesting levels of participation as well as the promise of truly expanding my intellectual horizons – how can I let such an opportunity slip by?

    Thanks for offering such a carefully thought proposal :) I’ll be watching for more details.

  19. December 7, 2008 8:49 pm

    Beastmomma, all year-I’m sorry about the confusion. When I originally developed the challenge, it was going to be for the summer. :)

    Chris, definitely! :D

    Sarah, I’m glad you’re thinking of participating!

    Nymeth, King Leopold’s Ghost definitely counts. ;) And I hope I manage to make it a great one!

    Jessica, all of 2009. :)

    Alyce, great!

    Callista, I hope the lists will be up by the 20th. :D

    Joanne, awesome!

    Lezlie, yay!

    Jessi, I’m glad you’re joining. :D

    Emily, lol; I’m glad you’re going to join at all. :)

    Chain Reader, awesome!!

    Karen, thanks so much. :D

    Debi, lol-I’m so glad you’re in, and I think we’ll have a lot of fun. Annie’s more than welcome to join in as well. :D

    Katrina, it sounds like Blood River could definitely be in the memoir category, and maybe also in culture or politics (depending on what it focuses on). And you’re way ahead of me with the National Geographic commitment: there’ll be a periodicals mini-challenge too! :)

    Matt, I’m so happy to have you. :D

    Becca, great!!

  20. December 7, 2008 11:23 pm

    This looks like a great challenge! I’d love to join, but I’m not sure yet what level I’ll participate at. I’d like to get a look at your recommendations first. Love the idea of mini-challenges.

  21. December 8, 2008 4:40 am

    This sounds sooo interesting. I am choosing my challenges very carefully and I definetely want to join this. I just don’t know which level.

    One question? Which category do Travelogues come in?

  22. December 8, 2008 6:41 am

    I am very interested in nonfiction and this challenge sounds awesome! but I have no idea what books would fit into each category, so I’m going to wait until you post the idea’s list before I decide what “level” to participate at. Thanks for doing this, Eva, even with all you have going on!

  23. December 8, 2008 8:35 am

    I’m joining your challenge! I’ve written my post. I’m committing to The World Citizen 101 level, but I may change it to The Minor Level. What a great way to get in more non-fiction!

  24. December 8, 2008 9:27 am

    I love the idea of this challenge, but I’m not going to overcommit myself for 2009. I’m going for the Prospie level for now. Can I “upgrade” later?

  25. December 8, 2008 9:59 am

    I’m in but I’m not sure for what level yet. Is there a way everyone can contribute to a list of books that would be good for each of the categories?

  26. December 8, 2008 2:56 pm

    Wow, this sounds very interesting and I think I’m up to it. I’ve already been reading several books (both fiction and non-fiction) that fit in these cagetories (except maybe economics). So I think I would go for either the Major Level or the Postgraduate Level, I’ll have to think about this a little more. When I decide I’ll post about your challenge on my blog. This would be the first book challenge I’ve ever joined! Are you going to make up a widget too?

    I like Katrina’s idea about also reading National Geographic to help keep being informed; I actually had been thinking about starting a subscription–now I think I definitely will!

  27. Chelsea permalink
    December 8, 2008 4:53 pm

    This sounds fun. I can’t decide between Auditor and Postgrad. I will let you know.


  28. December 8, 2008 8:07 pm

    I will try this, but you wrote so much and I see so little that I am having trouble figuring out what you want.

  29. December 8, 2008 8:20 pm

    I’m in, I’m in! I’m going for the Majors! I actually wouldn’t mind going for Postgrad, but I don’t think I want to read anything in Politics… and I’ll probably have a little trouble figuring out what book goes in which category….

    Like for example, Fast Food Nation, is it world wide issues, or cultural issues?

    And does Freakonomics fit into Economics or socialogy?


  30. J.S. Peyton permalink
    December 9, 2008 4:47 pm

    Oh, oh! Sign me up. But since I’m great at joining challenges, but horrible at completing them, I’m down for “The World Citizenship 101 Level.” God help me if I can’t finish one book in a year. Great challenge!

  31. J.S. Peyton permalink
    December 9, 2008 5:03 pm

    Oh, I wanted to add that The Washington Post has a wonderful list of their “best of 2008 books”. Their non-fiction list is helpfully separated by genre – i.e. history, foreign policy, economics, memoirs… It might be a great resource for those of you looking to build your challenge list.

  32. J.S. Peyton permalink
    December 9, 2008 5:04 pm

    Oy, my html linking didn’t work. Here’s the address:


  33. alirambles permalink
    December 10, 2008 11:03 am

    I love the way you’ve set this up. I’m waiting to decide on challenges until after the holidays, but this is definitely at the top of my list–at least at the Minor level, if not more.

  34. December 10, 2008 11:44 am

    What a great challenge Eva! Ok, as much as I didn’t want to get caught up in so may challenges next year I think I just need to give in and go for it. I’ll think about this some more to see which level I want to take.

  35. December 10, 2008 5:53 pm

    Awesome challenge! I was browsing for challenges for next year and yours looks great. Count me in at the Postgraduate Level. My post is up:

  36. December 11, 2008 4:14 pm

    Sounds good to me. I will let you know what level after the holiday.

