Monday, 30 December 2013

fifty-seven.

the History of Love by Nicole Krauss (2005)

 “Once upon a time, there was a boy. He lived in a village that no longer exists, in a house that no longer exists, on the edge of a field that no longer exists, where everything was discovered, and everything was possible. A stick could be a sword, a pebble could be a diamond, a tree, a castle. Once upon a time, there was a boy who lived in a house across the field, from a girl who no longer exists. They made up a thousand games. She was queen and he was king. In the autumn light her hair shone like a crown. They collected the world in small handfuls, and when the sky grew dark, and they parted with leaves in their hair.

Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.” 

Alma Singer is named after the woman in a book called the History of Love, which her mother is translating from Spanish to English. Alma is trying to figure out who the Alma in the book is. The other main narrator is Leo Gursky, an old man who went to America to look for his love after they got separated in a small Polish town during World War II. When he finds her, she is married to another man, but Leo is the father of the oldest son. Devastated, he spends the rest of his life alone.

There are plenty of other characters and their stories, and they are all fascinating. But the way all the stories eventually become one is the best thing about the book. And Alma Singer. I definitely loved it, and as always with books I love, I have a hard time coming up with smart things to say about them. Read it and find out for yourself why it's great.

This was this year's final book in Line's 1001 books reading challenge.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

2013 in books.

A couple of days early as I'm heading off to celebrate the new year in Berlin.

Last year's reading goals were:
  • Read more than 50 books 57 so far, so that's a success. But I have read less this year than before, I blame work, travelling and Netflix.
  • Complete Line's 1001 books 2013 challenge Will succeed once I finish the History of Love.
  • Read at least 5 non-fiction books 4 of 5 isn't that bad. One book about World War I, one about World War II, Edna O'Brien's autobiography and the Manson murders. I still love fiction more than real life.
  • Read something by Henry James, Selma Lagerlöf, Thomas Hardy, Knut Hamsun, Henry Green, Sigrid Undset and Nancy Mitford Yes to Henry James and Thomas Hardy. Working on Sigrid Undset. Tried Henry Green, but no. The rest I didn't even give a chance.
  • Continue working my way around the globe in books (37 so far) 43 now, so 6 new countries.
  • Lifelong goals: cross off as many 1001 books you must read before you die (9%) and Nobel Prize winners Up to 11% on all of the 1001 books lists. No new Nobel Prize winners read. Something must be done about that next year.
  • Own more than 1000 books (no more holding back! current number is 939.) Current number is 1259, so I bought over 300 books this year. 
Not as bad as I thought, but there's plenty of room for improvement. The next year's reading goals will be as following:
  • Read more than 50 books
  • Participate in a few online reading circles; Line's 1001 books, Clementine's Booker prize, Ingalill's biographies and Bjørg's off the shelf challenges. 
  • Finish Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
  • Read at least 5 non-fictions books
  • Continue working my way around the globe in books (43 countries so far)
  • Lifelong goals: cross off as many 1001 books you must read before you die (11%) and Nobel Prize winners
  •  Buy bookshelves, not books
 Books I read in 2013 which you should read:
  •  Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2001)
  • the Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino (2008)
  • Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton (1941)
  • the Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)
  • Touch by Alexi Zentner (2011)
  • the Inspector Barlach Mysteries by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1950-1951)
  • the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (1994)
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013)
  • the Twins by Tessa de Loo (1993)
  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934)
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (1995)
  • the Cuckoo's Calling by J.K Rowling (2013)
  • Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene (1958)
  • the Honorary Consul by Graham Greene (1973)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
  •  the MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood (2003-2013)
  • Kätilö by Katja Kettu (2008)
  • Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos (2012)
  • the Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
  • the Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (2013)
  • the Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998)
  • Ali and Nino by Kurban Said (1937)
  • the History of Love by Nicole Krauss (2005)
 I'm satisfied with this year's reading, and I hope that next year will be just as good.
Happy New Year!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

fifty-six.

Helter Skelter by Bugliosi & Gentry (1974)
the True Story of the Manson Murders

 Helter Skelter is a song by the Beatles. Charles Manson believed that the Beatles spoke to him through the White Album and that they ordered the Family to start a race war.

On the night to 9th August 1969, four members of the Family broke into the house rented by Roman Polanski and his wife, Sharon Tate, and killed 5 people. One of them was Sharon who was over 8 months pregnant. The killers wrote pig on the front door using blood. A day later, seven members of the family set out again to kill. This time the victims were the La Bianca family, and both victims were tied up and brutally murdered. The killers wrote the words healter skelter, rise, death to pigs with blood when leaving the house.

The investigation is a mess, and it took a long time before the police connected the two cases. The trial which followed, was the longest and most expensive, and resulted in the death penalty for Charles Manson and three of the girls.

The book is written by Vincent Bugliosi who was the prosecutor in the case, with the help of Curt Gentry. That means that this is a thorough account of the entire case, starting with the murders, and then to the trial. It also gives a detailed account of Manson's life and the way he gathered the Family members. The afterwords, written 25 years after the trial, tells what happened to the members of the Family since then.

It is a long and really detailed book, with nearly 700 pages. As it is written by the prosecutor, I felt that a lot of it is not really necessary to get a clear picture of the murders and the trials. But then again I don't feel that I need to ever read another book about Manson again. It is the most sold true crime book in history, read it if you're curious about the cult and the murders.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

fifty-five.

the Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (2012)

 Mary, the mother of the man who died on the cross and then resurrected, is interviewed by two men about the event. As Mary tells them her version, her mind wanders, and she lets us in on her secret.

When her son starts to gather a band of misfits, as Mary calls them, she is concerned about her son's safety. She knows that the Romans aren't fans of rebels. Her son is performing miracles, like waking Lazarus up from the dead. She is at the same party as her son, and she tries to warn him, but he won't listen to her. And then he is seized and the rest is history. But which version is the correct one?

How do you picture Mary, the most famous mother of them all? Colm Tóibín makes her a mother of a rebellious child who then gets killed. She's angry all right, but she is also sad. And it seems like she's angry at her son for not listening to her.

It's a good book, and it certainly makes you think. It's certainly well-written, but yet I feel that it's missing something, but I can't put my finger on it. Maybe I want more memories from his childhood, or what happens later in her life. Read it if you are interested in religion, pass on it if you're not interested.

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