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!

Related posts:

Virginia Woolf: Orlando (review)

18839 I have owned Orlando for years and been wanting to read it for even more years but Virginia Woolf is a bit intimidating to me. Even after having read – and really liked – To the Lighthouse, I still find her a difficult author to read. But since Orlando is so short, I thought it would be a rather quick read and decided to bring it and read it on our summer holiday. Well, I was wrong about it being a quick read but I was right to bring it with me on holiday because I have quite a bit of time to read when we’re on holiday and this book just needs that you give it some time. At least it does for me. It’s one of those books that forces you to read slower to grasp it all. Not only is it written in a way that makes you go more slowly, my edition also came with a lot of notes that I had to read because they – or at least most of them – actually added to my understanding of the novel. And add to this that I took quite a bit of notes while reading this, of course it will take several days to read these less than 300 pages.
Now who is this Orlando? Orlando is a young man born during the reign of Elisabeth 1. Or at least he is a young man for the first 200 years or so of his life because after that, he suddenly wakes up a woman. Already now, you should know that this is not a novel – or rather, a historical biography – to be read literally. This is in fact a long love letter to Virinia Woolf’s friend Vita Sackville West and at the same time, it’s a book about history and how it’s dominated by male figures. It’s about gender roles in general, about the genre of biography – and it’s absolutely wonderful. Yes, it’s difficult going and yes, this is one of those books that you really need to work at to really get – and I know that I didn’t get anything near to all that is to get in this novel.
One thing I really liked is, how Woolf plays with time in this book – and with how we perceive time and how we relate a life. Seemingly huge life events in Orlando’s life are only hinted at or maybe just mentioned in brackets and I like that, because it’s not always the so called big events that are the most important to us. But these events are the ones the biographer focus on because they are the documented ones and so, the biographed life gets a bit twisted when compared to the real life. And some people live lives filled with experiences while others are seemingly dead on their feet. ‘The true length of a person’s life /…/ is always a matter of dispute.’ (p. 211)
Oh, and Woolf’s funny too. I love how she got rid of an unwanted suitor by dropping a frog down his shirt! She had tried to get rid of him in a lot of other ways but he just kept on forgiving her because she was just a weak woman and they were alone so no one had to know that she cheated at games for instance. Or this quote: ‘/…/ of what nature is death and of what nature life? Having waited well over half an hour for an answer to these questions, and none coming, let us get on with the story.’ (p. 49) Or this one explaining why Orlando’s writing style has changed: ‘Also that the streets were better drained and the houses better lit had its effect upon the style, it cannot be doubted.’ (p. 77)
The best thing about this book is, that it really makes me want to study, to learn more about Virginia and Vita to be able to understand it more, to get more from it. It makes me want to read and read, to be an intellectual and a snob and go to fancy dinner parties with other people who cares about this book, who wants to spend hours talking about love, time, aging, biographies and how funny Woolf really is. It makes me want to take a class on this author, this book, and learn everything. And it makes me want to read her other books. It’s a sort of treasure map to the promised land, an unspoken guarantee that the more I know the more I will get from reading this – and this will go on forever. Few books makes me feel this way – although The Great Gatsby did recently – and it truly reminds me how diverse and wonderful literature is and how lucky I am to be a bibliophile.

  • Title: Orlando
  • Author: Virginia Woolf
  • Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics
  • Year: 2000 (original 1928)
  • Pages: 273 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

Related posts (other books read for The Classics Club):

Oh and read this post too over at Délaissé:

I read this one for The Classics Club and for my attempt at reading the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.

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!!

Related posts:

Back from holiday (& Book Buying 2013 part 6)

So I’m back from holiday and we had a great time. We saw a lot of animals in various zoos, visited an amusement park, the beach, a glass museum and more. We enjoyed hanging out, just the four of us. The cottage we had rented, was beautiful and it was so peaceful to sit outside it and read. So all in all, a lovely holiday. And tomorrow – it’s back to work for me. The girls and my boyfriend have two weeks more so the next couple of weeks will be rather relaxing as well.

9780141184272As for reading, I did manage to finish Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. It is a magnificent piece of literature. I am impressed with how Virginia Woolf both manages to create a love letter to Vita Sackville-West and comment on the normal male-fixated Western history, on biography and how absurd it is in some ways, on time, gender and so much more – and still make it readable. Now, when I say readable, I mean that I enjoyed it s much – but even though the book is short of 300 pages, it does take rather a lot of time and effort to read it.

waste-landsMy next read, on the other hand, was the third volume in Stephen King’s magna opus The Dark Tower. The Waste Lands is my favorite so far in the series and I just flew through it. It was such a thrill to read and I couldn’t help sit and compare how different the reading experiences was in these two novels. I enjoyed them both and I love how you can get so many experiences, feelings, challenges and more from sitting quietly with a book.

Proper reviews will follow later – very positive reviews.

