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I love reading challenges. Not that I need any, but I like how they tend to shuffle my reading pile. Still, after feeling overwhelmed in 2010 I decided to be very careful with challenges in 2011. So I accepted only five! #goodgrrl :)

What’s the status now that December is around the corner? Am I getting stressed like last year? Do I feel accomplished? Need to get my act together and READ?

Completed 2011 reading challenges

Before I go any further I humbly bow my head and confess that even though I’ve read all the books I commited to for the following three challenges, I reviewed hardly any. 2011 has not been a great year of blogging for me. But as we’re talking reading challenges, I’ll consider my missions accomplished!

HARUKI MURAKAMI READING CHALLENGE

Murakami Challenge 2011 cover button

For the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge I chose level TORU (named after our dear friend from The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, the first Murakami novel I ever laid my hands on). That means reading 5 books by the master (here’s my admission post). So far I’ve read 6 (!) and I plan to read one more before the year has ended — ask Elsje if you don’t believe me. ;) If I live up to my promiss that collection of short stories will lift me to the level of Nakata (from Kafka on the Shore).

Books read:

Hear the Wind Sing
Pinball, 1973
Underground
1q84 Boek 1
1q84 Boek 2
1q84 Boek 3

And yes, the Dutch translation of 1Q84 was published in three seperate volumes, coming out in June 2010 and April 2011. Also, the title is deliberately written with a lower case ‘Q’ because it much resembles a ‘9’. I like that and have no idea why it should be different in the Japanese original and English version. Us Dutchies are pedantic. ;)

Last week Elsje and I went to a lecture about Haruki Murakami by translator Luc Van Haute in Leiden’s Sieboldhuis. He explained to us how the often stated opinion that Murakami’s novels are not typically Japanese is just plain wrong. It was fun — I have a huge reading list of Japanese authors to follow up ;) — and we also got to see the Hello Kitty exhibition and meet ennazussuzanne and Seraphine, who surprised us with the gift of an origami bookmark! Aw, that’ll come to good use when reading… JLit!

JAPANESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE #5

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logo

The fifth Japanese Literature Challenge only started in June and runs to February, but on October 1st I had already finished the 6 books I commited to. That day I turned over the last page of 1Q84 Book 3. As I still plan to read Sōseki’s Kokoro for the Japanese Literature Book Group (I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!), and Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes together with Elsje, I’ll probably up my level by the end of January 2012.

Books read:

The Woman in the Dunes ~ Kobo Abe
Underground ~ Haruki Murakami
Thousand Cranes ~ Yasunari Kawabata
1q84 Boek 1 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 2 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 3 ~ Haruki Murakami

FOODIES READING CHALLENGE

Foodie's Reading Challenge 2011 button

In the Foodies reading Challenge I cowardly safely labeled myself a NIBBLER, going for 1 to 3 books (admission post). So far I’ve read 5, and –YAY– even reviewed two!

Books read:

World Food Café
La Dolce Vegan!
Bento Box in the Heartland
Verraad, verleiding en verzoening
Vegan Family Meals

I hope I can find the time and energy to write some more reviews!

Unfinished business

But I’m not there yet. With only five weeks to go I need to finish two more challenges… Will I be able to do it???

CHINESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE

Chinese Literature Challenge button

I was half a year late in joining the Chinese Literature Challenge and I full-heartedly use that as an excuse for why I haven’t reached my goal of 1 book yet. ;) Here’s what I plan to read. Cheer me on and maybe I’ll be able to cross of this challenge before the year has passed!

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #4

What's in a Name Challenge #4 button (2011)

The What’s in a name challenge is always one of my favourites. It’s a thrill to pick your next book just based on a random word in the title. Call me crazy. ;) Alas, this year I’m having trouble finishing: even though I read several more than one fitting titles for four of the six categories, two are still open!

Books read:

Categorie NUMBERS
Pinball, 1973 ~ Haruki Murakami
2666 ~ Roberto Bolaño
1q84 ~ Haruki Murakami

Categorie TRAVEL/MOVEMENT
Travels in the Scriptorium ~ Paul Auster
I’ll Steal You Away ~ Niccolò Ammaniti
Model Flying ~ Marcel Möring

Categorie EVIL
Poelie the Terrible ~ Frans Pointl
Crime School ~ Carol O’Connell

Categorie LIFE STAGE
Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America ~ Linda Furiya

Still hoping to get around to:

Categorie JEWEL/GEM
The Moonstone ~ Wilkie Collins

Categorie SIZE
Vernon God Little ~ DBC Pierre

BTW you can always follow my progress on the special Challenge page on Graasland!

