Monday, 24 February 2020

Staël, Anne-Louise-Germaine de "Corinne: Or Italy"


Staël, Anne-Louise-Germaine de "Corinne: Or Italy" (French: Corinne ou l'Italie) - 1807

I enjoy reading classics and this one is from the same time as my favourite classic writer, Jane Austen.

However, even though, according to a description on Goodreads, this "work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it, it didn't really capture my interest. It reminded me of some much older literature, the story didn't really develop in a way you would like to follow it.  Some random thoughts here, a letter there. Yes, the book might be important for historical literature but, please, don't impose them on younger students who are not accustomed to reading classics.

From the back cover: (translated from French as I couldn't find an English one except for the above-mentioned quote):

"A cosmopolitan and European novel which evokes France, England and Italy at the dawn of romanticism in the diversity of their mores and their cultures. The story of a woman, the poet Corinne, who opened the debate on the status of women, on the right of women to live independently and to exist as a writer. Corinne is Mme de Staël herself, 'the most extraordinary woman we have ever seen' according to Stendhal, 'a being apart, a superior being such as he meets perhaps one in a century', said Benjamin Constant. Napoleon himself, who saw Madame de Staël as a dangerous messenger of liberty, once declared: 'We must recognize, after all, that she is a woman of great talent; she will stay."

Friday, 21 February 2020

Book Quotes of the Week


"If you cannot read all your books ... fondle them - peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them, at any rate, be your acquaintances." Winston S. Churchill

"Maybe Heaven will be a library. Then I will be able to finish my to-read list." Kellie Elmore

Amen to that one.

"Every time you open a book a writer gets her wings ... and a Kardashian breaks a nail. (Read)" Harris County Public Library

"A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read." Mark Twain

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Fatland, Erika "The Border"


Fatland, Erika "Grensen: En reise rundt Russland gjennom Nord-Korea, Kina, Mongolia, Kasakhstan, Aserbajdsjan, Georgia, Ukraina, Hviterussland, Litauen, Polen, Latvia, Estland, Finland og Norge samt Nordøstpassasjen" (Norwegian) [The Border. A trip around Russia] - 2017

I usually don't review books here that have not been translated into English, yet. However, I have read that this one is supposed to be published soon and therefore, I want to whet your appetites already.

The author is a Norwegian journalist and she took a trip all around the Russian border. She visited every single country, even those that are not internationally recognized, like the de facto sovereign states in the Caucasus, though, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Adjara, Nagorno-Karabakh and Donetsk. It was not easy to get into some of them. To get into Nagorno-Karabakh, she had to travel into Armenia because you cannot enter it from Azerbaijan to which it still officially belongs.

She visited all those parts with a lot of difficulties and spoke to the people there who told her about recent and former history and you can learn a lot about that part of the world. I think it's good if we know more about the largest, very powerful and probably most dangerous country in the world.

We talk about a great, well-written book where we feel we are travelling with the author, we discover the countries with her, the people who live there and their history. Fantastic.

This is the second book about Russia and its history that Erika Fatland has written. Her first one "Sovietistan: Travels in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan" is on my TBR pile now. I am sure I will learn just as much from that book as I did from this one.

From the back cover: (translated)

"Russia's border is the longest in the world. Erika Fatland takes us on a trip to Russia's fourteen neighbour countries, from North Korea to North Norway and through the North-East Passage. The journey goes through wonderful landscapes and highly diverse communities what only have one thing in common: We are all Russia's neighbours.

It's also a trip through the dramatic stories of Russia's neighbours'. In any case, they have been influenced by the proximity of this mighty empire. We meet tsars that are addicted to conquests, brave adventurers and courageous individuals and Chinese dictators. The author visits contemporary conflict areas like the Ukraine whose borders with Putin's Russia have started to move again. 

Erika Fatland shows her special abilities again to get close to people whom she meets on her way and lets them tell her a bit about the big stories of living near the border."

Monday, 17 February 2020

Stanišić, Saša "How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone"


Stanišić, Saša "How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone" (German: Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert) - 2006

I found this book a while ago and loved the title. Also, the story is taking place in Višegrad near the river Drina about which I read and loved the book "The Bridge on the Drina" by Ivo Andrić.

The author was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina, his family fled to Germany when he was a teenager. This story tells partly about his life before and after leaving his country. In the meantime, he has received several German book prizes for his literature which often reports about the war in Bosnia.

This novel is a semi-autobiographical one. The protagonist's life, Aleksandar Krsmanovic, mirrors that of the author, Saša Stanišić. The story is a little chaotic, jumps from one scene to a completely different one, sometimes comes back to it, sometimes just leaves it open. Thereby it shows how chaotic the life for a child in wartime has to be.

