Thursday 31 January 2013

Reading Challenge

Have you ever participated in a reading challenge? I have seen many and I usually have a certain goal about what kind of books to read or how many. But the other day while going through some lovely blogs I came across a "chunky book challenge". And this time, I signed up.

There are several levels from "The Chubby Chunkster" over "The Plump Primer" and "Do These Books Make my Butt Look Big?" to "Mor-book-ly Obese". Even though I liked the third title best, I signed up for the fourth level which means I want to read eight or more Chunksters (books over 450 pages) of which three must be 750 pages or more. Since I read 20 chunky ones of which 6 had more than 750 pages last year, and since I love large books, I am sure this will be an easy task.

If you are interested in the challenge, check out this link:

They also give you suggestions by page number, in case you can't find any chunksters yourself. ;-)

So far, I have already read:
Homer "Odyssey" (GR: Ομήρου Οδύσσεια, Odýsseia) - 800-600 BC - 450 pages
Faulks, Sebastian "Birdsong. A Novel of Love and War" - 1993 - 503 pages
Hislop, Victoria "The Return" - 2008 - 592 pages
Dostoevsky, Fyodor "Crime and Punishment" (RUS: Преступление и наказание) - 1866 - 801 pages 

Tremain, Rose "Music & Silence" - 1999 - 464 pages
Palma, Félix J. "The Map of Time" (E: El mapa del tiempo) - 2008 - 768 pages
Mitchell, Margaret "Gone with the Wind" - 1936 - 1010 pages
Boccaccio, Giovanni "The Decameron" (OT: Il Decameron, cognominato Prencipe Galeotto) - 1350 - 1072 pages
Shriver, Lionel "We need to talk about Kevin" - 2003 - 496 pages
Cervantes, Miguel de "Don Quixote, vols. 1 and 2" (E: El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha) - 1605/1615 - 1488 pages Pamuk, Orhan "The Museum of Innocence" (TR: Masumiyet Müzesi) - 2008 – 752 pages
Navarre, Marguerite de "Heptameron" (FR: Heptaméron) - 1578 - 544 pages
Ghosh, Amitav  "Sea of Poppies" (Ibis Trilogy #1) - 2008 - 544 pages
Mahfouz, Naguib "Children of the Gebelawi/Children of our Alley" (Arab: اولاد حارتنا) - 464 - 1959 pages

Ghosh, Amitav "River of Smoke" (Ibis Trilogy #2) - 2011 - 592 pages
Marschner, Rosemarie "Das Mädchen am Klavier" (GE) [The Girl on the Piano] - 2013 - 512 pages
Grossman, David "To the End of the Land" (Hebr: אשה בורחת מבשורה/Isha Nimletet Mi'Bshora) - 2008 - 735 pages
Bánk, Zsuzsa "Die hellen Tage" (GE) [The Light Days] - 2011 - 544 pages

Oates, Joyce Carol "A Widow's Story. A Memoir" - 2011 - 450 pages
Rutherfurd, Edward "Paris" - 2013 - 1360 pages 
Sendker, Jan-Philipp "Whispering Shadows" (GE: Das Flüstern der Schatten) - 2007 - 464 pages
Cabré, Jaume "I confess" (Cat: Jo Confesso) - 2011 - 847 pages
Hislop, Victoria "The Thread" - 2011 - 480 pages

Gillham, David R. "City of Women" - 2012  - 617 pages
Moyes, Jojo "Me Before You" - 2012 - 631 pages 
Clarke, Susanna "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" - 2004 - 1,024 pages  
Basti, Abel & van Helsing, Jan "Hitler in Argentina" (GE: Hitler überlebte in Argentinien/[Hitler survived in Argentina] - 2011 - 576 pages
Collins, Wilkie "Armadale" - 1866 - 752 pages
Johnson, Adam "The Orphan Master's Son" - 592 pages
Gabaldon, Diana "Outlander" (UK: Cross Stich) - 1991 - 864 pages
Bernières, Louis de "Birds without Wings" - 2004 - 640 pages
Mann, Thomas "The Magic Mountain" (GE: Der Zauberberg) - 1120 pages
Allende, Isabel "Maya's Notebook" (E: El Cuaderno de Maya) - 447 pages

Keneally, Thomas "Schindler's Ark" - 492 pages
Modick, Klaus "Die Schatten der Ideen" (GE) [The Shadows of the Ideas] - 2008 - 464 pages

Sterne, Laurence "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" - 735 pages
Garfield, Simon "On the Map. Why the World Looks the Way it Does" - 468 pages 
May, Karl "Durch die Wüste" (aka Durch Wüste und Harem) (GE) [Through the desert] - 1892 - 573 pages
George, Margaret "Elizabeth I" - 2011 - 688 pages
Austen, Jane "Pride & Prejudice" - 1813 - 512 pages

