My 2013 in Books

2013 was a good year for us as a family. I finally got a job and it’s a wonderful job with great colleagues, lots of challenges and I love it! My boyfriend got a promotion and he’s so much happier with his new job. Both girls are happy and healthy and fighting just the right amount for us to think that everything is as it should be. And we have added three bunnies to the family, something I’ve wished for for a long time.
Skærmbillede 2014-12-31 kl. 12.07.17When it comes to books, it was also a good year. I met my goal of reading 52 books (finished the last one at 2 am on December 31st!) and I read some amazing books. So here’s a breakdown of the best reads of 2013.

Overall Favorite
9781451673319_custom-90768645bbf0156499f341fdaa4acd3e3e3cecc1-s6-c10I was going back and forth about what my favorite read was – but the last book of the year proved to be it. For me, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was an eye-opener. It is one of those books that make you realize how important books and reading are and it blew my mind. It was so so good and I want to read it again as well as read books discussing it’s worth and importance. This book was published  in 1953 but still it comments on our current media consumption, the decline of reading and the way we live our lives, focusing on entertainment. It is so important and everyone should read this book! It is just 159 pages but on almost every page, there’s something quote worthy. For me, it was a perfect read.

But even though this was such a shining star, there have been other wonderful reads this year.

Fiction
I have separated Classics and Fantasy from this category but still. It’s so very hard to choose a winner – or even which books belong in this category or in one of the others so I will just immediately say that there will be more than one winner in both this and the Classics category!
Whether you consider Fahrenheit 451 in this or the next category, it is of course still a winner but since it has already been highlighted as my overall favorite, I will talk about some of my other 5 stars reads from this year.
Despite reading both John Irving, Martin Amis, John Updike, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates and many more, there are two books that stood out the most.
9780141382227First of, there’s a reread. I first read Richard Adams’ Watership Down many years ago and liked it, but didn’t love it. When I reread it this year, I absolutely loved it. I would sit in the garden, looking at our bunnies play and read about Fiver, Hazel and all their friends and their struggle to establish their own warren after a long, harrowing journey. It was absolute bliss. Richard Adams manages to write these rabbits in a way so they still feel like rabbits. Their way of behavior is spot on and there are hardly any humans in the book. I was in love from the first page and it just continued throughout the entire book and it went straight to my favorites shelf. What a wonderful cozy read!
7548643_origAnother favorite novel this year was Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning BelovedThere was nothing cozy about this one but it was still oh so very good. It’s a devastating tale of what a mother will do to keep her children safe and it definitely made me question how far I would go to keep my girls safe. I am not sure that I could go so far as this mother but then, her circumstances was very special and her life was so different from mine. Morrison’s writing is perfect for this story – I had to reread certain key passages over and over to fully grasp it all – and to fully grasp the horror of what was happening. Such a special book.