  37. December 12, 2008 11:38 am

    This is so intimidating which is precidely why I’m really tempted to do it.

  38. December 12, 2008 2:13 pm

    Well, like a few others, I actually didn’t want to do more challenges for 2009, but I guess I can fit that one in as WC 101. I might step up, if I find the time, but for now that’s the class I think I’ll definitely be able to “attend” :)

    So, since I’m German I get to read about every other country’s history, politics, economy etc. but Germany’s, right?

  39. jeskawest permalink
    December 13, 2008 12:35 pm

    I’d really like to participate in this challenge at the post-graduate level. My blog is at http//

  40. December 13, 2008 12:59 pm

    Of course, I’ll commit. I hereby announce my intention to Minor in World Citizenship.

  41. Jenny permalink
    December 13, 2008 9:56 pm

    K this sounds real good and definitely a Challenge!. I’ll go for Major. Didn’t exactly hear how long this runs I’m assuming it is for the year? Thanks

  42. December 14, 2008 3:28 pm

    I’m in! I’m going to join at the Major Level. Now to find my books . . .

  43. December 15, 2008 6:40 pm

    I would love to join this challenge. Since I was a poly sci major I have to go with the post grad level.

  44. December 16, 2008 10:40 am

    Laza, great!

    Violet, the travelogues would depend, but probably either into memoir or culture. If it’s a more journalistic political account, it might squish into politics.

    Rebecca, I’m so excited you’re on board!

    Kylee, great-welcome!

    Heather, of course you can. :)

    Deb, yep: I’m working on a list right now, and once the blog is up I’ll make is so everyone can add their own suggestions.

    Valeria, great!!

    Chelsea, awesome!

    Lindy, it’s mainly up to you. :)

    Betty, awesome! welcome! :) Fast Food Nation is about America, so if you’re not an American it would count under culture. Otherwise, it doesn’t count. Freakonomics is also about America, so it either counts as economics or not at all, depending on your nationality.

    J.S., yay! Good tip on the WP-thanks so much.

    AliRambles, thanks so much-hope to see you agter the holidays. :)

    Iliana, lol-no pressure!

    IndianaJane, great! Welcome!

    Sue, looking forward to seeing you. :)

    Claire, hehe: I’ll help you through it!

    Kathrin, great. And you’re right on about the rules. :)

    Jeskawest, great! welcome!

    Care, awesome!!

    Jenny, great! Yep-it runs for the year.

    Vasilly, welcome!

    Violette, awesome!

  45. December 16, 2008 11:57 am

    What an interesting challenge? I’m not sure what level I’ll be at, but am excited to start soon!

  46. December 17, 2008 10:24 am

    I love this idea and am absolutely in! I’m going whole hog and choosing the postgraduate level, but I don’t have my books yet. I may just play it by ear as we go. That’s okay, right?

    Any chance there’ll be a button??? I love buttons! (I’d make one for the group but I don’t have a clue how to do it.)

  47. December 18, 2008 7:21 pm

    Thanks for hosting this awesome sounding challenge! I love how you set up the different levels,so there’s something for everyone.

    Right now, I have it on my blog at theThe World Citizenship 101 Level, but I am reserving the right to change to the Minor level later, if that’s okay with you.

    Here’s the link to my post:

  48. December 19, 2008 10:42 pm

    Jendeis, great and welcome!

    Tammy, of course it’s ok to play it by ear. :) And there is a button-I’ve reposted it so you should be able to see it!

    Teddy, so glad you’re joining!!

  49. December 21, 2008 10:33 pm

    I’m in! Not sure what level yet, will need to mull it over. But this sounds so interesting!

  50. December 23, 2008 9:43 am

    I’m in too, this sounds great! My post is here:

    Thanks for the idea and for hosting!

  51. December 26, 2008 3:49 am

    I have always wonder about the history and the lifestyles of the Philipines as my church is sponsoring a boy (he is 16) from that country. This will make me do it!


  52. December 28, 2008 8:02 pm

    I’m in for the postgraduate level:

  53. December 28, 2008 11:59 pm

    All right, all right. I’m in. I’ll go for the Minor Level – I want to read some more nonfiction, anyway, and this should direct my focus some.

  54. December 29, 2008 12:06 pm

    I was excited to see the post about this on A Novel Challenge. Every year about this time, I tell myself I need to learn more about the world, and by the time February or March rolls around, I’ve forgotten all about it! So, I’m hoping this challenge will give me the kick in the pants I need to actually do it.

    I’d like to sign up for the Major level, and I may even move on from that to Post Grad (if I wind up graduating on time!)

    Thanks for hosting this one!

    By the way, do you have a link for the blog yet?

  55. December 30, 2008 11:29 pm

    I’m in…I’ve been meaning to actually commit to reading more non fiction. So, I will challenge myself to the Minor Level

  56. claire permalink
    January 2, 2009 4:53 pm

    Hi Eva, I’ve been looking for a non fiction challenge and yours sounds great. I’m in!


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