silent spring.

Or 8 7 6 books behind schedule as Goodreads keeps informing me. In other words, I haven’t read at all this spring/ early summer. But now I have endless time (or about 7 weeks a month) to do some serious reading. I was smart and planned ahead and used my mom’s address when doing some serious book shopping. Not that this house is already full of unread books. Hopefully I’ll read most of them before heading south again.

I finally got around to finish Gösta Berling’s Saga by Selma Lagerlöf (1891) in the middle of May. It took months to read it, mainly because I kept it by my bed. The book is about a handful inhabitants in a small Swedish town, and mainly about a priest turned a poor drunkard turned a cavalier, Gösta Berling. It can be read as a collection of short stories, as the chapters have little to do with each other, but are all linked to the small town. It was confusing because of all the characters and although I enjoyed the prose, I never got into it. And it’s a shame because I had high expectations for this book, mainly because of Haruhi‘s fangirling and the fact that Lagerlöf is a Nobel Prize winner. Oh well.

 I spent the beginning of the summer holidays rereading the Hobbit (1937) and the Lord of the Rings (1954-55) trilogy as I needed something familiar to get my reading started again after a long break. I used to read these books annually in my teens until the first film came out in 2001. I also reread them in 2009. I have always favoured the Hobbit, but this time I couldn’t quite get involved in the story, and that was really annoying. I don’t know why, but it could be that I was still stressed after the end of another school year, or that I simply have grown too old for the Hobbit.  

LOTR has definitely grown on me, I always used to find it too detailed, but this time I couldn’t get enough. I swear I must have screamed Gondor! and Gandalf! in my sleep. I never wanted it to end, and I had to take a long break before I read the final chapters, although the battle of the Shire is one of my favourite parts. I still haven’t decided who’s my favourite character.

What’s next on my reading list? I started Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel yesterday, and I love it. I’m forever reading the Crossing by Cormac McCarthy and Alamut by Vladimir Bartol, hopefully finishing them before the summer is up. I gave Villette by Charlotte Brontë the boot yesterday as too much of the important stuff is in French and je ne parle pas francois.

february/march.

Another short summary of the latest books I have read. Two very good ones, one so-so, and one that disappointed despite having the prettiest name and cover. An interesting note is that the two débutantes chose to write in English, and not their native tongues. And then I might have a new author amongst my favourites.

7. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford (2004)
Tags: non-fiction, state of the nation, war and travel, biography, usa

 “The Mongols made no technological breakthroughs, founded no new religions, wrote few books or dramas, and gave the world no new crops or methods of agriculture. Their own craftsmen could not weave cloth, cast metal, make pottery, or even bake bread. They manufactured neither porcelain nor pottery, painted no pictures, and built no buildings. Yet, as their army conquered culture after culture, they collected and passed all of these skills from one civilization to the next.”

Genghis Khan (1162-1227) was the man who united the Mongols and then created an enormous empire. This book gives a thorough account of his life and what happened to the empire after his death. Definitely entertaining and I learnt a lot (like that the empire crumbled as the black plague spread). Definitely a good pick if you want to learn more about the Mongols. I read this in the beginning of February as a part of Ingalill’s biography reading circle where that month’s topic was men with moustaches.

8. Drop City by T. Coraghessan Boyle (2003)

 Tags: books you should read, sex drugs and rock’n’roll, war and travel, 1001 books, books about the arctic, usa

A community of hippies are forced to leave their property in California after too many encounters with the police. Where can no one bother them? Alaska. So they pack everything they own, including goats, into an old bus and set off. Meanwhile, in Alaska, Sess Harder has lived alone for years running a trap line by a remote river, but now he’s getting hitched. How will they get along with hippies as neighbours?

I loved this book from the first page and I never wanted it to end. It’s hilarious, sad and violent. I think I have discovered a new dirty old man to add to my favourites, and I’m thrilled that he has written so many books to discover.

9. Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck (2014)

 Tags: crime and mystery, sweden, historical novels, books about the arctic, state of the nation, supernatural

‘Wolf winter,’ she said, her voice small. ‘I wanted to ask about it. You know, what it is.’
He was silent for a long time. ‘It’s the kind of winter that will remind us we are mortal,’ he said. ‘Mortal and alone.’ 

 Swedish Lappland, 1717. A family has just moved to Blackåsen from Finland. Then one day when the girls are out looking after the animals, they find a dead man. It looks like an animal has torn him up, and people speaks of the devil, but Maija is convinced that this is done by a human. But who?

I liked the book for the story, the setting and the characters. The writing is also good. But there are too many loose ends towards the end of the book, so I was left with too many questions at the end to really enjoy it. 

 

10. Wildalone by Krassi Zourkava (2015)
Tags: family and self, crime and mystery, supernatural, bulgaria, not impressed, sex drugs and rock’n’roll

Thea is a talented Bulgarian pianist who has just started at Princeton, just like her sister did 15 years earlier. But her sister never graduated, as she died at Princeton, and then her body was stolen from the funeral home and hasn’t been found. Thea loves Princeton, and she quickly meet the man of her dreams, but there is an air of mystery surrounding him.

