26 September 2014

My book haul for August 2014

Missing is The Real Animal House: The Awesomely Depraved Saga of the Fraternity That Inspired the Movie, by Chris Miller. I lent it to my brother, who is a big fan of the movie (I sort of bought it for him too). I haven't yet read any of them, but I will probably start one once I finish one of my current reads (I'm juggling three books at the moment).

I already had an older copy of Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer, but I love the cover art on these newer editions. Besides, the old one is liable to fall apart if I try to read it.


14 September 2014

Reading report for August 2014

I read nine books in in August: some travel and romance with a peppering of other genres. One was a reread and one was an audio book I had previously read but was listening to for the first time.

The first high point was Slow Boats to China by Gavin Young. It’s one of those travel books that makes an appearance on numerous lists of best travelogues, and for good reason: It’s well written, describes a journey that most of us can only fantasise (and occasionally have nightmares) about, and is undoubtedly romantic. It describes the type of journey that can be found in the top ten wish lists of most hard-core travellers of the type who travel for the journey, not the destination.

The second high point was Map of Another Town by M.F.K. Fisher. I found it a little disjointed in places, but that did not detract from the joy of Fisher’s prose and her long love letter to Aix-en-Provence.

The Books:
  • Cecil Adams: Return of the Straight Dope. Trivia.
  • Mary Balogh: The Famous Heroine. Historical romance.
  • Jennifer Crusie: Maybe This Time. Paranormal contemporary romance. Reread.
  • M.F.K. Fisher: Map of Another Town. Travelogue.
  • Michael Green, ed.: The 'Peterborough' Book. Humour.
  • Jeff Greenwald: Mister Raja's Neighbourhood. Travelogue.
  • Balogh Mary: The Plumed Bonnet. Historical romance.
  • Terry Pratchett: Dodger. Alternative reality historical novel; audio book read by Stephen Briggs. Reread.
  • Gavin Young: Slow Boats to China. Travelogue.



23 August 2014

I have added a new page

In 2013, impressed by the number of book titles popping up in the books I was reading at the time, I began posting what I called Friday Book lists, in which I would list all the books, plays, periodicals, poems, short stories and other publications that appeared in the books I was reading. The endeavour fizzled out after a while when I took a break from rereading the Ngaio Marsh detective novels and began reading books that contained few, if any, mentions of books or reading. However, one thing I found fascinating about the exercise were all the fictional titles I came across.

Years before, I had discovered the - now, alas, long defunct - Invisible Library website and had been intrigued by the titles contained therein. Other webmasters and bloggers have since then made their own versions of this library of fictional books (as has Wikipedia), and now I have decided to join that club. On my Invisible Library page you will find (to begin with) the fictional books, short stories, poems and plays included in my Friday Book lists (I decided to omit any periodicals, newspapers and articles as their actual existence is often quite hard to verify). I will add new entries whenever I come across them and mark the newest at any time in red. 

My aim is not to list as many fictional books as possible, but merely to collect the ones I discover between the pages of the books I read. I may, if I find myself looking for something to do,  pick up, from other invisible libraries, titles gleaned from books I read before I started collecting titles, but that's it. If I haven't read the containing book, you will not find it listed.

Chilling opening sentence

I love the chilling promise in this opening sentence:
 "There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood."
 From Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers.

14 August 2014

July book haul


Count: 15
Of which I have already read 3: Return of the Straight Dope, Touching the Void and Map of Another Town (one of the two volumes contained in M.F.K. Fisher's Two Towns in Province).
Previously read: A Considerable Town, the other volume in Two Towns in Provence.


01 August 2014

Reading report for July 2014

I read 12 books in July, most of them fairly quick reads due to either being short or having a lot of pictorial content. None were rereads and 10 were TBR, meaning I am now several books ahead in the TBR challenge, with only 18 books to go. However, I don't plan to go slacking off, and neither am I going to push the number of challenge books up - I am simply going to finish the challenge and by then I will hopefully be in the habit of choosing more of my owned books to read and fewer loan books. If all goes well, I might push the limit higher next year.