What’s new for 2012?

2012 is more than a month away but I have already lined up some reading plans. Wanna know what they are?

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #5

What's in a name challenge #5 button

Of course I can’t resist participating in the new What’s in a name challenge. I must say that I never buy or borrow books specifically for this challenge — picking titles that are already on Mt TBR, or have been on my wishlist for quite some time, is part of the fun. So what are the categories for 2012 and which books fit the bill?

  • A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title
    Choosing from: Last Night in Twisted River, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms
  • A book with something you’d see in the sky in the title
    Choosing from: The Moonstone, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, A Ride in the Neon Sun, Noorderzon (sun), Dead Air, Star of the Sea
  • A book with a creepy crawly in the title
    Choosing from: Little Bee, Een tafel vol vlinders (‘A table loaded with butterflies‘)
  • A book with a type of house in the title
    Choosing from: The Graveyard Book, Black Box, Het huis op de plantage (‘House on the plantation‘)
  • A book with something you’d carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title
    Choosing from: Dreaming Water, Water for ElephantsMet bonzend hart : brieven aan Hella S. Haasse (‘With a throbbing heart: letters to Hella S. Haasse‘) [open to suggestions]
  • A book with a something you’d find on a calendar in the title
    Choosing from: The Eigth Day, Silence in October, Nocturnes

Don’t you think I have a whole lot of books available just to pick from? :))

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES GROUP READ

Let me state first that I haven’t commited to the following task yet. I’m only considering it! Caravana de Recuerdos hosts a Roberto Bolaño The Savage Detectives readalong in January. I have the book on my shelf — it was a recommendation by the great author Kazuo Ishiguro — and I guess now is as good as ever. Especially since I didn’t much appreciate Bolaño’s 2666, which I read together with Leeswammes & Co. earlier this year. I’d better say it’s now.. or never!

Are you making plans for 2012 yet?
Looking back on your accomplishments for 2011?
I’d love to know!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

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Amanda from The Zen Leaf won the Japanese bookmark by Kitagawa Utamaro from my The Housekeeper and the Professor giveaway!

Soon after I began working for the Professor, I realized that he talked about numbers whenever he was unsure of what to say or do. Numbers were his way of reaching out to the world. They were safe, a source of comfort. [p.7]

Cover The Housekeeper and the ProfessorThe Housekeeper and the Professor (Hakase no Aishita Suushiki) is a novel by Yoko Ogawa about a single mother who comes to work as a housekeeper for a former mathematics teacher whose short time memory lasts for only 80 minutes — needing multiple post-it notes pinned to his suit to help him remember things. Each day it’s like meeting eachother for the first time; still they grow close.

Names are not relevant in such a situation, basic properties are. So it’s just ‘the Housekeeper’ and her 10 year old son ‘Root’, nicknamed by the Professor because his head is flattened like the square root sign: . Just like characters of a mathematical puzzle that need to be named to be able to calculate with them.

It’s a charming, heartwarming story about family bonding between people that are not related. I was afraid I would be bored because I’m not particularly interested in mathematics… Nor do I know anything about baseball, which appeared to be another main subject of the book :-o But I had no problem at all enjoying this lovely story. I actually learned something ;) About ‘amicable numbers’ and ‘twin primes’ for example. You can look them up in Wikipedia but it’s much more fun to read this book! It probably explains it better too ;)

Being a museumgrrl I also liked the concept of collecting baseball cards. Though I didn’t learn much about it ;) But something I did come to know more about through the baseball topic, are Devas. I looked them up after reading the following depiction of a famous Japanese baseball player ‘in the field’.

Enatsu on the mound, his fierce stance like a Deva King guarding a temple. [p.81]

Deva King by Aschaf

Deva king, picture courtesy of Aschaf

Devas are Buddhist deities — those angry looking red giants that you must have seen somewhere, sometime. These temple guardians ward off evil = anything that threatens Buddhism. The biggest museum in The Netherlands, the Rijksmuseum (where Rembrandt’s The Nightwatch is on display), recently acquired two of these statues originating from the 14th century Iwayaji temple in Shimane, that was restored in 1839. Research will determine the exact date of these ‘heavenly generals’ (Niō).* When the Rijksmuseum reopens after many years of building activities — hopefully in 2013 — they will flank the entrance of the new Asian Pavilion.

