20 best genre fiction writers from other countries to expand your horizons

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16. Umberto Eco

It’s hard to pin author Umberto Eco to one given genre at a time. Really, it’s exceedingly difficult to pigeonhole Eco’s intellect and work into a single sort of career. He was an author, sure, but one that wrote not only adult novels, but children’s books, academic texts, and essay collections. He was also an academic, literary critic, semiotician (essentially, a rather high-minded study of communication and meaning-making) and, of course, writer.

When it comes to the world of fiction, Eco is perhaps best known for his 1980 book, Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose). That particular book is a thoughtful, intellectual mash-up of detective fiction, medieval history and philosophical text. Don’t let that description dissuade you, however. The Name of the Rose was very successful, selling over 50 million copies and becoming one of the best-selling books ever published.

That’s all for good reason. It’s a fascinating murder mystery set in a medieval Italian abbey that doesn’t skimp on good writing or intellectual rigor. The English monk, William of Baskerville, arrives at the abbey with his novice, Adso, all ready to attend what is essentially a medieval nerd-fest: a theological disputation, or debate.

However, a seeming suicide throws the entire abbey into disarray. The brilliant Brother William is the only one who can bring the truth to light, however painfully, and set things on a better path.

If The Name of the Rose catches your interest, then you’re in luck. Eco, while not as prolific an author as some, wrote seven novels along with a heap of nonfiction. For fiction, try Foucault’s Pendulum, The Island of the Day Before or The Prague Cemetery, the last of which was released in 2010.