It wasn't an unpleasant read but I would have appreciated a little more consistency. I can ese why the author is so acclaimed, though.

From the back cover:

"The hardcover publication of How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone launched Stanisic as an exciting and important new voice in literary fiction and earned exuberant praise from readers and critics alike. Now in paperback, Stanisic’s debut about a boy who experiences the Bosnian War and finds the secret to survival in language and stories is bound to dazzle a whole new readership.

For Aleksandar Krsmanovic, Grandpa Slavko’s stories endow life in Višegrad with a kaleidoscopic brilliance. Neighbors, friends, and family past and present take on a mythic quality; the River Drina courses through town like the pulse of life itself. So when his grandfather dies suddenly, Aleksandar promises to carry on the tradition. But then soldiers invade Višegrad - a town previously unconscious of racial and religious divides - and it’s no longer important that Aleksandar is the best magician in the nonaligned states; suddenly it is important to have the right last name and to convince the soldiers that Asija, the Muslim girl who turns up in his apartment building, is his sister.

Alive with the magic of childhood, the surreality of war and exile, and the power of language, every page of this glittering novel thrums with the joy of storytelling."

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

McCarthy, Cormac "The Road"


McCarthy, Cormac "The Road" - 2006

I am a fan of dystopian novels. So, when my online book club suggested this one, I was all for it.

There are mainly only two people in this book, a father and his son. Most of the world has been eliminated, we don't know exactly why but it doesn't matter. What's important is the way people react. Nothing grows anymore, so people have to eat what's still available. How would you react in such a situation? That's the big question and we see all sorts of different people acting in all sorts of different ways.

This story is scary because we can all imagine an apocalypse and what earth would look like afterwards. And what is going to happen to those who are "lucky" enough to survive.

If you are interested in this topic, the book is fabulous, impressive, grand. Also a great book about the bond between a father and his son and what parents are prepared to do for their children.

My only criticism would be the author's weird spelling of "dont".

From the back cover:

"The searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son's fight to survive.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food - and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, 'each the other's world entire,' are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation."

Cormac McCarthy received the Pulitzer Prize for "The Road" in 2007.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Stachniak, Eva "The Winter Palace"


Stachniak, Eva "The Winter Palace. A Novel of Catherine the Great" - 2011

I love learning about history while reading about ordinary people living through different times. In this case, the story of Varvara also tells the story of Empress Catherine the Great, how she entered the Russian court, how she became empress, how all the intrigues and betrayals helped her to get to the throne. This is not just a story about the empress but also about mid-eighteenth-century Russia. A very intimate behind the scenes story with a lot of information about life at the time. Something I always enjoy.

I really liked the protagonist, Varvara. Coming with her poor parents to St. Petersburg from Poland, her father makes sure she is taken in by the Empress Elizabeth if anything should happen to him. We see the palace, the court, and the arrival of German princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg who is to become Catherine the Great through her eyes. Very interesting.

I hope Eva Stachniak will write more historical novels like this.

From the back cover:

"When Varvara, a young Polish orphan, arrives at the glittering, dangerous court of the Empress Elizabeth in St Petersburg, she is schooled in skills ranging from lock-picking to love-making, learning above all else to stay silent - and listen.

Then Sophie, a vulnerable young princess, arrives from Prussia as a prospective bride for the Empress' heir. Set to spy on her, Vavara soon becomes her friend and confidante, and helps her navigate the illicit liaisons and the treacherous shifting allegiances of the court. But Sophie's destiny is to become the notorious Catherine the Great. Are her ambitions more lofty and far-reaching than anyone suspected, and will she stop at nothing to achieve absolute power?
"

Friday, 7 February 2020

Statistics 2019

My statistics for the last years are here:
Going back to 2009-12, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
 

And these are the results of my reading lists for 2019:

* Statistics 2019 *
 

I read books that contributed to the following challenges. Some of them count for more than one category:

Challenges (number of books read for the challenges in brackets)
100 Books by the BBC (2)
101 Best Selling Books of All Times (1)
100 Greatest Fiction Books as Chosen by the Guardian (4)
13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
(2)
20 Classic and Important Books (1)
2019 TBR Pile Reading Challenge (23)
Best European Literature (3)
Bildungsroman (2)
I'm sure I read more books in that direction but these two are typical for this genre.
Books That Changed the World (2)
A Century of Books (1)
Children's Books (1)
Dutch and French Books (1 French)
Emma's Book Club - Our shared shelf
An ever growing list of books about and for women, a group started by Emma Watson (better known as Hermione Granger), UN Woman Goodwill Ambassador.
German Books (14)
Le Monde - The 100 Books of the Century (1)
My Favourite Books Ever (10)
Every year I find some more books I can add to my list of favourite books. 10 this year.
Nobel Prize Winners and Their Books (8)
Oscar Winning Books (4)
Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (4)
(German: Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels)
Reading Challenge - Chunky Books 2019
I read 19 chunky books in 2017 of which 7 are considered a chunkster.
The "Piggybank" Challenge 2019
The 82 books I read this year resulted in €164 to spend on something nice.
Top Ten Tuesday
I took part in a few lists of this challenge:
Book Titles with Numbers In Them
Cover Redesigns I Loved/Hated
First Ten Books I Reviewed
Settings I’d Like to See More Of (Or At All)
Auto-Buy Authors 
Books From My Favourite Genre - Historical Fiction

