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BTT logoThis week’s Booking Through Thursday is about Olympic reading.

You may have noticed–the Winter Olympics are going on. Is that affecting your reading time? Have you read any Olympics-themed books? What do you think about the Olympics in general? Here’s your chance to discuss!

The Winter Olympics do not interest me AT ALL. I’m actually waiting for them to end so that my usual (radio) programs will be back on. Alas, there’s not much to gain since I do not spend much time in front of the telly at ‘normal’ times, so I do not read more these days either.

BUT. The question triggered me to write about a recent Olympic movie I saw this month on the International Film Festival Rotterdam: Atletu. It’s a biopic (directed by Davey Frankel and – leading actor – Rasselas Lakew) of the first African to receive Olympic gold, the Ethiopian Abebe Bikila, who won the 1960 summer marathon in Rome. It was a great boost of confidence for the people of Ethiopia and the African continent. The amazing thing was that he ran the 42+ kilometers on bare feet! Not because he wasn’t used to shoes (that’s a typical western thought ;) but because the pair sponsor Adidas provided didn’t really fit. So he preferred to discard them.

Abebe Bikila barefoot running Olympic marathon in Rome, 1960

Abebe won again in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, even though he had had an operation for acute appendicitis just a few weeks before. Not only did he establish a new world record, he was also the fist athlete to win the Olympic marathon twice!
A car accident prevented him from winning a third time… But even as a paraplegic he continued to have an interesting sports life.

The life of Abebe Bikila is quite remarkable, so I wonder why there hasn’t been made a film about him before. And what a pity that Atletu isn’t as good a movie as it could be. I found it a bit boring at times: too much recounting of facts, too many flashbacks for my taste. His accident was tragic of course, although from the movie I got the idea he wouldn’t have wanted you to pity him — and that at the same time that he was quite bitter about it. That clashes with one of his famous quotes:

Men of success meet with tragedy. It was the will of God that I won the Olympics, and it was the will of God that I met with my accident. I accepted those victories as I accept this tragedy. I have to accept both circumstances as facts of life and live happily.

Scene from the film Atletu (Ethiopia, 2009)

Of course it is always fascinating to see documentary footage in a feature film. But there’s the risk of competing with the newly shot material. A nice touch was to have the adult Abebe travel to the place of his youth, so that we got to see the beautiful landscapes of the area where he had trained to become a long distance runner (great shots). And yes, Rasselas Lakew played Bikila very well. Really, this could have been an amazing film. Unfortunately it just doesn’t have ‘it‘. Still, it was one of the favourites of the festival audience. So never mind me ;)

A fun fact for film buffs: the well-received movie Marathon Man honours Abebe Bikila with a scene in which Thomas ‘Babe’ Levy (Dustin Hoffman) escapes his torturers, barefoot outrunning a car.

Ha. I couldn’t seem to get myself to write a post about our visit to the IFFR. Now (at least) I’m down 1 of 5 movie ‘reviews’! I plan to finish the rest before my ‘Day at the Oscars’ on March 6th… It might not be a marathon, but it certainly seems an endurance race to me!


The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

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 ;)

2009 FIRSTS:

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!

Today’s Booking Through Thursday question is soooo easy I can’t resist replying shortly during my lunch break.

What’s the biggest book you’ve read recently?

We just talked about that while having a Bookcrossing OBCZ maintenance meeting during dinner on Monday (that’s what happens when booklovers meet ;)

  • Think ‘volume’: With No One as Witness, by Elizabeth George (774 pages; it took me 2 weeks).
  • Think ‘fame’: Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh (post upcoming), followed shortly by The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (post also upcoming).
  • Think ‘size’: Falling Angels, by Tracey Chevalier (352 pages of hardback; not extraordinarily huge).
  • Think ‘biggest hype’: books by Haruki Murakami — I recently read Dance dance dance and South of the Border, West of the Sun.

Let me guess: next week’s question will be What’s the smallest book you’ve read recently?! Where can I place my bets?

