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18. Bought on a recommendation.

Most of what I read come recommended to me one way or another. But the last time I read a book explicitly recommended to me in person was The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, which My Mum had read and wanted to discuss.

It was very interesting, so I’m glad I read it. It’s a historical novel, set in the 19th century where an English nurse goes to Ireland to take care of a little girl who has stopped eating- and should already be dead from lack of food. The village considers her a saint, the nurse suspects foul play. It builds on real historical events- girls who starved themselves in religion’s name have happened over the centuries. So I can recommend the book with the caveat that it does contain sexual abuse of a minor, albeit non-descriptive.
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17. Future classic.

No idea! I don’t think I have a particularly highbrow taste when it comes to books.
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16. Can't believe more people haven't read.

The Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. I love her writing and think she should be read more widely. Her language is so poetical and magic, and her stories often very original, often with strong spiritual and/or supernatural themes. Almost all take place in the province of Värmland which is a very beautiful part of Sweden. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1909, the first woman to enter the prestigious Swedish Academy in 1914 and in 1991 she was the first Swedish woman to be depicted on a banknote. She is also queer, something which didn’t come to light until the 1990’s when her correspondence with her partner Sophie Elkan was published. (And I’m distantly related to her, with emphasis on distant- we share an early 18th century forefather.)

If you want to try her I recommend her debut novel, The Story of Gösta Berling. It’s a rather complex story taking place in the early 19th century. Gösta Berling is a handsome young priest, but his drinking causes him to be desposed. He finds a place as one of the Mistress of Ekeby’s twelve cavaliers, and the book is basically his numerous love affairs, and the adventures of the cavaliers. But the book is also his redemption arc, as well as the Mistress of Ekeby’s. Lagerlöf rarely says it straight, but there are a lot of shrewd observations of how even a wealthy and powerful woman was ultimately rightless, and how women’s reputations depend on the men around them.

You can also try one of her novellas. Herr Arne’s Hoard or The Treasure takes place in the 16th century. A rich priest and his whole family are robbed and murdered (with the implication that the beautiful daughter is also raped), and the only survivor is the adopted daughter, Elsalill, who manages to stay hidden. Sometime later she meets a Scotsman who she falls in love with, and he with her. It seems to be going to a happy ending when Elsalil is visited by her dead sister’s ghost, who tells her who it was who murdered her…

I also enjoy The Löwenskiöld Ring which is a ghost story, featuring a courageous and practical housekeeper as the heroine. The General Löwenskiöld is buried with his valuable gold ring, a ring which is later taken from the grave. Over several decades people who have the ring meets their sticky end, followed by the general’s curse, until the housekeeper Malvina, who is in love with the latest victim, manages to break it.

This novella can be read on its own but is also part of a trilogy, and I believe the English translation often publish all three works as one volume.

Another favourite is the short story collection The Changeling. The most famous of the story is the title novella. A farmer and his wife get their baby swapped by a troll changeling. Swedish mythology advice in treating the changeling horribly to make the trolls swap back, something the father wants to do. But the mother not only treats the troll baby kindly, despite its nastiness, she also stops her husband’s abuse, which causes her to be ostracized. Guess whose behaviour it is which gets the real baby back?

So read some Selma Lagerlöf!
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15. Favorite fictional father.

This was surprisingly hard. Fathers, or mothers, are never really the focus when I read, and I’ve never turned to books because of of a parental figure. I think I will have to settle on Pa in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. Nowadays when I read it I can’t help noticing how many bad and reckless decisions he makes, but as a child, he only came across as a loving parent. Which he clearly was; being a bad decision-maker doesn't mean you are a bad person.
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14. An old favorite.

Alan Garner’s Elidor. I first heard it as a radio drama when I was a very small child, so small I didn’t fully grasp the difference between imagination and reality. And hearing those voices on the radio made it much more real to me than a text would. The tale both frightened and enchanted me and long after I carried bits and pieces with me; the derelict houses in the “real” world and the abandon ruins in Elidor. The four treasures. The threatening darkness and men in the garden, and the strange death and son of the unicorn. I didn’t understand it, but I sometimes thought of it, treasuring the memories.

I came across the book much later, probably when I was about ten. It was a very strange experience to read it and suddenly knowing bits and pieces. I have never read a book that has felt more magical than Elidor; I can never read it without that strange feeling of knowing it better than I’m prepared for. I can’t describe it properly, it’s a feeling that is almost physical as if the book could actually change, and tell me more than it does. And I love it for that. It’s a strange, sad book, but I still love it.
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13. Makes me laugh.

Lots of books make me laugh, but I opt for one I remember laughing out loud in the subway when I read it the first time. Doreen Tovey’s Cats in the Belfry. Tovey wrote several books between 1958 and 2001, most of them detailing the adventures of her Siamese cats- always a brown-masked male and a blue-masked female. They are very funny, and I think everyone who has been owned by cats, will enjoy them.

