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2009 was a good year for reading. I completed 35 books (5 more than last year) and I didn’t put any aside because I found them too disappointing. My eyes have goggled a total of 10.038 pages ;)
- I took up a graphic novel (Coraline)
- I participated in the November 24 hour read-a-thon
- I posted more about books, actually ‘reviewing‘ them instead of just listing titles & authors
- I joined several challenges on the web, aside from my annual personal reading challenges
(3rd Japanese Literature Challenge, 2009 Classics Challenge, 2nd What’s in a name challenge, 100 Mile Fitness Challenge, Hello Japan!)
- I’m herding with the Japanese Literature Book Group and Japanese Literature Read-along of In Spring it is the Dawn
- I discovered the world of book bloggers (including The Sunday Salon) thanks to the things mentioned above ;)
I’m afraid I have a lot of ‘wrapping up’ to do on my challenges — writing reviews and wrap-up posts — so thank god for next weekend: it’s Bloggiesta!
Now, the highlights of 2009…. (drum roll)
BESTEST book: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (published in 1939)
I would never have guessed it would end as my best read of 2009. I had a hard time getting into the book, especially because of the ‘epic’ chapters intertwining the story of the Joad family during the Great Depression in the US. But it really got under my skin. And looking back The Grapes of Wrath definitely made the biggest (and a long lasting) impression.
I still need to review it so I guess it’d better be one of the first to tackle. (Review added)
SECOND best book: The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata (1962)
I had never heard of Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata, even though I’ve been reading Japanese authors for a while now. So I’m really glad I got to know him thanks to the Japanese Literature Book Group that started this year. Again, I haven’t reviewed this book yet :\ But I absolutely loved the detailed descriptions of Kyoto and Japanese culture. It reminded me of last year’s favourite: The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery. But The Old Capital is way more subtle — Japanese, where The Teahouse Fire is recognizably American in comparison. So, another review that’s high on my to-do list.
Worst book: Butterfly in the Wind by Rei Kimura (2000)
What do you know, I do have a review of this year’s worst read on Graasland! ;) That’s because it was the first book I read for the Japanese Literature Challenge (for which I actually only needed to read 1 book, but why stop, especially after such a disappointment? ;) I read Butterfly in the Wind in Dutch (Vlinder in de wind) and found the content, the way the story was told ánd the translation all h o r r i b l e.
I have thought of listing more books especially worth mentioning, but I had many good reads this year so I’ll just give you the whole lot of them. The first title (Silk) was read last, the last of the list my first book of 2009 (Falling Angels). Are there any of these you would have picked as your best read?
- Zijde (Seta / Silk), Alessandro Baricco
- The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson (online reading group)
- I am a cat (Wagahai wa Neko de Aru), 2nd volume, Natsume Sōseki (Japanese Literature Read-along, JapLit Challenge)
- The Old Capital (Koto 古都), Yasunari Kawabata (Japanese Literature Reading Group)
- Persuasion, Jane Austen audio book
- In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (November Book Group read; What’s in a Name)
- I am a cat (Wagahai wa Neko de Aru), 1st volume, Natsume Sōseki (Japanese Literature Read-along, JapLit Challenge)
- Coraline, Neil Gaiman (graphic novel)
- De pianoman, Bernlef
- Be With You (Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu), Takuji Ichikawa
- The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck ((multiple) challenge book) TNX to boekenxnl for this rabck!
- Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates (Classics challenge; online reading group)
- Het Pauperparadijs, Suzanna Jansen (non-fiction)
- To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Bookcrossing bookring / (multiple) challenge book)
- Vlinder in de wind (Butterfly in the Wind), Rei Kimura (Japanese Literature challenge book)
- Away, Amy Bloom (online reading group)
- The Mapmaker’s Wife, Robert Whitaker (Bookcrossing bookring / What’s in a name challenge book)
- What came before he shot her, Elizabeth George (What’s in a name challenge book)
- With no one as witness, Elizabeth George
- Zo god het wil (Crossroads / Come Dio Comanda), Niccolò Ammaniti
- De inboorling, Stevo Akkerman
- Ten zuiden van de grens, ten westen van de zon (Kokkyo no minami, Taiyo no nishi / South of the Border, West of the Sun), Haruki Murakami
- De kleine keizer (‘The Little Emperor‘), Martin Bril (What’s in a name challenge book)
- Nikolski, Nicolas Dickner (ring)
- Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh ((multiple) challenge book / bookgroup)
- Slam, Nick Hornby
- Notes from an exhibition, Patrick Gale
- Rivier der vergetelheid (Meuse l’oubli), Philippe Claudel
- Dans dans dans (Dansu dansu dansu / Dance dance dance), Haruki Murakami
- The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro ((multiple) challenge book)
- Grijze zielen, Philippe Claudel (What’s in a name challenge book)
- The National Trust for Scotland: Brodie Castle (non-fiction)
- De ijdele engel, Godfried Bomans
- The End of Mr Y, Scarlett Thomas (TNX to rapturina for this rabck!)
- Vallende engelen (Falling Angels), Tracey Chevalier
The ‘stats’ (for real geeks like me ;) will have to wait until another day. But here’s what I read in 2008 and in 2007 — for those of you who haven’t had enough yet (are you also from the Eighties generation, too fond of making lists? ;)
My Google map will show you my Bookcrossing releases of all-time. Making a sidebar button for it is one of my wishes for next week’s Bloggiesta! As is, maybe, a special page where I can bring my year lists together?
Coincidently (dôh) this week’s Booking Through Thursday wants to know exactly what I’ve been talking about today!
Let’s start this Salon post with a confession: I have been a bad grrl and bought 3 more books for myself!
- I Am a Cat (Natsume Soseki)
- The Old Capital (Yasunari Kawabata)
- The Housekeeper and the Professor (Yoko Ogawa)
I’ve got a great excuse though: I joined the new online Japanese Literature Book Group and Read-along at In Spring It Is The Dawn — and these are the first books on the agenda. I am really looking forward to it!
Another fun thing to do over there is this months Hello Japan! mini mission:
Read or watch something scary, spooky, or suspenseful, and Japanese of course!
Since I have enough to read already I decided to rent a movie that has been on my wishlist for a long time now: Dark Water (Honogurai mizu no soko kara), by Hideo Nakata. You might have heard of the American remake with Jodie Foster, but I prefered to see the original. I’ll tell you why in my upcoming review post! It was a nice Friday night activity to surprise Mr Gnoe with, especially with the stormy autumn weather that has set in :)
But back to bookish things. For the last three months of 2009 I am also participating in the Set It Yourself Challenge (SIY) #10. Just to keep the pressure on my challenges: I have listed all 5 books I need to read before the end of this year:
- The Chosen (Chaim Potok)
- The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
- The Pillowbook (Sei Shonagon)
- The Sea, the Sea (Iris Murdoch)
- The Old Capital (Yasunari Kawabata)
I have joined this Bookcrossing challenge before in 2008 and 2009; succeeding twice, failing once…
Speaking of Bookcrossing: I made a first attempt at the Bookcrossing monthly readathon. But instead of 24 I read for 15 hours and 8 in the last week of September. So technically I failed but I am actually quite proud of the result because it was an awfully busy week. You can read about my thoughts concerning the readathon in Friday’s post. Now I am really looking forward to the autumnal 24 hour read-a-thon of October 24th! I am already making a list of books and snacks to lock myself in with :)
Partly thanks to the readathon I finished more books in September than I usually read in a month:
- Vlinder in de wind (Butterfly in the Wind) by Rei Kimura (reviewed)
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (review pending), #4 on the list of Banned and Challenged Classics
- Het pauperparadijs (Pauper Paradise) by Suzanna Jansen (no review planned)
- Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (review pending)
Current book: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Wednesday’s update post will tell you why I picked this book. I am ‘buddy reading’ with two Boekgrrls: MaaikeB and Manon, so one of these days I should mail them my thoughts so far!
Another exciting thing going on this week is BAFAB! Buy A Friend A Book. One of my favourite reads of the past years is on its way to a long time friend that is on a busy schedule at the moment. I’ll give the book a chance to arrive for a few days longer, so I can’t say more! ;)
Do you BAFAB?
