End of the Year Book Tag

This tag is making the rounds again on BookTube and blogs (and probably elsewhere) and I’m doing it again, because it is fun.

In last year’s blog post, I mentioned where I found it, so if you want to look it up, the link is here.

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  1. Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?
    Yes, as usual, I want to finish the books I’m currently reading:

    Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji (as translated by Royall Tyler)
    An anthology of German poetry
    The Arabian Night’s Entertainments

    Genji is the reading project I’m doing with a friend. I’m almost done, only four more chapters to go (but they are pretty long, so it’s more than 100 pages). It’s good, so finishing it won’t be a problem.

    The German poetry is dragging a bit. Somehow, I tend to prefer reading in English. Also, I’m up to the modern poets and I kind of prefer earlier poetry. But I’ll get it done – an incentive is that I’ve recently bought myself a copy of the Complete Poem of Emily Dickinson, who’s my favourite poet. So far, I’ve only read a selection of her poetry. I’m really looking forward to that collection but won’t start until I’m done with the German anthology.

    The Arabian Night’s Entertainments in the Oxford World’s Classic edition, edited by Robert Mack, has also turned into a bit of a slog. I think I read the wrong edition. I might have preferred the Penguin Classics one – but I have had the Oxford one for years and never read it, so I want to get it done. And I will.

  2. Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?
    I’m a bit late with this question as we are well into autumn by this point, never mind transitioning. But no, I don’t do seasonal reading, at least not intentionally – this is the same answer I gave last year, no change.

  3. Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?
    No, unless you count The Doors of Stone, the third book of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. But I’m not holding my breath, as it’s been 10 years since the second book came out. Will it take another 10 years? Does anyone know?

  4. What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?
    As usual, more than three: I still want to read the last two Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books in Laurie R. King’s series, Riviera Gold and Castle Shade. And the last four books in Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine series (I’ve read two of them before). And then there’s the last two (or three) books in J.K. Rowlings Cormoran Strike series – but I don’t think I’ll make it this year. But who cares, I’ll just read them some other time. I haven’t looked at my reading goals recently, but I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to meet them this year. I read a lot, but I kind of forgot about my goals.

    Bye the way, I haven’t even read all the books I listed under this question last year…

  5. Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?
    I think one of Louise Erdrich’s novel might: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. It’s one of the two in the series that I’ve read before and it is fabulous. So even as a reread, it could end up being my favourite book of the year. Although that wouldn’t be a shock.

  6. Have you already started making reading plans for 2022?
    Yup. My friend and I want to read the Decameron as our next year-long reading project. Also, I want to focus on Virginia Woolf next year and I want to select another one of my unfinished series to continue. I’m also contemplating coming up with some kind of rule that encourages me to make a dent in my unread books before I buy new ones.

    Making reading goals is always fun, even if they later may fall by the wayside. I think I want to keep my goals simpler in 2022.

Keep safe, world.

2021 Mid-Year Book Recap

Wow, six months have passed already, and the year is half done. The perfect time for the mid-year book recap that’s my version of the Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag on BookTube. I did it last year, too (and renamed “freakout” to “recap” as I don’t feel like freaking out about books). Here’s the link. I wasn’t tagged (no wonder, I’m only on BookTube as a viewer) but I’ve seen it popping up there again and also on blogs I’m following, so I felt like doing it again, too. Here goes:

Best book you’ve read so far in 2021?

Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I loved how Klara’s character. In some ways really human, but in other ways quite alien. I also appreciated the world building and how you had to piece everything together bit by bit as the novel progressed and the ethical questions were thought-provoking. Here’s the review I wrote.

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2021?

The Moor, by Laurie R. King. It’s book 4 of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series and it’s inspired by “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Arthur Conan Doyle. I love King’s series that I’m rereading this year. I’m looking forward to getting to the books that I haven’t read yet, as I’ve only read about half the series but wanted to start again from the beginning before getting to the new-to-me parts.

I also enjoyed Fugitive Telemetry, by Martha Wells, the Murderbot Diaries 6. I love this series and mentioned book 5 of the series in last year’s post.

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to?

Ariadne, by Jenifer Saint. I’ve had my eye on it for a while, but somehow decided I had to reread The Illiad and The Odyssey first. I’ve just finished The Illiad today but won’t get around to The Odyssey until after Jane Austen July.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

I’m waiting for J.R.R. Tolkien, The Nature of Middle-earth (edited by Carl F. Hofstetter) to be published. I hope it’ll be sometime in the second half of the year. I don’t want the super expensive deluxe version, just a normal book (not ebook).