** We have just reached the end of three months, and I have already fulfulled my goal, eight chunky books with more than 450 pages and four of them have to have more than 750 pages. I will carry on listing my chunky books, though. 31.03.13
*** End of June: another ten chunky ones including three super chunky ones which makes eighteen chunky books, seven of them super chunky. 30.06.13
****  End of September, elven more chunky books including 4 super chunky books. Now I've read 29 chunky books, 11 of which are super chunky. 30.09.13
***** End of December, added another nine chunky books, 2 of them super chunky.
My final result is now 38 chunky books, 13 of them super chunky. I think I can easily say I have reached my "goal" of 8 and 3. ;-) 31.12.13 

(pages in bold - more than 750 pages = super chunky)

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Bradbury, Ray "Fahrenheit 451"

Bradbury, Ray "Fahrenheit 451" - 1953

I always joke that this story really should be called Celsius 232 because in most of the modern world we measure temperatures in Celsius. But it was written in the States, so I guess we all have to convert. At least this title.

I'm quite a fan of dystopian novels, I always think the stories portrayed in these books are more likely to happen than those in the utopian ones. And you can usually see when the book was written by the topic the author chooses to evaluate. "1984" was written shortly after World War II, and the totalitarian idea was still very fresh. "Brave New World" was written shortly before World War II and you can see the ideas of the Nazis taking form in this novel.

"Fahrenheit 451" was written in the fifties, in the United States, at the height of the McCarthy era, when the fear of the communists during the Cold War was leading to almost witch-huntlike attacks on citizens.

So, it is not surprizing, that the society in this novel wants to banish books, wants to banish knowledge, so they can influence people the way they would like them to. I think, as in all dystopian novels, the future looks partly like the author described it. Especially if we look at what Ray Bradbury said at the end of his novel in "Afterword": "There remains only to mention a prediction that my Fire Chief, Beatty, made in 1953, halfway through my book. It had to do with books being burned without matches or fire. Because you don't have to burn books, do you, if the world starts to fill up with non-readers, non-learners, non-knowers?" Something to think about:

I don't think I have to mention that I really liked the book.

From the back cover:

"The hauntingly prophetic classic novel set in a not-too-distant future where books are burned by a special task force of firemen.

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

The classic novel of a post-literate future, ‘
Fahrenheit 451’ stands alongside Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.

Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which over fifty years from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock."

I have read "The Martian Chronicles" in the meantime and have enjoyed that at least just as much as this one.

Ray Bradbury received a special Pulitzer Prize citation in 2007 for "his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy."
We discussed this book in our international online book club in December 2020. 

This is one of the comments from a member:
"I enjoyed reading Fahrenheit 451. How comforting to read an affirmation of observations and positive values in defiance of the dystopian world of the novel and also in contrast to the dystopia of certain lived realities in North America today. This book is why I read. Yet I read it long ago when I was young and was grossed out by the overt sexism. Ha!"

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Hannah, Kristin "Angel Falls"

Hannah, Kristin "Angel Falls" - 2000

The story of a woman who is in a coma and her husband who tries to carry on with the life of the family. Only through contacting her first husband can he bring her back to consciousness but is afraid he will lose her through this forever.

A love story with some complications, your usual chick lit. Although, it is beautifully told, a story about devotion and fidelity. Not a bad read.

I later read "Winter Garden" with my book club.

From the back cover:

"Mikaela Campbell lies in a coma after a freak riding accident. Although doctors have told her devoted husband not to expect a recovery, Liam hopes his love will accomplish what they cannot. Between caring for their two grieving children, Liam sits by Mikaela's bedside day after day, holding her hand, telling her the stories of their life together. 

Then he discovers Mikaela's secret past: her first husband was world-famous movie star Julian True. And when Julian's name is the only one Mikaela will respond to, Liam must face the painful reality that Julian may be the only person who can bring Mikaela back to life. But at what cost? Does Liam love his wife enough to risk losing her to a man no woman can resist? 

The decision he makes strikes deep at the heart of his family, transforming each of them. For when Mikaela finally wakes up, she is a different woman, changed in a way no-one could have foreseen.

Saturday 26 January 2013

Xu, Ruiyan "The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai"

Xu, Ruiyan "The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai" - 2010

Quite a different book about China, it's actually a story that could take place anywhere in the world. After an accident, a man loses part of his brain and can only speak the language he grew up with but does not reign that of his wife and child. A problem that is rare but can happen. A doctor is called from another country to help him find his way back into his ordinary life.

An interesting tale where we can see how much we take for granted in our everyday life. It is also a great account of how we have to find our way in an unknown world, both the patient as well as the doctor have to face several problems that come along with the inability to speak the language around you.

I also liked a quote on page 213:
"Clarissa sighs at the table, looking up at Rosalyn. 'Everyone always has to go. Everyone always leaves this place. People pass through here, and you get attached to them, but then they just leave you behind. You'd think we'd be used to it by now.'"

As an expatriate myself, I understand exactly what she is talking about.

