26 October 2016

Big bookshelf clean-up and reorganising madness

The TBR bookcase
The feeling has been building in me for some time of wanting to get rid of some books I previously assigned to the keeper shelves. I also want to reorganise the keeper books in order to get all the books of each genre shelved together, instead of stuffed wherever I can find room for them. I also think this could be an incentive to read or cull some of the older books on my TBR shelves, e.g. leftovers from the unfinished mystery reading challenge and other hilludraugar.

What are hilludraugar? I hear you ask. Well, it's an Icelandic word, here shown in the plural (the singular form is hilludraugur) that conveys the same meaning of uselessness as the English term "white elephant", but refers to smaller items and not necessarily expensive ones. It literally means "ghost on a self" and originally refereed to a thing that was haunting one's shelves and being useless and gathering dust but now has a wider meaning of "thing that gathers dust" literally or metaphorically. It's an excellent description for some of my TBR books.

I finally started the project on the Friday before last. I have already switched my TBR stack from the office into the living room, where it will be more visible. The keepers from the living-room shelf are piled up on both of my sofas, waiting for me to decide what to cull and what to keep, but I have been distracted by all the books I would like to reread...

I have already filled one box with potential culls, but I would like to get rid of as many as 50-100 books. The problem is that I have a very hard time letting go of travelogues - which form a goodly percentage of my keepers - when they
are about countries I have been to or want to visit, even ones I didn't particularly like when I read them.

One category I will definitely consider culling from are the mysteries. For a while when I was doing my 52 mystery authors challenge I would keep all the first books in mystery series that I came across, whether they were good or not, and I also kept several hard-cover mystery books because I love hard-cover books (and not because I thought I would read them again).

The hardest category to get rid of will be the children's books, especially old favourites I have kept since my childhood but have avoided rereading as an adult because I am afraid of having my rosy memories of them shattered. However, I recently learned that some libraries are quite happy to receive old children's books in good condition - especially classics - as the ones that are still popular are being read literally to pieces and replacements can be hard to find when they are out of print. I think I will make a list of the ones I have that are in good condition and check if my local library wants any of them.

Another problem is that after I finished arranging the TBR books in their new home I decided I wanted to move the bookcase and switch it over with my glass-fronted treasure cabinet that resides on the other side of the living room. This means re-emptying the bookcase, emptying the treasure cabinet, and dragging them across the floor to switch places and then re-filling them.

24 October 2016

Weekly Monday Round-up (October 24, 2016)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is "a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week."

Visit the Book Date to see what various other book bloggers have been up to in the past week.

Books I  finished reading last week:

  • Berlitz Travel Guide: Rhine Valley from Cologne to Mainz, 1988/1989 edition. I love reading old travel guides, and this was no exception. It's one of those condensed mini-guides with information of the kind designed to whet one's appetite, which suits me just fine. It also proves what I have said about old travel guides: you can still use them for certain things even if they are decades out of date. This particular one was a trip back in time, as it was published while Germany was still divided and Bonn was the capital of the western part. However, the cities described in it still stand, and so do the old buildings described in it, and the nature and landscapes still continue to attract, so that part is still valid, and I will of course follow it up with more in-depth reading and more recent information.
  • Dragonology by Dugald A. Steer and a team of illustrators and designers. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a child. Still do, as a matter of fact. It's not as detailed in the recounting of dragon lore and dragon natural history as The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson, another piece of draconology/cryptozoology which I read and reviewed in January, but it is just as rich in illustrations, possibly richer, if anything, and of course it was written for children. It is a sumptuous book, beautifully illustrated and worth owning, and designed to arouse further interest in the subject.
  • The Odd Job by Charlotte MacLeod. Cozy murder mystery. Also a funny one. It has been years since I read one of the Sarah Kelling/Max Bittersohn mysteries, but it was just as much fun as I remembered them being. The mystery was mysterious up to a point, but it's really the characters that  shine in MacLeod's books.

Books I acquired last week:
I didn't buy any books, but rescued three from the freebies bin at a charity shop:
Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut,
a Latin primer (in Danish) and
a companion volume containing a glossary and etc. for the Latin primer.

Other bookish activities:
I created two book jars.

One is themed, using categories from past What's in a Name reading challenges along with some additions of my own and is meant to be used for a challenge I thought up.