Biggest disappointment?

No disappointments yet. I’m pretty good at selecting books that I like and am only ever disappointed by books that my book club makes me read. And then I’m not really disappointed because I can usually tell straight off that I won’t like the book and then it’s not really a disappointment, rather a fulfilled expectation. Sad but true. Occasionally, the book club selections are super and the meetings (currently still Zoom) are always fun and sometimes illuminating, so I can live with reading a few sub-optimal books.

Biggest surprise?

The Illiad, as translated by Caroline Alexander. I started this expecting it to be boring because I didn’t like this epic much when I first read it, about 25 years ago. I don’t know whether it was because the German translation I read wasn’t great or if I just didn’t appreciate it or if I changed as a reader (could be). I think I’ll write a review explaining why I liked it, soon.

I was also really surprised at how much I liked the short stories of Rudyard Kipling.

Favourite new author, either debut or new to you?

Caroline Alexander. She’s not a debut author, but I love her translation of The Illiad and would like to read the non-fiction book The War that Killed Achilles.

Newest fictional crush?

I’m too old for crushes on characters. I said something about this in last year’s post, but I think next year I’ll just remove this question.

Newest favourite character?

Klara, from Klara and the Sun. She just so sweet and courageous and sometimes wise and sometimes naïve.

Book that made you cry?

Any book that has tragic stuff in it will make me cry, unless it’s written in an overdone way that makes ridiculous. I cry all the time when I’m reading. It’s embarrassing.

Book that made you happy?

All the books I read made me happy. Crying about tragic stuff doesn’t make me unhappy. It’s catharsis, I guess. Not reading makes me unhappy. I get grouchy if I don’t have time to read.

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Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year?

Mary Oliver, Dog Songs. A slim paperback with poems about dogs and lovely black-and-white drawings. It’s very cute.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Don’t exactly need to read any but would like to complete my goals to read all of Louise Erdrich novels in the Love Medicine series. So far, I’ve read two of eight, so I’m not exactly on track. And I want to finish The Tale of Genji.

I’m quite happy with my reading progress on the whole. I’ve finished 54 books by now and have almost met my Goodreads challenge (which I set to 60 because I didn’t want to stress myself). Regarding my own goals, which I published on the blog, I’m probably not quite on track, but I currently don’t care. Work is really stressful and stressing about my private bookish goals is stupid, so I’m more or less ignoring those book goals for now. I want to keep my reading enjoyable and not another source of stress.

I had my first Corona vaccination on Tuesday (second one is planned for early August). My arm hurts a bit at the injection site, but it seems to be getting better. I worked at the office until noon on Tuesday, as I got my vaccination through my company, and it was still empty and boring as hardly anyone was in (nobody from my team). I’m glad to be working at home again today.

Keep safe, world

The “A” Tag

I haven’t done a tag for quite some time and I’ve been watching this one on BookTube. It was originally created by Jim at jim’s books reading & stuff. I feel like doing a tag, so here goes:

A is for America. What do you consider the Great American Novel?

Taking “America” to mean “the USA”, I don’t think there’s any such thing as THE Great American Novel. There are lots of great novels written by American authors and how on earth is anyone supposed to pick one to rule them all?

Two US-American novels that I find great are: Toni Morrison, Beloved and Hermann Melville, Moby Dick.

You can also take “America” to stand for any country in North and South America. Unfortunately, I’m not well read in the literature of the other American countries, but one that comes to mind is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez who is an Argentinian writer. I read this a long time ago and liked it a lot. It’s due for a reread.

What makes a novel great? I think novels that show the human condition and that last the test of time are often great, but I’m sure there are lots of other criteria. Also, what makes a novel from a certain nation great? Does a great US-American novel have different qualities from a great novel from another country? Lots of questions to ponder, too many to answer in a bookish tag post.

A is for arc. Which character in literature has the most interesting character arc?

Another hard question. There are millions of characters who go through an interesting development. Let’s take Gandalf. He goes from being Gandalf the Grey, to Gandalf the White by rebirth through fire. Very dramatic. You can see, I’m not taking this seriously. But I’m not at home and can’t check out my shelves for better examples so I going to my default favourite The Lord of the Rings.

A is for Australia. What was the last book you read by an Australian author?

