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Showing posts from February, 2008

Bibliophile reviews Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

One long book at a time is enough for me, and since I had started reading The Thirteenth Tale when I remembered that I had been planning to read a classic, I decided to find a short one. The first short classic I found at the university bookstore was Cranford, so that’s what I decided to read. Gaskell did not feature in the course I took on the English 19th century novel, and to tell the truth I wouldn’t have known she ever existed if it hadn’t been for the TV series of her novel Wives and Daughters (which I unfortunately missed when it was shown on Icelandic TV). (North and South and Cranford have also been filmed for television).

The book was first published as a serial in a magazine in 1851-2, but in 1853 it was gathered together in one volume and published as a novel. It seems obvious that Gaskell originally merely intended to tell some interesting individual stories with only the central characters as a connection between them, which makes the first half or so of the book rather l…

Free online book by Neil Gaiman

The best part is: it is absolutely legal. Neil Gaiman and his publisher will be offering American Gods for free online. Fans were given the vote, and the majority wanted AG. It wasn’t my choice (I voted for one of the short story collections), but I applaud the gesture and hope it will lead many more readers to discover his work.

The book will be available from February 28th. Further information: Neil’s blog

My reading journal

I have been keeping a reading journal for about three years now, and it has become a routine for me. I have started writing a regular journal or diary several times, but the only time I have been able to keep it up for longer than a couple of weeks is when I have been travelling, but somehow I have been able to stick to the reading journal, perhaps because it doesn’t call for daily entries. My only regret is that I didn’t start it a long time ago. I have estimated that I have read at least 5000 books in my lifetime – probably more – and it would have been fun to be able to compile a list of them all and to analyse how my reading habits and tastes have changed through the years.

As I mentioned in the January reading report, I decided at the beginning of the year to start keeping the journal in a real book instead of loose-leaf binders, and so far it is working out well. The book has blank pages, so the writing is not always in a completely straight line, but it somehow feels better to …

Is it any wonder?

I have occasionally mentioned that I hate literary snobbery, especially the kind that makes people declare that a whole genre of literature (be it fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, romance or whatever) is no good without having read any of it, or at the most merely sampled it a bit. Romance has especially been reviled as stereotyped and inane, called the female equivalent of porn and its readers dismissed as being entirely female, with little education, a small income, who read it to escape their daily drudgery and dream of marrying a [insert Mediterranean ethnicity of your choice] billionaire prince.

I may be exaggerating somewhat, but you get the picture.

But, I really do have to ask myself: Is it any wonder people think this way when they see the titles of many of the romances available?

I am referring to the type of book known as a category romance. These are short romances written to specific standards and formulas that pertain to sub-genre, setting, time and certain other guid…

Bibliophile’s reading report for 2007

I finally got my act together and compiled the annual report.

Total books read in 2007:
142. This is 18 books fewer than in 2006, and 140 fewer than in 2005 (an exceptional reading year for me), but still pretty good when you consider that it makes nearly 3 books a week.

Last year I was very focused on cookbooks and skimmed through 18 of them in search of interesting recipes, reading all the titles and a number of recipes from each book, but as I can’t claim to have actually read any of them all the way through, they are not included in the tally. Also not included are the books I began reading in 2007 and will hopefully finish in 2008.

Breakdown:

Fiction: 97 (68,3%)
Non-fiction: 43 (30,3%)
Mixed: 2 (1,4%)

The mixed books are The Literary Gourmet, which combines real recipes and passages from novels, and The Science of Discworld which combines popular science with fantasy. In addition there are 3 books that are ostensibly autobiographies, but have a distinct flavour of being more or les…

A useful new term...

Property porn.
Apparently the Collins English Dictionary defines it as:
a genre of escapist TV programmes, magazine features, etc showing desirable properties for sale, especially those in idyllic locations, or in need of renovation, or both.
I first saw it used on the Guardian book blog in a slightly different but related meaning as a term for the travel sub-genre I call “fixer-upper” stories, i.e. one of those “I bought a dilapidated dream house in France/Italy/Spain and fixed it up and I want the world to know I did it. Incidentally I’d also like to tell you about how wonderful/crazy/quaint the locals are”.

I wonder if House Invaders and the Big, Strong Girls/Boys shows could be called property porn as well? The outcomes of all those renovations are certainly offensive often enough.

Desert island books

This post was inspired by a posting on a reading board I occasionally visit. The original poster called for the members to nominate 10 books they would take with them for a year’s stay on a desert island. All survival necessities would be taken care of, giving you plenty of time to read. In addition to 10 self-chosen books, we could take the collected works of William Shakespeare and the Bible or another religious book.

Shakespeare was made mandatory in that particular challenge, which is not surprising as the board is frequented mostly by native speakers of English. Since I am not a native speaker of English and Shakespeare has not had much influence on my native literature, I nominate instead the equivalent in Icelandic literature: The Sagas. As to a religious book, I would choose the Mahabaratha.

I chose a blend of old favourites and books I have wanted to read but not got around to. I have changed the list a bit from what I posted to the board, as I have had some time to mull it ove…

Reading report for January 2008

Before I begin listing books:
For 2008, I decided to make a bit of a change in my reading statistics compilation. Instead of writing my reading reports on loose sheets of A5 paper and inserting them into folders in alphabetical order (by author) like I have been doing for the past couple of years, I used my newly learned bookbinding skills and made a hand-bound reading journal into which I write the information I want to keep track off as I finish each book. I decided to do this because the folders take up a lot of space and look ugly on the shelves, whereas an even halfway well-made hand-bound book is a joy to behold and easier to stack. As I put everything except the summary and a one-sentence review into the computer as well, what I wrote about each book will still be easy to find. All I need to do is to open the relevant computer file and then I will know approximately whereabouts in the journal to find what I wrote about the book.

Since the journal is 336 pages long and I am able…