Sunday, 31 January 2021

What I read in January 2021


January is at its end. Since I will not be able to finish another book today, here a short summary of what I have read during the month. I have mostly concentrated on the challenges I am following. Wanted to start the new year with a little bit of discipline and finish what I had envisaged. It has worked out very well indeed. 

The Unread Shelf hosted by Whitney Conard is aiming at reading anything on your shelves. She is guiding you through e-mails and thoughts on how to get through your piles. If you are interested to join go to her website. So far I have read two books; The January book was 'A book with high expectations' and I choose In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway. His first short stories concentrating on relationships and man's relation to nature. I was not overenthusiastic but will continue to read two more short story collections; Men Without Women and Winner Take Nothing, before going over to his novels.

From my Top TBR for 2021 I choose  My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman. He has a sharp eye for what is going on in society and it is always a pleasure to read his books. 

Back to the Classics is hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate. I started with number 5 on the list - 'A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author' and choose The Prophet by Khalil Gibran (1923). Looking at various situations in life the Prophet tells us what is important. It is all beautiful and thoughtworthy. 

The Classic Club Spin in December gave us number 14. My book was C.G. Jung's The relation of the ego to the unconscious. Not entirely easy to read, but rather short. There were some interesting studies though that one could follow - more or less. 

The Anne Tyler re-read project is hosted by Liz Dexter at Adventures in reading, running and working from home. I have loved all books I read by Anne Tyler, and it is not that many, so I decided to join the project. I am happy to say that I managed to read the first two books for January; If Morning Ever Comes (1964) and The Tin Can Tree (1965). I did like them both and a review will follow. 

Apart from challenges and projects I read all the Bridgerton novels by Julia Quinn, starting in December and finishing in January. A nice, relaxed reading with a little bit of romance, to make our present-day dread a little bit easier. Also enjoyed the Netflix TV-series.

Finished two books for my on-line book club; The Past by Tessa Hadley and, for the upcoming meeting, Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell. Two different kinds of books but both enjoyable. The Past about family relations and how they turned out, looking back on childhood memories. I used to read a lot by Ruth Rendell when I was younger. Always excellent and thrilling reading. So is this one about a housekeeper trying to hide a life long secret. 

I don't have a lot of patience with audiobooks. However, I have a few downloaded from an earlier subscription and would like to finish them. I just don't know when to listen and it seems to take forever to finish the books. One I had listened to for quite a while, and which is really good, was The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley. I really wanted to finish it, so downloaded an e-book copy from my library and finished it in an hour. Felt really good. Eager to read also the following books, but I feel I have too much at hand for the time being. 

Since I am now in Austria with my husband, I decided to finally read The Lonely Princess by Joan Haslip. A nonfiction account on the life of Sisi, Empress Elizabeth, married to Emperor Franz Josep. A very interesting account on her life, as well as her families, against a backdrop of the turbulent times at the end of the 19th century. A review will follow. 

That was a summary of my reading for January. A good way to start the year I feel. Let's see how February will turn out. For my challenges, I will read Ernest Hemingway by Carlos Baker, Kristuskvinnan by Stoika Hristova, The Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham, An Ice-cream War by William Blake, The Sibyl by Pär Lagerkvist, and A Slipping Down Life and The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler. At least, that is the plan. 

How are you doing with your reading and possible challenges?




Friday, 29 January 2021

The BookTube Spin

 

Simon at Stuck in a Book has guided me to a youtube channel on books. I do follow some from time to time. I had not heard about Rick's The BookTube Spin, and am still to check it out. Nevertheless, the cause is worthy, read books from your TBR shelves. Choose twenty of them and on 31 January Rick will spin a number and you have two months to read it. 

Seems to go very well with my other challenges this year, aiming at lowering the number of books on my shelves. So here I am, making another list of twenty books. Most of them will probably appear also on other lists. I am a little bit limited since I am now in Austria and my bookshelves are in Sweden. I did prepare though and brought around 35-40 books, so a list of twenty is definitely all right. Here we go.

  1. eleven minutes by Paulo Coelho
  2. Brida by Paulo Coelho
  3. An Ice-Cream War by William Boyd
  4. The Moon and Sixpence by William Somerset Maugham
  5. Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd
  6. Kingdom of Shadows by Barbara Erskine
  7. The Lodger by Charles Nicholl
  8. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
  9. Ernest Hemingway by Carlos Baker
  10. Eleanor Marx by Rachel Holmes
  11. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  12. The Sibyl by Pär Lagerkvist
  13. Barabbas by Pär Lagerkvist
  14. Through Belgian Eyes by Helen MacEwan
  15. Natasha's Dance, a Cultural History of Russia by Orlando Figes
  16. Plum by Maurice Gee
  17. Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks
  18. The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield
  19. The New Countess by Fay Weldon
  20. Long Live the King by Fay Weldon
A mixture of fiction and nonfiction, long and short books. Looking forward to having someone decide which book I will read. 

Thursday, 28 January 2021

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

 

I have had The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran since 1992 when it was gifted to me. I re-read itbook for the Back to the Classic Challenge.  It goes under the title A classic by BIPOC author. I took more time to read it this time and let me be surrounded by beautiful words and philosophical meanings. 