I can’t remember when I last read a book by an Australian author, but I can tell you about a series of books that I read and reread in my early teenage years. Actually, I first read the series in primary school: The Silver Brumby series by Elyne Mitchell. I loved this series and still own a few of the books. Some of them weren’t published yet when I was a teenager and some of them I borrowed from the library. Now most of them seem to be out of print, although the first one is out on Kindle. Hopefully the others will follow. The first book, The Silver Brumby, gives the series its title. It’s all about the life of a wild white stallion in the Snowy Mountain region of Australia and it’s told from the point-of-view of the horses which could be cheesy but isn’t. The rest of the series are about the lives of his descendants. Here’s the first paragraph of the first chapter in the first book to give you a little taste:

Once there was a dark, stormy night in spring, when, deep down their holes, the wombats knew not to come out, when the possums stayed quiet in their hollow limbs, when the great black flying phallangers that live in the mountain forests never stirred. On this night, Bel Bel, the cream brumby mare, gave birth to a colt foal, pale like herself, or paler, in that wild, black storm.

Elyne Mitchell, The Silver Brumby. Hutchinson & Co. London, 1965, p. 11.

The passage still gives me a little shiver of delight.

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A is for Austen. What do you plan to read for Jane Austen July?

Not sure yet what I’ll be reading for Jane Austen July. I need to think about it. But I do want to participate this year.

A is for automobile. What is your favourite literary automobile?

Can’t think of anything offhand. What about the Enterprise? That’s like an automobile in space, right? 😉

A is for anonymous. What is your favourite book or poem published anonymously?

I like the little Middle High German poem I blogged about a few weeks ago: Memoirs and Poems.

A is for autobiography. What was the last autobiography you read?

Elegy for Iris, also mentioned in the post Memoirs and Poems. I think that that terms “memoir” and “autobiography” are often used interchangeably, so I’m guessing it counts. I tend to think that memoirs are more introspective and autobiographies more about the events in a life, but I don’t know if that’s really true.

A is for audiobooks. Do you consider listening to an audiobook as “reading”?

No. I think listening and reading are two distinct activities. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to an audiobook. Maybe a few plays on the radio when I was younger. So, I haven’t got much experience to compare the two, but still think that the two activities are different. That’s not to say that one is better or worse. But when I read a book, I decipher symbols on a page and when I listen, I decipher sounds. I use my eyes or my ears. Ergo, reading is not the same as listening.

The thing about audiobooks for me is that I love reading so much, I don’t want to make time for listening to books being read. And when I do things like ironing (which I’ve mostly given up anyway), I kind of drift and muse about things and don’t want to concentrate on someone’s voice. I could do it in the car; I like listening to podcasts on my commute, but since I haven’t commuted to work for more than a year, I also haven’t been listening to podcasts either.
Maybe I’ll try audiobooks at some other point in my life. I do think they are a great alternative, but currently just not for me.

So that was the “A” tag. Maybe I’ll do some of the other alphabet tags from Jim as well – he’s up to “E” by now.

Keep safe, world.

Reading Habits

I felt like doing a tag today, so I found the Reading Habits tag on BookTube. It seems to have been around a long time and I couldn’t find the creator, so I unfortunately can’t include a link to their channel.

Here goes:

1 Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

Yes, I have a big purple comfy bean bag in front of one of my book shelves, but I don’t use it very often, because it’s in my bedroom which is not accessible to Curious Dog (he’s scared of the steep open staircase). Since I sit up in my bedroom at my desk during the work week all day without CD, I don’t want to sit away from him when I’m reading on my off days. So, I mostly read in the living room, with Curious Dog snoozing at my feet or next to me on the sofa. Very cozy. Every now and again he wants to be cuddled, but that’s also nice.

I also do a lot of reading at night in bed. Partner needs more sleep than I do and goes to bed early, and I use the time to read. Good for both of us.

2 Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Random piece of paper. Bookmarks are too organized for me. Also, I read a lot of e-books on Kindle and they don’t need a bookmark.

3 Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop at a certain point?

Depends. Sometimes I like to finish a chapter before stopping, but if I’m interrupted, or tired, I don’t mind stopping where-ever I happen to be in the book.

4 Do you eat or drink while reading?

Yes, I like good cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa with a book. I also like snacking on salty snacks but don’t do it very often. Only as a special treat. When I’m by myself, I also read while eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I also read while cooking (mostly when cooking soups, as they only use one pot and you can stir with one hand and hold a book in the other).

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5 Multitasking: music or TV while reading?

No music, but when we’re in Bavaria, I often sit in the evening with Mum in the living room. When she wants to watch something on TV that I’m not interested in, I read instead. The TV doesn’t bother me, I just tune it out.

6 One book at a time or several?

Several. I usually have three or four going on at the same time. A book of poetry, a short-story collection, something non-fiction, something fun, a classic… I guess poetry and short-stories don’t really count, because I usually just stop after reading one or two of them and that’s not really stopping in the middle of a book to turn to another one.

7 Reading at home or everywhere?

Everywhere. My smartphone has the Kindle app, so I can read my books anywhere. If I have to wait in a longish queue or am in the waiting room at the dentists or somewhere, I read. I also always take books on vacation, both as Kindle and as a paper copy (in case there a long blackout and my devices run down – no way am I risking being stranded somewhere without anything to read. The horror!).

8 Reading out loud or silently in your head?

I don’t read out loud except very occasionally to read a funny or interesting passage to Partner. Easy reads, like crime novels, I read fast and without subvocalizing, but with non-fiction and demanding fiction, I do subvocalize in my mind. That slows me down, but I don’t mind it. If I try to do without subvocalizing, I find I don’t grasp what I’m reading. Apparently, this just needs practice, but I’m not terribly motivated. I feel that reading slowly can increase enjoyment.

9 Do you read ahead or skip pages?

No. If I read ahead, I’m not motivated to continue with the unread bits and skipping pages feels like I haven’t read the book properly. That seems pointless to me. If I decided to DNF a book, I’d probably check up on the ending. My book selection process, however, is rather well honed and I hardly ever get books that I end up hating, so I haven’t done this in ages. Can’t remember the last time.

10 Breaking the spine or keeping it as new?

I try to keep the spine as unblemished as possible, but paperbacks that I love and read a lot get a creased spine anyway. Of course, not a problem with e-books.

11 Do you write in your books?

I never used to but have started in the last few years. I never read without a pencil anymore to mark passages or add comments. I can’t bring myself to use a pen and I also don’t use a highlighter. I do use the highlight and note function in my Kindle app. The only books I don’t write in are nice editions of graphic novels and some other special hardbacks. In general, I think that books are objects of daily use and don’t need to be specially revered. I used to have the opposite opinion: never write in books, what a sacrilege! But I changed my mind about it.

Keep safe, world.

End of the Year Book Tag

This book tag has been making the rounds at BookTube and I have wanted to do it for a couple of weeks already but hadn’t yet come up with a final list of books that I want to read this year. But now I’m ready to write about it. The tag was originally created in 2017 by Ariel Bisset: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHf0O4e2Z6A.

  1. Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?
    Yes, I want to finish the books I’m currently reading:

    Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
    Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
    Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

    I read a good chunk of West’s book last night and I’m on the last 300 pages. I’ll probably get another chunk done tonight, but it depends on how tired I will be. Somehow this month I’ve been rather tired at night and sometimes managed only a few pages. Very annoying. I’m wonder if it is still a lingering effect from the switch to wintertime in October. Or maybe it’s just a normal kind of fall sleepiness?
    With Ready Player One I’m at the half-way mark and with Oliver Twist somewhere near the beginning.

  2. Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?
    I’m a bit late with this question as we are well into autumn by this point, never mind transitioning. But no, I don’t do seasonal reading, at least not intentionally.

  3. Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?
    Well, not exactly waiting. Ready Player Two came out today, but I’m waiting until I’ve finished rereading One, before I start Two.

  4. What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?
    There are more than three books that I want to read before the end of the year:

    Toni Morrison, Home and God Help the Child
    Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities and Selected Letters (edited by Jenny Hartley)

    I definitively want to read these novels, to achieve my goal of reading all the novels from both these authors this year. It’s been quite challenging reading a book by these authors each month not because I didn’t like them – I liked both of their works a lot, in different ways – but because I felt constrained and couldn’t just pick up any book that struck my fancy as I just didn’t have the time. I don’t think I’ll be focusing again on two authors at once in one year, and I don’t want to fail when I’m almost done. So, these are at the top of my list, except maybe for Dickens’ Letters. I may not finish them this year – they are very interesting, but I could just finish them by-and-by in the next few months.

    Thomas Mallon, A Book of One’s Own

    I started this book and have read slightly less than half. It inspired me to read some memoirs. I also got a couple of writer’s diaries that I will read next year. I made a post for each chapter of this book that I read some weeks ago and I do want to finish this project.

