14 June 2012

Books read from January to the end of May

I'm on Pinterest. I find it useful for various organisational tasks and for making visual memos, and one of the things I have used it for is to make a visual representation of the books I have read, by pinning the cover images:
Contains all but one of the books I read in the given time period.


05 June 2012

List love: All at Sea

Jungle, desert, mountain, sea?

Someone asked this question not long ago in a random poll on a chat forum I frequent, and my answer was emphatically “the sea”. I grew up in sight of it, I start to feel antsy if I can’t hear, see or smell it for more than a couple of weeks, and I really think I would lose something important from my life if I were to settle somewhere far away from it. A lake is just not the same - fresh water smells different, and so do saltwater lakes. So here is some List Love, featuring the sea in a pivotal role:

  1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Novel. While the eponymous white whale is the star of the show, the book actually is about much more than just Captain Ahab’s obsession. The descriptions of life at sea on a whaling ship were what I most enjoyed about it.
  2. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. The true story that inspired Moby Dick. An enraged bull sperm whale sinks a whaleship in the Pacific and the crew must try to get to land in the whaleboats. Not a pretty story but an amazing survival tale.
  3. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. Trapped in a hostile environment, surrounded by sea and ice, this is another amazing survival story in which the sea plays an important part.
  4. The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson. Life in, on the surface and on the shores of the sea plays an integral part in this interesting and well-written account of the life cycle of the Maine lobster and the lives of the fishermen who trap them and the scientists who study them.
  5. The Last Grain Race by Eric Newby. While I could have done without the technical aspects of life on a tall ship, the names of sails and rigging, ropes and other equipment in which Newby indulged in describing, there is no denying that the life at sea that he describes has a great deal of nostalgia and charm in it.
  6. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord. The story of the night the Titanic sank. A marvellous book I read recently, it is still, more than 50 years after it was first published, considered to be one of the best Titanic books.
  7. Typhoon by Joseph Conrad. A terrifying tale of a ship caught in a storm.
  8. The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. Besides being a cracking espionage thriller, it is also full of the joys of sailing and being on the water.
  9. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. A tense and sometimes claustrophobic tale of a cat-and-mouse game played between a Soviet submarine captain and the navies of the Soviet Union and NATO.
  10. The Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw. The account of the captain of a fishing boat of life at sea and of one particular fishing tour.

If you crave more titles

Honourable mention:  
  • Sea Crow Island by Astrid Lindgren.

Sea books on my reading list:
Life of Pi by Yann Martell.
Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin.
Percival Keene by Frederick Marryat.
Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum.
Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz.
The Sinbad Voyage by Tim Severin.
The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.


02 June 2012

Reading report for May 2012

I finished 15 books in May. As spring moved into summer I found myself seeking out typical beach reads – books that can be read quickly without too much effort, mostly mysteries and romances, among them a few rereads. In among the lighter fare there are a few more substantial books, e.g. the James and McCrumb novels, and a couple of non-fiction books. One is a biography of the early life of Elizabeth I of England, and the other Walter Lord‘s history of the sinking of the Titanic. I thought it was about time I read it, considering that this year is the 100th anniversary of that disaster.

The Books:
  • Suzanne Brockmann: Hot Target. Romantic thriller. Reread.
  • Rachel Gibson: Any Man of Mine. Romance, contemporary.
  • Rachel Gibson: True Confessions . Romance, contemporary.
  • Rachel Gibson: The Trouble With Valentine's Day. Romance, contemporary.
  • Rachel Gibson: See Jane Score. Romance, contemporary. Reread.
  • Cyril Hare: Tenant for Death. Mystery.
  • P.D. James: Devices and Desires. Mystery.
  • Diana Killian: High Rhymes and Misdemeanors. Mystery, romantic.
  • Walter Lord: A Night to Remember. History.
  • Sharyn McCrumb: The Songcatcher. Novel, partly historical.
  • J.D. Robb: Divided in Death. Mystery, futuristic.
  • J.D. Robb: Visions in Death. Mystery, futuristic.
  • J.D. Robb: Naked in Death. Mystery, futuristic. Reread.
  • J.D. Robb: Survivor in Death. Mystery, futuristic.
  • David Starkey: Elizabeth. Biography, history.

01 June 2012

The TBR challenge

I mentioned in the In memoriam post that I inherited some of my grandmother's books. They weren't a bequest, as she didn't leave a will, but I think she pretty much knew what would go where once she was gone. I, for example, am the only one of her adult descendants who is interested in folklore and fairy tales, so I got her collection of those, along with some historical novels, cookbooks and miscellaneous other books. I have entered 43 of those volumes (some of which contain several books) into my book database so far, but there are more waiting for me because we still haven't explored a number of book boxes my uncle was storing for her, and in addition to that there is a stack waiting to be gone through in her apartment.

In addition to this unexpected addition to my library, I also acquired 27 books from my grandfather not  long ago. He had a sizeable collection of books and decided that he wanted to pass them on to his children and their children and grandchildren while he was still alive. I suppose it was because he wanted to make sure we got them and not his stepchildren and their descendants. Whatever the reason, he put them in boxes and had them delivered to my aunt and then we visited her and chose what we wanted. In that way I got a couple of collections of folktales and essays on Icelandic history, plus some popular history books and novels.

In addition, I have bought about a dozen books since the beginning of the year.

Before all this I had been meaning to reduce the TBR stack to 625 books, meaning I would have to read and/or cull about 100 books from my collection in 2012. Now I'm not so sure I can make it to that goal because the number of TBR books has swollen to over 800 again despite a vigorous cull to make room for the new books. Therefore I am going to set myself a new goal and plan on reducing the stack to 725 books in 2012.Than should be manageable while still being challenging.