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Cow postcard sent to Germany NL-112622 (copyright unknown)

Okay, now it’s official: sometimes I’m just a stupid Dutch cow. *
(Cows are cute though! ;)

I thought that the Friday Book Blogger Hop only happened on… Fridays. I even laughed at Novroz for doing it on the wrong day! Silly me ;) Jennifer’s Book Blogger Hop at Crazy for Books is a party that goes on for the whole weekend.

This week I was triggered by Lori enquiring:

Do you listen to music when you read? If so, what are your favorite reading tunes?

Book Blogger Hop logoMy answer to this question is that it really depends on the book I’m reading, the music I’m listening to, loudness & language. If I’m reading a book in English the lyrics of a dito song can be distracting if it is being played too loud. On the other hand I love to create a cosy atmosphere with some candles and soft classical music, or melancholic Turkish songs by Sezen Aksu. So there’s no definite yes or no to this question!

Album cover Hot Day In Waco (Dogbowl & Kramer)Without a doubt books and music can become an integrated experience. Right after I had finished my studies in Museology I lay in bed for three whole days and read. Noooo, I wasn’t ill! Just tired and very happy with my time off. Mr Gnoe (who was still only Gnoe’s BF at the time ;) had recently bought a cd by Dogbowl & Kramer, called A Hot Day in Waco. He played it all the time, while I was immersed in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy… It is more than 10 years ago but whenever I hear a song from that album, Frodo, Gollum & Gandalf appear before my mind’s eye and I’m back in Middle-Earth!

The Lord of the Rings / In de Ban van de ring

Mr Gnoe’s taste in music has evolved and Kramer can only very rarely be heard at our place these days. But today I’ll share When te Sun Goes Down with you (4:19 mins)!

I would like to add that this was the first and only time I have read books in the Fantasy genre. I loved wandering about in that magic world, but once was quite enough. And up until today I have refused to watch the movie adaptation: I do not want a director to replace my personal images of The Lord of the Rings. I really don’t care what people think of that — I already admitted that I’m sometimes plain stupid ;)

* Mr Gnoe is Not Amused that I’m calling myself a cow in this post. Don’t you love that? :))

Other bookish things

I’m currently reading The Accidental by Ali Smith. Haven’t gotten really far yet so I can’t tell you anything about it. I finished Sarah Waters’ Affinity the previous weekend when I was staying with family in the Hautes Fagnes (Belgium). It was a fun read and I hope to share my thoughts with you in a few days.

In between my previous Sunday Salon and Waters I also read Shusaku Endo’s Silence for the Japanese Book Group and The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch for my personal 2008-2010 challenge and this year’s What’s in a name challenge, category ‘body of water’. Aw, lots of reviews to write up!

Cover The Accidental, by Ali SmithCover Silence, by Shusaku EndoCover The Sea, The Sea (Iris Murdoch)

The Pillow Book

Reading along with the ‘Pillow Book Friday‘ on In Spring It Is The Dawn
Arrived at entry: 111/180
Entries read since last time: 26
Edition: 1986 Dutch translation of Ivan Morris’ Penguin edition: Het hoofdkussenboek van Sei Shōnagon (transl. from English by Paul Heijman)

Last month I went out to dinner with two of my friends and they were really strict with me, telling me to quit (!) reading The Pillow Book. Why? Because I hardly took up a book at all and reading the plotless musings of Sei Shōnagon had become a huge chore. Honest, it was a BIG relief to hear them say that! So I stopped, but never got round to pulling the cover off my blog page. Today I wanted to do so, but not without telling you about it! Maybe I shouldn’t have… While checking the page number where I had ended my Pillow Book project, I noticed I have only about 75 entries more entries to go — less than a hundred pages! What to do???

