Book rec!

Jan. 16th, 2008 06:41 pm
baleanoptera: (LOTR Gandalf reading)
Perhaps it is a bit early to start calling something "one of the best books I’ve read this year", but I’m going to take a chance and do it anyway. For Christmas I got the wonderful In Europe – travels through the Twentieth Century by Geert Mak, and it is nothing short of a page turner. An 832 page thick pageturner that is.

Mak, a Dutch journalist, spent years travelling through Europe pondering the question of what is Europe and does Europe have a common history. Or as he says himself:
Do we Europeans have a common history? )
There are several things I love about this book. The writing is combination of essays, travel logs and historical musings. One of Mak’s strengths is his combination of oral history and on the spot interviews with well known historical facts. It all comes together and makes for gripping reading, and makes even the most famous years – say like 1939-1945 – appear new and riveting.

One of the things I loved most about the book was how it is organised by geographical location rather than timeline. So the chapter 1917-24 is divided into the sections of Doorn, Stockholm, Helsinki, Petrograd and Riga. And while Mak always keeps the long lines of history in sight he chooses to view history from these, and other, select locations. That makes for a very personal and extremely interesting way of reading history, and shows how different parts of the continent

Another favourite part of mine is Mak’s pondering on where Europe actually end and what is this European Identity anyway. the true hallmark of European civilisation it is diversity )

Book rec!

Jan. 16th, 2008 06:41 pm
baleanoptera: (LOTR Gandalf reading)
Perhaps it is a bit early to start calling something "one of the best books I’ve read this year", but I’m going to take a chance and do it anyway. For Christmas I got the wonderful In Europe – travels through the Twentieth Century by Geert Mak, and it is nothing short of a page turner. An 832 page thick pageturner that is.

Mak, a Dutch journalist, spent years travelling through Europe pondering the question of what is Europe and does Europe have a common history. Or as he says himself:
Do we Europeans have a common history? )
There are several things I love about this book. The writing is combination of essays, travel logs and historical musings. One of Mak’s strengths is his combination of oral history and on the spot interviews with well known historical facts. It all comes together and makes for gripping reading, and makes even the most famous years – say like 1939-1945 – appear new and riveting.

One of the things I loved most about the book was how it is organised by geographical location rather than timeline. So the chapter 1917-24 is divided into the sections of Doorn, Stockholm, Helsinki, Petrograd and Riga. And while Mak always keeps the long lines of history in sight he chooses to view history from these, and other, select locations. That makes for a very personal and extremely interesting way of reading history, and shows how different parts of the continent

Another favourite part of mine is Mak’s pondering on where Europe actually end and what is this European Identity anyway. the true hallmark of European civilisation it is diversity )
baleanoptera: (Norge Stavechurch)

A carved dragons head found in the Oseberg burial


I'm currently reading a very interesting book called The Idea of North, which deals with all manner of folklore and legends in the Polar region. One passage reminded me why I LOVE the old Norse Sagas:


"The verse narrative of The Waking of Angatyr, interprolated in the Saga of King Heindrik the Wise, takes place on a burning offshore island which is simultaneously the place where the noble dead are buried and an otherworld to which the living can travel at their peril. Hervor travels there to demand of her father Angantyr the supernatural sword that has been buried with him. As with almost all ghost narratives of the north, the early waning of the winter daylight is crucial. In the zone between the living and the dead in which the poem opens, there is a terse dialogue between the heroine and a herdsman, on the dangers of being benighted in such a place:

To have come hither, all alone
To this land of shadows was sheer folly,
Over fen and fold fires are soaring,
Graves are opening: let us go quickly.


But she is fearless: she curses and threatens the waking dead until they yield to her the sword that has been buried as part of Angantyr’s grave goods, but not without the prophecy from its dead owner that it will "Destroy your kindred, kill them all" To which she replies:
Churlish cowards! )
baleanoptera: (Norge Stavechurch)

A carved dragons head found in the Oseberg burial


I'm currently reading a very interesting book called The Idea of North, which deals with all manner of folklore and legends in the Polar region. One passage reminded me why I LOVE the old Norse Sagas:


"The verse narrative of The Waking of Angatyr, interprolated in the Saga of King Heindrik the Wise, takes place on a burning offshore island which is simultaneously the place where the noble dead are buried and an otherworld to which the living can travel at their peril. Hervor travels there to demand of her father Angantyr the supernatural sword that has been buried with him. As with almost all ghost narratives of the north, the early waning of the winter daylight is crucial. In the zone between the living and the dead in which the poem opens, there is a terse dialogue between the heroine and a herdsman, on the dangers of being benighted in such a place:

To have come hither, all alone
To this land of shadows was sheer folly,
Over fen and fold fires are soaring,
Graves are opening: let us go quickly.