    Kenneth Good, Into the Heart: An Amazonian Love Story

    I want to reread this autobiography because it fits in well with Redmond O’Hanlon’s In Trouble Again that I recently read. Afterwards, I want to read the autobiography of Kenneth Good’s son, David: The Way Around: Finding My Mother and Myself Among the Yanomami.

    Don Kulick, A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea

    I’ve had this on my TBR almost all year and don’t really know why I haven’t read it yet.

    Susanna Clarke, Piranesi

    I’ve waited for this book to come out. Hope it’s as good as Johnathon Strange and Mr. Norrell.

    James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson

    This one I want to read between Christmas and the New Year, when I will have tons of reading time.

    Seems like an ambitious list, not sure if I’ll make it. But I’ll be in Bavaria with Mum and Curious Dog for most of December and I usually have lots of time to read there, as there are not as many distractions like watching films and doing other things with Partner. I’m not stressing it. I only need to finish Dickens’ and Morrison’s novels and the rest can be read in January. I’ll be on vacation from Christmas to January 15, not going anywhere, so lots of reading time. But I do want to try reading them by December 31.

  5. Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?

    I haven’t really decided on my favourite book for the year. Probably it’s Morrison’s Beloved, but I do think that the Boswell might become if not the favourite, a favourite.

  6. Have you already started making reading plans for 2018?

    Yes. This year my reading buddy and I read War and Peace, next year it will be The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu (translated by Royall Taylor). We’ll spread it out from January to October and I’m really looking forward to it. I haven’t decided on my other goals but have a few ideas. But they still need to simmer a bit before I can finalize them.

Keep safe, world.

The Self-Aware Reader

I’m not sure if I’m particularly self-aware in my reading choices, but I thought that this tag that’s doing the rounds on BookTube sounded interesting and so I’m going to try to answer its questions. The tag was invented by the booktuber Courtnery Ferriter. Here’s her video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNKCHwVxQ2g. I found it via Bookish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqawV6x77_E.

1. What most draws you in to a novel or story and makes you want to keep reading – plot, character(s), writing style, atmosphere, something else?

I guess it’s kind of a combination of all of these elements. I usually find new books to read by surfing my favourite booktubers’ channels or by stumbling across reviews or by recommendations from friends. Then I go online and read the first pages of the book. For me to buy the book, I must like the writing style. I want a certain complexity. I also want interesting characters, and they can’t be all unlikable (for instance, I generally don’t like reading crime novels from the point of view of the criminal). The character must be interesting and generally likeable although they can have their dark side. They must be complex. The plot must be well-done but doesn’t have to be particularly surprising. I like novels with traditional plot lines as long as the characters and the writing style are good. Complex plots can also be great. I can even do without a plot entirely, if the writing and characterization is good enough. Atmosphere is important, but it’s hard to define. The idea behind the novel must also be interesting, but I’m interested in almost everything if it is well-written. But it’s also hard to define what I find “well-written”. There’s a lot of intuition involved, I guess.

2. What is a convention or trope that will immediately turn you off in your reading experience with a novel or story?

I hate it when the protagonist of a novel is stupid or shallow and needs to be rescued all the time. I hate it when characters in crime novels act as if they have never seen a thriller on TV and do all sorts of dumb things that nobody with a shred of self-preservation would do. I mostly don’t like romance unless there’s a non-romance plot also involved.

3. What most appeals to you when reading nonfiction and makes you want to keep reading?

I must be convinced that the author of a non-fiction book knows the subject that they write about. I need footnotes and a bibliography in the book, as otherwise I can’t take it seriously, and there’s no point in reading non-fiction if it isn’t well researched. An exception to this is memoir or autobiography. I don’t need an author to footnote their life – although I do have a liking for footnotes in any book. The writing must also be good, without too much jargon or intentionally opaque as in so much academic writing.

4. What is a convention or trope in nonfiction that will turn you off in your reading experience?

I can’t stand it when authors make unsubstantiated claims. Speculation can be interesting, but I need the author to explain how they arrive at their speculation and on what facts they extrapolate from. If they drift off into fiction, I generally don’t like it.

5. Would you say you read more for pleasure and enjoyment or more to learn and exercise your brain?

More for enjoyment, but I can’t enjoy a book if it doesn’t to some extend teach me some new things. If my brain isn’t engaged, then the book doesn’t do it for me. I do occasionally read something simply for the thrill, but not that often and afterwards I sometimes feel let-down or that it was a waste of time.