Cover Geketende Democratie (Japan), Hans van der LugtOther Japan-related nonfiction I’m reading is a book by Hans van der Lugt, a Dutch reporter having stayed on the Japanese islands for over 10 years: Geketende democratie, Japan achter de schermen. It hasn’t been published in English but if I’d have a go at translating the title it would be something like: Democracy in Chains; Behind the Scenes in Japan. The author’s revealing accounts are quite interesting, but the book doesn’t really call out to me to come read. And that is what I need these days! I guess I could ‘do’ a chapter every once in a while — maybe after I have finished reading The Pillow Book? ;)

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 ;)


Logo Monday: What are you reading?Yesterday I was so busy getting my buddy review of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman online with Elsje that I missed out on the Sunday Salon. Same thing happened last week, so today I decided to join in Sheila’s weekly meme on Book Journey: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? to bring you up-to-date.

Cover Silence, by Shusaku EndoI finshed reading Shusaku Endo’s book Silence for the Japanese Literature Book Group and Japanese Literature Challenge #4 on June 10th. I hope I’ll manage to review the book before the discussion starts on June 28th! Because it is set in Japan just after the country has been closed to foreigners (except Dutch), it was quite appropriate to read after The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (which I hope to review soon too) and it also brought to mind The Bridge of San Luis Rey and one of my all-time favourite movies The Mission.

Cover Geketende Democratie (Japan), Hans van der LugtAfter Silence I picked up some Dutch nonfiction about Japan: Geketende democratie, Japan achter de schermen by Hans van der Lugt. It hasn’t been translated into English (yet) but literally the title means ‘Democracy in Chains: Behind the Scenes in Japan’. Hans van der Lugt has been a correspondent in Japan for one our national newspapers (NRC Handelsblad) from 1995-2006. It’s an interesting book but I feel like reading a novel as well so I’ll be starting The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch in the next few days. We’re going on a short trip to one of the Wadden Islands in the North Sea so a book with such a title seems appropriate. It is also part of my personal challenge and the What’s in a Name challenge — I’ll be happy to finally cross it off my wishlist!

I’m still keeping up with the Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book read-along. I’ve read all my entries for this week (#110 in the Morris edition) but I just don’t have anymore time to tell you all about it. That’ll have to wait to another Sunday Salon — or It’s Monday! What Are You reading? :)

As you know I have joined next year’s What’s in a Name challenge, hosted by Beth F. Even though it is not compulsory I decided to try and compile a list of books fitting the categories — just to keep myself on track. Of course I might change titles along the way.

  1. Category food: Living Among Meat Eaters by Carol J. Adams (non-fiction), or The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (‘Zoet’ in this title being a Dutch surname meaning ‘sweet’).
    * read in April – May *
  2. Category body of water: Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving,
    or The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch.
    * read in July *
  3. Category title: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.
    * read in January *
  4. Category plant: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.
    * read in August *
    And The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
    * read in August – September *
  5. Category place name: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi ( an ancient capital, Unesco World Heritage Site in what is now Iran)
    * read in September *
    Or The China Lover by Ian Buruma.
  6. Category music term: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.
    * read in April *
    And Silence by Shusaku Endo.
    * read in June *

Can I start now? Please? ;)

Sunday Salon logoThe 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 ;)

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!

Hello Japan! logoAnother 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!

DarkWaterSince 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. 24hrreadathonbuttonBut 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:

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!

Gnoe on pile of books

Gnoe (?) on pile of books

Oh no! NOW look what you made me do, Weekly Geeks! By asking me about reading challenges, I just joined TWO MORE! As if I don’t have enough problems handling just one…

When I failed last year’s personal challenge I decided to cut myself some slack and stretch it to 2009. I had gotten halfway my list of 12 books by December, so that seemed fair. But now… I have only crossed off one more title since January! That means that, of the books on the Best Foreign Books longlist that were already on my wishlist before the election, I still have another 5 books to go:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  • The Chosen (Chaim Potok)
  • a choice of 2 from The Sea, The Sea (Iris Murdoch), The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen) or The Pillow Book (Sei Shonagon) — whichever of these I can get my hands on.

Five might not seem a lot to you, but it’s 20-25% of all the books I can manage in one year!

And now I’ve put some more pressure on by joining the ‘What’s in a Name‘ and ‘Classics‘ challenges! Yes, you may call me stupid if you want to ;)

So why do I take on reading challenges?