The other contains no less than the titles of all of my TBR books as of Friday a fortnight ago and is meant to be dipped into when I really just want to read and don't care what. Both jars have had the wonderful effect that I have so far had no problem at all of deciding what to read. I have already read a handful of books that are included in the jar and can therefore be safely discarded should I happen to pull them out of it the next time I fall into a reading slump. It also looks quite nice sitting beside all my TBR books.

Other stuff:
 I have been struggling with episodes of dizziness, pressure headaches and occasional stabbing pains in my ears for the last couple of weeks. I finally decided to see a doctor, and guess what? My GP is unavailable this week. I am therefore going to an open clinic after work today. I hope it's just otitis, because the other possibility, Ménière's Disease, is not something I like to think about. My mother has that, and it's apparently hereditary. 

21 October 2016

5 links on a Friday, 21 October 2016

Charles Dickens, Ghost Buster:
Charles Dickens Was A Real Life Ghost Buster And Member Of The World's Oldest Paranormal Research Group. Arthur Conan Doyle was also a member.

I wonder if Q was involved in this?
MIT Invented a Camera That Can Read Closed Books.

The value of reading truly bad books:
The good side of bad books. Funny.

The bad books discussion continued by a blogger and various commenters: 
The good side of bad books, linked and expanded on. This is funnier. And occasionally nasty.

Fun with medieval manuscripts:
Some staff members of the Getty Museum would post a picture from a manuscript once a week and ask people to caption them, and then they would explain what was really going on in the pictures. I unfortunately only discovered this when they were winding it down, but here are all the entries for your perusal.

20 October 2016

What‘s in a Name Reading Challenge: List of all categories from the beginning

The What‘s in a Name reading challenge has been running since 2008, but I have only participated three times. I think it's one of the best reading challenges out there because it's not too big or involved, it's fun to do and some of the categories can be interpreted creatively.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the categories for the years I didn‘t participate and see if I have enough TBR books to set myself a little private TBR challenge to complete all the categories ever used in the challenge.

It took a bit of searching to find the first two lists, but I managed it in the end (or at least I hope they’re the right ones). I figured this research might be of interest to others, so I‘m posting a list of the entire run of the challenge, including the lists for the years when I did participate.

There are several categories that are repeated: e.g. a color, a relative/family, a profession, a plant, and I decided I would do the repeats. Then I checked to see if I actually had TBR books that fit all the categories, and guess what: I do, and it's enough to complete even the repeats, although I had to use my imagination for one of them.

Below is the list, containing some titles for each category, excluding the years I participated, i.e. this year and 2011 and 2012. In some cases these are just a sampling of what I found, while in other cases the books listed constitute all the applicable books in my possession. You will also see some of them in more than one category, e.g. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, which appears under the categories "a profession" and "a first name".

It remains to be seen how I will eventually choose the titles I actually read, but I might make a book jar or maybe I'll fill a shelf with books to choose from like I have done once before for my perpetual TBR challenge, or I might take a look at which ones I have owned the longest and read those first.

And now, I give you the lists:

  • a country
  • an item of clothing
  • an item of furniture
  • a profession
  • a month of the year
  • a title with the word ‘tree’ in it

  • a word including ‘ing’ in it (Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zore Neale Hurston; Death in the Dining Room by Kennteh L. Ames; Running with the Moon by Jonny Bealby; Breaking Point by Susanne Brockmann; Shaking a Leg by Angela Carter (already reading this, need to finish); Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski; several more)
  • a colour (Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood, several more)
  • a familial relation (including by marriage) (
    The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany)
  • a body of water (Courage at Sea by Naomi James; Southern Seas by Manuel Vazquez Montalban)
  • a city (The Cambridge Murders by Glyn Daniel; Athens Encounter by Victoria Kyriakopoulos, several more)
  • an animal (The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams

  • a reference to time (The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern
  • a position of royalty (The Emperor's Assassin by T.F. Banks; King and Joker by Peter Dickinson; The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany)
  • a number written in letters (Billion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss; A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards)
  • a forename or names (The Devil's Delilah by Loretta Chase; The New Sonia Wayward by Michael Innes, a couple more)
  • a type or element of weather (Under a Monsoon Cloud by H.R.F. Keating; Thunder on the Left by Christopher Morley; The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón)