Classics
2013 was also a good year for classics. I read Wilkie Collins, Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh – but the following three deserves special mention.
18839Virginia Woolf’s Orlando is so many things at the same time. It’s a biography on the surface – but it’s also a love letter, a critique of male dominated history and the biography genre and much more, and then it’s just fascinating and intriguing and like nothing I have read before. And this is only in part because the main protagonist changes sex during the book and that he/she lives to be 400 years. It takes quite a lot of time to read even though it’s such a short book but that’s in part because my edition, at least, came with a lot of footnotes and I needed them to put Orlando’s history in perspective and get the connection between Orlando, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West.
2611-review.jpg_full_600Another favorite read was The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I had never read this book before or watched any movie version so I didn’t really know anything about the story. Even though I expected much more swash-buckling and sword fights, I really enjoyed it. The count is a very conflicted character who are mistreated by both his peers and betters and who has his life ruined by being thrown in jail. When he escapes and acquire a vast fortune, he seeks revenge on those that wronged him. This is indeed an example of the old saying that revenge is a dish best served cold – or not quite, since the count does have a few misgivings about mistreating the families to the men who mistreated him. It doesn’t stop him though and since he is generous and caring to the people who helped him and who he loves, he is indeed a many facetted character who feels very real. A very interesting book.
$(KGrHqJ,!h!E-7S82Jb6BP0N1CdgO!~~60_35And finally, my third favorite classic of the year, is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. This was a wonderful book. It was so understated and lovely and Gatsby was so lost and desperate and it was just a beautiful story of a man who will do anything for the woman he loves – whether she deserves it or not. And luckily, this book is so short that it will be easy to return to it and read it again – and it deserves to be read more than once since it’s complicated main character will certainly yield more and more depth and insight with each read. I really want to watch the movies too … Just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Fantasy
I didn’t read a lot of fantasy this year although it is one of my favorite genres. But in a category with contenders like Stephen King’s The Waste Lands (Dark Tower #3) as well as other Dark Tower novels, the first two novels in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series, there still was a clear winner.
shadow-and-bone_lowresLeigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) was just such a great read. I was drawn in from the very beginning and even though there was signs of inspiration from both Harry PotterThe Hunger Games and The Wheel of Time and more, it was a unique story, drawing on elements of Russian folklore – and I loved it. Fantasy often suffers from using the same ideas over and over – like a band of unlikely heroes or the one hero/heroine coming from unlikely circumstances and overcoming adversities. And so it is here – except the novel doesn’t suffer from it. It just works and I enjoyed it very much.

Biography & Non-Fiction
Even though I try to read more non-fiction, I mostly fails. Again this year, there are only very few books in this category. Four to be exact: Daniel Miller: The Comfort of ThingsAmy Chua: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Nina Sankovitch: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. And this was a category where I never had any doubts about the best book.
9780141032009-2Of course it’s Anne Frank. This is also the book, I’m most annoyed with having waited so long to read because I think it would have been a great book to read as a teenager, in my 20s and now again in my 30s. But now I will just have to settle for not having read it earlier – and with loving it. The diary is just so expressive. Anne Frank comes across as a teenager full of life and full of self-questioning. She is trying to figure out who she is and what kind of person she wants to be – and she uses her diary for that. At the same time, she writes about the hardships they suffer in their tiny rooms as well as what other Jews, the Dutch people and their helpers in particular suffer. She wanted to be remember and she definitely got her wish. It’s a wonderful book – even though it is a weird experience reading it and knowing she gets closer and closer to being discovered and sent to a concentration camp.
Skærmbillede 2014-01-02 kl. 12.56.53As it can be seen, either I read mostly very good books or I’m generous with my ratings. Either way, according to Goodreads I read 18.767 pages this year of mostly good and great books!

Women v. Men
My male to female author ratio on the other hand – not so good. 15 books by female authors – 36 books by male authors and one collection of short stories with both male and female authors.

Own books v. borrowed/rented books
I read 7 books that were either borrowed from friends or rented from the library. The rest were my own books, either e-books or real books.

Kindle books v. dead tree books
I read 10 books on either my Kindle or iPad this year – the rest was regular good old books. I prefer reading real books over Kindle books but I love that I can get books in just a minute or so – especially since the book stores are rather lousy in my town.

My Private Reading Challenge
I make my own reading challenge each year as well as challenge my boyfriend and my best friend to each read a book I choose – as they challenge me with a book each. This year’s challenge consisted of 24 books all in all including a few books from 2012 that I didn’t make it through then. Again this year I haven’t read all the books I wanted too but I did read the number of books I wanted – 52 books in all – and I’m very proud of that.
Another goal this year was to get my to-read list lower when the year ended than it was when the year began – that is, to buy fewer books than I read. And I did read more books than I bought – I just also read Kindle books, library books and books borrowed from friends.
So I didn’t get my to read below the 195 books I started the year with – but I got it back down to 195 books. So I ended the year at status quo and I’m okay with that.
I have a few books left over from the 2012 and 2013 goals I will try to make it through this year:

  • At least one book by Margaret Atwood
  • One nonfiction book
  • Don DeLillo: Underworld
  • Read all of Sherlock Holmes
  • One non-fiction book about philosophy: Coppleston vol. 1

So these are the sort of left-over goals. In a later post I will write about my 2014 goals.

