I decided to participate in the 30-20-20-10 reading challenge this year. That is, to read books from 30 countries, by 20 men and 20 women and from 10 different decades. The goal is to finish it this year but if not I will continue on the same challenge until I’ve finished it.
As I expected the easiest was the 10 decades goal. I usually mix old and more modern literature and had finished this goal already in late January. Currently I’ve listed books from 14 decades, with 2000-09 being the decade I’ve read the most books from (9), followed by 1920-29 and 2010-17 (5 each).
Reading books by both men and women is also going well. Currently I’ve read books by 19 women and 14 men so I expect to finish this goal too in 2017.
As I feared the countries have provided much more of a challenge. I’ve only read books from 12 different countries so far. UK dominates my list (18 books) followed by the US (8), Sweden (4), Finland (3), Russia, Belgium and Norway at 2 each and Denmark, Canada, Lebanon, Colombia and China with one each. Hopefully I will have read books from at least 20 different countries before the end of the year.
I like this reading challenge as it pushes me to read outside of my comfort zone but it may be a bit too ambitious for me. When I have finished it, whether it is this year or the next, I will probably chose a simpler reading goal with the same aim.
Best this year so far (only including first-time reads)
I love paper books. I love having bookshelves full of everything from well-bound hard-cover editions tattered second-hand pocket books. I watch them on the shelves, take them out and and leaf through them, remembering good reads.
I also love e-books. I love having an entire library in my pocket when I travel, the convenience of the front-lit pages and the adjustable character sizes.
What I hate are the things that look like e-books, cost like e-books, but really are nothing but a “license to read”. I don’t mind it much when they are honest about it, I know that I don’t own the e-books I’ve loaned from the library and that’s OK, I didn’t pay for them either. I may also pay for a “license to read”-book if it is a lot cheaper (or if I’m desperate). However, the DRM-protected books are per definition inferior to real e-books. I don’t own them. I can’t move them freely between my devises (only to the extent the publisher decides) or be sure that I can still read them if the publisher goes bankrupt or the reader hardware changes. An e-book in an open format can probably be updated to a more modern format whereas there is a real risk that a DRM-protected book will be lost. I’m happy to pay for e-books. However, if I pay for them I want to own them and I don’t like seeing inferior products promoted as the real thing. Paying full price for a DRM-protected book is a lot like paying full price for a hard-cover edition only to find out that the pages get loose and the paper inside turned brown and fragile after only a few years.
So in general I do my best to avoid “license to read”-books. In practice that usually means that I either stick to paper books or select books that are out of copyright. Project Gutenberg has a large collection of DRM-free out-of-copyright books in a variety of formats and so does MobileRead . For SF and Fantasy DRM-free books can be also bought from Baen books. As a Swedish reader things are even better, both Dito and Adlibris have most of their Swedish e-books protected by watermarks instead of a more intrusive DRM. I’d like to hear about other, legal, sources if anyone has any suggestions?
Although the traditional Swedish way of celebrating the Swedish National Day is by ignoring it, I though I should make an exception and list a few books that may serve as an introduction to Swedish literature. I made a rather narrow selection this time so I may come back and expand on this topic later.
Sweden’s probably most influential author is Astrid Lindgren, best known for her books about Pippi Longstocking. Her books (and the TV-series made from them) have been loved by Swedish children for decades and form an integral part of a typical Swedish childhood. Some familiarity with her books is thus useful for anyone trying to learn about Swedish culture. For an adult reader I would recommend Ronia the Robber’s daugther (Ronja Rövardotter) or the, slightly more controversial, Brothers Lionheart (Bröderna Lejonhjärta, my favourite) as good starting points.
For classical Swedish literature Vilhelm Moberg, Per Anders Fogelström and the Nobel prize winner Selma Lagerlöf are all good choices. Vilhelm Moberg’s series The Emigrants (Utvandrarna), about the Swedish emigration to America, and Per Anders Fogelström’s City of My dreams (Mina drömmars stad), about working-class people in Stockholm, are also good introductions to 19th century Sweden. A few of Selma Lagerlöf’s novels are available in English at Project Gutenberg.
For Swedish crime I would recommend the novels by Åsa Larsson or Henning Mankell. I particularly enjoy the well-captured north Swedish setting (Kiruna) in Åsa Larsson’s novels.
A used bookstore near my home is sadly closing down, something more and more of them have been doing during the last ten years. Sad as the occasion was this did mean a generous sale which I was happy to take advantage of. I especially enjoyed the “pay per bag” system used for the sale which encouraged me to pick up some interesting curiosities. I am now proud owner of an essay collection by Karen Blixen, an illustrated Norwegian short story by Jonas Lie and a religious text by Esaias Tegnér, printed in 1897, which I chose solely because it was beautiful.
The bookstore in question specializes in non-fiction so the fiction collection was limited. Nevertheless I did find a few crime novels (Josephine Tey, Agatha Christie) and Jenny Diski’s novel “Skating to Antarctica” which I look forward to read.
Those of you who could not take advantage of the sale can still read some of Jonas Lie’s tales. His short-story collection “Weird Tales from the Northern Seas” is available from project Gutenberg. I’ve only read one of the stories so far but it looks promising.
It’s still only May but the temperatures for the last few days have equalled those of the height of summer. Fortunately I got to spend a few days by the sea, lying on a warm rock in the sun, eating (imported) raspberries and reading.
With summer thus officially here it is time to collect my summer reading. Most important is The Summer Book (Sommarboken) by Tove Jansson. In a series of loosely connected episodes we follow a young girl and an old grandmother through a summer on an island in the Finnish archipelago. Often funny and always down to earth, it paints a beautiful but melancholy picture of life and summers. I try to re-read it every summer.
If one book by Tove Jansson is not enough I’m happy to continue with Finn Family Moomintroll (Trollkarlens hatt) which follows the summer adventures of the Moomin family.
Otherwise my summer reading tend to be dominated by lazy reads. Battered copies of cosy crime novels (mostly Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers), suitable for reading in the shadow under a tree or during a long journey.
Best combined with: Ice-cold elderflower cordial and fresh, sun-warmed, berries.
A review of “The summer book” can be found here
So here it is. The unremarkable beginning of a blog. I think it is a book blog but it is only a few hours old, it could grow into anything. If you somehow found your way here already, welcome! Later you might find ramblings about books here, possibly also proper reviews. I hope to make this my bookish corner of the internet.