Challenges / Bookgroups etc.
Progress update on my challenges that I have not yet mentioned above:
- Japanese Challenge (Aug 2009-Mar 2010): read and reviewed 1/1
(✔ finished, but intent on reading more)
- Classics Challenge (2009, entree level): read 3/6, reviewed 0/6
- What’s In A Name Challenge (2009): read 6/6, reviewed 3/6
- Personal 2008-2009 Challenge: read 8/12
- SIY Challenge #10 (Oct-Dec 2009): read 0/5
Current Bookgroup reads:
- Boekgrrls September book: Away, by Amy Bloom (read and reviewed in Dutch on the mailing list)
- Boekgrrls October book: Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates (read, to be reviewed)
- Japanese Literature Book Group for November 30th: The Old Capital, by Yasunari Kawabata (TBR)
- Japanese Literature Read-along for November 15th: I Am A Cat (part I), by Natsume Soseki (TBR)
That’s it for now. I need to get up my review of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird a.s.a.p. so that I can send this Bookcrossing book along to the next reader. Better get on with it!
HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY! (Yes, I should really try to get my hands on a Ren & Stimpy dvd! ;)
Having blogged about Rei Kimura’s Butterfly in the Wind I officially accomplished my Japanese Literature Challenge for this year! But like I said in my post I will not stop at just one book.
More good news is that I finished To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee today. I feel really good about that, not only because it is a GREAT book and I am happy to have read it, but also because I can cross it off my personal and classics challenges. Of course I do still need to review it, especially since it is a Bookcrossing bookring. I liked To Kill a Mockingbird so much I am going to look for a nice copy to keep! There are many, many editions out there… Oops, what did I write this week about not getting any more books?? :\
The book I picked up from Mt. TBR to read next is Dutch again: Het pauperparadijs, by Suzanna Jansen. In October we’ll be having a company outing to a museum in the area that the story describes; the Gevangenismuseum (Jail Museum) is actually the last remaining building of the work-house where poor people were sometimes sent to in the 1800′s. It will be so much more fun (ahem) going there having read the book!
But for now, I am looking forward to the Book Blogger Appreciation Week, starting at midnight!
What were your bookish things this week?
What a horrible book.
Erm… Let’s make my mind up!
I was pretty curious about the life of Okichi Saito, concubine of Townsend Harris, the first American Consul to Japan in 1856. ‘Tojin Okichi‘ (‘tojin’ being the mistress of a foreigner) didn’t want to be his courtisane but the feudal system made her because it would provide better negotiation opportunities for the Japanese. It ruined her life – and of those around her. No, I am not giving anything away by saying that because it is common knowledge (early in the book) and even so, the author herself… No, I’ll get to that later ;)
At first I just got annoyed by the awful translation. To make some of my Dutch readers cringe, I would like to present 3 short sentences (I couldn’t choose!). Non-Dutch readers will just have to accept that these quotes are really terrible ;)
Alleen door zichzelf zo te kastijden kon ze de pijn lenigen van een uitstoting die ze de rest van haar leven zou voelen. [p.47]
Het was een pand tussen een vriendelijke rij nameko-huizen, zo typisch voor Shimoda en zag uit op het drukke puin. [p.55]
Dan drukte zich de hel opdringende omgeving van haar noodlijdende kapperszaak haar op de werkelijkheid van wat er van haar geworden was en haar gezicht betrok. [p.68]
Hey, reading these translations I think I just discovered who is really behind the Google translator! LOL
More and more I got the feeling I wouldn’t have liked the original either. The book is full of Okichi’s thoughts and feelings, almost more than anything else. I guess (and hope) author Rei Kimura studied a lot of Egodocuments in the Okichi Museum in Shimoda (there are no endnotes so I can’t be sure) but I still think she has filled in too much of what she can’t know. At one time she even lets the protagonist mourn that her friend Naoko was born in the wrong place and time for her ambitions. Of course it would be great if the author made us think that, but Okichi could not have known how much times would change, especially for women.