And I think this is it. I think I have said all I want to say about my reading in 2013 – oh, except that I’m going to do a post about the books I missed in 2013. But until then I just want to wish you all a Happy New Year and thank you for visiting my blog, reading my thoughts and commenting on them. I love this blog and I love all of you for making it worth it. Thank you – and Happy New Year!

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Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013

toptentuesday-1This week’s topic is all about new authors. Not new as in debut authors but authors that are new to me (and the other readers participating in Top Te Tuesday this week). And this is a fascinating topic. I have never before noticed how many new authors I read during a year. I have a goal for myself to read a book by each of my (five) favorite authors every year so they are not new but I have never counted how many new authors I try out. I am actually very pleased with my result. I have given 23 authors a chance this year. So far! I like that! To me, it says that I’m willing to take a chance and I’m not stuck in reading the same few authors over and over again. And it’s also interesting because the 23 authors are very different. There’s both debuts, classics, non-fiction and more. So what you’ll find below is my list of the Top Ten Authors that I have read this year and that I expect to explore further in the coming years; the best of the 23.
As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
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  • Toni Morrison. I read Beloved this year and it was an incredible read. I was so blown away by this book. It was such an incredible powerful and heartbreaking book about a mother doing everything, everything, to protect her children. I will definitely read more by Morrison and I’m a bit sad that I have waited this long to read her for the first time.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have postponed reading The Great Gatsby because I watched the movie edition of it starring Robert Redford many years ago and didn’t get it. Not at all. But now I’m apparently the right age for Gatsby because I loved this book too. It was just so good and, again, heartbreaking in all the right ways. Poor Gatsby!
  • Jennifer Egan. Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goon Squad was the first novel I read this year and it definitely started the year right. I really enjoyed this, all of this, including the powerpoint chapter!
  • Félix J. Palma. The Map of Time was a mad, mad ride. H.G. Wells, Jack the Ripper, time traveling, love, automatons and so much more. It was wonderful and I loved it. I really want to read the next book in this series! and I hope it is just as much fun.
  • Carol Birch. Let’s be honest, Jamrach’s Menagerie is definitely outside my normal comfort zone. But I loved it. The first part when they were chasing the ‘dragon’ and finally caught it, was amazing and the second part with the shipwreck was even better. Really a good book!

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  • Ben Marcus. The Flame Alphabet was a strange book indeed. I’m not sure I got all of it but it was so very different and so very fascinating. A very different book to most dystopian literature. I’m still wondering about those weird listening holes… and all the rest of it. As well as how it must be not to be able to be close to your children because their speech makes you sick…
  • Karen Thompson Walker. The Age of Miracles was the second book I read this year and it was really different and very good. I liked the different take on a dystopian novel and how it also had focus on the fact that life goes on, especially when you’re a teenager.
  • Colm Tóibín. I was so impressed with not only Tóibín’s courage to take on the story of the mother of Jesus and her lack of belief in her son being the Son of God but also with the way he did it. The Testament of Mary is a wonderful novella, highly recommended. And I plan on reading more by Tóibín!
  • Alan Bennett. I absolutely adored The Uncommon Reader and I was so well entertained by it. It had it’s flaws, sure, but it was so very good at the same time. And the ending absolutely blew me away! If this one is typical of the way Bennett writes, I definitely want to explore him further in the future.*
  • Jim Butcher. When I needed something light and entertaining to help me deal with too much work and too little sleep, Jim Butcher was the man to deliver it. I’ve read the two first of The Dresden Files (Storm Front and Fool Moon) and while they are not amazing fantasy, they were good enough to keep me entertained and awake, no easy feat!

* Okay, this is rather embarrassing. Apparently, I read The Clothes They Stood Up In back in 2008 and liked it somewhat … So he’s not a new author. Or is he, when I had completely forgotten having ever read anything by him?