But she is fearless: she curses and threatens the waking dead until they yield to her the sword that has been buried as part of Angantyr’s grave goods, but not without the prophecy from its dead owner that it will "Destroy your kindred, kill them all" To which she replies:
Churlish cowards! )
baleanoptera: (BoB Lipton)
Sometimes you think you have read so much about war and memorials that you have developed a numbness, and then along comes a little paragraph that hits you hard and makes you realise that this is not so:


"In the first months of the war football was used as an incentive to enlistenment; the war, it was claimed, offered the chance to play ‘the greatest game of all.’ By the end of 1914 an estimated 500,000 men had enlisted at football matches. By the following spring, professional football had been banned: matches, it was feared, were so popular that ( a reversal of the initial strategy) they deterred men from enlisting.
 At the front the enthusiasm for the game continued unabated. Whether a match actually took place in No Man’s Land between German and English troops on Christmas day 1914 is doubtful; even if it did not, it is entirely appropriate that the day’s events should have generated the myth of a football match as the embodiment of fraternization.
The most famous footballing episode was Captain Nevill’s kicking a ball into No Man’s Land on the first day of the Somme. A prize was offered to the first man to dribble the ball into the German trenches; Nevill himself scrambled out of the trench in pursuit of his goal and was cut down immediately. (perhaps the Somme was not only an indictment of military strategy but also of the British propensity for the long-ball game.) Lawrence’s admonition – that tragedy ought to be a great big kick at misery – could not have been fulfilled more literally.
"

- Geoff Dyer: The Missing of the Somme.
baleanoptera: (BoB Lipton)
Sometimes you think you have read so much about war and memorials that you have developed a numbness, and then along comes a little paragraph that hits you hard and makes you realise that this is not so:


"In the first months of the war football was used as an incentive to enlistenment; the war, it was claimed, offered the chance to play ‘the greatest game of all.’ By the end of 1914 an estimated 500,000 men had enlisted at football matches. By the following spring, professional football had been banned: matches, it was feared, were so popular that ( a reversal of the initial strategy) they deterred men from enlisting.
 At the front the enthusiasm for the game continued unabated. Whether a match actually took place in No Man’s Land between German and English troops on Christmas day 1914 is doubtful; even if it did not, it is entirely appropriate that the day’s events should have generated the myth of a football match as the embodiment of fraternization.
The most famous footballing episode was Captain Nevill’s kicking a ball into No Man’s Land on the first day of the Somme. A prize was offered to the first man to dribble the ball into the German trenches; Nevill himself scrambled out of the trench in pursuit of his goal and was cut down immediately. (perhaps the Somme was not only an indictment of military strategy but also of the British propensity for the long-ball game.) Lawrence’s admonition – that tragedy ought to be a great big kick at misery – could not have been fulfilled more literally.
"

- Geoff Dyer: The Missing of the Somme.
baleanoptera: (Default)
I am still going through this nostalgic tv-show thing. The last thing that has touched my sentimental heart is the tv series based on Astrid Lindgren's book Ronia-The Robber's daughter.



On the night that Ronia was born a thunderstorm was raging over the mountains, such a storm that all the Goblin folk in Matt’s Forest crept back in terror to their holes and hiding places. Only the fierce harpies preferred stormy weather to any other and flew, shrieking and hooting, around the robber’s stronghold on Matt’s Mountain. Their noise disturbed Lovis, who was lying within, prepared to give birth, and she said to Matt, "Drive the hell-harpies away and let me have some quiet. Other wise I can’t hear what I’m singing!"
The fact was that Lovis liked to sing while she was having her baby. It made things easier, she insisted, and the baby would probably be all the jollier if it arrived on earth to the sound of a song.
- from the English translation of the book


this way for the rest of the story, its pictures and music )
baleanoptera: (Default)
I am still going through this nostalgic tv-show thing. The last thing that has touched my sentimental heart is the tv series based on Astrid Lindgren's book Ronia-The Robber's daughter.