From the back cover:

"When an explosion reverberates through the Swan Hotel in Shanghai, it is not just shards of glass and rubble that come crashing down. Li Jing and Zhou Meiling find their once-happy marriage rocked to its foundations. For Li Jing, his head pierced by a shard of falling glass, awakens from brain surgery only able to utter the faltering phrases of the English he learnt as a child - a language that Meiling and their young song Pang Pang cannot speak. 

When an American neurologist arrives, tasked with teaching Li Jing to speak fluently again, she is as disorientated as her patient in this bewitching, bewildering city. As doctor and patient grow closer, feelings neither of them anticipated begin to take hold. Feelings that Meiling, who must fight to keep both her husband's business and her family afloat, does not need a translator to understand.

Friday 25 January 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

"What you read when you don't have to determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading." B.F. Skinner

"Read! Read all the time, the understanding will come by itself." Paul Celan

"There are books so alive that you're always afraid that while you weren't reading, the book has gone and changed, has shifted like a river; while you went on living, it went on living too, and like a river moved on and moved away. No one has stepped twice into the same river. But did anyone ever step twice into the same book?" Marina Tsvetaeva

"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." Anna Quindlen, “Enough Bookshelves,” New York Times, 7 August 1991

Find more quotes here.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Wilde, Oscar "The Nightingale and the Rose

Wilde, Oscar "The Nightingale and the Rose. Short Stories" - 1891

I'm not a big fan of short stories. I'm also not a big fan of reading plays. But - I am a big fan of Oscar Wilde, so I couldn't resist reading this.

"She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses," cried the young Student; "but in all my garden there is no red rose."

That's how this little story begins. A Nightingale hears this and helps the student to find the rose. The story does not end how we might like but short stories seldom do. They have a message they want to send in just a few pages. And Oscar Wilde, being the perfect writer he was, manages this perfectly.

I read this in a collection of short stories by Oscar Wilde and the other ones were also quite good.

From the back cover:

"An allegorical fable of love, sacrifice and selfishness. As with all of Wilde's short stories it embodies strong moral values and is told with an effervescence akin to that of the 1001 nights.

It is the tale of a lovestruck student who must provide his lover with a red rose in order to win her heart. A nightingale overhearing his lament from a solitary oak tree is filled with sorrow and admiration all at once, and decides to help the poor young man.

She journeys through the night seeking the perfect red rose and finally comes across a rambling rose bush but alas, the bush has no roses to offer her. However, there is a way to MAKE a red rose, but with grave consequences.

Other works by Oscar Wilde here.

Monday 21 January 2013

Faulks, Sebastian "Birdsong"

Faulks, Sebastian "Birdsong. A Novel of Love and War" - 1993

The novel starts with a quote: Rabindranath Tagore says in "Gitanjali: "When I go from hence, let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable."

The author has successfully tried to describe something unsurpassable, something so astonishingly unimaginable that I am asking myself two questions: Why I haven't read this any earlier? and Why isn't this book better known? It should be an obligatory read for every teenager who thinks about entering the army and every politician who even remotely considers starting a war.

Now, today wars are fought differently. Or so they want to make us believe. But if you read "Birdsong", you will see that the tragedies of losing friends and loved ones in a war cannot be changed, it will remain the same, no matter how they get killed.

There are few war books that describe the feelings of the soldiers during their fights as good as this one. An absolute MUST.

From the back cover:

"Set before and during the great war, Birdsong captures the drama of that era on both a national and a personal scale. It is the story of Stephen, a young Englishman, who arrives in Amiens in 1910. Over the course of the novel he suffers a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experiences of the war itself."

Saturday 19 January 2013

Yerby, Frank "Speak now"

Yerby, Frank "Speak now" - 1969

I found Frank Yerby by chance in the mid seventies in my local library. Apparently, he was the first African-American writer who became a millionaire through his books. I think he deserved it. After reading "Griffin's Way" and being interested in the history of the Southern part of the United States, I started this one.

It is quite different from "Griffin's Way" as it doesn't even take place in the US, it's a love between a white woman and a black musician in Paris. Even though the racism prevalent in their home country is still very much the topic, this is also just a beautiful love story.

From the back cover:

"To Kathy, he was a knight in shining armor. She was a Southern belle ... and pregnant. To Harry Forbes, Paris was a place where he could earn good money as a jazz musician and a place to forget that he was a black man ... and there was no room in his life for a white girl like Kathy Nichols. She was too young and too much the daughter of a wealthy Southern tobacco planter. Harry was not interested in giving his name to another man's child ... nor was he interested in marrying this white woman that he dared not love."

Yerby, Frank "Griffin's Way"

Yerby, Frank "Griffin's Way" - 1962

A good novel about the story of the Ku Klux Klan in the Southern part of the United States after the Civil War. Frank Yerby was a very well-known African-American writer, especially for these kind of stories.

This is a love story as well as a historical novel, a report about racism and how people overcome it or are obsessed with it. A good author who contributes a lot to this topic.

