25 February 2012

List love: A baker’s dozen of childhood favourites

We all have our favourite childhood reads. These are some of mine.

Many of my childhood favourites were books written in Icelandic by Icelanders and have never been translated into English (although several exist in Scandinavian, Dutch and German translations). I am leaving them out of the list as they can’t possibly be of interest to the majority of my readers. .

  1. The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen. I was given his collected fairy tales as a christening present and was familiar with many of the stories before I could read them for myself. My mother used to read from them to me, but it was a proud day when I was able to read them by myself and discover all the dark stories she never did read, like The Red Shoes and The Shadow.
  2. The Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson. I first discovered these on the book-shelves of some friends of mine, and later I would borrow them repeatedly from the library.
  3. Enid Blyton’s Adventure books (and to a lesser extent, the Five Find-Outers and the Famous Five). Enid Blyton’s books were in the process of being republished in Icelandic when I was between 6 and 12 years old, so I got given a number of them for birthdays and Christmas presents, and they cemented my love of detective stories and mysteries at a young age.
  4. A children’s version of the first two books of Gulliver’s Travels. I loved these books, never realising they were bowdlerised versions until I decided to read them in English. Gulliver’s Travels (the full, English edition) is now among my favourite books.
  5. Norse and ancient Greek myths. The books I first read (and still own) in this genre are wonderfully illustrated versions for children that are (sadly) long out of print, but for adult reading I recommend the perennial Bulfinch’s Mythology, especially for the Greek/Roman myths. I also read and loved the Gylfaginning part of Snorri’s Edda, which is the main source of the Norse mythology you find in modern books on the subject.
  6. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. This came out in an Icelandic translation when I was 8. I don’t think I read it until I was around 14, but my mother read it to me and my brother several times and we both love it to this day.
  7. The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren. I can’t remember which I did first: read the book or saw the film, but possibly I may have read the book after I learned that they were filming part of the film in Iceland. My brother, on the other hand, was an Emil of Lönneberga fan.
  8. I am David by Anne Holm. I found this in my grandmother’s library when I went to stay with her one summer, and have read it many times over the years since.
  9. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I unearthed an ancient, rather antiquated translation of this in the local library, and I think I went back and borrowed it every year after that, until I moved away from home.
  10. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. My mother had translations of the first four books, and I read the first three over and over as a young girl. I only read the fourth as a teenager, and didn’t like it much.
  11. The Doctor Dolittle books by Hugh Lofting. Politically incorrect as they are considered in today’s society, when I was growing up I never heard anyone mention racism in connection with these books. It was the animals that interested me.
  12. The Village that Slept by Manique P. de Ladebat. Based, apparently, on true events, this book about two children who survive a plane crash and survive alone in an abandoned village for many months before they are rescued, struck a chord with me, and I read it over and over again. I recently acquired a copy and re-read it, and while I still think it’s a good story, I spotted a number of inconsistencies in the narrative and found the translation a bit stiff. Thus are the favourites of childhood revealed to be less than perfect in retrospective.
  13. A Bear Called Paddington and its sequels, by Michael Bond. Someone started giving these books to my brother as they were issued in Icelandic translations, and we both loved them deeply.

14 February 2012

Top Ten Tuesday meme: Books that broke my heart a little

It's Tuesday, and that means the The Broke and the Bookish are accepting contributions to their Top Ten Tuesdays meme. There is a little bit of an anti-Valentine's Day sentiment going on, as they are asking for books that broke the readers' hearts a little.

Please visit some of the other participating blogs. If you like books full of emotion, you may find some great reads.

Warning: SPOILERS ahead!

  • Anne of Green Gables, Anne’s House of Dreams and Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery. All concern deaths. If you have read them, you’ll know which ones. I’m counting them as one, because of the similar themes and because the books all belong to the same series.
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The book was fine - but the ending of the story of Arwen and Aragorn in the appendixes was heartbreaking.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Not because of Beth’s death, although that was sad, but because Jo’s dreams never came true.
  • The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. Because they don’t get to be together when they have saved the world.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. Not because of all the deaths, but because it’s the last book in the series and it doesn’t look like there will be more.
  • Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai. Because of all the tragedies in it, big and small, that echo reality.
  • The Diary of Anne Frank. So full of hopes and dreams and plans, but all the time you know how her story ended.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If you have read it, you’ll know why. If not, I challenge you to read it.
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. This is a twofold tragedy. As a child I was saddened by the fact that Wendy had to grow up while Peter remained a child, but as an adult I see that by remaining a child forever, Peter will never grow up to experience the pains and pleasures of adulthood, especially the joys of parenthood that Wendy has experienced.
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Not so much because the protagonist dies by his own hand, but because he was driven to it by a society that treated him like a freak because he was different.