On the night that Ronia was born a thunderstorm was raging over the mountains, such a storm that all the Goblin folk in Matt’s Forest crept back in terror to their holes and hiding places. Only the fierce harpies preferred stormy weather to any other and flew, shrieking and hooting, around the robber’s stronghold on Matt’s Mountain. Their noise disturbed Lovis, who was lying within, prepared to give birth, and she said to Matt, "Drive the hell-harpies away and let me have some quiet. Other wise I can’t hear what I’m singing!"
The fact was that Lovis liked to sing while she was having her baby. It made things easier, she insisted, and the baby would probably be all the jollier if it arrived on earth to the sound of a song.
- from the English translation of the book


this way for the rest of the story, its pictures and music )
baleanoptera: (BoB Winters)
Five reasons I love the things I do - the second.


Being a continuation of our heroine’s account of her favourite things + lists are made + numerical standards are broken+ and book passages are quoted

Tolkien )

Band of Brothers )

The Wire )

A Song of Ice and Fire )
baleanoptera: (BoB Winters)
Five reasons I love the things I do - the second.


Being a continuation of our heroine’s account of her favourite things + lists are made + numerical standards are broken+ and book passages are quoted

Tolkien )

Band of Brothers )

The Wire )

A Song of Ice and Fire )
baleanoptera: (Default)


Inspired by [livejournal.com profile] richlayers list over books read in 2007.
Sometimes by month, sometimes jumbled together.


Fiction:


January, February and March 1-12th. )
March 13-31 )
April )
May-June )
July )

Non-Fiction:


January, February and March 1-12th. )
March 13-31 )
April )
May - June )
July )
There are some recurring themes here huh? Also the Fiction section is a bit thin, so any suggestions about fiction would be very welcome. And possibly something not in connection with the Second World War. It might be healthy to read about something else as well. ;)
(but if any of you have a suggestion about a WWII book I wouldn't mind hearing about it...)
baleanoptera: (Default)


Inspired by [livejournal.com profile] richlayers list over books read in 2007.
Sometimes by month, sometimes jumbled together.


Fiction:


January, February and March 1-12th. )
March 13-31 )
April )
May-June )
July )

Non-Fiction:


January, February and March 1-12th. )
March 13-31 )
April )
May - June )
July )
There are some recurring themes here huh? Also the Fiction section is a bit thin, so any suggestions about fiction would be very welcome. And possibly something not in connection with the Second World War. It might be healthy to read about something else as well. ;)
(but if any of you have a suggestion about a WWII book I wouldn't mind hearing about it...)
baleanoptera: (books)
Somehow, despite being on a rather tight schedule I’ve managed to finish a few books. Huzzah! Although, by the look of this list, it would probably do me good to read some fiction. ;P

Christopher Tyerman: God’s War – a New History of the Crusades

Tyerman goal is to write a new introduction to the Crusades, one that also could be seen as a more modern version to the classics by Steven Runciman. He gives it a good try, but I’m not sure he succeeds. He writes well, but lacks Runciman’s style - and as introductions go God’s War is a little messy.
While talking about the First Crusade he keeps sliding in sentences like "this law was later changed during Baldwin II". Now this will make sense if you know a little bit about the crusades, but if this is your first introduction I suspect the mention of Baldwin II is a little awkward. Seeing as you’ve just gotten your Bohemond’s and Tancred’s in order and all. (and that is no mean feat! Yes, geeky Crusader humour. Sorry..)

What Tyreman is good at is shedding the light on the economic and political aspects of the world surrounding the Crusades. He has a great analysis of how the cost of siege weapons varied largely dependent on the ease with which one could get hold of timber. In Palestine wood was scarce so siege weapons where expensive. Tyerman argues that the First Crusaders had an advantage since they could use the cheap, European timber that they had shipped to Palestine. Ergo more siege weapons and easier to take cities.

It’s aspects like these that make the book enjoyable, and I would say it is a well written and very interesting book. Just not an introduction.