It is about a prophet who travels from place to place. "We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us." People are gathering to listen to him and ask him about the essentials of life; Love, Marriage, Children, Giving, Word, Eating and Drinking and so on. Here a few quotes from his preachings.  

Love

"... When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you shield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as
the north wind lays waste the garden."

Work

"... You have been told also that life is darkness,
and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge.
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God."

Pleasure

"And he answered, saying:
Pleasure is a freedom-song,
But it is not freedom.
It is the blossoming of your desires,
But it is not their fruit.
It is a depth calling unto a height,
But it is not the deep not the high.
It is the caged taking wing,
But it is not space encompassed
Ay, in very truth, pleasure is a freedom-song.
And I fain would have you sing it with fullness of heart; yet I would not have you lose your hearts in the singing. 
..." 

A short biography of the poet. "Kahlil Gibran was born in 1882 near Mount Lebanon, a region that has produced many prophets. He was a poet, philosopher and artist and his poetry has been translated into more than twenty languages. His drawings and paintings were compared by Auguste Rodin to the work of William Blake. His other books include The Madman, The Forerunner, The Wanderer and The Broken Wings. Kahlil Gibran died in 1931."

The drawings included in the book are beautiful and have a magic touch.   


 

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Bridgerton by Julia Quinn


Last year I read the first in this series of eight books about the Bridgerton family. It was a pleasant read, especially since I like historical fiction, although I don't read a lot of the very romantic ones. When the new series about the Bridgerton family was announced on Netflix I was keen to see it. There are just too few historical pieces out there. I was not disappointed. Beautifully filmed with grand houses, wonderful clothes, a romantic setting and full of humour.  What more do you need during these difficult times? Something that makes you forget the outside world.

Having seen the series over two evenings, I was eager to read the rest of the books. So perfect these days when you can borrow e-books from the library or just buy them directly. I spent the end of last year and the beginning of this year reading one a day, more or less.

It might be a little bit too much to read all of them in one go. Some things tend to be similar. But I liked that the stories of finding a wife/husband for the siblings were quite different. You also get into most of the characters as they re-appear in several books.

Easygoing reading of Regency romance.  Perfect set of books for leisurely days. If you are interested in historical pieces the series is a must-see. (image from juliaquinn.com)


Tuesday, 12 January 2021

My Grandmother Asks Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman is today a well-known author even outside Sweden. I understand many of you are a fan of his books. Before this book, I had only read the excellent A Man Called Ove, so it was with a little bit of anticipation I started this one.

It is a different story from his first one but has Backman's sharp eye on society and people's behaviour. It is about people who are different and don't 'fit into 'normal' society. I don't know if this is maybe typical Swedish? Everyone has to be like everyone else, you should not stick out. Honestly, I think this might not be so typical in the Sweden of today, but definitely was when I grew up. 

Elsa is an almost eight-year-old girl who is mobbed in school. Her only friend is her grandmother who supports and care about her. To help her she creates a fairy-tale country; The Country-Almost-Awake. There everything is different, meaning no one needs to be normal. 

Then her grandmother dies and leaves Elsa alone. However, she has left a treasure trail of letters for her to deliver to persons in her house. They all have a common theme; she says that she is sorry for what she has done. The grandmother is a woman who lived her life as it came. However, she dedicated it to save people. She's a doctor and travelled all over the world, wherever there was a crisis she was there. Being there for strangers who needed her, meant she was not there for her own family. Is it worth the price saving lives of people you do not know and not being there for your family and the people you love?

The make-believe world of the grandmother and Elsa contains monsters, fighting dogs, drunks, knights and dragons and the typical inhabitant of fairy-tales. As she gets to know them better and analysing the stories her grandmother told her, she realises that all is not a fairy-tale, these people also live nearby her. in different disguises.  

It is quite a complex story that Backman is telling us. It feels somewhat long at parts but comes together beautifully in the end. As always he gives you a lot of things to think of when it comes to life, how we interact with our fellow beings and just the way things are. It is full of humour and sadness and lets us think there is hope in the end. 


Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Reading statistics 2020

Another year has begone and it is time to have a look at last year's reading. It was a good year for me. Maybe not difficult considering the times and the time available for reading. I ended up at 107 books. It meant I managed to achieve my aim of 100 books at Goodreads. 

I have divided the genres between Fiction, Nonfiction, Mystery/Thrillers and Classics. The outcome is quite even between the genres with a slightly higher number for fictional books, which is normal. 


Fiction                      38

Nonfiction                 29

Mystery/Thrillers       23

Classics                    17


Favourite books within each genre

My three favourite books within each genre.