  • up or down (or equivalent) (Wings Above the Diamantina by Arthur Upfield; The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck; A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards; Over the Edge byJonathan Kellerman)
  • something you'd find in your kitchen (A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway; Cabbages and Kings by O. Henry; Appetite for Murder by Cecile Lamalle; A Knife at the Opera by Susannah Stacey; John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk)
  • a party or celebration (Dancing at the Victory Café by Helene Wiggin; Big Night Out by various)
  • fire (or equivalent) (Frostfire by Lynn Viehl; River of Fire by Mary Jo Putney; How to Build a Fire by Erin Bried)
  • an emotion (Maigret a Peur by Georges Simenon; The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; The Love Department by William Trevor)
  • lost or found (or equivalent) (Lost Worlds by Michael Bywater; Lost in the Barrens by Faley Mowat; 1491: The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies)

  • a topographical feature (land formation)
  • something you'd see in the sky
  • a creepy crawly
  • a type of house (Brahmins and Bungalows by Kavita Watsa)
  • something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack
  • something you'd find on a calendar 

  • a number
  • jewelry or a gem
  • a size
  • travel or movement
  • evil (bad, wicked, etc.)
  • a life stage

  • a food (The Mystery of Swordfish Reef by Arthur Upfield; The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury)
  • a body of water (A Girl and a River by Usha K.R.)
  • a title (The First Detective by Andrew Morton)
  • a plant (The Tulip by Anna Pavord)
  • a place name ( The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster, Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving)
  • a music term (Farewell the Trumpets by James Morris (first I must finish Pax Brittanica); Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart; A Piano in the Pyrenees by Tony Hawks; The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey )

  • a profession (Adventures of a Cameraman by Wallace Kirkland; Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams)
  • a time of day (Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier; After Midnight, The Blue Noon, Night Crossing or Early One Morning by Robert Ryan)
  • a relative (May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons by Elizabeth Bumiller; Our Grandmother's Drums by Mark Hudson; The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany)
  • a body part (Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zore Neale Hurston; In the Teeth of the Evidence by Dorothy L. Sayers; Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown (double points!))
  • a building (Rome and a Villa by Eleanor Clark)
  • a medical condition (The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddharta Mukherjee; Hvað er til ráða gegn þunglyndi by Sue Breton; Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown; )
  • a  colour (My Name is Red or The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk, several more)
  • an animal (The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd; Coyote by Linda Barnes; The Leopard by Giuseppe de Lampedusa; Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés)
  • a first name (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams; Maurice by E.M. Forster, several more)
  • a place (The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd; Murder on the Verandah by Eric Lawlor; Casanova in Bolzano by Sandor Marai; East of Eden by John Steinbeck; After Babel by George Steiner)
  • weather (The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón; Windy City Blues by Sara Paretsky)
  • a plant (The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean)

19 October 2016

Wednesday night video

I haven't posted one of these in a while, but this is too perfect not to post: The Rose Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library being filled up with books after being renovated:

17 October 2016

Weekly Monday Round-up (October 17, 2016)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is "a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week."

Visit the Book Date to see what various other book bloggers have been up to in the past week.

Books I finished reading last week:
  • Not On the Label: What really goes into the food on your plate, by Felicity Lawrence.
  • Appleby's End by Michael Innes. Mystery and a reread. As a matter of fact I discovered, when I was entering it into my reading "journal" (these days just an Excel file, but once I did keep a written reading journal and the name has stuck) that I first read it in October 2011, so it has been just about 5 years since the last time I read it.
  • Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There by Paul Carter. Memoir. I read Carter's book about his life working on oil rigs, Don't Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs, She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse, in 2014. This book isn't as funny, but it's also not as gruesome, and I had fun reading about his motorcycle escapades.
  • The Mystery of Swordfish Reef by Arthur Upfield. Murder mystery. A Detective Inspector Bonaparte mystery I had not read before, and a long-standing TBR title. I'm thinking about  reviewing this one.

Books I bought last week:
None. Zero. Nada. I am very proud of myself.

Partially read books:
I was inspired to count my own partially read books by a post by Kristen at BookNAround, who admits to having 23 books with bookmarks living in them. I hope she is actively reading most of them, because I certainly am not actively reading more than three of my bookmarked books.

Several of the bookmarked volumes in the list below were books from which I had read one or more short stories for a short story reading challenge I did a few years ago, but there were also history books, biographies and novels in the mix, to mention just a few genres. I did remove bookmarks from several books I clearly had to start reading all over again, and didn't count those.

For many of these books I can see no reason why I stopped reading them, except possibly that something came up that required my attention and when I was able to go back to reading I had either forgotten about the book or lost interest in it.

