03 July 2017

Taking a break

Reading in Reykjavik is on indefinite hiatus. 

Spam comments will not be approved, so save yourself the effort and don't post any.

16 June 2017

Friday links, 14 April 2017

Here's some reading about literacy, libraries and books:

07 April 2017

Friday links, 7 April 2017

Today's links are a varied mix:

Today there are two book lists: 

And to counteract the strife in the first list: 17 Best Bromances In Literature.


Finally, here's a fascinating video:


Lord Howe Island Stick Insect hatching from Zoos Victoria on Vimeo.

24 March 2017

Friday links, 24 February 2017

I have been pretty inactive on this blog lately, mostly because I have hardly been reading. However, I have done some web surfing and here are some of the things I found:





Today's list:
Books about friendships.

These is no book I'd like to read today. 
I'm going through a reading slump and don't feel like reading.

17 March 2017

Friday links, 17 March 2017

Today's links are all book-related in some way, and three of them relate to libraries:

10 March 2017

Friday links, 10 March 2017

Some very mixed links today:

  • If you didn't already suspect it - translating is hard. It's even harder when translating books full of meaningful names of people and places (don't forget to look underneath the video):








The book I want to read (and indeed own) is the new Atlas Obscura book. I am a long-time fan of the website and while nothing can replace that as a resource, the book is still appealing and I think I'll put it on my Christmas wish-list.
 

09 March 2017

Car trouble

My nearly new car is in the garage for a problem that is so unexpected and unlikely in a car this new and little used (less than 20 thousand kilometres on it), that the guy I spoke with at the VW shop said they would give me a good discount off the part if it needs to be replaced and not just repaired/cleaned.

I will not see my beloved VW Caddy again for a week and will be driving around in a borrowed, ancient Suzuki Jimny with a cranky manual gearbox and stiff handling. Good thing I only need it to visit my parents in the next city and not to get to work.

At least I know I can get around if it snows as much in the meantime as it did two Sundays ago, because that tin can is altered for off-road driving.

08 March 2017

Look at what I found!

I came across this book in my favourite second hand shop recently. At first sight it doesn't look very prepossessing - in fact it looks downright grungy. The glossy white cover is scratched, discoloured, stained and chipped and it is ever so slightly tacky to the touch, like a cookbook left out in the kitchen for too long. Ick!



Then you open it up to find glorious, clean, empty pages. I'm only guessing, but there might be around 200 leaves, which makes 400 pages in A4 size. This is the kind of journal I dreamt of owning back when I still kept written records of my reading. I've gone wholly digital now, so I'll have to find a different use for it. More about that below.




I can only speculate as to what this book was designed for, but the paper is thick and heavy and I'd like to imagine it to have been designed as a guest book (maybe for a convention or a company), sketchbook or journal rather than a scrapbook, because the binding is too tight to allow for many insertions. From the tackiness and the nature of the discolourations and stains on the cover I think someone bought it with the intention of writing recipes in it, kept it in a kitchen for years and never did anything with it and then donated it to the charity shop.

This stamp is the only clue as to the provenance of the book. Eurolitho seems to be a publishing and printing company based in Italy.



I'll probably use it as a commonplace book and/or sketch book and/or journal. It's tempting to put it in my little motorhome to use as a log book and journal for my travels in the car, but it's big and heavy and space-saving is a concern, so probably not.

I'm having fun thinking up ways to make the cover more attractive. I might draw on it with Sharpies or cover it with stickers or decoupage, or simply make a nice dust cover for it. I might even go all out and make a sculpted leather cover for it. But I'll start by giving it a gentle scrubbing to see if the stains will come off.

There is a bit of chipping - but nothing that can't be fixed.
This chip, for example, will disappear under a metal corner.

06 March 2017

Reading report, March 6, 2017


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is "a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week."