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The Classics Club – Year One

imgpressSo it’s been a year since I joined the Classics Club. I had decided early on that I didn’t want to join the Classics Club since I had so much going on already and a lot of commitments, both connected to which books I wanted to read and the rest of life.
But people kept on writing about the Classics Club and they seemed to enjoy themselves so much that I started to feel left out. I also love making to-do lists (although not necessary doing what they say) so the whole idea of making a list of books I wanted to read, was very appealing to me.
So yeah, I caved and I joined and I made a list of 50 books that I want to read before September 2017.
And now, a year has gone by and where has it left me. I have read 8 books so far which is not quite as much as I would have liked to. But it has been wonderful books – see the list below.

Richard Adams: Watership Down. (5 stars)

Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey (4 stars)

Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone (4 stars)

Alexander Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo (5 stars)

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby. (5 stars)

Victor Hugo: Les Misérables. (5 stars)

Toni Morrison: Beloved (5 stars)

Virginia Woolf: Orlando (5 stars)

So yeah, it has been amazing books. Only two of them got below 5 stars – and I’m thinking now that I might have been a bit harsh because I remember them both very fondly. It has just been such amazing reads so I’m really looking forth to the next 42 books on my list. I’ll try to get a lot read during this next year so I’ll be on target with my reading of this list.
So while that has been good, what hasn’t been as good is my general participation level in the club. I have participated in one of the monthly memes, just one. And that is a bit shabby. I’ve never really explored all the wonderful reviews I know has been written for the club by it’s members – and I hope to explore that more during the next year too.
So what I can conclude after this my first year is, that I have read some wonderful books but if I’m not participating more in the various club activities, I could just as well have made a list completely on my own and not be in a club. And that’s a shame. So my goal for the next year is to read many, many more wonderful books from my list and to try and be an active member of the club.

Oh and I promise I’ll write the last reviews soon – it’s a bit shameful that I have only written 4 reviews out of 8 when I loved all the books and really want to convince everyone else to read them!!

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F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby (review)

$(KGrHqJ,!h!E-7S82Jb6BP0N1CdgO!~~60_35Years ago, when I was a young teenager, I remember watching The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford. I was not impressed. I don’t remember anything from the movie except an image of Redford in a white suit. An image, I’m not even completely sure is from that movie and not from some other Redford movie. I think I was too young to understand it and until now, this has been my only impression of The Great Gatsby.

But since Baz Luhrman decided to make a new Gatsby movie, The Great Gatsby has been everywhere. So I decided that not only did I want to read the book, I also wanted to watch both movies.

Of course I started with the book. I was slightly taken aback by it’s slow start. Being a novel of only 188 pages, it seemed odd at first how many pages went by without Gatsby appearing. But when he finally did step into the pages of the book, I was instantly intrigued.

The novel is told from the point of view of Nick Carraway, a young man who happens to live next door to the impressive mansion belonging to Jay Gatsby. From a distance, he watches the lavish parties thrown by Gatsby until finally he is invited and able to experience the extravaganza of Gatsby firsthand.

At this party, he meets Jordan Baker and is drawn into Gatsby’s inner circle and he finds out that Gatsby Is in love with a married woman living across the bay. Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby were sweethearts when they were younger but Gatsby had to leave for the war and when he returned, Daisy was married.

Gatsby has never forgotten his love for Daisy and both Jordan and Nick becomes involved, not only both with Gatsby’s quest to get Daisy back but with each other as well.

Gatsby struck me as such a forceful character. I was immediately intrigued by him. His desperate longing for Daisy and for the status in life, a marriage with her will mean, is apparent on every page and his plight is just so real. I remember walking past the house where the boy I had a crush on lived – over and over and over, just wishing for him to look out the window and notice me. Gatsby, having way more money than teenage me, moves in across the bay from his crush, stares longingly at the green light on her pier, throws huge glamorous parties in order to entice everyone to participate in the hope that one day, Daisy will show up and step back into his life.

Alas, such all-consuming love is rarely rewarded but maybe Gatsby’s love, devotion and ambition will be enough to ensure a happy ending?