Favourite Books Released In the Last Ten Years (one book for each year)
Books I wish I read as a kid
Top Ten Childhood Favourites
I read 38 books in this category, 4 of them were new ones.

Books Read: 80
Pages read: 30,773
384 pages/book, 85 pages/day, 6.7 books/month
The average novel contains between 140 and 320 pages, i.e. 230 = 134 "average" books in 2019

Books dating from which year:
Pre 1800s: 2
1800s: 5
1900-1949: 3
1950-1999: 23
2000s: 47 (2 of which from 2019)

Male Authors: 74
Female Authors: 52
Both: 1

Nobel Prize Winners: 8

Fiction: 81
Non-Fiction: 45

Chunky Books - more than 450 pages: 19, more than 750: 7
Library:12
Re-Read:7
TBR Pile: 23

Oldest Book: 1208
Alighieri, Dante "Die Göttliche Komödie" (The Devine Comedy/Divina Commedia) - 1308-20
Newest Book: 2018
Orth, Stephan "Couchsurfing in China. Durch die Wohnzimmer der neuen Supermacht" [Couchsurfing in China. Through the living rooms of the new super power] - 2019
Longest book: 1249 pages
Dostojewskij, Fjodor "Die Brüder Karamasow" (Братья Карамазовы/Brat'ya Karamazovy/The Brothers Karamazov) - 1879-80 - 1249 pages
Shortest book: 128 pages
Hüsch, Hanns Dieter "Frieda auf Erden" [Frieda/Peace on Earth] - 1959
Longest book title: 37
Kaminer, Wladimir "Meine Mutter, ihre Katze und der Staubsauger: Ein Unruhestand in 33 Geschichten" [My Mother, her Cat and the Vacuum Cleaner]- 2016
Shortest Book Title: 3
Fredriksson, Marianne "Eva" (Evas bok/The Book of Eve) (Paradisets barn/The Children of Paradise #1) - 1980
Funniest Book:
Sadler, Michael "An Englishman in Paris: L’éducation continentale" - 2000
Saddest Book:
Ahmad, Aeham "The Pianist from Syria" (aka The Pianist of Yarmouk) (Und die Vögel werden singen) - 2017
Weirdest Book:
Stanišić, Saša "How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone" (Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert) - 2006

New authors (for me) that I would like to read more from: 11
Rajaa Alsanea, Joe Biden, Paolo Cognetti, Anne Gesthuysen, Michelle Obama, Tim Marshall, Lydia
Chukovskaya, Sofia Lundberg, Richard Powers, Eva Stachniak, Stefan Zweig

Translated Books: 17 from 12 languages
3 from Russian, 2 each from Italian, Swedish and Turkish, 1 each from Albanian, Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Portuguese and Spanish
Books read in another language:
14 German, 1 each French and 1 Esperanto

Numbers in Book Titles
: Eight, Six, 1914
Place Names in Book Titles: Afghanistan, China, England, Paris, Riyadh, Syria
Names in Book Titles: Barack, Bill, Burger, Bryson, Clarke, Crake, Daisy, Dickens, Eva, Frieda, Godot, Jane, Jean, Jones, Karamazov, Miller, Moby-Dick, Moses, Obama, Oryx, Paddy, Seymour, Tom
Colours in Book Titles: Red, Scarlet

My Favourite Books: 10

With my books, I visited places in the following countries:
Africa (3):
Botswana, Nigeria, South Africa
Asia (8):
Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, Israel, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey
Europe (13):
Albania, Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom,
North America (3):
Canada, Mexico, USA
South America (0):
will have to change that
Australia/Oceania (2):
Australia, New Zealand
Extra-terrestrial (1)
Everywhere (4)
Others/Anywhere (2)

Countries "visited" in total: 36

See also "My Year in Books" on Goodreads.

You may find some even greater statistics by better bloggers than me at "Stuck in a Book" and "Ready When You are, C.B."

If you want more information on any of the lists mentioned, please, let me know.