There’s just a small voice in the back of my head that keeps wondering… Before Butterfly in the Wind was printed, it was published digitally and nominated for the E-book Awards of the Frankfurter Buchmesse :\
But I also didn’t like how the story got ‘thrown together’. Way before the middle of the book the reader already knows how it will end. And then has to read about it again and again… First Kimura tells us what is going to happen next, then she decribes it in detail – only to look back on it again in the following pages. I got REALLY tired of it! I assumed I would still like to read her book about Aum Shinrikyo, the religious group that carried out the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subways in 1995. That also seemed like an interesting topic. But now that I have finished Butterfly in the Wind… PLEASE don’t make me?!
I can’t recommend this book to anyone: it left me feeling completely miserable. Yes, Okichi Saito has had a very sad life. But this horrible book and translation don’t do her much credit.
Having said that, I would like to tell you why it has been interesting reading Butterfly in the Wind at this moment. Before the Americans entered Japan in 1856 and Townsend Harris ‘negotiated’ the Treaty of Peace and Commerce, a.k.a. Harris Treaty, the Dutch were the only foreigners allowed to trade with (and live in) Japan for more than two centuries, starting in 1609. So this year we are celebrating 400 years of exchange between Japan and Holland! There’s even a special coin: Japan Fiver (valid currency worth 5 euros) — and I’ve got it ;) I will hang on to it for a while and then find an appropriate event to spend it.
This weekend I will be visiting From here to Tokyo, an exhibition where the authentic 1609 trade permit from Shôgun Ieyasu Tokugawa on display; the document allowing the Dutch East India Company (VOC) monopoly of trade. I am looking forward to that more now that I have read Butterfly in the Wind! It brings Japanese history closer to today.
There’s also an online exhibition on this topic in Het Geheugen van Nederland; texts are in Dutch but you might just look at the many ancient pictures!
I have thought about getting rid of Butterfly in the Wind, but I think I will keep the book because of its photographs — and to look up places to visit when we may be planning a trip to Japan in the future… But first I am going to do some more ‘virtual’ traveling through books. I am not finishing the Japanese Literature Challenge with a disappointing read like this! Just wait and see :)
So, what were my bookish things in the first week of September?
As I told you last week my online book group is reading Away by Amy Bloom in September. I’ve sent in my review (in Dutch). Maybe someday I’ll feel like transforming it into an English blogpost for Graasland, like I did on Wednesday with The Little Emperor (De kleine keizer) by Martin Bril, a book about Napoleon that is part of the What’s in a Name challenge, category ‘profession‘. I have read all 6 books for this challenge but still need to review half of them!
But hey, I quickly finished my reading for the JapLit Challenge this week: Butterfly in the Wind (Vlinder in de Wind) by Rei Kimura. A review is upcoming so I’ll keep my thoughts about this ‘biographical novel’ secret just a little longer!
The day I finished Kimura’s novel, the Bookcrossing bookray of To Kill a Mockingbird arrived from Portugal. Just in time because on Saturday I had to travel 5 hours by train! And you can’t travel without a book, can you? (Although I must admit I spent part of my journey preparing this Salon post ;)
With this book I finally picked up on the Classics Challenge again. I didn’t know much about it in advance, just that it is a classic. And from the movie Capote I learned that Harper Lee was Truman Capote’s assistant – but that he didn’t respect her much as an author. Unbelievable, because To Kill a Mockingbird gripped me from page 1!
The novel is also part of my personal 2008-2009 challenge. My last read from the list was in January (!) this year: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (which I will review for the What’s in a Name challenge, category ‘time of day‘). With 3 more books in my personal challenge and only 4 months to go, it feels good to be back on track!
This week ended with a bookish surprise when I got home from my long journey yesterday. There were no less than 3 books in my mailbox! I’ll tell you about them some other time :)
This is my first time participating in the Sunday Salon. So what bookish things happened to me in week 35?