If you wonder at seeing the same title twice, it‘s because I read two different editions of the same book. I jump at the chance to buy second-hand guide books of places I have visited or plan to visit one day, figuring that although they may be old, the important information, that about the old buildings, monuments, state museums and works of art, remains mostly valid, even if the information about hotels, restaurants, opening times, currency exchange, etc. has expired. This is because I prefer to read the guides at home while preparing to travel and then rely on locally available information when I get to where I am going. Also, if the books are old and cheaply bought, I don‘t need to hesitate to clip information, photos, maps and illustrations out of them to take with me and even paste into my journals. It saves considerable weight, I can tell you, if the guidebook is big (e.g. Lonely Planet's India guide), to simply cut it up and only bring the parts you need.

So, when I came across an All Venice guide book second hand, I bought it, not remembering that I already had a newer edition of it at home. When I realised this I compared the two and saw there were two different authors, so I figured there might be some differences between the two, and there were. Some of the images had been reused in the newer book and so had bits of the text, but the focus had changed slightly and there was more information in the new book, including a map of Venice. I think I will keep both, as the photographs in the older edition are quite charmingly quaint, what with the sixties fashions worn by the people in them and the sometimes strange colours in the prints.

I enjoyed all the books I read in July, but the standouts were Skuggasund and the two Far Side collections, The Far Side Gallery 4 and Cows of Our Planet. I already reviewed the former, and I don’t think the genius of Gary Larson needs any additional praise, but if you aren’t familiar with the Far Side, go find one of the books and read it.

 I also want to mention Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, which I think was recommended to me by George, who occasionally drops by the blog to comment and recommend books. I finally read it after buying it soon after it was first published. It marks a return for me to reading about my field of work and I found a number of the things Bellos discusses in it interesting and thought-provoking. This especially applies to the two chapters on my twin areas of professional expertise: legal translation and EU translations.

One book was somewhat disappointing: The Widow Clicquot. So little seems to be known about the famous widow that her life could have been fitted into a couple of chapters, and the author has the annoying habit of stating on every other page that the widow “must have” done or thought this or that (the wording differs, but it still gets annoying after a while). However, her story is filled out with the history of champagne-making and events in French history, which makes the book worth reading.

The Books:
  • Arnaldur Indriðason: Skuggasund . Murder mystery, detective story.
  • David Bellos: Is That a Fish in Your Ear?. Translation theory.
  • John Burke: Life in the Castle in Medieval Times. History.
  • Jayne Castle: Bridal Jitters. Romantic suspense, urban fantasy.
  • Emi Kazuko (text); Yasuko Fukuoa (recipes) : Japanese Cooking: The traditions, techniques, ingredients and recipes. Cookery book.
  • Gary Larson: The Far Side Gallery 4 and Cows of Our Planet. Humour, cartoons.
  • Tilar J. Mazzeo: The Widow Clicquot. Biography, history.
  • Eugenio Pucci: All Venice. Guide book.
  • Philip Pullman: Lyra's Oxford. Novella.
  • Vittorio Serra: All Venice. Guide book.
  • Joe Simpson: Touching the Void. Memoir, survival tale.



19 July 2014

Before I forget: June's haul of books

Count: 17 (one not pictured because it's a leaflet with no printing on the spine).
Out of which I have already read: 2 (The Widow Clicquot and All Venice).
Previously read: 2 (Eats, Shoots & Leaves and Unnatural Selections, which turned out to be featured almost in its entirety in the Far Side Gallery 4, which I bought last month).


17 July 2014

Review: Arnaldur Indriðason: Skuggasund (Potential title translation: Shadow Channel (source: Wikipedia))

This is a "crimes of the past revisited" story, something Arnaldur has done before in several of his other books (e.g. Silence of the Grave, The Draining Lake and Strange Shores). Told in chapters alternating between 1944 and the modern day, it tells the story of how the murder of an old man sets a retired police detective on the trail of another, unsolved, murder that happened during WW2 in Reykjavík. This is not a detective Erlendur story and does not feature either of his two closest collaborators on the police force but instead introduces a new character, a recently retired detective named Konráð.