From the back cover:

"The Klan has no sense of right and wrong only a sense of superior and inferior ... and they intend it to keep it that way. As the Grand Dragon of the Ku KluxKlan, Di Cadwallader is determined that in post-war Mississippi there will be no equality between the races even if he must murder white women and children. Cadwallader claims to love Laurie Griffin, the wife of another man, but even she is not safe from his murderous campaign of white supremacy. But Cadwallader finds a supporter in a black man, sent to educate the children of ex-slaves, but who embezzles the education funds and amasses a personal fortune instead before fleeing North."

I also read "Speak Now".

Friday 18 January 2013

Quadraphonic (or quintaphonic ...) Reading

Why do I never read just one book at a time? A lot of my friends say they wouldn't be able to do that, they need to concentrate on one book alone whereas I always read at least three books at once, most of the time more than three, five is a usual number for me.

There are several reasons for this. The most obvious one, I like to stay with them for a while and that way, I don't want finish them too fast (one of the reasons I don't like short stories). I can also dig into a different one according to a different mood. Or I can take a small one with me when going out and I know I will have some waiting time where I can read. Although, even I know there will not be waiting time, I still take a book, you never know.

It also makes me go through books I don't like that much, especially when it's a book club book that I do want to read but really don't enjoy. I start with that one, read about ten pages and then I can reward myself with another one that I enjoy. No book gets boring that way. It's also easier to get through a long book because you are not just reading one story for weeks.

I never read two books on the same topic, I usually have a classic and a modern book, one from far away and one from home, a non-fiction and a fiction, a funny and a sad story. I wouldn't read two autobiographies at the same time. Or two books about China.

I enjoy the contrast, the variety. It's almost like real life. And people watch more than one television series at the same time without getting confused. So why not do the same with books? This way, I have the right book for every situation. Sometimes, when I come to a particularly interesting part or close to the end, I read longer in one book than in the others but usually I tend to read about the same amount in every book every day.

With this "technique", I find I get to read more books than if I would read one after the other. I think it's also a good brain trainer.

But - whatever you prefer, whether you like to read one book at a time or juggle between ten books, the main thing is that you enjoy them. And I always do that.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Homer "Odyssey"

Homer "Odyssey" (Ancient Greek: Ομήρου Οδύσσεια, Odýsseia) - 800-600 BC

This is an epic story. Everyone has heard of "The Odyssey", and I love classics, so I always wanted to read it.

I am not much into poetry but you can read this almost like a novel, the language is very fluent, one line follows the next without those usual interruptions. However, some sentences can get rather long.

Still, it is interesting to follow this man, Odysseus during his journey through this world and the next in order to get home to his wife and son. He meets Gods and heroes, witches, enemies, difficult, life-threatening situations but survives them all. Even when he comes home, the problems are not ended, yet.

This story is over 2,000 years old and it still captures us today. Definitely worth reading.

Book Description:

"The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer, along with the Illiad, and is one of the most widely popular anicent texts for reading. Composed around 8th century B.C., it is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the first surviving work of Western literature. The poem mainly centers on the Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses) and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War. In his absence, it is assumed he has died, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must deal with a group of unruly suitors who compete for Penelope's hand in marriage."

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Alcott, Louisa May "Eight Cousins"

Alcott, Louisa May "Eight Cousins" or "The Aunt-Hill" - 1876

Same as in "Little Women", Louisa May Alcott describes an unorthodox family, a family that tries to raise their children more freely than the conventions of their times prescribed it. In this case, it is the orphan Rose that is first taken in by some aunts and then by the family of her guardian. Charming people, a nice read. The moral side is emphasized quite clearly but it still is a good book about children growing up at a different time for ours and therefore deserves to be read by children and adults alike. If you liked "Little Women", you should certainly try this novel.

Book Description:

"Rose, a shy orphan, blossoms in the company of her spirited relatives when she takes up residence at 'The Aunt Hill' This captivating novel by the author of 'Little Women' offers readers of all ages endearing, inspiring stories about growing up, making friends, and facing life with kindness and courage."

Sunday 13 January 2013

Clarkson, Jeremy "The World According to Clarkson, Vol. 2"

Clarkson, Jeremy "The World According to Clarkson, Vol. 2. And Another Thing" - 2006

I really enjoyed Jeremy Clarkson's first collection of articles "The World According to Clarkson" and therefore just had to read the next one. I enjoyed this a lot, too. Well, most of it. In some of his articles he is just getting too political and he is too right wing for my taste. I think I will enjoy him more in his role as the car driving and reporting Top Gear Host in the future. But if your political tendencies are not as left wing as mine, you might enjoy this book, as well.

From the back cover:

"Everyone knows that Jeremy Clarkson finds the world a perplexing place - after all, he wrote a bestselling book about it. Yet despite the appearance of 'The World According To Clarkson', things don't seem to have improved much. However, Jeremy is not someone to give up easily and he's decided to have another go. In 'And Another Thing', our exasperated hero discovers that: he inadvertently dropped a bomb on North Carolina; we're all going to explode at the age of 62; Russians look bad in Speedos - but not as bad as we do; no one should have to worry about being Bill Oddie's long lost sister; and, he should probably be nicer about David Beckham. Thigh-slappingly funny and - as ever - in your face, Jeremy Clarkson bursts the pointless little bubbles of the idiots while celebrating the special, the unique and the sheer bloody brilliant..."

Thursday 10 January 2013

Hill, Richard "We Europeans"

Hill, Richard "We Europeans" - 1992

The book is subtitled "An alternate history of Europe". It starts with "Once upon a time... there was a cozy little continent crammed with alien cultures, each of them strange, even sinister, to its neighbours, most of them recently emerged from a series of devastating wars."

Very interesting book about the different nations of  Europe, their likes and dislikes, their similarities and their differences. Sometimes these books get a little overwhelming at times, a little too stereotypical, but Richard Hill managed to give a neutral view, as much as that is possible. I have lived in several European countries and can honestly say that I know at least a few people of every nation and I found a lot of the author's findings quiet accurate.

I enjoyed reading this book. I loved the humour in it. And there are quite a few little stories about the differences of the people some of which I hadn't heard before.

I also enjoyed all the quotes the author gave at the beginning of every chapter. My favourite: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayaa

From the back cover:

"The united Europe is all about people - people who differ in their tastes and habits but share the same values and ideals. This book describes these people, then attacks stereotypes of them, ending with a witty analysis of each of the cultures making up the Continent. Hill enlarges his theme with a comparative study analysis of value systems and lifestyles, how people communicate, relate to one another and do business. The final chapter examines recent events and offers thoughts on where we go from here."

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Buck, Pearl S. "Pavilion of Women"

Buck, Pearl S. "Pavilion of Women" - 1946

I have always loved the books by Pearl S. Buck. She writes about a world that is so different from the one I know. And every single one of her stories is telling us a new aspect of that life. In this case, rich Madame Wu who lives in pre-communist China. On her 40th birthday, she decides that she wants to retire from her conjugal duties and informs her husband that she will bring in a young second wife and changes her whole life. Her family is absolutely horrified but she carries on with her own life, she starts reading and then goes on to study, something women at that time in China didn't do.

Her books captivate me every time. They raise so many subjects, often about women but also about freedom and justice. I love them. If I've had the misfortune to choose a few books in a row that I didn't like very much, Pearl S. Buck is always a safe bet to get me back to good reading.

From the back cover:

"On her fortieth birthday, Madame Wu carries out a decision she has been planning for a long time: she tells her husband that after twenty-four years their physical life together is now over and she wishes him to take a second wife. The House of Wu, one of the oldest and most revered in China, is thrown into an uproar by her decision, but Madame Wu will not be dissuaded and arranges for a young country girl to come take her place in bed. Elegant and detached, Madame Wu orchestrates this change as she manages everything in the extended household of more than sixty relatives and servants. Alone in her own quarters, she relishes her freedom and reads books she has never been allowed to touch. When her son begins English lessons, she listens, and is soon learning from the "foreigner," a free-thinking priest named Brother Andre, who will change her life. Few books raise so many questions about the nature and roles of men and women, about self-discipline and happiness."

Find other books by Pearl S. Book that I read here.

Pearl S. Buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces".

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Saturday 5 January 2013

Statistics 2012 and before

As all my friends know, I love lists. I write down anything, I can come up with a lot of information from my notes and I love to publish what I found.

So, without further ado, I present the statistics of my reading year 2012. I am sure I can put together more details the next time but I think this will do at the moment.

*** Statistics 2012 ***

Books Read: 81
Pages read: 28,604pp. = 353 pages/book or 78 pages/day

Books dating from which year:
Pre 1800s: 2
1800s: 5
1900-1949: 8
1950-1999: 27
2000s: 38 (3 of which from 2012)

Male Authors: 52
Female Authors: 29

Nobel Prize Winners: 8

Fiction: 60
Non-Fiction: 21

Oldest Book:
Murasaki, Lady Shikibu "The Tale of Genji" (Japanese: 源氏物語 Genji Monogatari)- early 11th century
Newest Book:
Oates, Joyce Carol "Mudwoman" - 2012
Longest Book:
Follett, Ken "World Without End" – 1,237 pages
Shortest Book:
Büchner, Georg "Woyzeck" (Woyzeck) - 30 pages
Chunky Books - more than 450 pages: 20, more than 750: 6
Funniest Book:

Ephron, Nora "I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman"
Saddest Book:
Liao, Yiwu "Testimonials or: For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet's Journey Through a Chinese Prison" (鄰人證明, Zheng-Ci, 2000)  
Weirdest Book:
Jonasson, Jonas "The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared" (Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann)  
Shortest Book Title: "Home" by Toni Morrison
Longest Book Title: "The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared" by Jonas Jonasson
New author (for me) that I would like to read more from: Kurt Vonnegut

Translated Books: 12
3 from Chinese
2 each from Russian and Spanish
1 each from Finnish, Japanese, Serbo-Croat, Swedish, Turkish
Books read in another language:
15 German, 1 French, 3 Dutch
Goal for next year: Definitely read more foreign books, other than English. ;-)

Numbers in Book Titles: 2, 3, 5, 13, 40, 100
Place Names in Book Titles:
Africa, Alice, Baden-Baden, Britannia, China, Drina, Dublin, Europe, Fehrbellin, Homburg, North Korea, Rheinsberg, Rio
Colours in Book Titles: black, red, white
Names in Book Titles:
Christiane, Clarkson, Constance, Eyre, Friedrich, Genji, Goethe, Harold Fry, Juliet, Oscar Wilde, Romeo, Schiwago, Tom, Woyzeck

My Favourite Books:
Allende, Isabel "Island Beneath the Sea" (La isla bajo el mar) - 2010
Atwood, Margaret "The Handmaid’s Tale" – 1985 
Bryson, Bill "A Short History of Nearly Everything" - 2003 
Chang, Jung Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China" - 1991 
Follett, Ken "World Without End" – 2007
Hamill, Pete "Snow in August" - 1998  
Mandela, Nelson "Long Walk to Freedom" - 1994 
Oates, Joyce Carol "Mudwoman" - 2012 
Sackville, Amy "The Still Point" - 2010
Shute, Nevil "A Town Like Alice" - 1950 

With my books, I visited places in the following countries:
Africa (6): Algeria, Congo, Egypt, Gambia, Kenya, South Africa
Asia (13): Afghanistan, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, North Korea, South Korea, Syria, Thailand, Tibet
Europe (25): Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portual, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom
North: America (4): Canada, Cuba, Haiti, USA
Australia/Oceania (1): Australia
South America (2): Brazil, Colombia
Countries "visited" in total: 51

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

*** Statistics 2011 ***

Books Read: 72
Pages read: 21,602pp. = 300 pages/book or 59 pages/day

Books dating from which year: Pre 1800s: 1
1800s: 5
1900-1949: 5
1950-1999: 16
2000s: 44 (3 of which from 2011)

Male Authors: 39
Female Authors: 34

Nobel Prize Winners: 7

Fiction: 47
Non-Fiction: 25

Oldest Book:
von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang "Iphigenia in Tauris" (German: Iphigenie auf Tauris) - 1787

Newest Book:
Frazier, Charles "Nightwoods" - 2011

Longest Book:
Falcones, Ildefonso "The Hand of Fatima" (Spanish: La mano de Fátima) - 2009 - 972 pages

Shortest Book: 
Steinbeck, John "Of Mice and Men" - 1937 - 78 pages
Chunky Books - more than 450 pages: 12, more than 750: 2

Funniest Book:
Moor, Dieter "You don't need w
hat we don't have" (German: Was wir nicht haben, brauchen Sie nicht) - 2009
Saddest Book:
Saviano, Roberto
"Gomorrah: A Personal Journey Into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System" aka "Gomorrha: Trip to the Empire of the Camorra" (Italian: Gomorra: Viaggio Nell’impero Economico E Nel Sogno Di Dominio Della Camorra) - 2006
Weirdest Book:
Bayer, Thommie "A Weird Christmas Story" (German: Die frohe Botschaft abgestaubt. Ein schräges Weihnachtsbuch) - 1989
Shortest Book Title: "Pan" by Knut Hamsun 
Longest Book Title: "An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2,000 Years of Upper Calls Idiots in Charge
" by John O'Farrell
New author that I would like to read more from: Amos Oz

Translated Books: 10
4 from Spanish
2 from Turkish
1 each from Hebrew, Italian, Norwegian, Rumanian
Books read in another language: 16
11 German, 1 Esperanto, 4 French

Numbers in Book Titles: Two
Place Names in Book Titles: America, Baghdad, Britain, Brooklyn, Istanbul, Italien, Kibeho, Rwanda, Sargasso Sea, Stamboul, Tauris, Thames
Names in Book Titles: Einstein, Fatima, Iphigenia, Ishtar, Jeyne Eyre, Julia, Pan 

My Favourite Books:
Bryson, Bill "At Home. A Short History of Private Life" – 2010

Camus, Albert "The Plague" (La Peste) – 1947
Falcones, Ildefonso "The Hand of Fatima" (La mano de Fátima) – 2009
Ilibagiza, Immaculée with Erwin, Steve "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" – 2006

Lowenstein, Anna "The Stone City" (La Ŝtona Urbo) – 1999
Mortenson, Greg "Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan" - 2009
O’Farrell, John "An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2,000 Years of Upper Calls Idiots in Charge" – 2007
Pamuk, Orhan "Istanbul - Memories of a City" (İstanbul - Hatıralar ve Şehir) – 2003
Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Prince of Mist" (El príncipe de la niebla) – 1993
Rutherfurd, Edward "The Forest" – 2000