Fiction

Carlos Ruiz Zafón - The Prisoner of Heaven and The Labyrint of the Sprits (cheating here but they are both the 2nd and 3rd in a series so I treat them as one, so I can add another two)

Gail Honeyman - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Delia Owens - Where the Crawdads Sing


Nonfiction

Elizabeth Lev - The Tigress of Forli (Renaissance Italy's most courageous and notorious countess

Karin Tegenborg Falkhagen - Svenska drottningar (Swedish Queens)

Tilman Lahme - Familjen Mann (Die Manns, The Mann Family)


Mystery Thrillers

Jane Harper - The Dry

Jo Nesbo - The Leopard

Alexander Söderberg - The Andalucian Friend (and the two following books The Other Son and The Good Wolf)


Classics

Dante - Purgatory (from the Divine Comedy)

Philip Larkin - The Whitsun Wedding (poetry)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - The Speckled Band


Twelve favourite books this year


That was a few highlights from my reading year. I enjoyed most of the books, but there are always a few rising above the rest. I was not aware but like the evenness between the genres. Now it is time to start a new reading year. I have opted for another 100 on Goodreads. I hope most of them will be from my own shelves. 


Sunday, 3 January 2021

Challenges, outcome of 2020

 


I enrolled in a few Challenges during 2020 and here is the outcome.

Nonfiction November

I read five books this month. Two about painter Johannes Vermeer, one about Jenny Lind, famous opera singer called The Nightingale, one about Eels, very interesting and one about literature. All were interesting in their own ways. 

1. Litteraturorientering (Educational book on Literature)
2. Ålevangeliet (The Gospel of Eels) by Patrik Svensson
3. Näktergalen (The Nightingale, biography of Jenny Lind) by Ingela Tägil
4. Vermeer's Little Street by Frans Gruzenhout
5. A View of Delft, Vermeer then and now by Anthony Bailey

Mount TBR  Challenge

Hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block.  I almost made it up Mt Ararat (48 books) but ended at 43 a little bit below the top. 

1. Gustaf Fröding by Staffan Bergsten
2. Presumption of Death by Perri O'Shaughnessy
3. The Letter by Kathryn Hughes
4. The Leopard by Jo Nesbo
5. The Whitsun Wedding by Philip Larkin 
6. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman 
7. The Newton Letter by John Banville
8. Tiggaren (The Beggar) by Sara Sarenbrant
9. The Book of Secrets by Tom Harper
10. Drömmarnas vals (Die Strauß-Dynastie) by Peter Prange 
11. The Andalusian Friend by Alexander Söderberg  
12. Bokhandeln på Riverside Drive by Frida Skybäck 
13. Morning in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa 
14. The Divine Comedy - Hell by Dante 
15. Vågspel (Venture) by Ann Rosman 
16. Axel Oxenstierna, part I by Gunnar Wetterberg 
17. Välkommen till Amerika by Linda Boström Knausgård 
18. before we met by Lucie Whitehouse 
19. Laterna Magica by Ingmar Bergman 
20. Nattens historia by Gunnar Broberg
21. A Scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle 
22. The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle 
23. Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle 
24. The Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle 
25. The Manns by Tilmann Lahme 
26. The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle 
27. The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle 
28. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle 
29. The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian 
30. Medicinhistoriska promenader by Magnus Carlsson 
31. Längtan visar vägen by Patricia Tudor-Sandahl 
32. The Divine Comedy - Purgatory by Dante
33. The Divine Comedy - Paradise by Dante
34. The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay
35. Contemplating Adultery by Lotte and Joseph Hamburger
36. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
37. Hummelhonung by Torgny Lindgren
38. Dorés bibel by Torgny Lindgren
39. Pölsan by Torgny Lindgren
40. Ingen mans land by Jan Guillou
41. Jaget och det omedvetna (Die Beziehungen zwischen den Ich und dem Unbewussten) by C.G. Jung
42. Min salig bror Jean Hendrich by Carina Burman
43. Sophie Brahe by Monica & Lennart Hultqvist

European Reading Challenge

Hosted by Rose City Reader. The top is five-star deluxe entourage and I made it to 11 different European authors, of which I am rather proud. It is always interesting to read authors from different countries, outside the English speaking world from which most books come that I read. 

1. The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood by Jan Marsh (UK)
2. 120, Rue de la Gare by Léo Malet (FR)
3. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (ES)
4. A Sorrow Beyond Dreams: A Life Story by Peter Handke (AUT)
5. Don't Look Back by Karin Fossum (NO)
6. Pennskaftet by Elin Wägner (SE)
7. The Newton Letter by John Banville (IRE)
8. Die Strauß-Dynastie by Peter Prange (DE)
9. The Divine Comedy - Hell by Dante (IT)
10. Den stora matchen (Einvígið (The Duel) by Arnaldur Indridason (ICE)
11. Vermeer's Little Street by Frans Gruzenhout (NL)

Read 52 books in 52 weeks

Another favourite challenge hosted by Robin of my two blessings.  I read a book each week except for three weeks. 

Read from my own shelves

From April I started a challenge on my own. To read at least 7 books from my shelves each month. Some months I read more, some less. In the end, I ended up on -3. I am rather pleased nevertheless. 

2021 Reading Challenges

Another year is ahead and this year I have enrolled in four challenges, all of which are aimed at lowering the number of books on my shelves. The challenges are:

The Unread Shelf hosted by Whitney Conard
Back to the Classics hosted by Books and Chocolate
Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas Into A Good Book
Alphabet Soup Author Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas Into A Good Book

I wish you all a good reading year and a lot of interesting challenges.