Visit the Book Date to see what various other book bloggers have been up to in the last week.
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I had to take two sick days in the middle of the week and missed my day hike on the weekend because I didn't want to risk having a relapse, so I had plenty of time to read and finished four books during those two days and one more during the weekend. I was still heartily glad to stop reading and return to work on Friday. Being at home on weekdays is no fun when you can't go out and are feeling miserable.

The books were:

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L Howard. This book answered a question I asked myself when I first read Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes: Where do diabolical carnivals come from in the first place? I liked it so much that I ordered a copy of the second book in the series and hope it will arrive some time this week.

The protagonist is the titular Johannes, a scientist who wishes to find a cure for death and has sold his soul to Satan to that end. But it isn't working out the way he expected and so he goes down to Hell and makes a bet with Satan: he will get his soul back if he collects 100 souls for Hell in one year. In order to help (or hinder) him in doing so, Satan gives him a diabolical carnival to run.

Gnomes by Wil Huygen (text) and Rien Poortvliet (illustrations). Wonderful piece of fantastical natural history, translated from Dutch. I filed it next to my copy of Peter Dickinson's The Flight of Dragons, in the book-case where I keep my books on religion, folk-tales and mythology.

This books seems to be a mixture of actual gnome lore and speculative descriptions of the lives and living conditions of gnomes. It is beautifully illustrated and fluidly translated from the original Dutch.



A volume of short stories from two different collections by Swedish author Torgny Lindgren, titled Fimm fingra mandlan in Icelandic, in English The Five-Fingerd Almond, and drawing its title from an unnamed short story in the book which features an almond potato that looks like a human hand and becomes the means of unmasking a murderer. Not keeping it.

I found Style Deficit Disorder by Tiffany Godoy in amongst my cookbooks, where it had been languishing for a couple of years with a bookmark sticking out of it. So I decided to finish it. It's about the Japanese Harajuku fashion scene and contains colourful photographs, potted history and descriptions of the style and influences of various designers. It's nice, if a bit chaotic, to look at, like a book-length teen fashion magazine on acid, but terribly designed with regard to actually being read. Some of the spreads are printed, for example, in black lettering on eye-watering bright blue backgrounds, and the lettering used in the headers is designed for looks rather than reading. I don't expect many people would even consider reading it from cover to cover - this is a product to be leafed through, displayed on a coffee-table and perhaps used to look up one's favourite designers. I don't think I'll keep this one. Owning one book about Japanese fashion is enough for me (Shoichi Aoki's Fruits).

On the weekend I read:
Safari for Seven by Thea B. Von Halsema. This is the travelogue of an American family of seven who bought a Volkswagen Transporter in The Netherlands in the 1960s and drove it to Israel and back. It was quite an adventure and I closed the book with a considerably wider knowledge of biblical geography than when I started, as the family were religious and planned their route to take in as many biblical locations as possible. Culling it.

I now have 839 unread books on my TBR (owned) list.

Next weekend I am planning to go shopping in Ikea to buy a Billy bookcase with an extension, to replace a smaller bookcase that is full to overflowing. First, however, I have to empty the current bookcase and find somewhere to keep the books from it until I can stuff them into the new one...

I'm currently reading:
Watching the English by Kate Fox (anthropology) and Whispers Underground (urban fantasy) by Ben Aaronovitch (the third Peter Grant book).

05 March 2017

January and February book haul, part 3

Here are the final books:


Comments:
  • Gnomes: This is a book of lore and natural history and should sit nicely on the shelf with my other illustrated guides to the world of folktales and mythology, e.g. The Flight of Dragons and my bestiary of Icelandic folk-tale monsters.
  • The Norman Rockwell Treasury: I love Rockwell's work but when I first saw this book in a bookshop, I was pretty much broke and couldn't afford to buy it, so finding a copy was lucky.
  • The Far Side Gallery: I have volumes 2, 3 and 4, but I don't think I have this one.
  • The guide book is yet another addition to the guidebook collection.
  • Trees and Fungi are natural history guides. 
  • The Steampunk Gazette is a guide to all things steampunk. As I mentioned in the first post in this series, I have been wanting to delve into this sub-genre of science-fiction, and what better place to start than with a guide?
That's it! (for now).