So two books read (almost) and … well … two books bought…

9780141974026

Yes, well. We went to my second favorite book store in Denmark and I had to buy two books. I bought Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Ubervilles which is on my list of books for The Classics Club. I’ve read many positive reviews of it so I’m excited to read it. I’ve never read anything from Thomas Hardy so I’m curious to explore him and this book. And I love this Penguin English Library series with it’s beautiful covers!

mantel

And I bought a Hilary Mantel. I have only read Wolf Hall and was more impressed by it than loving it. I rated it 4 stars but I need to read it again to fully get it. I’m guilty of not knowing who Thomas Cromwell was before reading this book. I had a long talk with the woman behind the counter who was a huge Mantel fan. Don’t you just love it when you meet people in shops who actually know what they are talking about. I would love to live in the city where this store is…

So two great books brought home with me. And a great holiday spend with my boyfriend and our two beautiful girls. I love summer!

17026_413852478709121_1163712783_nOh and I might have bought another book earlier that I forgot to mention and I guess now is as good as time as any to mention it. Of course I bought Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane as soon as I spotted it in a book store. I have been so excited about this book ever since I first heard about it. It sounds amazing and the cover is gorgeous so I got it immediately. Only sorry that they didn’t have the hardcover.

Holiday Reading

Today, my family and I are going away on holiday. We’re spending a week in a nice cabin in a beautiful part of Denmark and planning on visiting various zoos and other child friendly sights as well as the beach if the weather stays sunny and warm. I’m also hoping for a book shop or two…

When we go away on this type of holiday, my boyfriend and I like to read in the evenings. We usually bring some board games and some books and never even open the game boxes but just spend every evening reading. And since I love to read, that’s perfectly fine by me. (Even though we need to stop buying board games if we never intend to play any of them…)

Of course, this means that I have to choose which books to bring. And this year, it has been really hard. Last year I spend most of the holiday reading Ken Follet: The Pillars of the Earth and loved it. This year – I’m not sure I want to read a chunkster. I just finished The Count of Monte Cristo and can’t quite handle to dive into another huge book so soon after.

So what I’m opting for this year, is options. I’m bringing several books and hoping that they will cover whatever mood I feel. And I’m bringing my kindle. In part because then I can read whatever I fancy but also because I have the complete Sherlock Holmes on it and I plan on reading that this year. I might also have a couple of other books on it and some 20+ samples – just to be sure that I don’t run out of reading material…

Now let’s see what else I’m bringing:

9780141184272Virginia Woolf: Orlando. I’ve been wanting to read Orlando for years. Ever since the movie came out back in 1992! I can’t remember when I bought the book but I’ve owned it a while. I’m really intrigued by how the protagonist changes sex in the novel and lives for 400 years or so as first a man and then a woman. This book is also on my list of reading goals for the year; a list, I’m falling a bit behind on so I plan on starting with this one.

NightCircus.final_.2Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus. This next choice was between Erin Morgenstern’s novel The Night Circus and Christos Tsiolkas’s book The Slap. I ended up choosing The Night Circus because I have kept postponing reading it because I’m scared that it can’t live up to my expectations. And now I want to force myself to read it because I do think it is a novel that I will enjoy – and Morgenstern is working on a new one and I would like to have this one finished before she does.

waste-landsStephen King: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3). The fantasy category. Here, I chose between the third installment in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, the fifth in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and the first in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I decided against A Song of Ice and Fire since I am already reading the other two series. And I decided against A Wheel of Time because, frankly, it’s not all that good and the writing annoys me. I know King can deliver a good and thrilling read!

BRUN_MANDS_BYRDE_FORSIDE_300dpiHassan Preisler: Brun mands byrde (Brown Man’s Burden). A debut novel which has gotten a lot of praise in Denmark. Apparently, it is a modern version of Rudyard Kipling’s poem White Man’s Burden but set on it’s head where the author and others like him have to teach the ordinary white Dane that we live in a multicolored and multicultural world. It seems to be not about the importance of tolerance but of respect – to respect each other enough to also tell each other if something we’ve made sucks.

I don’t plan on posting a lot next week. I hope to write a lot of notes to the books I read so it will be relatively easy to write (hopefully a lot of) reviews when I get back but I don’t plan on  actually finishing anything – except a lot of books!

The easy, the good – and the downright scary. 3 new books.

Well, despite having more than enough books on my shelves I haven’t read yet, I’ve just acquired three more.

Yesterday, I was looking for some books for my daughter in the best book store in town (got 4 for her – we read them all when she got home yesterday) and I bought Inkheart by Cornelia Funke for myself. I love the idea of the book about a person being able to read characters from books alive – it kind of sounds like a ya version of Thursday Next so even though it has gotten some mixed reviews, I’ll give it a go.

Then today in the mail, I got two classics. I’ve been wanting to read Orlando by Virginia Woolf for ages – or at least since 1992 when the movie (with Tilda Swinton) came out and I first heard of the novel. Looking forward to this one!

And also in the package was Ulysses by James Joyce. 1195 pages long (not counting the introduction and a short history of the text). I got an Annotated Student Edition (wasn’t what I ordered but an annotated version of this book is probably not the worst thing in the world). I did sign up for the Jousting with Joyce challenge at Fizzy Thoughts so I had to get the book – and now I have to read it as well! Should be interesting!