I don't know if the English title given for this book in the Wikipedia entry on Arnaldur and elsewhere on the web (except that literature.is gets it (almost) right), is the one that will be used for the eventual translation, but to me it looks suspiciously like a Google Translate blooper. Skuggasund actually means "Shadow Alley" and is the name of a street in Reykjavík, behind the National Theatre. Near the beginning of the story an Icelandic girl and her American serviceman boyfriend stumble upon a body at the back of the theatre and the man sees someone standing on the corner of the eponymous street. I will post the eventual  English title as soon as I find out what it is.

This is a plot-driven story for the most part. We get to know some background information about the characters, but almost all of it is pertinent to the story in some way, like the descriptions of what they look like, which are important for reader visualisation, and little details that allow us to see them as fully developed characters, but the personal lives and problems of the detectives don't intrude into the story like they sometimes do in the Erlendur books. This is a good thing, in my opinion, because I have always thought that Arnaldur wasn't very good at making his detectives interesting. The only protagonist in any of his books (of those I've read) that has a (semi-)interesting private life is Erlendur, and that's because the others are just so normal, and normal is very hard to make interesting.

The two stories unfold bit by bit, with the historical and modern detectives discovering the same information at different times and puzzling out what happened using different methods. As in all of the books by Arnaldur that I have read, the story really makes one think about justice and how criminals often manage to escape it even when they're found out, while innocents suffer and potentially useful lives are cut off, because Arnaldur's victims are rarely stereotypical "deserved to die" types.

SPOILER WARNING

06 July 2014

Desert Island Books 2014

In 2008 and again in 2011 I posted my choices for Desert Island Books, i.e. books I would take with me for a year’s stay alone on a desert island. Since three years went by between these two posts and another three years have gone by since the second one, I thought it was time to do a third such list.

To recap the rules:
There can be more than one book in a volume, but I can only choose 10 volumes plus a book of national importance to my culture and one religious book. My previous choices in these categories were the Icelandic Sagas and the Mahabaratha in 2008, and in 2011 I again chose the Sagas and the religious book was the Koran.
My culturally important book for 2014 is yet again the Sagas (I have read one of them since last time), and the religious book would not be a book of religion (like the Bible or the Koran) but one about religion or the lack thereof - title not decided yet but God: A Biography by Jack Miles comes to mind.

As in 2011, I did not look at the previous lists before I drew up this one. In the order I thought of them:

  • The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Grammar and literary history in one neat package.
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. For some drama and romance.
  • One of my Discworld omnibuses, probably the one containing Pyramids, Small Gods and Hogfather or maybe the one containing the first three City Watch books. For some humour and to have reliable fall-backs if I don’t like the ones I haven’t read yet.
  • Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I keep meaning to read it.
  • The Iceland’s Bell trilogy by Halldór Laxness (I’ll have to hand bind them into one volume since I don’t think there is an omnibus edition available). I thoroughly enjoyed the first book and think it is time to reread it and read the others.
  • Sögur íslenskra kvenna 1879-1960. This is a volume that I keep intending to read and keep putting off because it’s such a large book. It contains a number of short stories and some short novels written by Icelandic women.
  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
  • Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. The Icelandic translation because I don’t fancy having to take a Norwegian dictionary as one of my books.
  • Don Quixote by Cervantes. Another big book, one I have been intending to read for the last 15 years or so. An English translation, critical edition.
  • Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. I figured I had to bring one work of non-fiction and this has been on my TBR list for a long time.
  • If I could smuggle in one more book, it would be The Norton Anthology of English Literature (one-volume of it).