6. Which type of books are you likely to rate more highly and enjoy more overall – brain “candy” (pleasure/enjoyment) books or brain “protein” (learning/exercise) books?

If I like a book, I’ll rate it highly. If I read something for escapism and it does it’s job well, there’s no reason not to give it a good rating that points out that it delivers what it set out to do. Nowadays I read about 25% brain candy and 45% literature or non-fiction that helps me grow as a reader or teaches me something. After quite a long time of not reading classics or contemporary literary fiction, BookTube has inspired me to read much more those kinds of books and I’m finding it very satisfying and enjoyable.

7. Do you have a sense early on of whether or not the book you’re reading will be a five-star read (or a book you will really like)? Has a book ever surprised you in this regard?

I was surprised by how much I liked Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, when I buddy-read this with a friend in 2017. It was so good and had such modern themes even though it was written in 1747. I would never have thought that I would like it so much. The same goes with all the Dickens novels I’ve been reading this year. It’s surprising how enjoyable they are. Somehow, I always expect classics to be boring; I think as a young reader I read some classics when I just wasn’t ready for them and therefore didn’t enjoy them. That left me with the suspicion that classics might be boring, but I’m aware that that is prejudiced and I no longer let it stop me from reading them.

It would really surprise me if I read anything by Toni Morrison that wasn’t excellent (but I’ve only got two more of her novels to go and I’m sure they’ll be great).

8. Considering books that you’ve rated five stars in the past (or if you don’t rate them, then books you really loved), do you think you would feel the same way about them now? Why or why not?

For me it’s more the other way around. I tend to like some books more when I reread them. Offhand I can’t remember a book that I liked and then didn’t like on rereading it. But I read Jane Eyre when I was in primary school, and didn’t like it (too young, obviously). But then I reread it in high school and adored it. I still like it just fine now that I’m in my fifties. I read War and Peace in high school and didn’t particularly care for it, but I reread it this year and liked it a lot. I enjoy rereading children’s books that I liked when I was in my early teens. One of my favourite author of children’s literature is Joan Aiken. I love her Wolves Chronicles. As I’ve grown older, my reading tastes have expanded, but I haven’t grown out of most of my earlier favourites. There must be some books that I wouldn’t like today that I used to like in the past, but I can’t think of any at the moment. There are books that I enjoyed uncritically as a teenager in which I might find things to criticize today, or books that haven’t aged well, but I still tend to keep a soft spot for them. I still absolutely adore The Lord of the Rings although I now recognize that there are problematic themes in it; same goes for the Narnia books. It takes a lot to make me dislike a book that I initially loved.

Keep safe, world.

Dark Academia

I recently came across this tag on BookTube. I found it via Hannah’s Books https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12-CM7fALtY. It was created much earlier this year by two booktubers, Emma https://youtu.be/YsxQAWL9pFA and Carolyn https://youtu.be/UdfgRG5utQ8.

Dark Academia is apparently an aesthetic and a lifestyle based on romanticizing the Oxbridge or Ivy League life. I hadn’t heard of it before I watched Hannah’s video, but it does remind me of my student days. My aesthetic (if it could have been called that) was more of a mixture between academia (I owned a very nice tweed blazer), hippy (dungarees), and romantic, blousy touches (inspired by the Third Doctor). Though I didn’t really have much of a consistent look. I experimented some, but mostly returned to jeans and various tops. Which I’m still wearing today, after an interlude of wearing shirts with waistcoats or sleeveless sweaters when I first started work. Nowadays my tops are utilitarian (I got fed up with ironing all those shirts) and not particularly exciting. In summer I wear mostly light-coloured clothes, as I can’t stand the heat in black or dark colours. In winter I branch out into more colourful options as I think winter needs colour.

My interest in Dark Academia is more about the passion for learning and books, mostly for the arts and humanities, but also neuroscience, psychology, biology. Physics and maths are rather too difficult for me, especially at university level.

Anyway, I found the various BookTube videos very interesting (especially Hannah’s, whose videos I always like a lot) and though it would be fun to answer the tag questions here:

1. What is your favourite academia or dark book and/or movie?

When interpreting academia in a romantic way I’d say that my favourite dark academia book is The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is the creative ontology, mythology and history that Lord of the Rings is based on. It’s certainly dark enough, lots of tragic heroes and heroines. Lots of apocalyptic conflicts. Not mention that it was written by a professor. I’ve loved it since first I read it, when I was 12.
My favourite dark academia movie? The Name of the Rose (I also like the book).