Christopher Clark: The Iron Kingdom – The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947

This now is a great introduction! Clark follows the history of Prussia from the Brandenburgs to the fall of the Third Reich. He has a great, flowing style – and is often quite funny. The fact that he always makes it quite clear which Friedrich Wilhelm he is talking about is also a plus.

His portrait of Friedrich the Great is wonderful – as he manages to combine the large historical lines with small, personal anecdotes. Did you know that the great Friedrich apparently wrote a poem about orgasm? (Sadly this has been lost.) Or that his father, Friedrich Wilhelm I, once forced a professor to be locked in a lecture hall with several bears, while spectators shot fireworks at the bears? Personally I prefer the one with the poetic inclination.

So in conclusion;I really liked this book and heartily recommend it.

Emma Hartley: Did David Hasselhoff end the Cold War – facts you need to know about Europe.

I bought this in Berlin seeing as it deals with, among other things, a little known part of German history; David Hasselhoff and his part in bringing down the Berlin Wall. His song "I’ve been looking for Freedom" (based on a German song Auf Der Strasse Nach Suden) topped the charts for three months in the summer of 1989. Ten years later Hasselhoff visited Berlin and the Checkpoint Charlie museum and lamented that he was not featured as part of the exhibition "How the Wall came down". He felt his song had inspired the movement. *g*

The book lists other facts as well. The Norwegian fact is "In 1998, the Norwegian Prime Minister announced that he was depressed and took several weeks off work". 'tis true, 'tis true. There is also a chapter called "Finnish food is better than French", "The Twelve Stars on the EU flag are a symbol of the Virgin Mary" and so forth.

Great fun and actually quite interesting despite it's odd chapter titles.

Did this man help bring down the Berlin Wall? Well, he just might have...

Cut for Hasselhoffian evidence )
baleanoptera: (books)
Somehow, despite being on a rather tight schedule I’ve managed to finish a few books. Huzzah! Although, by the look of this list, it would probably do me good to read some fiction. ;P

Christopher Tyerman: God’s War – a New History of the Crusades

Tyerman goal is to write a new introduction to the Crusades, one that also could be seen as a more modern version to the classics by Steven Runciman. He gives it a good try, but I’m not sure he succeeds. He writes well, but lacks Runciman’s style - and as introductions go God’s War is a little messy.
While talking about the First Crusade he keeps sliding in sentences like "this law was later changed during Baldwin II". Now this will make sense if you know a little bit about the crusades, but if this is your first introduction I suspect the mention of Baldwin II is a little awkward. Seeing as you’ve just gotten your Bohemond’s and Tancred’s in order and all. (and that is no mean feat! Yes, geeky Crusader humour. Sorry..)

What Tyreman is good at is shedding the light on the economic and political aspects of the world surrounding the Crusades. He has a great analysis of how the cost of siege weapons varied largely dependent on the ease with which one could get hold of timber. In Palestine wood was scarce so siege weapons where expensive. Tyerman argues that the First Crusaders had an advantage since they could use the cheap, European timber that they had shipped to Palestine. Ergo more siege weapons and easier to take cities.

It’s aspects like these that make the book enjoyable, and I would say it is a well written and very interesting book. Just not an introduction.

Christopher Clark: The Iron Kingdom – The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947

This now is a great introduction! Clark follows the history of Prussia from the Brandenburgs to the fall of the Third Reich. He has a great, flowing style – and is often quite funny. The fact that he always makes it quite clear which Friedrich Wilhelm he is talking about is also a plus.

His portrait of Friedrich the Great is wonderful – as he manages to combine the large historical lines with small, personal anecdotes. Did you know that the great Friedrich apparently wrote a poem about orgasm? (Sadly this has been lost.) Or that his father, Friedrich Wilhelm I, once forced a professor to be locked in a lecture hall with several bears, while spectators shot fireworks at the bears? Personally I prefer the one with the poetic inclination.

So in conclusion;I really liked this book and heartily recommend it.

Emma Hartley: Did David Hasselhoff end the Cold War – facts you need to know about Europe.

