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!


Closing the books – 2018 edition

World map
The geographical distribution (author’s country of birth) of my 2018 reading. (Guide on how to make this type of maps).

A new year has begun which means that I once again get to play around with pretty maps and charts in an effort to illustrate my 2018 reading.

In total I finished 118 books in 2018 (99 in 2017), 57% of them written by women. Books by authors from UK (46), US (17) and Sweden (16) dominated my reading but I managed to read books written by authors from 27 countries (21 in 2017) which I am really happy about. I am especially pleased that reading books from a variety of countries has gone from feeling like an obligation to being something I really enjoy. Overall I have had an excellent reading year with plenty of reading time and have discovered several excellent new authors and novels.

As I read much more than I review, many excellent reads have gone unmentioned on this blog, but I don’t want them to be completely forgotten. So here comes some honourable mentions from my 2018 reading. Links to the blogger who recommended them where applicable.

These are all highly recommended reads!

The temporal distribution of my 2018 reading (each book sorted by the year of its first publication).

I have also gotten much better at blogging this year and the number of blog posts I have written in 2018 (36) is more than double the amount I wrote in 2017 (16).

Most visited blog posts in 2018

  1. Mapping your reading
  2. Spending time on the Russian countryside
  3. A selection of brilliant books

I started this blog so I could discuss books with other book lovers and make some blogging friends. I am very happy with how that has worked out. I am grateful every time any of you take the time to read, comment and like my posts! Happy reading year everyone!


Progress report


Map showing author’s country of origin for the books I have read in 2018.

A third of the year has gone (how did that happen?) and it is time for me to look back on my reading so far. In total I have read 34 books in 2018, by 19 women and 13 men (and two anthologies). I have read books from eleven decades and by authors from twelve countries. Most of them have been very good so I’m happy with my reading year so far.

Best 2018 read so far

Honorary mentions

  • The Boarding-School Girl by Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaya. The Khvoshchinskaya sisters have been a great discovery for me this spring. I have greatly enjoyed both this one and City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya .
  • Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena follows a Latvian mother and daughter whose relationship crumble under the Soviet rule. It was published by Peirene Press, an interesting publisher of translated fiction which I discovered in my effort to read novels by authors from a wider range of countries.

Best page-turner

  • Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon (Trading in Danger is the first book in this series). Elizabeth Moon’s novels would be my guilty pleasure if I felt the least bit guilty about reading them. Her SF and Fantasy series tend to keep me reading way past my bedtime…


Reading challenges for 2018

Finish the 30-20-20-10 challenge from 2017

In 2017 I managed to read books from (more than) 10 decades, written by (more than ) 20 men and (more than) 20 women and by authors from 21 (rather than 30) countries. In 2018 I want to finish this challenge by reading 9 books from countries I didn’t read any book from in 2017. So far I have managed to add 6 new countries to my list.

I also decided on the additional challenge of reading 12 books from countries I read no more than 1 book from in 2017, but so far the books from these two challenges completely overlap.

Read and blog about at least 12 books from my Classics club reading list

I’m falling slightly behind on this challenge, I have only read three books from my Classics Club list so far this year, bringing me up to a total of 8 out of 50 since my start in October 2017.

In 2018 I have read and reviewed the following classics from my list:

I also joined the Back to the classics reading challenge

Apparently classics not on my Classics Club list are more tempting than the ones on the list.  I therefore joined a second classics challenge which allows me to count many of the classics I have read this year but didn’t list on my Classics Club list. Here I have managed to fill seven of the twelve categories.

Read at least as many of my unread books (including new books) as I buy in 2018

Probably the hardest of my challenges and one I’m currently falling behind on. I have bought 27 books this year and have only read 25 of my unread books (in total I have read 34 books but that include re-reads and library books). And that is despite buying eight new books in December with a January delivery which gave me a head-start. However, in my defence, a few of the books I have bought have not arrived yet so I obviously cannot read them.

The challenge has helped though, it has made me somewhat less likely to impulse buy books I’m not sure about as every buy mean I cannot buy a future book I might want more. It has also motivated me to read more from my unread books rather than searching for new ones. Not a large effect but every bit helps…

Classics fatigue

GullFinishing La Vita Nuova I suddenly felt that I had read too many heavy classics during 2018. That is demonstrably not true, my reading statistics tells me that out of the eleven books I’ve read this year only La Vita Nuova was a challenging read and five were children’s books but apparently that was enough.

However, it was clearly time for a change of pace and as light page-turners do not linger unread long on my bookshelves what I found was an Agatha Christie where I had conveniently forgotten who the murderer was. Cat Among The Pigeons takes place at a private girls school and involve a coup in a fictional country, missing jewels and secret agents. It is technically a Poirot novel but Poirot only plays a very peripheral role in it. I really enjoy the Christie stories that edge into adventure stories territory. They may be even less realistic than her standard crime novels but they are usually a lot of fun.

Agatha Christie x 3

The secret adversary: This one is a wild and improbable story full of secret agents. More importantly it is the first book to feature Tommy and Tuppence which I find to be some of Christie’s best characters. Great fun!

The Pale Horse: The creepiest Christie I’ve read so far and one of her best. Neither Poirot nor miss Marple makes an appearance which is a good thing, not because I don’t like those characters, I do, but because it is harder to guess where the novel is going when they are absent.

Towards zero: This one is more of a standard Christie mystery but a very good one. Once again without Poirot or miss Marple.

I count Cat Among The Pigeons, published in 1959, as my classic crime story for the Back to the classics reading challenge.

Midwinter reading recommendations


I once brought some Jack London novels to a remote Arctic area thinking that nothing could be more appropriate than sitting in my own tent reading about the cold, hard lives of dogs, wolves and people in the Arctic. It turned out I was wrong. When I actually lay there in my sleeping bag I wanted nothing more than the second-hand warmth of Jane Austen’s novels (I had brought a well-filled e-reader so fortunately that was an option). I realized that actual cold requires books that will keep you warm and comfortable (and this even though my visit was in the summer time so no real hardship).

I thus suggest that the following winter-themed books all benefit from hot cocoa, a fire in the fire-place and a winter storm safely on the other side of a 3-glass window.


Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson

This novel tells the story of the time when the Moomintroll unexpectedly woke too early from his winter sleep and of his explorations of the cold, white, winter world outside. Although officially a children’s book it is well worth reading for adults too.

Sun storm (UK: The Savage Altar) by Åsa Larsson

If you are looking for a classic Scandinavian crime novel Åsa Larsson is my favourite. Her first book, Sun storm, takes place in Kiruna (north Sweden) in midwinter so expect plenty of cold.


The Expedition by Bea Uusma

This book follows the ill-fated Andrée expedition towards the North Pole and the author’s long and personal quest to find out what actually happened to it. This is a surprisingly thrilling history and deservedly won a major Swedish non-fiction award in 2013.

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

The Worst Journey in the World is one of the classic Antarctic memoirs. It is written by one of the younger, surviving members of Scott’s South Pole expedition (not part of the final South Pole team). The fact that it was written by a junior expedition member makes it perhaps more personal than most memoirs from this time. (This book can be found for free on Project Gutenberg, I recommend the illustrated version).


It is the season for lists


In which I make various lists of my favourite 2017 reads.

A great thing about late December is looking back on the year and consider memorable events, or in the case of a book blog, reads.

Another great thing is how easy it makes it to find a topic for a blog post.

I thus here present the mandatory “best reads of the year” lists. Only one of the books is actually published in 2017 but all of them are great.

20-21th century novels

  • The Love Story of the Century (Århundradets kärlekssaga) by Märta Tikkanen. Why haven’t I read Märta Tikkanen before? I knew it was a Finnish classic (written in Swedish) about a passionate but deeply dysfunctional marriage but I somehow never got around to read it before now. It is both beautiful and thought-provoking and makes some very sharp observations about love and relationships. It’s written as poetry so I’m not sure if there is an English translation that does it justice but it’s probably the best book I read in 2017.
  • Berlin Poplars (Berlinerpoplene) by Anne Ragde. Anne Ragde is another new author for me and another instant favorite. This novel about a dysfunctional Norwegian family was a best-seller upon publication but for some reason I never got around to read it before now. It was great! The characters are slightly cliched but given sufficient depth and written with a warmth and a humor which made them very memorable. It has been translated into English and I really recommend it!
  • Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon. Elizabeth Moon is my go-to author when I want a well-written SF page-turner with interesting characters that actually evolve through the series. Perhaps not as memorable as the previous ones on the list but it’s what I read when I don’t want a challenge, just something entertaining and good. This one is her latest novel and build upon events in her Vatta’s War series.

Pre-20th century

I’ve read some great pre-20th century classics this year, partly though the Classics Club reading challenge. The four I list here were by far my favorite ones. They have all been discussed previously on this blog.

  • The Queen of Spades and other stories by Alexander Pushkin. Pushkin is competing with Tolstoy for the spot as my favorite Russian author and this collection included his best known short stories. A great read!
  • The Poetic Edda. The Poetic Edda is a collection of epic poems about Norse gods and heroes. Being Swedish I sort of knew many of the legends before but this was the first time I read any of the source material (except small excerpts). It was a lot more readable than I had thought and I expect to re-read at last parts of it.
  • Gösta Berling’s saga by Selma Lagerlöf. A Swedish classic centered around a community in Värmland (west Sweden) during the 1820s. Each chapter is a partly independent story, covering various people and episodes. Taken separately they are the kind of half-mythical stories I could picture being told in 19th century Värmland  but Selma Lagerlöf brilliantly weaves them together into a rich portrait of the region.
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I hadn’t planned to read Moby Dick but I happened to get plenty of reading time and limited reading options. I’m glad I did, I really enjoyed it. Reading it just after finishing “Twenty thousand leagues under the sea” also provided some interesting contrast.

Best non-fiction

I didn’t read very much non-fiction in 2017 but much of what I did read was excellent.

  • Country Boy by Richard Hillyer. A quiet memoir of the childhood of a boy in an English farm-labor family and his longing for reading and learning. Lory at The Emerald City Book Review made a great review of it.
  • Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski. I hadn’t read anything by Jenny Diski before but I certainly plan to now. It is partly a memoir of a terrible childhood but Jenny Diski is far too good an author to make it the normal cliched type of memoir.
  • Signatur about Olaf Storø. A personal portrait of my favorite artist of course I loved it!

Best re-reads

And finally honorable mentions of my best re-reads in 2017.

  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • The Summer Book (Sommarboken) by Tove Jansson
  • Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh

Have you read any of the books on these list? What did you think?

Swedish literature

Yellow roses on blue skyAlthough 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.