2. What dead poet would you like to have a drink with?

None. I never want to talk to famous people, or people I admire (but don’t know), because I’m shy and dreadful at small talk. Also, I imagine that the questions I want to ask have all been asked before and will be boring for the poet. And what if the poet I admire can’t live up to my expectations and turns out to be someone I don’t like?
If I didn’t have all these hang-ups, I’d like to talk with Emily Dickinson. But as I understand it, she was very retiring. I’m shy. We’d probably just gaze at each other unhappily.

3. What is your favourite painting or sculpture?

I like Paul Gauguin’s pacific island scenes and I also love Franz Marc’s blue horses (all his animal paintings, really). As for sculptures, I have a predilection for prehistoric animal sculptures, like the Vogelherd horse. Also ancient Egyptian cat statues.

4. A favourite architectural marvel?

I don’t have a favourite, but I love monasteries of any religion. I like the way they are often at beautiful location, with beautiful buildings and grounds. I also like the idea of the contemplative life (although I’m not so hot on the obedience to one’s superior part).

5. What Shakespeare play would you like to be the lead in?

I wouldn’t want to play the lead in any play, but I wouldn’t mind being a supporting actor in The Tempest.

6. How many languages do you speak, and which language would you most like to learn?

I speak German, English, and some Tok Pisin and I had French at school (but can’t remember much of it). I keep trying to learn Latin, but somehow never have time (or make time?) to really get ahead.

7. What is your favourite quote?

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The carriage held but just ourselves –
And immortality.

It’s the beginning of poem 712, my favourite Emily Dickinson poem.

8. Which fictional character’s death is your ideal way to go?

Well, the one above. Wouldn’t it be something to be picked up by Death in a carriage? As that is rather unlikely, I would like to die of very old age after a full life, like Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.

9. What university or college would you most like to attend?

I used to think I would like to attend one of the Ivy League colleges or Oxford or Cambridge, but I’m not sure if I would fit in (or maybe I wouldn’t be up to it intellectually). Trinity College in Dublin might be nice. But it really depends on what one wants to study.

10. What is your murder weapon or murder method of choice?

Murder in only fun when it’s fictional. As such, it would be great to be able to kill by glaring at someone.

11. What mythology would you most like to be part of?

Mythologies are great to read about, but uncomfortable to live in. That said, I’d like to live in the peaceful parts of The Silmarillion, as that is my mythology of choice.

12. If you had to do a PhD, what would you choose to do it in?

It would have to be something in the humanities, as STEM subjects are beyond me. I’d like to do a PhD in creative writing in the hopes that that would help me improve my writing. Comparative literature is also something that sounds great. Or poetry… there are so many possibilities, it’s hard to decide.

13 Which fictional character would you die for?

None. Even if I did, I’m not at all convinced that I’d be courageous enough to pull it off, especially not if there was time to think before acting. I might do something dangerous that I wouldn’t survive in the heat of the moment, but sacrificing myself on purpose? Very difficult.

That was fun! The tag on BookTube contains some more either/or questions, but I’m leaving them out.

Keep safe, world.

Book Addiction Tag

Today, while waiting for the results of the presidential election in the U.S. (the suspense is killing me), I felt like doing a BookTube tag and chose one that was created in April this year by the booktuber Elaine Howlin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGVgOWFrDWY. I found the tag it via Steve Donoghue whose BookTube channel I enjoy a lot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRocp9WtCsc
The tag is about book addiction and here are the questions with my answers:

  1. What is the longest amount of time you can go without picking up a book?
    Not sure, I’ve never tried find this out. If I don’t get to read something at least once a day, I get grumpy. I usually start my day by reading in bed while Partner’s in the bathroom. That’s 20 minutes of reading time. This year I’ve dedicated this time to reading poetry in a bid to read more poems. For me, it’s a great way to start the day. I also usually end the day by reading in bed for half-an-hour or so unless I’m really exhausted and can’t keep my eyes open for reading.
    On workdays I sometimes don’t have time to read at other times during the day, but on weekends and holidays I can spend hours reading. It’s my favourite pasttime.
  2. How many books do you carry on your person or on Kindle at any one time?
    Since I’ve got the Kindle app on my phone, I usually don’t carry a physical book with me all the time. I’ve got hundreds of books on Kindle and read them on my tablet with the app. But when I go on vacation, I always take a few paperbacks along as well, because, who knows, what if my tablet stops working? Or my phone? And anyway, the screen of the phone is too small for long bouts of reading.
  3. Do you keep every book you buy/receive or are you happy to pass them along?
    Since I’ve got the Kindle app on my phone, I usually don’t carry a physical book with me all the time. I’ve got hundreds of books on Kindle and read them on my tablet with the app. But when I go on vacation, I always take a few paperbacks along as well, because, who knows, what if my tablet stops working? Or my phone? Or civilization collapses and there’s no more electricity??? More mundanely, the screen of the phone is too small for long bouts of reading.
  4. Do you keep every book you buy/receive or are you happy to pass them along?
    I’m picky about the books I buy and usually like them and then can’t bear to get rid of them. If I do get one that I don’t like, I have no problem giving it away or recycling it, but that has happened maybe five times in my life (if that). So I like to keep my books, but a couple of years ago, I moved house and it was a nightmare with all the books. That’s why I decided to decrease my collection and I’ve managed to get rid of quite a few that I’d kind of grown out of (and figured I could get them on Kindle if I really needed to read them again). But I’ve also bought quite a few new ones this year, so all things considered book-reduction project isn’t going too well.
    I also have a lot of books I inherited from relatives that I’ve kept for sentimental reasons at our place in Bavaria. These I am now going through and getting rid of. I loved my relatives but not necessarily all their books. Now that I’ve started this process, I find it quite liberating.
  5. How long would you spend in a bookshop on a standard visit?
    I live in Germany but read mostly English books. Since I live in the country, the selection of English books in bookstores is tiny. I therefore spend lots of time online browsing online bookshops, both Amazon and second-hand bookshops. I can spend a couple of hours at a go, browsing for books online.
  6. How much time per day do you actually spend reading?
    At least half an hour on a workday and as much as possible on weekend or vacations. I haven’t ever measured my reading time. Maybe that’s an idea…
  7. Where does the task of “picking up a book” appear on you daily to-do list?
    Nowhere. It’s so basic and necessary for me to read, I don’t need to put it on a list. As I said, if I don’t get my daily reading fix, even if it’s only the time I read in bed, I get grumpy.
  8. How many books do you reckon you own in total (including e-books)?
    I think it must be about 1500 at least. I really should create a catalog, so that I have a better overview. Also, I should stop getting new ones. I haven’t read all the ones I own (though I have read most of them).
  9. What is the biggest book (page count) you have finished?
    I read huge books all the time. I love tomes. When I was 12, I read Lord of the Rings for the first time, loved it, and afterwards reread it once a year until I was 18 (I still occasionally reread it). This year I’ve been reading a lot of Dickens novel, some of which have 1000+ pages. A couple of years ago I buddy-read Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson. That has 1500 pages. It’s a very good book. Amazingly modern, considering it was written in 1747. We read it slowly and discussed it, so it took us ten months, but I could have finished it much faster if I had wanted to. If a book is interesting to me, I don’t mind if it is long. If I find a book basically interesting, but hard to read in one go, I just read a few pages or chapters at a time so that it doesn’t overwhelm me. I always have a few different books ongoing, so that I can swap between them if I get tired of one for a while. Usually they are of different genres, like fiction or non-fiction. Or a crime novel and a classic.
  10. Is there a book you had to get your hands on against all odds?
    Not sure what’s meant by that. I follow authors and read series and of course I want to get the newest installments, but it’s never been a problem. If it’s an out-of-print book, I can usually find it second hand. I think so far I’ve managed to get all the books I really wanted to get my hands on, but I can’t remember a specific one that was hard to get.
  11. A book you struggled to finish but refused to DNF?
    Usually I finish all the books I start reading. It’s only when I’m forced to read something that I sometimes struggle. I’m in a book club and once we had to read American Psycho. I hated it and threw it away when I was done with it. In high school, we had to read the German classic Effie Briest. That was so boring that it was the only book I didn’t finish in my school years (I usually read more than required). That said, I should revisit it. I think I might like it now. When I get books, I read the first pages and only buy the book if it seems good. That’s why I hardly ever have to DNF a book that I selected myself. I don’t like DNFing.
  12. What are three of your main book goals for the year?
    One goal is to read more poetry, so I’m reading poetry before I get up each morning. That’s working out great. Another goal is to read all Dickens completed novels this year. Also going great, I only have Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities to go. Another one is to read all of Toni Morrison’s novels this year and that’s also looking good. I’ve only got two to go, Home and God Save the Child. I’m rather happy with all the reading I’ve been doing this year.