04 March 2017

January and February book haul, part 2

The next batch is even more mixed. These are mostly second-hand, although I suspect some have hardly been read.


Comments:
  • The Amulet of Samarkand: I have been a lifelong reader of fantasy and have had my eye on the Bartimaeus books for some time, so finding one second hand was a piece of good fortune. 
  • The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements: I borrowed this from a library and read it a couple of years ago and thought it would be nice to own a copy, and how I do.
  • The 10 Best of Everything: The subtitle, An ultimate Guide for Travelers, should tell you why I bought it. Not that I ever plan my own travels around such guides, but I like to read them. 
  • When You are Engulfed in Flames: David Sedaris is funny. Nuff said.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane: This is the token new book. Neil Gaiman's books have been a hit or miss for me, but this one sounds good. I am pretty sure I spotted Gaiman in Reykjavík a few weeks ago. I had not heard anything about him being here, so I figured the guy I saw had to be someone who just looks a lot like him, but a few days later I saw a news item about him being here, so I choose to believe it was him I saw. Not that I would have done anything about it even if I had been sure - I believe celebrities have the same right as anyone else to go about their business without being bothered.
  • The two guide books are welcome additions to my guidebook collection.

Final installation tomorrow.

03 March 2017

Friday links, 3 March, 2017


Today's first link leads to a definition of a phenomenon that editors, proofreaders and critics will be familiar with, even if they don't have a name for it: Muphry's Law.

Next is some advice for writers: 5 Reasons Why You Should Write a Novella.

See some lovely entrants for the annual Book Illustration Competition.


The book I want to read:


The list:
Today, and occasionally from here onwards, I am posting 2 lists, because the lists are piling up faster than I can post them and are threatening to take over my bookmarks.

The first is 12 Books You've Probably Started But Never Finished. I have only started reading four  books on this list, and guess what: I finished three of them. The fourth I plan to finish soon. I decided to include the list here because 5 more books on it are on my TBR list, and I actually own copies of 4 of them.

One of the stops on my upcoming Grand Tour of Germany will be Berlin. I plan to stay in the Berlin area for 3-4 days and just enjoy what it has to offer, and so I present 10 of the Best Books Set in Berlin. I might even read one or two of them before I set off.

02 March 2017

January and February book haul, part 1

It would be easy to think, based on the lack of "look at the books I bought!" posts here lately, that I have finally been able to curb my book-buying mania, but no - I have just been too lazy to photograph my acquisitions.

Here are the books I have bought since the last time I posted a Book Haul report:

All books were bought second hand.


Here we have a mixed bag: A travel book, a biography, a light-hearted popular sociology book, a memoir, a steampunk fantasy and three books about philosophy.

Comments:
  • The Weekenders and Jane Austen belong to two genres that have always been favourites of mine: travel and biography.
  • Very British Problems should be an interesting follow-up to the anthropology book I am currently reading,Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox.
  • My Family and Other Animals is a perennial favourite of mine, and it was nice to be able to get a fresh copy of it, since my old trade paperback edition is falling apart.
  • Boneshaker: I like reading science fiction (if it isn't too heavy on the science), and have been wanting to delve into the steampunk sub-genre for some time.
  • The philosophy books: As a liberal arts major I had to take an introduction to philosophy course at university that I ended up doing twice because of clashing exam schedules during my first semester and changes in the course material between years. The course consisted mostly of telling us about the ancient philosophers and the basic ideas of their philosophy, and while I easily passed the exam, I was never particularly interested in the subject. Lately, however, I have started becoming interested in it and finding several books about the subject, I chose the three most likely volumes and intend to read them when my mind again turns towards such matters.

More on Saturday.