It’s a heart breaking novel. A man who struggles so, who does everything in his power to become the man he thinks his one true love wants him to be. A man who is the loneliest man in the world when he stands on his own front lawn, bidding the last of his guests farewell, another night wasted, another night without Daisy.

This is a book and a character that will stay with me. I’m already looking forward to rereading it after watching the movies and getting their perspectives on the story, nay, the life of Jay Gatsby, billionaire and star-crossed lover extraordinaire.

For anyone who has ever loved and lost and longed for that lost love, this is the perfect novel.

‘So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.’ (p. 142)

  • Title: The Great Gatsby
  • Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Year: 1994 (original 1926)
  • Pages: 188 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

Rushdie, Fitzgerald & Austen

So yeah, I’ve been book shopping again. And I really shouldn’t. It’s not like I haven’t got enough books to read. I really haven’t anything to say in my defense – except, well, it’s books and I love books. I was at the university for a job interview and of course, had to visit the book store. Here’s what I got.

Salam Rushdie: Midnight’s Children

Salman Rushdie is a very fascinating man. I follow him on twitter and he always has something interesting to say. He has written a lot of books and I’ve only read one of them so far, The Satanic Verse. This was one of those books where I felt, that I wasn’t clever enough – or at least hadn’t enough knowledge about it’s subject. I’ve been wanting to read Midnight’s Children for several years and I hope to get around to reading it even though I already have one Rushdie novel on my list of books I want to read this year. Rushdie is an author that I really hope I can get into – his books sounds so good. Besides, Midnight’s Children won the Booker of Bookers in 2008 – as well as the Best of Bookers in 1993 after first winning the Man Booker Prize in 1981.

About the book:

Born at the stroke of midnight at the exact moment of India’s independence, Saleem Sinai is a special child. However, this coincidence of birth has consequences he is not prepared for: telepathic powers connect him with 1,000 other ‘midnight’s children’ all of whom are endowed with unusual gifts. Inextricably linked to his nation, Saleem’s story is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirrors the course of modern India at its most impossible and glorious.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby

Years ago I watched The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford. I didn’t get it. I don’t remember anything from it except that it was Robert Redford. I think it’s one of those stories that you can’t appreciate before you reach a certain level of maturity. I’ve read some interesting reviews of this recently and I think – or at least hope – that I have reached a high enough level of maturity now to get it. By the way, I noticed that this year there’s new movie version of this story out – of course with Leonardo di Caprio …

About the book:

The parties at Gatsby’s Long Island mansion were legendarily glamorous affairs. Yet amid the throng of guests, starlets and champagne waiters, their host would appear oddly aloof. For there was only one person Jay Gatsby sought to impress. She was Daisy Buchanan: married, elegant, seducing men with a silken charisma and ‘a voice … full of money’. As Gatsby pursues shady deals and his doomed obsession with Daisy, F. Scott Fitzgerald distills the essence of the Jazz Age, and probes to the empty heart of the American Dream.

Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey

I’ve read three of Jane Austen’s novels so far – Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma. I liked them all three – I preferred Pride and Prejudice (although I think I prefer P & P with Colin Firth). I’m looking forward to reading this one. There’s just something about Austen, I like. Even though this book on the surface doesn’t sound special, I’m sure it is good since it’s Austen.

About the book:

Catherine Morland, an unremarkable tomboy as a child, is thrown amongst all the ‘difficulties and dangers’ of Bath at the ripe age of seventeen. Armed with an unworldly charm and a vivic imagination, she must overcome the caprices of elegant society, encountering along the way such characters as the vacuous Mrs Allen, coquettish Isabella and the brash bully John Thorpe. Catherine’s invitation to Northanger Abbey, in her eyes a haven of coffins, skeletons and other Gothic devices, does lead to an adventure, though one she didn’t expect, and her misjudgement of the ambitious, somewhat villainous General Tilney is not wholly unjustified. However, with the aid of the ‘unromantic’ hero Henry Tilney, Catherine gradually progresses towards maturity and self-knowledge.

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