My reading wishes for 2020

KalmarsundDuring 2020:

  • I wish to read books that challenge me…
  • …and books that are real page-turners.
  • I wish to discover books by authors from Asia, Africa and South America…
  • …and from south and east Europe…
  • …and more Nordic authors.
  • I want to read more British crime classics and other comfort reads…
  • …and spend more time rediscovering SF and Fantasy…
  • …and to continue with my Classic Cub reading challenge.
  • I also wish to read more in Norwegian
  • …and to use my local library more.

But most of all I wish for another good reading year!

Closing the books – 2019 edition

The geographical distribution (author’s country of birth) of my 2019 reading. (Guide on how to make this type of maps).

A year has ended which means that I once again get to use all the data that I have collected in my trusted reading spreadsheet during the year.

All in all it has been a good reading year, in total I finished 123 books in 2019 (118 in 2018 and 99 in 2017), 51 by a woman, 52 by a man and 20 by multiple authors.

Decade of first publication for the books I read during 2019.

As in the previous years books by authors from UK (46), US (33) and Sweden (11) dominated my reading, but I managed to read books written by authors from 22 countries (27 in 2018 and 21 in 2017). Although the numbers are down a bit from 2018 I am still happy with them as they indicate that even without the reading challenge I participated in in 2017 and 2018, I still keep reading fairly widely. Among books not originally written in English or Swedish, my favourites this year was The Good Shepherd by Gunnar Gunnarsson (Iceland), Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag (India) and The three-body problem by Cixin Liu (China).

Some other 2019 reading highlights have included:

2019 was also the year I rediscovered how much fun Science Fiction novels can be and I made heavy use of Baen’s free library to try new authors (their free anthologies are especially great for that).

I also got my first proper ex libris, which made me really consider what my physical books actually mean to me. 60 of the books that are most important to me now carry a bookplate and I plan to add ca 1 book per month to that number from here on.

Book blogging has also remained important to me, although I have been somewhat less active than in 2018. It is my primary place for bookish discussions so I am very happy for all of you who keep visiting and commenting, thank you!

Most visited blog posts in 2019

I wish you all a happy new reading year!


In which I report the progress on all my reading challenges…

DSC_0188It is the last day of the year and although the full reading report will have to wait until the new year (in case I finish any more books today), I believe it is time to report my progress on the various reading challenges I undertook this year.

Classics club

This year I managed only five of the books on my Classics club reading list. I even failed on the latest spin I participated in, despite getting an easy one, so I am definitely falling behind here…

Back to the classics reading challenge

In The Back to the classics reading challenge the goal is to read and blog about twelve books that fit particular categories and which are at least 50 years old. This year I managed to read and review books from eight of the twelve categories (re-using some of the books from the classics club reading challenge).

1. 19th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1800 and 1899. The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
2. 20th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1900 and 1969.
My Ántonia by Willa Cather
3. Classic by a Woman Author. Silas Marner by George Eliot
4. Classic in Translation. Any classic originally written in a novel other than your native language. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.
5. Classic Comic Novel.
6. Classic Tragic Novel.
7. Very Long Classic. Any classic single work 500 pages or longer, not including introductions or end notes.
8. Classic Novella. Any work of narrative fiction shorter than 250 pages.
Moominpappa at Sea by Tove Jansson
9. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean).
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia).
The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon
11. Classic From a Place You’ve Lived. Read locally! Any classic set in a city, county, state or country in which you’ve lived, or by a local author. Kallocain by Karin Boye
12. Classic Play. Any play written or performed at least 50 years ago. Plays are eligible for this category only.

Keep reading books by African, Asian and South American authors

I  will post some more statistics later but I did manage to read books by authors from Argentina, Colombia, Nigeria, Israel, India, China, Japan and South Korea.

Decrease my book budget from last year’s

Success! Not to hard considering that last year’s budget was very generous, but I am still proud.

I wish you all a Happy New Year!

The history of snow

winter roadThe darkest day is not in the mid-winter but right before the first winter snow. Few things can transform a landscape so completely as the first snow. What once was a muddy grey-black darkness is now sparkling in bright white and blue, every lost ray of light reflected and multiplied.

As I have moved north my winters have become longer and whiter but I still live southerly enough that the bright winters are threatened. As the climate warms they will shorten in both ends, light snow transform into dreary rain and sleet, causing not only ecological and hydrological changes but also cultural ones.

Reading The History of Snow (Snöns historia) by Mats Ekdahl was therefore a melancholy pleasure. The author wanders from literature to science, from polar exploration to winter warfare, from winter sport to art, in his attempt to provide a full portrait of snow and ice. Along the way he encounters a broad range of characters, among them Fridtjof Nansen and Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir and Pava-Lasse Tuorda, Cora Sandel and Olaus Magnus, Louis Agassiz and Lindsey Vonn.

It is thus a very broad text, never as in-depth as I would have liked, but always interesting and intelligent, covering the historical and cultural significance of snow and showing us the things we may lose. I hope it will eventually get an English translation, until then i recommend it to anyone who can read it in Swedish.

Why there are so few photos of books in my blog posts

Book blogs are often filled by photos of books, which makes sense, after all that is what we are writing about. However, when I started my book blog I realized that Swedish copyright law did not necessarily allow me to freely use book covers in reviews. Of course few publishers would complain about free publicity, but it still seemed easier not to use them. On the other hand, a book blog without illustrations would look rather boring. I therefore started to look through my own photos hunting for suitable illustrations for each blog post, with variable success. Sometimes I have been lucky enough to have some actually relevant photos, other times I have tried to capture a mood and, quite often, I have had to go with whatever I could find, occasionally something that only made sense to myself.