You can read the beginning of the book here.
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12. I pretend to have read it.

I don’t do that. What is the point? I don’t consider reading a competition- I only read for my own pleasure.
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11. Secondhand bookshop gem

When I was a child and visited my Aunt U I always read The Rainbow Children, a book form her own childhood. It’s about a little black hen who has lost one eye, and therefore she is bullied by the other (white) hens. She decides to go out in the world to find her eye and meets a great variety of people and animal, most of them trying to be helpful, but no one who can help. One day she comes to a castle where she encounters a group of children from all over her world. After talking to them she realises it doesn’t matter if she only has one eye, the important bit is to like herself as she is. She loses the fabric she has worn over her hide to hide her lost eye and eventually becomes a mother hen to a brood of rainbow coloured children.

I loved the wonderful illustrations, by Piet Worm, and I was intrigued by the photo on the first page of a woman with a brood of children, clearly of different nationalities.

And if this rings a bell, the book was written by Josephine Baker and her husband Jo Bouillon. If you haven’t heard of her Rainbow Tribe, you can read some of it here. It was not as much of a fairytale as the book implies, but I didn’t know that when I was a child. And when I ran across the book in a used book store I was very happy to be able to have a copy of my own.

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10. Reminds me of someone I love.

Books. Books remind me of people I love.

It’s five-year-old me holding a picture book in my lap watching the coffee maker as it drips because my Mum has promised to read to me as soon as the coffee is ready.

It’s a little older me randomly being given a book by my father because he saw it and thought I would like it.

It’s finding the collected works of Selma Lagerlöf in my maternal grandparent's bookshelf and being enchanted by the magic of her words. Those books are in my shelf now and remind me of my grandparents every time I see them.

It’s lending Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising Sequence to my paternal grandmother and then discussing them with her.

It’s being gifted with my paternal grandfather’s double copies of Wodehouse, introducing to Jeeves and Wooster.

It’s being on vacation on the island of Gotland when I was 17 and my sister 10 and the book I read for her got finished. So I read Jane Eyre for her, and in the end, the whole family sat listening in the evenings.

It’s sitting feet to feet with my best friend on the sofa, both of us rereading The Lord of the Rings and reading the best bits aloud for each other.

It’s my father reading aloud about Uncle Podger in Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat at a Sunday lunch and laughing so hard he has to stop from time to time.

It’s cuddling with my kid and reading for him.

And on and on and on.
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9. Film or TV tie-in.

I rarely read any, but I did read the novelization of Versailles it was infinitely bad with horrible grammar and not with the slightest effort to flesh out the characters. My guess it that they took the script and did the most minimal amount of work to make it into a novel.
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7. Forgot I owned it & 8. Have more than one copy.

Because they tie together. I clean forgot I had a copy of The Queen's Servants: Gentlewomen's Dress at the Accession of Henry VIII so I bought another one. Not a complete loss as I’m sure I can make a gift of one of them.

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6. The one I always give as a gift.

As long as it was in print I have Anna-Karin Palm’s Faunen (The Faun), to everyone. It was Palm’s debiút novel and was published in 1991. (I know it’s translated to a couple of other languages but not, I’m afraid, to English).

Some books, when you read them, feel like they have been written just for you. Faunen was one of them for me. It’s not a long novel, but it contains three stories, each told in very different styles, but with overlapping themes. One story is set in late Victorian London and concerns Amelia, spinster and reasonable popular author of romance stories. One day she finds a faun in her home, a faun who says he is very cross with her. It turns out Fritz, which the faun is called, has issues with the novel she is writing; a tragic romance about the Medieval maiden Eleanor. Things, Fritz says, didn’t happen the way Amelia tell sit. So the second story is Fritz story about Eleanor and her encounter with a faun and a unicorn. The third story is a contemporary diary, written by a young Swedish woman who, for a time, lives in London. She becomes fascinated with this painting at The National Gallery; A Satyr mourning over a Nymph by Piero di Cosimo, painted around 1495.

Depending on her mood she sees the woman as sleeping, or dead, and the faun as grieving, or perhaps being the cause of the woman’s death. The diary mostly concerns the narrator’s life in Stockholm; memories of her childhood with a slightly younger sister, and her relationship with her best friend. The narrator feels very guilty, returning again and again to how she has betrayed her friend, but not saying what she has done. She also obsesses over a man who turns up in her life at irregular intervals and completely turns it upside down.