With my books, I visited places in the following countries:
Africa (4): Algeria, Morocco, Rwanda, Somalia
Asia (8): Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan
Europe (16): Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom
North America (4): Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, USA
Australia/Oceania (2): Australia, New Zealand
South America (2): Colombia, Peru

Countries "visited" in total: 36

*** Statistics 2010 ***

Books Read: 65
Pages read: 23.038pp. = 354 pages/book or 63 pages/day

Books dating from which year:
1800s: 2
1900-1949: 7
1950-1999: 19
2000s: 39

Male Authors: 41
Female Authors: 26

Nobel Prize Winners: 2

Fiction: 47
Non-Fiction: 18

Oldest Book:
Dostoevsky, Fyodor M. "The Gambler" (Russian:- Игрок) - 1866
Newest Book:
Jonuleit, Anja "Herbstvergessene" (Forgotten in Autumn or Autumn Crocus) - 2010
Longest Book:

Tolstoy, Lew Nikolajewitsch (Толстой, Лев Николаевич) "War and Peace" (Russian: Война и мир = Woina i mir) - 1968/69 - 2,099 pages
Shortest Book:

Schmitt, Éric-Emmanuel "Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran" (French: Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran) - 1999 - 101 pages
Chunky Books - more than 450 pages: 15, more than 750: 4
Funniest Book: 
Fry, Stephen "Stephen Fry in America" - 2009
Saddest Book:
Shakib, Siba "Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep" (German: Nach Afghanistan kommt Gott nur noch zum Weinen) - 2002
Weirdest Book:

Chabon, Michael "The Yiddish Policemen’s Union" - 2007
Worst Book:
Wisner, Franz "How the World Makes Love: And What It Taught a Jilted Groom" - 2009
Shortest Book Title: "Brida" by Paulo Coelho
Longest Book Title: "The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
New author that I would like to read more from: Nicholas D. Kristof  

Translated Books: 12
3 from Spanish
2 each from Norwegian, Russian, Turkish
1 each from Arabic, Hebrew, Portuguese
Books read in another language: 23
14 German, 7 Dutch, 2 French

Numbers in Book Titles: Two, Four, Seven, Thirteen, 1940
Place Names in Book Titles: Afghanistan, America, Assisi, Barset, Berlin, Brighton, Eden, Egypt, Guernsey, Hollywood, Istanbul, Lissabon
Colours in Book Titles: Black, Rose
Names in Book Titles: Brida, Faustina, Galilei, Ibrahim, Oscar, Sarah, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Stephen Fry, Yacoub

My Favourite Books:
Abdolah, Kader (Hossein Sadjadi Ghaemmaghami Farahani) "
The House of the Mosque" (Dutch: Het huis van de moskee) - 2005
Cleave, Chris "The Other Hand" (Little Bee) - 2008 
Falcones, Ildefonso "Cathedral of the Sea" (Spanish: La catedral del mar) - 2008 
Follett, Ken "The Pillars of the Earth" - 1989
Hislop, Victoria "The Island" - 2007
Ilibagiza, Immaculée with Erwin, Steve "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" - 2006
Kingsolver, Barbara "The Lacuna" - 2009
Lee, Harper "To Kill a Mockingbird" - 1960
Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Angel's Game" (Spanish: El juego del ángel) - 2008

Shaffer, Mary Ann & Barrows, Annie "The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society" - 2008
Steinbeck, John "East of Eden" - 1952 

Tolstoy, Lew Nikolajewitsch (Толстой, Лев Николаевич) "War and Peace" (Russian: Война и мир = Woina i mir) - 1868/69

With my books, I visited places in the following countries:
Africa (5): Botswana, Congo, Guinea, South Africa, Tanzania
Asia (15): Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Israel, Kenya, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania,
Europe (18): Austria, Czechia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom
North America (4): Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, USA
Australia/Oceania (2): Australia, New Zealand
South America (3): Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil
Countries "visited" in total: 47 

*** Statistics 2009 ***

Books Read: 70

Books dating from which year:
1800s: 2
1900-1949: 6
1950-1999: 11
2000s: 51

Male Authors: 45
Female Authors: 27

Nobel Prize Winners: 6

Fiction: 36
Non-Fiction: 34

Oldest Book:
Brontë, Anne "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" - 1848

Newest Book:
Oates, Joyce Carol "Dear Husband, stories" - 2009

Funniest Book:
Croker, Charlie "Løst in Tränšlatioπ. Misadventures in English Abroad" - 2006
Saddest Book:
Dallaire, Roméo "Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda" - 2003

Shortest Book Title: "Lamb" by Christopher Moore
Longest Book Title: "We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land" by Jimmy Carter
New author that I would like to read more from: Richard David Precht

Translated Books: 72
2 each from Italian, Spanish
1 each from Finnish, Portuguese, Russian
Books read in another language: 18
13 German, 2 Dutch, 3 French

