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.

Mid-Year Book Recap

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On booktube there’s a meme called “Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag” where booktubers answer some questions about their reading in the first six months of the year and then tag other booktubers to also make a video answering the same questions. Now, obviously I’m neither a booktuber nor have I been tagged, but I felt like doing a blog entry on this tag. Except that I’m not calling it a “freak out” as there’s no reason for freaking out. Calling it a “recap” instead. So, here goes:

  1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2020?
    Beloved, by Toni Morrison. It was a reread, but I hadn’t picked it up for a good number of years. I loved it, as I did when I last read it. All her novels that I’ve read this year are ones that I first read while I was at university, although I wasn’t required to read all for class. I picked them up for pleasure. Paradise, the novel I’m going to read in July, will be the last one of those rereads. In 2003, when Love came out, I was one year into working full-time and I’d kind of stopped reading literary fiction and just read genre fiction, like mystery novels, fantasy, or sci-fi (also a lot of fan-fiction online). I started reading classics and literary fiction again in 2018 when I did a buddy-read of Richardson’s Clarissa with a friend. 2020 is the first year that I’ve set myself reading goals. It’s an interesting experience, and I like it, but will tweak the process of goal setting for next year. So, Love will be the first Morrison novel that I haven’t already read. I’m really looking forward to it and the other three novels of hers that I haven’t read yet.
  2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020?
    Network Effect, by Martha Wells. This is book five of the Murderbot Diaries and it is just great. I love the murderbot’s struggles with its humanity and its interaction with its friends. And the plot was thrilling, as usual in the series.
  3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to?
    The Other Bennet Sister, by Janice Hadlow. This book is hyped on booktube and I think I’d really like it. It’s the story of Mary, the middle Bennet Sister in Pride and Prejudice. I love Jane Austen, and it would be lovely to revisit the world of this novel. I hope to read it sometime later this year, maybe during my October vacation or otherwise over Christmas.
  4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year?
    Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke. I found out last year that this book was scheduled for release this September and I was thrilled, because I’d recently finished her huge novel Jonathon Strange & Mr Norrel. I got this book as a hardcover for my birthday from Partner when it first came out and then didn’t finish it for years because I somehow couldn’t get into it. But last year I started it again and loved it. I’m not sure if this new novel is set in the same magic universe, but I’m thrilled about it in any case.
  5. Biggest disappointment?
    I haven’t had a book-related disappointment yet. I’m just a little disappointed that Piranesi is a lot shorter than Jonathon Strange & Mr Norrel, but maybe it will be the perfect length.
  6. Biggest surprise?
    I’m really surprised at how much I like reading Dickens. I kind of dared myself to read all his novels this year (except the one that I already read last December, Our Mutual Friend) but I secretly feared that they’d be a slog. They are not. Except for one (Dombey and Son) I liked all of them just fine. I may even like Dombey and Son if I ever reread it. It did have some memorable scenes.
    I’m also surprised that I really like short stories. I used to avoid them, because I prefer (or thought I did) immersing myself in long novels, the longer the better. I’m glad I challenged myself to read a short story a day. I think I’ll keep up this habit.
  7. Favourite new author, either debut or new to you?
    Ali Smith. She’s (of course) not a debut author, but I really love her short stories and they were new to me. I’ve read all her collections this year.
  8. Newest fictional crush?
    I’m too old for crushes on fictional characters and I haven’t had any that I can remember. I very much admire Spock, of the classic Star Trek series (the character, not the actor). When I have to make a decision about something difficult, I often ask myself “What would Spock do?”. Kind of crazy. But I wouldn’t call that having a crush on him.
    OK, come to think of it, maybe I had a crush on Snape. And when I was a teenager, I was absolutely taken by the dragons in Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels.
  9. Newest favourite character?
    None, I like a lot of characters in the books I read, but I can’t say that one sticks out. It’s more a whole world of a novel kind of thing that I like, not so much focusing on a single character.
  10. Book that made you cry?
    Network Effect. The murderbot has some very emotional moments that can make me tear up.
  11. Book that made you happy?
    All of them. I need books. If I’m not reading for a few days, I’m unhappy and get grouchy. I need quiet reading time to recuperate from everything else in my life.
  12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year?
    The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu. I got myself the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition. It’s lovely and I’m planning to start reading it after I’ve finished War and Peace.
  13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
    Don’t need to read any but would like to complete my reading goals for this year, especially to read all of Dickens’ and Morrison’s novels. I’m optimistic that I’ll make it, as so far, I’m on track.

Keep safe, world