26th Annual Mortenson Distinguished Lecture

Ann Morgan

a UK-based writer and editor, and the author of two critically acclaimed books

Ann Morgan

Reading the globe: exploring the world’s literatures, discovering ourselves

Friday, October 14, 2016
4:00 to 6:00pm CDT with book signing immediately after lecture
Alice Campbell Alumni Center
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

THANK YOU to our co-sponsors:
Center for Global Studies, School of Information Sciences and the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign .


Ann Morgan is a UK-based writer and editor, and the author of two critically acclaimed books. The first, The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe , was inspired by her project to read a book from every country on Earth in 2012. Taking the form of a blog , the quest brought Morgan into contact with readers, writers, translators and literary organizations around the planet. It obliged her to grapple with many of the issues surrounding the publication and circulation of texts, including censorship, translation and cultural identity. Through this, she experienced the transformative power of reading and the potential stories have to bridge cultural, temporal, political and religious divides.

Morgan continues to blog about international literature at ayearofreadingtheworld.com , building on the links her project established and adding to the extensive list of reading recommendations bibliophiles around the globe have shared with her. She has given a TED talk, and her literary journey has inspired and informed many personal and group ventures around the planet. These include a community bookshelf at a bus stop in Mexico, library events in the UK and US, school projects around the globe and pledges from booksellers to stock a more international range of titles, as well as numerous individual reading quests.

As a result, Morgan sits on English PEN’s PEN Translates funding panel and has helped draw up the long lists for several literary prizes, including the Commonwealth Foundation’s Short Story prize and the FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices awards. She speaks regularly on international literature and has appeared at numerous literary festivals.

Morgan has worked as an editor for several newspapers and magazines, and has written on literature, education and international development for publications including the Guardian , the Financial Times , the Independent and the BBC Culture website. Her debut novel, literary psychological drama Beside Myself , was published by Bloomsbury in January 2016. 


In 2012, British writer Ann Morgan set herself the challenge of reading a book from every country on Earth in one calendar year. The blog-based quest – recorded at ayearofreadingtheworld.com – drew the support of readers, authors and translators around the planet, and has inspired numerous reading ventures.

Morgan’s lecture draws on her experiences during the project, her research for her book The World Between Two Covers and ongoing interactions with the international literature community. It considers some of the barriers to reading widely and the rewards that come from surmounting them.

The writer reveals her approaches to curating reading lists, discovering unfamiliar writers, reading in translation, and encountering texts that force us outside our cultural comfort zones. She also sets out the transformative effect of exploring stories that challenge, problematize and even re-write the dominant narratives of Western society, and the role that sharing stories internationally can play in enriching lives and promoting peace.