I finally finished reading The Mapmaker’s Wife by Robert Whitaker. If it hadn’t been a Bookcrossing bookring that came highly recommended by people I trust, I would never have read this book. But now I spent a long time in South American atmospheres, unconsciously stimulating me to eat Moros y Cristiani (Cuban black beans with rice) and have a Mexican meal three times, while listening to the soundtrack of my favourite movie The Mission. I also wrote a review on Graasland because I am participating with this book in the What’s in a Name reading challenge, filing it under two categories: profession and relative. No, I’m not cheating ;) It was my second review for this challenge — but the last book I needed to read! That means I’ve been procrastinating on 4 other reviews… :\
After that I started reading Away, by Amy Bloom. And I almost finished it in one go! It is on the list for September in my Dutch online bookgroup (the Boekgrrls) and since it was nominated by me I had to write a reminder to the mailinglist. So I did ;) They’ll have to wait for my review until September has started though! But I can say I especially liked the vivid images of Lillian Leyb’s 1927 journey from New York to Alaska. It was no easy travelling!
Something that also ‘happened’ (ahum) to me this week: I subscribed to another reading challenge! O no, not again! LOL. But the Japanese Literature Challenge has a very easy target: read one (yes, 1) work by an author of Japanese origin before the end of January 2010. Well, I already started Butterly in the Wind by Rei Kimura: a biographic novel about Okichi Saito, the unwilling Japanese concubine of the first American Consul to Japan in the mid 1800′s. I might not stop at that because I LOVE reading Japanese authors — or books about Japanese culture (like non-fiction about origata I am also looking into: Giftwrapping, by Kunio Ekiguchi) — and there’s a chance I’ll be reading some along with other participants of the JLC. I’ll tell you about that when it happens ;)
I should be locked in a cabin with just books and NO internet. Or my computer should block all book blogs. What happened? I joined another reading challenge! Like I need one… with those other 3 I already have going on :\
Well, at least Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge shouldn’t be too difficult for me: I need to read one work of Japanese origin before the end of January 2010. Hey, I can do that, right? I read three in the first half of 2009 and I have several waiting on the shelf anyway! For example:
Butterfly in the Wind (Rei Kimura), in Dutch
Dreaming Water (Gail Tsukiyama)
The Language of Threads (Gail Tsukiyama)
The Street of a Thousand Blossoms (Gail Tsukiyama)
Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World (Haruki Murakami), in Dutch
The Unconsoled (Kazuo Ishiguro)
Nocturnes (Kazuo Ishiguro)
But first I should make sure I finish my current book because it is taking waaaaaaaay too long!
Edited to add: I was thinking… The Pillowbook by Sei Shonagon is not on my bookshelf yet, but it IS on my other challenge lists already. I should make things easy for myself and try to get my hands on a copy!
This week’s Booking through Thursday asks everyone to share their Mt. TBR. Well, here’s mine!
As you can see my Mount To Be Read contains 14 books. 14? Not 15? No, better look closely and count again! :)
From top to bottom, small to large:
- Away (Amy Bloom)
- The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (Michael Chabon)
- Travels in the Scriptorium (Paul Auster)
- The Brooklyn Follies (Paul Auster)
- Drivetime (James Meek)
- Dead Air (Iain Banks)
- The China Lover in Dutch (Dromen van China, Ian Buruma)
- Butterfly in the Wind in Dutch (Vlinder in de wind, Rei Kimura)
- Dreaming Water (Gail Tsukiyama)
- The Language of Threads (Gail Tsukiyama)
- The Street of a Thousand Blossoms (Gail Tsukiyama)
- The Mapmaker’s Wife (Robert Whitaker) — just starting this one
- The Wasted Vigil (Nadeem Aslam)
- The Gargoyle (Andrew Davidson)
This stack shows what you might consider my ‘priority reads’. I have some more books lounging unread in several spots in my home, like The Chosen (Chaim Potok) and Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck). Hm, I really should put those higher on the list since they are part of several personal reading challenges ánd they are Bookcrossing books that like to travel!
But wait a minute… where are Revolutionary Road and Easter Parade by Richard Yates???
Good thing Booking Trough Thursday made me check my Mount! I guess I I have some rearranging to do — I don’t think my (literal) bookshelf will hold any more copies without coming off the wall.. So, bye for now!