On the threshold of Thursday I would like to write a quick post about the Booking Through Thursday topic of last week: Preferences.

Which do you prefer? (Quick answers–we’ll do more detail at some later date)

Well, I’ll be as brief as possible but I do feel the need to add short explanations to my answers. Why? Because I never like to read plain lists myself either!

  • Reading something frivolous? Or something serious?
    That depends on my mood. Frivolous when I’m tired (busy at work) or on a holiday, but over all I like a serious read.
  • Paperbacks? Or hardcovers?
    Hardcovers look good on my bookshelf ;) And their sustainability is probably better. But paperbacks are often lighter and thus easier to bring along, read in bed etc.
  • Fiction? Or Nonfiction?
    Mostly fiction because it is easier (quicker) to take in and I read for recreation. But I like to alternate with non-fiction when the topic is interesting or (and) the book well-written. Right now I’m reading non-fiction: The Mapmaker’s Wife by Robert Whitaker.
  • Poetry? Or Prose?
    Prose. Prose. And prose.
  • Biographies? Or Autobiographies?
    I like both, as long as they are well-written. Autobiographies are in danger of being badly written (having an interesting personality is no guarantee for being a good writer), and the author might keep his/her secrets hidden in the closet. Or overexagerate ;) Then again, the information is first hand! Biographies can get too sensational or spin a story out of nothing because well… the writer could not really find anything really interesting to talk about. Besides The Mapmaker’s Wife the last biography I read was about Marlene Dietrich, written by her daughter. And it was really b o r i n g — more than 1000 pages long!
  • History? Or Historical Fiction?
    Hm, probably authentic historical fiction ;) Although… The Mapmaker’s Wife seems good ;) My favourite read of 2008 was historical fiction: The Teahouse Fire, by Ellis Avery. I really loved it!
  • Series? Or Stand-alones?
    Again: both. Series to read in a span of several years so that you know what to expect of the characters etc. I wrote about that in my review of What Came Before He Shot Her, the 14th Elizabeth George mysteries I recently read.
  • Classics? Or best-sellers?
    YES! (Wasn’t that the question? ;)
  • Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose?
    I guess I prefer straight-forward, basic.
  • Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness?
    Plots. (What can I say, I am learning to be short here! ;)
  • Long books? Or Short?
    Long or medium so you can really dive into a story. I don’t like ‘m short because then they are over when I am just beginning to enjoy myself.
  • Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated?
    Depends on the book. But if I really have to choose: no illustrations because I like to create my own images.
  • Borrowed? Or Owned?
    Owned if it is so good I would like to keep the book. Borrowed if I don’t (that saves money, doesn’t it? ;)
  • New? Or Used?
    Erm, used is okay if the books are in good condition: not dirty (!) or smelly or falling apart :( New is better :)
  • Adding my own question: Translation? Or original language?
    I’m Dutch but I like to read English books in their original language as much as possible: I believe the author’s style of writing is important to a good book as well. I would like to do so with all languages I can understand (French and German), but my vocabulary is too rusty and don’t feel like training myself when I am actually having time off.

So much for my preferences. I am afraid I will get excommunicated by btt for being too verbose… But really, this is quick for me! ;)

Ha! I seem to have foreseen this week’s question of Booking Through Thursday:

Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room?

Most of my Mount TBR (To Be Read) is hanging on the wall… as you can see in last week’s post. Go look if you haven’t read it yet!

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!

Booking Through Thursday dares us this week to organize our books in a different way, using titles as a guideline.

Although I wouldn’t actually dream of doing this IRL on my book shelves, it was sure fun being challenged to think about it! So I’ve got 3 title stories to share with you (saving the best for last).

It was hard getting all titles readable in the picture, so I got a little help with the first one ;)

After the quake
The unconsoled
Black dogs
Dance with death
Through the green valley

In the country of men
The romantic
Servant of the bones
In cold blood
Through the green valley

My favourite:

After dark
Everything is illuminated

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!


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