Reading with a baby, part 2

The child is growing in size, cuteness and personality, filling my days with a lot of joy and a bit of struggle. For the most part things have been going very well , I have even found myself with more reading opportunities than I expected, thanks to a not very troublesome child and a very supportive partner.

These are the main reading opportunities that I have found:

  • The coziest, but least convenient option is reading with my sleeping child in my lap, a situation that often occurs after breast feeding. In this position I struggle to read heavier books that can’t be handled with one hand, but the fact that I’m basically stuck in the sofa means that there is little for me to do but read (or scroll the internet).
  • Another favorite is reading in the sunshine while my child sleeps outside in her trolley (Scandinavian children often nap outside and we live in a very safe place). Of course I could just set the baby monitor and use the time to do various household activities, but when the sun is out these are such wonderful moments that it would be a shame to waste them.
  • Reading aloud for my child is another option, she isn’t really understanding picture books yet but is willing to hear a poem or two (and any number of songs) before getting bored.
  • In addition I can often read while the child is playing with her father, but I find it more distracting to read during these times so I often end up doing other stuff at these times.

So far I’m mostly reading classical crime novels that doesn’t require to much concentration (Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Anthony Gilbert, E. C. R. Lorac), but I have also read and enjoyed Kate Briggs’ This Little Art with musings on translations and other things, Jakob Wegelius’ The Murderer’s Ape, a fun and somewhat original adventure story, and Ordens musik, a really lovely anthology of Swedish poetry.

Reading notes from my first few weeks with a baby

The library has a new inhabitant, a child is born, a lovely person in every way, but alas, not yet a reader. Becoming a parent has predictably changed my reading habits and as I do have a few moments to spare I thought that I should write down a few quick notes on how it has influenced my reading so far.

  1. Since the child was born I have not read anything in any paper book longer than a picture book.
  2. Of the picture books I have read I was happily surprised to find that Tomtebobarnen by Elsa Beskow, bought for the lovely illustrations, was not too dated to be enjoyable, despite being first published in 1910. I look forward to reading it aloud in the future.
  3. Even more surprisingly, I have actually managed to read a few classical crime novels (more Ngaio Marsh) on my phone. Before having a child I never read on my phone but I’m pumping which, although inconvenient in many ways, does give me regular child-free intervals with little to do but looking at my phone.
  4. I have also found that a child can be a great aid for memorizing texts. As long as they are set to a child friendly tune I have endless opportunities to repeat them until I know them by heart. Although I guess I should adjust my repertoire before she grows old enough to understand the texts, I currently sing a lot of songs by 18th century troubadour Carl Michael Bellman and while they are more fun to sing than most children’s songs, they are rather heavy on the drinking.

Building a library for someone else

The first thing I bought for my unborn child was a book. Arguably not the most urgent thing for a soon to be parent to buy (it wasn’t even a board book), but a first step in believing that the small movement in my stomach was a tiny human being who would one day emerge in the outside world. Since then I have inherited and bought many more immediately useful things, but I have also thought about and bought even more children’s books.

Of course this is not a completely new interest, children’s literature have a fairly high status in Sweden and I have been regularly rereading classics by e.g. Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson, but my focus has mostly been on middle grade books. Looking at books for somewhat younger ages has made me realize that picture books and middle grade books share the interesting position of regularly having two readers, a child and an adult reading it aloud, and that the best children’s authors and illustrators take full advantage of this, creating art that is interesting on multiple levels without forgetting that the child is the primary audience. I believe that these additional depths, whether they are in the text itself, in the illustrations, or in the juxtaposition between the two, are what elevates a few children’s books into classics. Tove Jansson and Sven Nordqvist are both authors and illustrators that create this type of books.

In contrast my least favourite children’s books are probably the ones that are made primarily for the adult. These may include jokes intended for the adult that are confusing for the child, a nice moral that the adult may want to teach, but that is presented in a way that is harming the story, or be a book that is only published because it is by a famous author or brand that the adult will recognize.

Somewhere in between are the books that are written exclusively for the child, with their interests and enjoyment as the only goal. I don’t mind those, but I also won’t go out of my way to buy them before I know what my child’s interests actually are. Ideally these would be the books that I would borrow from a library, but as I’m not living in Sweden I guess I will have to be more liberal with my book buying.

As you may expect from this post my reading and blogging habits will probably remain irregular for the foreseeable future, but I hope that you will stick around for my rare posts anyway.

Child’s first bookshelf, although for now containing some of my own favourites.

What I have been reading lately

Short answer, unfortunately not very much. Summers are usually my best reading time, but with a new house and everything my energy seems to have been spent elsewhere this year. Anyway, some books have been read, and I believe a short blog update is long overdue.