Bookmark Japanese servantAlthough The Housekeeper and the Professor is (obviously) about living in the present, the story is constructed of memories from the housekeeper. She has a gentle way of telling, so when the story unfolds you know something is about to happen, but there’s no real shock effect.

Because of the Professor’s loss of memory and the sticky notes that aid him, this book of course strongly reminds of the fascinating movie Memento. Except in the film Guy Pearce relies on tattoos — and it’s not a kind story like The Housekeeper… But the book also reminded me of another very good movie: Goodbye Lenin, in which a son pretends their hometown East Berlin is still communist when his mother awakens from a long coma in 1990. The Professor’s memory ends in 1975, the year he had his accident, so the Housekeeper and her son often act as if no time has passed as well.

Now, how do you like my bookmark with a Japanese housekeeper on the left? It’s a print from around 1795 by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806), called Servant Naniwa O-Hisa carrying a cup of tea and a smoker’s set. Would you like to have one just like it? I bought a duplicate to give away! Just comment on this post telling me if you know of any more GOOD movies about memory, numbers, mathematics or science (you get the picture). The giveaway ends on Friday 5th of February and is open to all!

I read The Housekeeper and the Professor for the Japanese Literature Book Group (discussion post) and as part of the Japanese Literature Challenge and 3rd What’s in a Name challenge (category ‘title’). It was a fine story to begin the year with.

What's in a name challenge button

* As far as I’ve been able to figure out, Niō and Deva kings are (almost) the same kind of temple guardians. But I’m open to correction!

24hrreadathonbuttonI know the correct spelling of Dewey’s 24 hour read-a-thon, but from now on I’m going to write it without the negative signs: readathon — because it is so much quicker to type! I’m really exited because I’ve got less than an hour to go before the readathon starts at 14:00 Amsterdam time. Last minute preparations have started! And some last minute additions, as you can see in the picture…

And yes, that includes the side table! We’ve had our eyes on this for a long time now but today I really really need it! :) So I went by the furniture shop this morning, after I had my hair cut. I als picked up another book: Silk by Alessandro Baricco (in Dutch: Zijde). bijzettafelI already told you that I liked to add it to my pile of readathon books and I had to go to the bookshop anyway… because I had lost the bookmark I wanted to use for my current read: I Am a Cat (Natsume Soseki). I got so frustrated by it that I decided to buy the exact same bookmark again: a Japanese white-eye bird made by Hiroshige. But then I found an even better marker of a black cat in autumn! It is by Hishida Shunso — I have not heard of the artist before, have you?

I hate losing favourite bookmarks, but this proves it can be a good thing too ;) Have you heard of our adventurous bookmark from Cappadocia?

Well, I’d better stop blogging and get the rest of my preparations done… See you in a bit!

This week’s edition of Weekly Geeks is just what I was waiting for…

focus on one of the most useful tools for a bibliophile: Bookmarks

I have been contemplating a post about my adventurous bookmark for a while now. It’s really an amazing story!

We went on holiday to the fabulous Unesco World Heritage Site Cappadocia in Turkey. In Göreme’s bookshop 1001 Books we bought Barbara Nadel’s Dance with Death: a mystery that’s situated in the area.

With it, we got a free bookmark. Mr Gnoe used that a lot! It brought back happy memories of our hiking holiday :) But a few months after we got back home it suddenly disappeared :( We looked everywhere, took apart our whole house, flicked through all the books we had recently read, looked under cupboards, but no: it really was completely lost.

And then… after 2 weeks the weather was great so we decided to have a drink in the park after work. I parked my bicycle at the gate — what the *** was that? I saw some familiar colours in the grass! Yes, it definitely was our own bookmark from Turkey :-o No idea how it got there! Thus ended the trip of our Cappadocian marker. And its life because it was in no state to be used anymore :( So it was recycled to be reincarnated. LOL

After that I made Mr Gnoe a personal bookmark with pictures of our holiday. And what do you know? He lost it.. : Again.

Well, better look at the bright side of things: such a good excuse to go back for another vacation in Cappadocia! To get another bookmarker that’s as fond of travelling as we are :)

The rest of my bookmark collection can be seen (and read about) on flickr.

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!

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