I find having a challenge stimulates me in picking up books that I wouldn’t normally read, or that I wish to have read but never feel like starting, or that are almost totally random. And yes, sometimes I get stressed a bit when a deadline is nearing ;) But I think I might never have read the classics Slaughterhouse-Five, Don Quixote or Max Havelaar without these challenges! And I must say that I only enter challenges that (I believe) really stand a chance!

Each year at least one personal challenge just ‘appears’ to me. For example I notice a resemblance in some book titles, or a certain award long- or shortlist matches part of my wishlist, like last year. I’m curious to know if this happens to other people as well! So what reading tasks have I set myself in the past?

  • 2005:
    1) read a book from each decade from 1900 until 2005
    2) read a total of 15,000 pages (I failed that by 333 pages…)
    3) finish all Bookcrossing books on Mount TBR
  • 2006: read 10 books with numbers 0-9 in their title
  • 2007: read all books on the Best Dutch Book (ever) shortlist that I haven’t read yet

More about these challenges can be found in my post about my 2008-2009 challenge, except for 2007 which has its own blogpost.

Speaking about collective challenges, up until yesterday (LOL) I’ve only joined the SIY (Set It Yourself) challenge at Bookcrossing several times. I’ll let the title speak for itself ;)

Having said all this… (thanks for hanging on ;) it might just be that I grew up in the Eighties so that I’m addicted to making lists, like Rob Fleming in Nick Hornby’s book High Fidelity ;)


I promised to write about my 2008 reading challenge. I’ll do it in English because I want this post to be available to international readers.

My challenge is to read 12 of 13 titles from the longlist of the Dutch election for Best Foreign Book that were already on my wishlist. So I will choose twelve books out of the next listing:

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon read in 2008
The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon

Possession by A.S. Byatt read in 2008
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro read in 2009
New York Trilogy by Paul Auster read in 2008
The Sea, the sea by Iris Murdoch
In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin read in 2008
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing read in 2008
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee read in 2009
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov read in 2008
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck read in 2009

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

Up until now I’ve read three of them and handling the fourth so I’m not reaching my target of one book a month ;) But I’ll be updating this post along the way.

For four successive years now I have given myself a reading challenge. It usually just presents itself to me somewhere in the first few months :)

2005 really had three challenges: first to read a book from each decade from 1900 until ‘now’. In that one I succeeded :)

1900-1909: Van oude mensen, de dingen, die voorbijgaan… by Louis Couperus (1906)
1910-1919: Dichtertje by Nescio (1917)
1920-1929: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (1927)
1930-1939: Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (1938)
1940-1949: Eens was ik een mens (Se questo è un uomo) by Primo Levi (1947)
1950-1959: Het stenen bruidsbed by Harry Mulisch (1959)
1960-1969: De verzamelaar (The collector) by John Fowles (1963)
1970-1979: Vanonder de koperen ploert by Hans Vervoort (1975)
1980-1989: Strangers by Taichi Yamada (1987)
1990-1999: The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama (1995)
2000-2009: Saturday by Ian McEwan (2005)

Secondly I wanted to read a total of 15,000 pages in 2005… I failed that! :-o At 14,767 I was just a few pages short. Thankfully I did accomplish my third mission to finish all Bookcrossing books on Mount TBR (To Be Read).

In 2006 I read 10 books with the numbers 0-9 in their titles:
0 – Less than zero by Bret Easton Ellis
1 – One flew over the cuckoo’s nest by Ken Kesey
2 – The man who cast two shadows by Carol O’Connell
3 – Driedaagse reis (Three day road) by Joseph Boyden / The third man by Graham Greene
4 – The fourth hand by John Irving
5 – Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
6 – Studio Zes (Studio Sex) by Liza Marklund
7 – Seven up by Janet Evanovich
8 – Eight cousins by Louisa May Alcott
9 – The ninth life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen

And in 2007 I managed to read all books on the Best Dutch Book shortlist that I hadn’t already read before starting the challenge. Look at this earlier post about which books I’m talking. All Dutch titles of course…

This post will be edited later on to add cover pics…

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!


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Gnoe herding…

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