Anyway I thought it could be fun to show you some good and bad examples and explain some of my selections.

Relevant photos

Scandinavian authors are usually the easiest to illustrate as most of my photos are taken in Scandinavia. Most of the time I can at least find a photo with the right type of landscape, although not necessarily from the right region.

A pasture for Vilhelm Moberg and a forest for Dan Andersson, each showing the kind of landscapes they wrote about.

Setting the mood

A depressing train station was meant to illustrate the town after The Grey Men took over in Momo and a scary-looking hook was used to illustrate a blog post asking for crime fiction recommendations.

A striking flower was selected to illustrate The Great Gatsby, while a discussion on the publisher Slightly Foxed called for gentler flowers.

Well, I have to use something…

Surely any photo from Russia can illustrate any Russian novel and the flowers on the left did grow in Russia. Too bad none of my readers would know that… Illustrating Midnight’s children also proved difficult as I haven’t been anywhere near India, but at least I could sort of capture the colours of the flag.

Even though the result is not always great I do enjoy using my own photos and like the challenge in trying to find a suitable illustration from a somewhat narrow selection. So perhaps it is a good thing that I could not use book photos as I had originally planned.

Going Solo

greenland (1040)

I have a soft spot for stories about early aviation (fact or fiction) and another one for the memoirs from Slightly Foxed, so when they recently published Going Solo, Roald Dahl’s memoir about his time working for Shell in East Africa in the 1930s and flying for RAF during WWII, I was a very early customer.

As a memoir it is a bit of a failure as it is hard to know which parts that are true and which that are not. Roald Dahl clearly doesn’t let pesky things such as accuracy get in the way of a good story and I am thus not sure how much I really learned about his life. However, I’ don’t really mind because even if he tells tall stories, they are great tall stories told by a fabulous story teller and that is an art form I admire.

I had promised myself to savour it for a bit and not finish it in one evening, as I did with his childhood memoir Boy, but it is a page-turner. I liked it even better than Boy.

Classics club, two years in

bumble-beeToday marks the end of my second year in the Classics club, and although I occasionally regret my decision to sign-up (mostly when I have to write a review and don’t know what to say), overall I must say that I am very happy that I joined! I really appreciate the community around this reading challenge, and the way that it pushes me to finally read those books that I have always thought that I should read…

Highlights so far

So far I have read 21 out of the 50 books on my list, so finishing in three years time should be realistic.

Complete reading list (hyperlinks marks the ones I have read and reviewed)
1 de Beauvoir, Simone: The Second Sex
2 Bellman, Carl Michael: Fredmans epistlar (Fredman’s epistles)
3 Boye, Karin: Kallocain
4 Bulgakov, Mikhail: The Master and Margarita
5 Carter, Angela: Night at the Circus
6 Cather, Willa: My Antonia
7 Alighieri, Dante: Vita nuova
8 Eliot, George: Silas Marner
9 Eliot, George: Middlemarch
10 Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
11 Fogelström, Per Anders: Mina drömmars stad (City of My Dreams)
12 von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang: Faust
13 Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The House of the Seven Gables
14 Ibsen, Henrik: Peer Gynt
15 Jansson, Tove: Sent i november (Moominvalley in November)
16 Jansson, Tove: Pappan och Havet (Moominpappa at Sea)
17 Kushner, Tony: Angels in America
18 Lagerlöf, Selma: Gösta Berlings saga (Gösta Berling’s Saga)
19 Lagerlöf, Selma: Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige (The Wonderful Adventures of Nils)
20 Lindgren, Astrid: Bröderna Lejonhjärta (The Brothers Lionheart)
21 Linna, Väinö: Okänd soldat (The Unknown Soldier)
22 Lönnrot, Elias: Kalevala
23 Moberg, Vilhelm: Utvandrarna (The Emigrants)
24 Moberg, Vilhelm: Din stund på jorden (A Time on Earth)
25 Morrison, Toni: Beloved
26 Plath, Sylvia: Ariel
27 Plath, Sylvia: The Bell Jar
28 Rhys, Jean: Wide Sargasso Sea
29 Rushdie, Salman: Midnight’s Children
30 de Saint-Exupéry, Antoine: The Little Prince
31 de Saint-Exupéry, Antoine: Wind, Sand and Stars
32 Sayers, Dorothy: Gaudy Night
33 Scott, Robert Falcon: Scott’s last expedition
34 Sei Shōnagon: The Pillow Book
35 Shakespeare, William: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
36 Sturlasson, Snorre: Heimskringla
37 Thoreau, Henry David: Walden
38 Thorvall, Kerstin: Det mest förbjudna
39 Tikkanen, Märta: Arnaía kastad i havet
40 Tolstoy, Leo: Anna Karenina
41 Tunström, Göran: Juloratoriet (The Christmas Oratorio )
42 Undset, Sigrid: Kransen (The Wreath, Kristin Lavransdatter triology, part one)
43 Walker, Alice: The Color Purple
44 Den poetiska Eddan (Poetic Edda)

Anthologies etc.
45 Kafka, Franz: Metamorphosis and other stories
46 Lie, Jonas: Fortellinger i utvalg (Selected stories)
47 Mansfield, Katherine: Short story collection
48 Pushkin, Alexander: The Queen of spades and other stories
49 Rumi: Selected poems
50 Selected Bible books: Psalms, Revelation