In total I have read 48 books this year by authors born in 14 different countries. New Zeeland is unexpectedly dominating the statistics, but that is just because I bought an ebook containg a collected edition of Ngoi Marsh’s detective novels, and have been reading them whenever I need a light read. This has apparently often been the case, my spreadsheet tells me that by now I have read 18 of her novels (Opening night was my favourite among the ones I have read most recently).

Selected recent reads

The first read I would like to highlight is Tower by Bae Myuung-Hoon. I thought that it would be fun to try a South Korean science fiction novel, but having read nothing about it beforehand I wasn’t expecting how memorable many of these interconnected short stories would actually turn out to be. In a year of mostly unremarkable reads, this one was a really good find.

Otherwise my most memorable recent read has been a short story collection by Madeleine Bourdouxhe, containing Sept nouvelles and Sous le Pont Mirabeau (translated into Swedish). The short stories were all very good, but it was Sous le Pont Mirabeau, her short memoir on the WWII attack on Brussels while she was still in a maternity ward, that really stuck with me.

Some other things I have been doing lately

Library in progress

Having nice wall-papers in a library is perhaps a bit of a waste, but surely having a library doesn’t mean that my bookshelves can’t spread out in all the other rooms too? It was our first time putting-up wall-papers and it took way longer than I expected, but I believe it was worth it in the end, it has given the whole room a summer feeling.
Still some work on the bookshelves but the reading chair is starting to look cozy already.
And if I ever get bored of my read I could always watch the view instead.

Time for some time travel

With an upcoming move I haven’t been able to focus much on reading. Instead TV-series have been my main source of entertainment, which has lead me to a curious observation, several of my current favourite series involve time travel in one way or another. In a way this is perhaps not surprising, I grew up with Star Trek (Voyager), which taught me to appreciate good adventures, characters who mostly cooperate without too much drama, a little bit of technobabble, and of course, a good time travel plot. It is probably also relevant that I’m looking for escapism and relaxation when I watch TV, if I wanted something challenging I would be reading. These are a few of the series I have been watching lately:


Travelers is a Canadian time travel drama in which the consciousness of travelers from the future take over the bodies of people in the present day right before they are supposed to die. These travelers are tasked with the mission to save Earth from the disaster that is the future, but they also have to keep on living the lives of their host bodies with all the challenges that involves. It is an interesting premise which I think works really well. It also means that everything takes place in the present day, which I’m sure was good for the budget.The story is a bit uneven and not every story line is equally interesting, but it is still my favourite on the list.

Legends of tomorrow

Superhero series are everywhere these days but Legends of tomorrow is the only one that I follow. It is a completely ridiculous story about a bunch of misfit superheros who travel through time to save the world from various threats, but it embraces its ridiculousness and makes the most out of it. The main reason I watch it is for the character interactions, I love the way these misfit characters (mostly) support each other during their adventures. Avoid the first season which is terrible. Motto: We screw things up for the better.


My latest addition to the list is Parallèles, a French time travel drama in which four teenagers end up in different time lines after an incident. It is probably the most derivative of all the series on my list, a fairly straight forward time travel plot that I think would be a suitable also for rather young teenagers, but it was well acted, had likable characters, and was intriguing enough to keep me interested to the end. Unlike the other two series on my list it was also fairly short, which I’m sure helped to keep it interesting.

Have you seen any of these series? What did you think? Can you recommend any other time travel series that I should watch?

Month in review

Photo of a yellow tulip

Well, that was an intense month. After month after month of boring pandemic nothingness everything suddenly decided to happen at once. I had hoped that world would be allowed to emerge from from the pandemic without stumbling directly into the next disaster, but no such luck.

However, for me personally most of February has actually been really good; almost all the Norwegian pandemic restrictions have been lifted, including, to my great relief, all border restrictions (for me the stress of being cut off from my family has been by far the worst part of the pandemic), at work we are taking the first steps to start a new cool research project, and last, but certainly not least, we have just bought our first house.

The house is also the reason for my poor reading in February, I admit to having read little but glossy interior and garden magazines for the last month as I eagerly await our move and plan my new library (given the choice between dining room or library I obviously choose library). However, I hope that after the move, and in-between all the obligations I’m sure that house-owning entails, I will be able to spend some time reading in my new library, or even in the new garden (our current “garden” is a depressing piece of asphalt used for parking, so getting a real one is exciting).