And now to look at the old lists to see what has changed and what has not:

2008 list
2011 list

I first thought to include Dalalíf by Guðrún frá Lundi (a long historical novel), as in the previous two lists, but after making my first draft of the list I found a copy of the first volume and started reading it and decided that I didn’t really want to finish it. Therefore the Sagas are the only book on all three lists. Instead of Dalalíf I chose The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. If I had to replace the Sagas, I would choose a Tómas Guðmundsson poetry anthology or a Jónas Hallgrímsson prose anthology.

The Norton Anthology which I almost included on this year’s list was not on the 2011 list but was included in the 2008 list. Same goes for Small Gods, plus there is an unspecified Terry Pratchett omnibus on the 2011 list.

Two books that were on both previous lists did not make the grade this time: The Once and Future King by T.H. White (one Arthurian novel is enough, I think), and The Arabian Nights. Both might reappear on the next version of the list.

I have only finished one of the previously listed books that I had not read before: London, the Biography. Pitiful, I know, but my interest fluctuates and new books come into orbit all the time.

So, Dear reader, do you have a current list of desert island books?

03 July 2014

Reading report for June

I read a total of 17 books in June. 6 were rereads and 7 were TBR. The genres included romance, travelogue, history, geology, biography, fantasy, true crime and visual humour.

I reached the 100 books mark around mid-month, meaning that if I keep up the current rate of reading I will finish just over 200 books in the course of the year. I also read the 30th TBR book of the year, putting me on course and boding well for the completion of the challenge.

The stand-outs of the month were Krakatoa and The Kon-Tiki Expedition, closely followed by The Nonexistent Knight and Medicine Road. I bought all four books on clearance sale at one of the charity shops I sometimes visit.

Krakatoa is one of those juicy history/science books that I love to read, and it doesn't hurt that it was written by Simon Winchester, whose writing never fails to please me. The subject of the book is the explosion of the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa, the lead-up to the event and the aftermath. Winchester is a trained geologist and clearly interested in the subject, and manages to make the complexities of volcanic activity and tectonic movements understandable for a layperson.

The Kon-Tiki Expedition is Thor Heyerdahl's first-hand account of his epic journey by raft from Peru to Polynesia in 1947. I read an English translation I came across in a charity shop, but when I was about 2/3 finished with it I found a copy of the Norwegian edition. However, I decided to finish it in English because otherwise I might be liable to remember it as two separate stories. The Norwegian edition has many more photographs and also illustrations and artwork by one of the expedition members, so I'm keeping both.

The Nonexistent Knight and Medicine Road are both accomplished works of fantasy, one a humorous medieval tale of knights on a quest and the other a gorgeously illustrated romantic story of mythical beings in modern south-west USA looking for love and trying to break a spell.


The books:
  • Þjóðsögur frá Eistlandi (Estonian Folk Tales). Folk tales.
  • James Bowen: A Street Cat Named Bob. Memoir.
  • Italo Calvino: Riddarinn sem var ekki(The Nonexistent Knight). Fantasy, historical novel.
  • Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer : Agnes and the Hitman. Romantic suspense. Reread.
  • Kate DiCamillo: Because of Winn-Dixie. Children’s book.
  • Georgette Heyer: The Unknown Ajax. Historical romance. Reread.
  • Georgette Heyer: The Nonesuch. Historical romance. Reread.
  • Thor Heyerdahl: The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By raft across the Pacific. Travelogue.
  • Elizabeth Kaye: Lifeboat No. 8: An Untold Tale of Love, Loss, and Surviving the Titanic. History.
  • Charles de Lint: Medicine Road. Fantasy.
  • Nancy Mitford: The Pursuit of Love. Novel.
  • Derek Pell: Doktor Bey's Book of Brats. Humour (mostly visual).
  • Nora Roberts: Jewels of the Sun; Tears of the moon; Heart of the sea. Paranormal romance. Rereads.
  • Ferdinand von Schirach: Glæpir (Crime). True crime.
  • Simon Winchester: Krakatoa: The day the world exploded: August 27, 1883. History.