I love this topic! Let me start by saying that I think every great book transports you to a different world--that, to me, is one of the hallmarks of stellar fiction. When you are experiencing the worldview of a fictional character, then you are transported into their world; you are stepping into their shoes. This, in essence, is the purpose of reading, I believe ... to enrich our own lives by experiencing something different. So I think, in a way, this applies to any novel, even if a book's setting and time period is your own or the characters could be your neighbors. As a reader, you are still crossing the border out of your experience into something new. We do this every time we open a new book.
But, of course, some books bring you to a culture or country completely different than your own, and reading these books can be particularly enlightening and pleasurable. Some writers who have transported me "beyond the borders" include:
Zadie Smith, a British writer whose layered and wonderful novels On Beauty, White Teeth, and NW consider themes of race, class, gender, and immigration.
Jhumpa Lahiri, Indian-American author of the magnificent novels The Namesake and The Lowland, plus the short story collections Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth. I haven't read Lahiri's short stories yet, but after yesterday's terrific Armchair BEA discussions on shorts, I will be adding those to my TBR pile.
Junot Diaz, celebrated Dominican-American author of the startling and stunning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and the collections This is How You Lose Here and Drown.
Marjane Satrapi, with her fascinating comic book-style memoir Persepolis about her childhood and adolescence in revolutionary Iran. This was a "border-crossing" experience for me not just in terms of the setting and topic, but also the genre--I have read very few graphic novels or comics, but I loved it.
Porochista Khakpour, Iranian-American novelist and essayist, and author of the literary, satirical, and beautifully symbolic Sons & Other Flammable Objects and The Last Illusion (new this month, and definitely in my TBR).
What books and writers have transported you outside of your borders?