02 February 2012

Reading Report for January 2012

I read 14 books in January, in a number of genres. Out of those 14, six were e-books and five were books I had started reading before the beginning of the month. I have at least 20 more books I started reading at some point and then either decided to save for later or forgot about, and now I want to try to finish some of them.

Among the books I started and finished within the month was the first book I have read in its entirety on a mobile device. I decided to review that experience and will discuss the device, the software and the overall reading experience in a review within a few days.

The books were divided between fiction and non-fiction as follows: 

Of the 6 fiction volumes, two were myth-based fantasies, one was a science fiction novella, one a romance, one a mystery-suspense novel and one a collection of cartoons. 

Of the 8 non-fiction volumes, three were about fashion, two were biographies, two history books and one was about the natural sciences.

As I mentioned in my last post I have stopped, for the time being, writing detailed reviews, but I have included a bit of information about the January books in the list below.

The Books:
  • Shoichi Aoki: Fruits. Fashion photography. Fabulous and wacky photographs of Japanese youngsters showing off their creativity and colourful fashion sense. Originally from a Japanese fashion magazine.
  • Jaycee Dugard: A Stolen Life. Autobiography/Memoir. Fascinating and sad. It‘s not particularly well written, but it doesn't have to be, not with this kind of story. Dugard gives a clear-headed account of her 18-year captivity and an insight into the mentality of a survivor.
  • Noël Riley Fitch: Appetite for Life: The biography of Julia Child. Child‘s life was fascinating, especially her years in Asia during World War II and her life in France and the work on her first cookbook, but the whole book gives a detailed (sometimes too much so) account of her life and character.
  • Richard Fortey: Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum. Popular science. Very interesting, informative and gossipy tour of several departments of London‘s Natural History Museum, by a long-time employee.
  • Hadley Freeman: The Meaning of Sunglasses, and a guide to almost all things fashionable. Fashion advice, opinion and anecdotes. Freeman is a journalist who writes a fashion advice column for The Guardian. Not afraid of calling a spade a shovel, she takes the reader on an often funny tour of fashion do's and dont's. I didn't agree with all of her advice, but I found it very entertaining.
  • Neil Gaiman: Odd and the Frost Giants. Fantasy for young readers. This playful book for children about a young boy who helps Odin, Thor and Loki regain control of Asgard will entertain not only kids but also adults who know and enjoy the Norse myths.
  • Michael Innes: The Daffodil Affair. Suspense mystery. Weird and surreal as usual, this time Inspector Appleby is on the trail of a counting horse, a girl with multiple personalities, a haunted house and a man with a strange and evil plan. All right in the middle of World War II.
  • Paola Jacobbi: I want those shoes. Fashion advice and opinions. Insubstantial and entertaining, Jacobbi discusses different kinds of shoes and why we love them.
  • Robin Kaye: Romeo, Romeo. Contemporary romance. A sexy story of two people who just wanted a commitment-free fuck-buddy relationship, but got much more than they bargained for.
  • Lea Korsgaard & Stéphanie Surugue : Bókaránið mikla - Saga af ótrúlegum glæp (The Great Book Theft. Translated from Danish: Det Store Bogtyveri). True crime. Incredible and detailed account of one of the largest library book thefts in history.
  • Jan Morris, ed.: The Oxford Book of Oxford. The history of Oxford University in the words of its students, teachers and visitors. Fantastic and informative collection of epigrams, epitaphs, quotations and passages from letters, essays, poems, novels and autobiographies.
  • Rick Riordan: The Lightning Thief. Young adult fantasy based on the Greek myths. Action-filled adventure, full of characters from and allusions to Greek mythology, but with a modern twist.
  • Ronald Searle: The Terror of St. Trinian's. Humour, cartoons. Funny classic cartoons about the wicked students of St. Trinian‘s School for Girls.
  • Connie Willis: All seated on the ground. Christmas sci-fi novella with a romantic flair. A funny and heart-warming story about first contact between humans and extraterrestrials.