Numbers in Book Titles: Two, Three, Five, Ten, 35, 80, 100
Place Names in Book Titles: Emmaus, Holy Land, London, Lüdenscheid, Paradise, Rwanda, Wildfell Hall
Colours in Book Titles: Black
Names in Book Titles: Effi Briest, Einstein, Jørgensen

My Favourite Books:
Brontë, Anne "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" - 1848

Buck, Pearl S. "The Good Earth" - 1931
Coelho, Paulo "The Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dream" (Portuguese: O Alquimista) - 1988
Dallaire, Roméo "Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda" - 2003
Falcones, Ildefonso "Cathedral of the Sea" (Spanish: La catedral del mar) - 2008

Le Clézio, Jean-Marie Gustave "The African" (French: L'Africain) - 2004
Mortenson, Greg & Relin, David Oliver "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time" - 2006
Precht, Richard David "Who Am I and If So How Many?: A Journey Through Your Mind" (German: Wer bin ich und wenn ja, wie viele? Eine philosophische Reise) - 2007

Steinbeck, John "The Grapes of Wrath" - 1939
Tellkamp, Uwe "The Tower" (German: Der Turm. Geschichte aus einem versunkenen Land) - 2008

Terzani, Tiziano "The End is My Beginning" (Italian: La fine è il mio inizio/German: Das Ende ist mein Anfang) - 2006
Tolan, Sandy "The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East" - 2006

With my books, I visited places in the following countries:
Africa (5): Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa
Asia (6): Afghanistan, China, Israel, India, Korea, Pakistan
Europe (14): Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom
North America (3): Canada, Mexico, USA
Australia/Oceania: 0
South America: 0

Countries "visited" in total: 28

Friday 4 January 2013

Berg, Elizabeth "What we keep"

Berg, Elizabeth "What we keep" - 1999

A story about Ginny who is on her way home to see her estranged mother and sister. She has to confront a lot of issues and work through some painful memories and a painful present.

The subject seems interesting but, same as with "Open House", I find the author too superficial, she doesn't dig deep into the problems, just tries to entertain, produce some easy reading. Not my choice of book, I think this is the last Elizabeth Berg novel I read.

From the back cover:

"Do you ever really know your mother, your daughter, the people in your family? In this rich and rewarding new novel by the beloved bestselling author of Talk Before Sleep and The Pull of the Moon, a reunion between two sisters and their mother reveals how the secrets and complexities of the past have shaped the lives of the women in a family.

Ginny Young is on a plane, en route to see her mother, whom she hasn't seen or spoken to for thirty-five years. She thinks back to the summer of 1958, when she and her sister, Sharla, were young girls. At that time, a series of dramatic events - beginning with the arrival of a mysterious and sensual next-door neighbor - divided the family, separating the sisters from their mother. Moving back and forth in time between the girl she once was and the woman she's become, Ginny at last confronts painful choices that occur in almost any woman's life, and learns surprising truths about the people she thought she knew best.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Mo, Yan "Red Sorghum"

Mo, Yan "Red Sorghum. A Novel of China" (Chinese: 红高粱家族 Hóng gāoliang jiāzú) - 1987

Every year I am eagerly awaiting the announcement of the Nobel Prize winner for Literature. I have found the most brilliant writers among them and always choose to read one of their novels. I haven't been disappointed so far and this year was no exception.

I hadn't heard of Chinese author Mo Yan before and was surprised to hear that he was the Chinese answer to Franz Kafka or Joseph Heller.

The story takes place during the second Sino-Japanese war between 1937 and 1945, so approximately the same time the whole world was at war. The narrator tells the story of his ancestors, mainly that of his father, who was a teenager at the time, and his grandfather and grandmother. As in most war stories, there is a lot of brutality in the book, the author has a very picturesque way of describing the atrocities committed by both parties. But he doesn't just talk about the war, we also get to know the way people used to live in the eastern part of China at the time.

Red Sorghum, the title of the book, means so much for the Chinese, it is not just food, it represents their country.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The writing style is at times a little confusing but very interesting to read, he paints the world in his own words. I have always been very interested in China, starting with the books of another Nobel Prize winner who wrote a lot about China, Pearl S. Buck. Mo Yan tells reports from another perspective, and from another era. Definitely worth the read.

Mo Yan "who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012.

From the back cover:

"Spanning three generations, this novel of family and myth is told through a series of flashbacks that depict events of staggering horror set against a landscape of gemlike beauty as the Chinese battle both the Japanese invaders and each other in the turbulent 1930s.

As the novel opens, a group of villagers, led by Commander Yu, the narrator's grandfather, prepare to attack the advancing Japanese. Yu sends his 14-year-old son back home to get food for his men; but as Yu's wife returns through the sorghum fields with the food, the Japanese start firing and she is killed.

Her death becomes the thread that links the past to the present and the narrator moves back and forth recording the war's progress, the fighting between the Chinese warlords and his family's history.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.