An overall theme with the book is women taking control over their own narrative. Having Fritz in her life broadens Amelia's social and sexual horizons, but the faun also controls her, and the story she is writing. In the end, Amelia writes another ending to Eleanor’s tragedy, giving Eleanor a happy ending. In doing so she breaks Fritz influence both over her’s, and Eleanor’s story. And the diary writer comes to term with the fact that her inability to realise her friend was in an abusive relationship isn’t really a betrayal. She also breaks free from the man who may, or may not, turn up when he says he will. The book ends with the diary-writer’s sister accidentally bumping into the best friend, talking about how happy they are she will be coming home from London soon. It’s clear the best friend has ended her abusive relationship and also got rid of the drug addiction the boyfriend had introduced her to.

When I first read this book I had a boyfriend who was extremely jealous and psychologically abusive. He also threatened to kill himself if I broke up with him. I felt very helpless, especially as he was very charming towards everyone else in my life. This book wasn’t the sole reason (a major help was my mother who sat down with me to tell me she saw how bad it was, and helped me get some perspective) I finally managed to end things with him, but it certainly had an impact
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5. Doesn't belong to me.

I have quite a few books people have lent me, and which I’ve had for several years now. But the idea is still that they will return eventually… One book, though, is here to stay.

When I moved into my first own home I borrows a book with Indian recipes from my youngest uncle, by Madhur Jaffrey. I used it so much, and it very quickly started to look very worn. I kept thinking to buy my uncle a new copy, but it’s closing in on 30 years now, so I suspect I never will.
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4. Least favorite book by favorite author.

Hmm, first I have to decide on which favourite author. Let’s make it easy and take Dorothy L. Sayers, because I really don’t like Five Red Herrings. The plot is contrived, timetables bores me, and just about the only thing I like is when an artist describes and parodies a number of other artists.

However, I really like to love all her other books.
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3. One with a blue cover.

Well, I was reading this one last night so it will do.

Patterns of Fashion 5: The content, cut, construction and context of bodies, stays, hoops and rumps c.1595-1795 by Janet Arnold, Jenny Tiramani, Luca Costigliolo, Sébastien Passot, Armelle Lucas and Johannes Pietsch

If you sew historical clothes, you know who Janet Arnold was. She analyses and made patterns for a large number of extant garments, and published several books on the subjects. The Patterns of Fashion series contains descriptions and patterns for clothes from the 16th century to the 1940s, with the two last volumes published after her death. Apparently, she left so much material there will be at least two more books coming.

This book was published just a couple of months ago and concerns 200 years of stays (corsets), and if you nerd this, it’s an amazing book. Arnold’s original research has been complemented with several colour photos of each garment, as well as contemporary paintings to indicate what the garment looked like when worn. I’ve made several pair of stays already, but now I want to make at least three of the ones in this book, asap.
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2. Best bargain.

I’m not a book collector, and I rarely try to find bargains, but I have one book I feel was a super bargain.

I’m a big fan of Tove Jansson, A Swedish Finnish author, and illustrator.

Read more... )
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I’ve seen this all around my f-list, and as I love talking books, so...

1. Favourite book from childhood.
This is near impossible to answer. How long does childhood last? However you define it, it’s several years and you change so much. What I loved when I was four had certainly changed when I was eight, and so on. And I’ve always loved books, to name only my favourite would take a long time anyway. Let’s take the book which was the most important, to me from the age of eight until I was eighteen; J. R. R. Tolkien's>Lord of the Rings

Read more... )
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[ profile] bearshorty: What’s the worst book you’ve ever read, and why?
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[ profile] bearshorty: A book you found overhyped, and why.
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[ profile] a_phoenixdragon: 5. Which genre(s) don’t you read? Why not?
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flo_nejla: 9. Fiction or non-fiction or both? In what ratio? Where do you draw the line between the two?
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flo_nejla: 10. The book(s) you bought because the cover was pretty, and whether it was worth it
[Unknown site tag]I don’t do that. I buy books to read them, not look at them. I may be put off by a very bad cover, though. I'd never start reading Lois McMaster Bujold, for example, on my own. I would have dismissed them as ye generic boring SH, because the covers are pretty awful. Luckily a friend sent me the first ten books to me with gushing recommendations.

[ profile] debris4spike: 11. The worst book hangover you’ve ever had.
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[ profile] therck 16. The book that you don’t dare reread for fear it won’t be the same any more.
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[ profile] debris4spike: 17. Preferred bookshelf organisation scheme
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[ profile] frelling_tralk: 19. That book with a twist that felt like a blow to the chest. Tell me about it. (But warn for spoilers if necessary!)
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[ profile] evelyn_b & flo_nejla: 22. The book you finished even though you hated it, and the reasons why.
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[ profile] evelyn_b: 23. The book you expected to hate, didn’t, and then got angry about not hating.
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flo_nejla: 24. The book that you got into because of the movie/TV series/etc, and the relative merits of each version
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[ profile] bearshorty: 27. The book you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve read.
No one.

[ profile] snogged: ed 29. Your vacation reading habits
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