I counted the following:
  1. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. This is my current toilet reading book and I am making steady - if slow - progress.
  2. 50 Great Horror Stories, edited by John Canning
  3. A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett
  4. A Century of Detective Stories
  5. A Century of Humour, edited by P.G. Wodehouse
  6. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
  7. A Treasury of American Horror Stories, edited by McSherry, Waugh & Greenberg
  8. Antonio Carlucci's Italia
  9. As they Were by M.F.K. Fisher
  10. Be Still the Water by Karen Emilson
  11. Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
  12. Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood
  13. Casanova by Ian Kelly
  14. Completely Unexpected Tales by Roald Dahl
  15. Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens
  16. Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro
  17. Deadly Slipper by Michelle Wan
  18. Dust in the Lion's Paw by Freya Stark
  19. Glamour's Big Book of Do's and Dont's
  20. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
  21. Having Our Say by Sarah L. Delaney and A. Elizabeth Delaney with Amy Hill Hearth
  22. I Shall wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
  23. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  24. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  25. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  26. Maigret Sets a Trap by Georges Simenon
  27. Masterpieces of Mystery: The Golden Age-I, selected by Ellery Queen
  28. Náttúra Íslands by various (essays on various aspects of the nature and geology of Iceland)
  29. Origin in Death by J.D. Robb
  30. Our Grandmother's Drums by Mark Hudson
  31. Pax Britanica by James Morris
  32. Plats du Jours by William Black
  33. Pledged by Alexandra Robbins
  34. Saga jólanna by Árni Björnsson (a history of Christmas by a respected Icelandic historian)
  35. Shaking a Leg by Angela Carter
  36. The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, vol. I. It has been years since I started reading this, but that's okay since these are fairy tales (i.e. a form of short story) that don't need any particular attention to the wider context of the book.
  37. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  38. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
  39. The Devil's Delilah by Loretta Chase
  40. The First Rumpole Omnibus by John Mortimer
  41. The Good Women of China by Xinran
  42. The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk
  43. The Joy of Eating, edited by Jill Foulston
  44. The Observations by Jane Harris
  45. The Third Omnibus and 
  46. The Seventh Omnibus by Georges Simenon (thankfully between books in both cases)
  47. The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
  48. True Tales of American Life, edited by Paul Auster
  49. Venice: Tales of the City, selected by Michelle Lovric
  50. What the Butler Saw by E.S. Turner
  51. Where the Blue Begins by Christopher Morley
  52. Women on the Case, Edited by Sara Paretsky

...and these were just the ones within easy reach.There are probably more hidden on shelves behind other books or languishing underneath the collection of stuff in my office.

I take no pride in having 52 books with bookmarks sticking out of them. There are some very readable books on that list that deserve better than to languish - sometimes for years - with bookmarks in their guts. This needs remedying.

Other things I did last week:
  • Went to see the ABBA musical Mamma Mia! with my mother. Great fun was had by us both, and we would love to see it again before the show closes.
  • Booked tickets to a Christmas concert - which is only a month and a half away, but you can never be too quick about booking any Christmas entertainment when you live in Reykjavik.
  • Joined a gym for 6 weeks of training on weights and exercise bikes, offset by hot yoga once a week. This is in preparation for joining a weightlifting class - I figured I needed to build up some muscles before jumping into that pool. Because I have diabetes II it is very important for me to supplement my diabetes drugs with exercise, to keep my blood sugar levels normal.
  • Listened to hours of podcasts while on my daily walks and while crocheting some amigurumi Christmas presents.
  • Got a number of crocheted hexagons joined - there are 104 in all and hopefully they will all be joined into a bedspread in time for Christmas.
  • Added some titles to my Invisible Library (shown in red).

14 October 2016

5 links on a Friday, 14 October 2016

Bi- and multilingualism is good for you:
The amazing benefits of being bilingual. Interesting.

Invisible Library:

Inside the world of book publishing:
10 People (Besides The Author) Who Bring A Book Into the World.
They forgot to mention all the people who print and put the books together (or control the machinery that does). 

What reader wouldn't like to live in a library?

Book list:
37 Books With Plot Twists That Will Blow Your Mind.
I have only read 4 of these books, so I have something to look forward to...

Dear reader, if you have come across an interesting link dealing with books, libraries, bookshops, reading, writing, language or translation, why not let me know? Just leave the link in a comment and I'll take a look at it.