I bought this in Berlin seeing as it deals with, among other things, a little known part of German history; David Hasselhoff and his part in bringing down the Berlin Wall. His song "I’ve been looking for Freedom" (based on a German song Auf Der Strasse Nach Suden) topped the charts for three months in the summer of 1989. Ten years later Hasselhoff visited Berlin and the Checkpoint Charlie museum and lamented that he was not featured as part of the exhibition "How the Wall came down". He felt his song had inspired the movement. *g*

The book lists other facts as well. The Norwegian fact is "In 1998, the Norwegian Prime Minister announced that he was depressed and took several weeks off work". 'tis true, 'tis true. There is also a chapter called "Finnish food is better than French", "The Twelve Stars on the EU flag are a symbol of the Virgin Mary" and so forth.

Great fun and actually quite interesting despite it's odd chapter titles.

Did this man help bring down the Berlin Wall? Well, he just might have...

Cut for Hasselhoffian evidence )
baleanoptera: (fairytale snowwhite)


Catherynne M. Valente : The Orphan’s Tales: In the night garden , Vol. I

I recently read Valente’s book, and first let me say I truly enjoyed it. I might even love it a little. So I wanted to write a little about the book, but since I’m apparently incapable of writing about a book without skittering in all directions I also ended up writing about female characters and some pondering on if this is a collection of fairytales or fantasy literature. You are here by warned. ;) Also - there are a few tiny spoilers in here, but nothing major and nothing you wouldn't find on the dust cover.

The main frame of The Orphan’s Tales takes place at night when whispered stories are weaved into a wonderful tapestry. The storyteller is a strange young girl who has stories inked on her eyelids, like a swirling black mask. She is the orphan of the title, and these are her tales.

The second part of the title In the Night Garden is particularly apt for Valente likes the shadow and dusk side of things. She seems so side with the witches and the monsters of the fairytales, and desires to show that what might look ugly doesn’t necessarily act ugly. Foul is fair and fair is foul indeed.

Valente’s world is drawn from quite lot of cultures. There are traces of Arabian Nights, of Russian fairytales, of Inuit stories and African tales – and her brilliance lies with her ability to weave this all together and make a coherent, fantastical world. There are several protagonists, and some really scary villains. And all of it is described in a very poetic language that manages to thread the fine line between descriptive and fascinating, and flowery, purple prose.

Female Characters )

Fantasy or fairytale? - some touches of fairytale meta. )
baleanoptera: (fairytale snowwhite)


Catherynne M. Valente : The Orphan’s Tales: In the night garden , Vol. I

I recently read Valente’s book, and first let me say I truly enjoyed it. I might even love it a little. So I wanted to write a little about the book, but since I’m apparently incapable of writing about a book without skittering in all directions I also ended up writing about female characters and some pondering on if this is a collection of fairytales or fantasy literature. You are here by warned. ;) Also - there are a few tiny spoilers in here, but nothing major and nothing you wouldn't find on the dust cover.

The main frame of The Orphan’s Tales takes place at night when whispered stories are weaved into a wonderful tapestry. The storyteller is a strange young girl who has stories inked on her eyelids, like a swirling black mask. She is the orphan of the title, and these are her tales.

The second part of the title In the Night Garden is particularly apt for Valente likes the shadow and dusk side of things. She seems so side with the witches and the monsters of the fairytales, and desires to show that what might look ugly doesn’t necessarily act ugly. Foul is fair and fair is foul indeed.

Valente’s world is drawn from quite lot of cultures. There are traces of Arabian Nights, of Russian fairytales, of Inuit stories and African tales – and her brilliance lies with her ability to weave this all together and make a coherent, fantastical world. There are several protagonists, and some really scary villains. And all of it is described in a very poetic language that manages to thread the fine line between descriptive and fascinating, and flowery, purple prose.

Female Characters )

Fantasy or fairytale? - some touches of fairytale meta. )
baleanoptera: (Norge Stavechurch)
Grabbed from pretty much every one:


Favorite books of 2006

- in which I post a list of no particular order, the contents of which is formed by my memory of the previous year, the words written on a bleak December morning when the writer found herself surrounded by whale-song (don't ask..).


ze books )
baleanoptera: (Norge Stavechurch)
Grabbed from pretty much every one:


Favorite books of 2006

- in which I post a list of no particular order, the contents of which is formed by my memory of the previous year, the words written on a bleak December morning when the writer found herself surrounded by whale-song (don't ask..).


ze books )

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