This book was just too much. I got 50 shades of grey vibes from the Thea’s love interest and the mix of modern life and ancient Greek myths was exciting until the point when it just got too much. I had to read the end several times, and I still don’t get it. It was also too easy to guess what was going to happen. And apparently this is the first book in a saga… No, just no. 

Now, if only I can finish Gösta Berling’s Saga before Easter… It’s good, but I can only handle it in small doses.

twenty-seven.

the Red Room by August Strindberg (1879)
Arvid Falk is a struggling young writer in Stockholm. He has quit his job within the civil service, which isn’t approved by Arvid’s much older brother, Carl Nicolaus, who is very unlike Arvid. Becoming a writer is hard, but it pays off with new friendships with the radical struggling artists and they invite him along to the Red Room.

The Red Room paints some excellent portraits of characters and it is very witty. I was surprised how easy it was to read the book, and the language was really enjoyable. I suspect it must be the work of the excellent Norwegian translator, Per Qvale. I wonder if the English translation is as full of excellent sentences and choice of words.

But sadly it isn’t a story that sticks. Already two days after I finished it, I have problems recalling it. I do remember how I felt while reading it, but only very vaguely the plot and I have trouble remembering the names of the characters. Yet I know that it was a good read.

This was May’s read in Line’s 1001 books reading challenge.

fifty-eight.

Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (2011)
 Reverend MacKenzie and his pregnant wife, Lizzie, are about to move to the remote community of St. Kilda in 1830. The inhabitants have been described as heathen and filthy and he can’t wait to show them the right way. 
But the life on St. Kilda is tough. The harsh weather conditions and the fact that it is so remote from the rest of Scotland mean that ships rarely come. And when the ships fail to show up, the inhabitants have to live with what the nature provides and that isn’t much. Their main ingredient is sea fowl. Most newborn babies die of the 8 day sickness. Lizzie loses more than one baby and the relationship between her and her husband goes astray. But worst of all for the reverend is that the inhabitants are reluctant to believe in the words of God.
Reverend MacKenzie and his wife Lizzie did live on St. Kilda from 1830 to 1943 and Karin has done a great job fictionalising their lives. She has described the islands so well that when I discovered the map after reading the book, it looked exactly how I pictured it. It was a fascinating read and I felt that I learnt a lot about the history of St. Kilda. 
I have been fascinated by the isles after reading about it in my absolute favourite book Atlas of Remote Islands.  Sarah Moss has also written a great book about St. Kilda, Night Waking, where she mixes past and present life on the isles.

3 & 4

Book 3 and book 4 were both by Stieg Larsson, the Girl Who Played With Fire (2006) and the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2007).

The first book in the series was a good read. The other two not so good. I lost interest in the too detailed, yet superficial story with way too many narrators. The second book started well, but the more I got into the story the more I lost the interest to continue reading. It took me forever to read the 3rd book, I would only read a couple of pages at the time and it was not until close to the ending that I got somewhat interested again. And I was actually relieved to be finished with the trilogy. I think it will be a while until I read more crime.

In other book related news, while travelling home yesterday I just had to pop into the Tanum book store at Gardermoen. It’s a small and expensive book store but they always seem to have exactly the books I’m looking for. This time I restrained myself and only picked up one; the Flood by J.M.G le Clézio.

I have also restrained myself to only take 4 books with me on my 2 months stay in the Netherlands; the Flood by J.M.G le Clézio, the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and finally, the Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline . It will be kind of sad if I actually end up reading all the books while I’m there.

first post!

I had some time to kill yesterday, so I went to the book store. After some browsing I picked out Cormac McCarthy – the Border Triology, Gert Nygårdshaug – Mengele Zoo and Louis-Ferdinand Céline – Journey to the End of the Night. When I paid for them, the man at the counter told me that I deserved a prize for the books I bought. That totally made my day. Earlier this week I also ended up buying the two remaining books in the Millennium triology by Stieg Larsson.

I failed at reading 50 books last year. But I came close enough, 48. Here’s to a new try.

Book 1: A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham (1990)
I loved the beginning of the book. It is beautifully written, but I have always been a sucker for short amazing sentences. I liked the story and while reading it, I was thinking about a few people who should read it. But the ending was really blah and not how I expected it to end. Yet I will recommend it to people.

Book 2: the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2005)
A lot of people have recommended this book to me. I struggled a little with the beginning as I didn’t think it was well written, but it got better after a while. I liked the story, but I have always enjoyed books that are more mystery than crime. I was also surprised that it was nothing that I expected after seeing the trailers to the movies made from the books. And it was one of those books that got so exciting that I just had to finish it, meaning that I stayed up way too late and hardly got any sleep. I immediately bought the two remaining books and have already started on the next one.