I thus expect to be even less active than usual during the next few months, but I do expect to come back, perhaps with some photos of the library…

Closing the books on 2021

Map indicating the author’s country of birth for all the books I have read in 2021

So, 2021 is finally over. It did have some highlights, but for a large part it was a dreary, exhausting year (I hate border closures with all my heart). Blogging largely fell to the side in pure exhaustion, but I did read quite a bit. Exactly 100 books in total.

As usual I read most of the books in English (64), followed by Swedish (30) and Norwegian (6). 53 of the books were written by women and 47 by men, a surprisingly even split. Authors from the United Kingdom (33) dominated, followed by Swedish (16) and US authors (11), but authors born in 31 different countries (a new record since I started to keep track!) were represented in my reads. In addition the books were published in 17 different decades.

Early in my blogging days I started the 30-20-10 challenge where the goal was to read books by authors from 30 countries, 20 books written by a woman and 20 by man, and in 10 different decades. At that time I had no real intention of finishing in one year (and I didn’t), but it pushed me to broaden my reading and in 2021 I succeeded without even trying, which feels really good.

Memorable first time reads

Most read blog posts in 2021

Reading plans for 2022

I loved the ReadIndies month that Karen and Lizzie hosted last year and really look forward to the 2022 edition. In addition I plan to join the Narniathon, but other than that my ambition is to read often, widely, but most of all for enjoyment.

Happy New Reading Year!

The lion, the witch and the wardrobe

Few books have meant more to me than the chronicles of Narnia. As a child I read them over and over, and even, after I had collected them all in Swedish, collected Narnia books in other languages as souvenirs. It is thus fair to say that I know the stories rather well, but I must admit that it have been a long time since I reread them. Calmgrove’s Narniathon seemed like a good time to do something about that and I have therefore revisited The lion, the witch and the wardrobe.

Most of the time when I reread a book I have at least partially forgotten the plot, but not this time. Every scene, almost every word, was familiar, but despite this I still enjoyed it. Sure, there are things I could complain about, the children all feel fairly flat and unconvincing, the narrator sometimes starts lecturing, but none of that really matters. What do I care about the Pevensie children? When I read a Narnia book, I am always the child that travels to Narnia. That C. S. Lewis created a world I could almost believe I could travel to has always been what I loved most about the Narnia books.

Apart from his excellent abilities for setting a scene I believe that there are three things in particular that makes my immersion in Narnia possible, Firstly, Narnia is a portal world, making it entirely plausible that I could travel to Narnia, unlike most Fantasy lands. Secondly, The chronicles of Narnia contain something that the author truly believed in. A story with a moral is often worse for it, but I have often found that the stories with something true (or believed to be true) at their core are the ones with lasting power. The chronicles of Narnia and my other children’s Fantasy favourite, The Brothers Lionheart, although very unalike, both have this is common. Thirdly, Narnia is created by an author who appears to believe in it. Perhaps not in a literal sense, but because Lewis wrote it with a strong Christian centre (which I completely missed as a child), he took it seriously. Other portal worlds, such as Oz or Wonderland, are written by authors who don’t take them seriously, they are interesting and fun, but I never found them believable in the way that I do believe in Narnia.

All in all I found my return to Narnia to be interesting and enjoyable. I had hoped to discover more new things in it, but I have read it so many times, and also reread it as an adult, although a long time ago, that it all felt familiar.

What I did discover this time was that the illustrations, although lovely, were not particularly accurate. The Narnian reindeer in particular seemed to have little in common with the reindeer I am familiar with.

Time for some reading statistics

Map indicating the author’s country of birth for all the books I have read in 2021 so far.

Nine months of the year has passed and it is time to lock back at my reading so far. Overall I had a really good reading spring, but since then my reading has slowed down to about one book a week for May-September, and I fear that I have spent much more time on youtube than I have with my books lately. However, thanks to all the reading I did in the spring my total statistics still looks rather fine, with 74 books read by authors from 22 countries.

Reading highlights April-September

  • We are not afraid by Gila Lustiger (published by Notting Hill Editions)
  • A wilder time by William E. Glassley (another excellent non-fiction from Bellevue Literary Press)
  • Var vid gott mod by Annika Persson (biography over the textile artist Märtha Måås Fjetterström)
  • The brothers Lionheart (reread)

Reading right now

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  • The book of dust by Philip Pullman
  • Leap frog & other stories by Guillermo Rosales


Writing on this blog has been slow for the past six months, I have published a total of only four blog posts (including this one), since my previous update in early April. Instead I have written a lot for work, finally publishing an article I have been working on on and off for years (rather technical so I won’t add a link). Perhaps now that it is out of the way I will have more time to spare for blogging.

Autumn colours