27 February 2017

Reading report, Monday February 27, 2017


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is "a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week."

Visit the Book Date to see what various other book bloggers have been up to in the last week.
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I finished three books last week, a travelogue and two novels.

While the first two books could hardly be more different in terms of content, they do have two things in common: a poetic quality and a melancholy tone.


Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron. The author revisited his old haunts from two previous books and followed one of the many trade routes that are collectively referred to as the Silk Road, following it from Xian in China to Antakya in Turkey. He blends in snippets of history, and imagines conversations with a long-dead Silk Road trader who points out to him the futility of his quest - if he indeed has one, because it is never explicitly stated why he set out to trace this journey*.

Also, I got really sick and tired of his descriptions of women, who he always describes in terms of how attractive they are. After a while, one gets the feeling he was evaluating them for a beauty contest.

*After I wrote the first paragraph above I discovered I had a second copy of the book, an American paperback edition which, unlike the British edition I read, does contain explanations of Thubron's motives and reasons for making the journey. This doesn't change my opinion of the text, and I think that such an experienced and skilled author should have had the forethought to work his motives into the text of the book instead of giving them in an afterword clearly requested by the publisher. It would, for one thing, have made the journey seem more purposeful. Now, I am agonizing over which book to keep: the British edition with the lovely cover art, or the less visually interesting but more complete American edition. Maybe I'll just cull both of them - I don't see myself rereading this book and therefore there really is no need to keep it, unless it be as company for my other Thubron books.

The Love Child by Edith Olivier.This is a strange, darkly fantastical novel, full of melancholy and longing, and always foreshadowing a dark ending.

A middle-aged spinster, left alone in the world, brings her childhood imaginary friend back into her life so successfully that the girl becomes visible and solid and starts to change and grow up. When a young man comes along and falls in love with the young woman she has become, his selfish feelings for her (he wants to "possess" her) become a threat to her very existence. It is written in simple, gentle, poetic language, and could be seen as a parable for motherhood, from birth to the bitter letting-go of one's child.

The third book shares with the others a use of poetic language, but whereas Thubron occasionally slips into poetical flights and Olivier's prose has a quietly poetic quality, The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany has the textual beauty of a poem.

Here, any similarities with the other two books ends. This story is joyful and wondrous, lovely and exciting, a near-perfect read - not one of those books you wish would never end, but one of those one closes and returns to the shelf with a knowing smile, already looking forward to rereading it. This is one of those novels that anyone interested in fantasy literature should read, as Dunsany was one of the early masters of the genre and many of his themes and ideas have made their way into modern fantasy literature. I also recommend his short story collections, e.g. the The Gods of PegānaThe Sword of Welleran and The Book of Wonder, to name but a few.

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I woke up on Sunday morning to find an even layer of snow blanketing the city, some 51 cm (20 inches) deep, according to the Met office. Most of the roads out of the city were closed, and my hiking trip was therefore cancelled. This is not the deepest snow I have seen here in southern Iceland (and I have never seen snow as deep here as it gets in the north), but certainly the deepest even snow cover I remember. It's more usual for the wind to be blowing when it snows here, so we get drifts that can get quite deep, but last night it was clearly still enough to create a winter wonderland (click on any photo to see a larger version):


It came up to my knees.

My car, with clean-up under way.

The view from my balcony.

View from my balcony.

I have never seen so much snow on the steps.

A neighbour's car.

Trees were turned into strange sculptures.

24 February 2017

Friday links, 24 February 2017

  • Today's first link will lead you straight down a rabbit hole, or possibly a black hole. Whenever I go to the TV Tropes website, I generally emerge an hour or so later, out of breath and disoriented, and sated with information. It may be called TV Tropes, but trust me, it's actually about tropes in various different kinds of media, books included. The link will take you to the information page. Have fun!






The book I want to read is one I think I'd also want to own, because it's about language. 
Taxonomy, to be precise: