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Tea, Books & Thoughts

All I need in life is a good book and a warm cup of tea

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Reading

How to deal with those non-readers in your home?

Not everybody enjoys reading, so inevitably some of us of us bookworms have to share our lives and homes with non-readers. In my case these non-readers are my boyfriend and my dog. Both of them are equally uncomprehending of my need to spend at least some time every single day with my nose buried in a book. Both of them are unwilling, or unable, to listen to my very valid arguments. While my boyfriend has made some thinly veiled threats involving the words fire-kindling, my dog actually took action and ate my copy of Tolkien’s “The Two Towers“. Continue reading “How to deal with those non-readers in your home?”

Christmas Wish List: some 2014 books I hope Santa might bring me…

With Christmas less than two weeks away it is high time to start dreaming about all those presents under the tree. And like any true bibliomaniac I am hoping most of the packages are hard and shaped like rectangles. All year I have been reading about the many amazing books being published, and while I have read some of them, most have stayed out of my reach. So, I can always hope that before the year ends a couple of them have found me after all. Continue reading “Christmas Wish List: some 2014 books I hope Santa might bring me…”

The Not So Ordinary World of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

My favourite Haruki Murakami books were always the ones that contained magical and supernatural elements. Although I liked Norwegian Wood I felt decidedly let down by the fact that the world I encountered was so ordinary in comparison to that of Kafka on the Shore or Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Continue reading “The Not So Ordinary World of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki”

The cage of segregation: Maya Angelou’s first autobiography

On 25 May I was browsing the books at the monthly Bookswapper’s Club meeting when Maya Angelou’s name caught my eye. My mind returned to earlier that day as I was rushing about at work, preparing for an event. In the midst of all the stress I recalled the sound of my boss’s voice telling me that Maya Angelou was dead. With everything going on I had completely forgotten about this until the moment I saw her name in a box of books. I immediately asked for confirmation from my fellow bookswappers: Continue reading “The cage of segregation: Maya Angelou’s first autobiography”

My Reading Rules and Habits

Like most avid readers and bibliophiles I have my particular rules, quirks and reading habits. This post is inspired by a post on Bookriot called What Your Reading Rules Reveal About Your Personality. I tried to post a comment but it did not work so I copied what I had written and saved it for later. When I discovered my notes I decided to make it into a post of my own.

My general reading rules

Pages

  • Firstly, one unspoken rule is that I should not go more than a day without having a book on the go. Once I finish a book I usually find another one right away, but on rare occasions I will take a one day break to be a little more social.
  • I always finish a book that I start (After all, like David Mitchell wrote in Cloud Atlas: “A half finished book is a half finished love affair” or some times a half finished hate affair, but needing a conclusion nevertheless). But rules are made to be broken, so I admit that a handful of times I have failed to read to the end of a book.
  • Take my book with me wherever I go (even when lugging 1000 pages around gives me a headache). People sometimes wonder why I bring a book to a party. It is not because I plan to read it there (although sometimes I would not mind finding a cozy corner away from all those people) but there is always the bus ride home to look forward to.
  • I never read two works of fiction simultaneously, but a book of fiction and a book of non-fiction is ok.
  • I always finish a chapter or at least a section before taking a break (even if it means being late for work)
  • I choose books according to my mood. It is important not make the mistake of reading the latest book by my favourite author of huge depressing tomes when I am feeling sad or tired. That will simply ruin the book. Instead I will pick up a children’s book or crime thriller. 

Book maintenance rules

My Little Book Holder

  • Never dog ear. I use a magnetic book mark (with the quote: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it is too dark to read”) If a bookmark is not available there is always some piece of paper at hand. “Dog earing” simply is not necessary.
  • Breaking the spine of the book on the other hand is often necessary for a good reading experience. And while books are precious objects to me, being read is their main function. Peering into the shadowy ravine between half opened pages does not make for comfortable reading. Using my Little Book Holder makes it necessary to break the spine but allows me to drink tea with one hand and flip pages with the other. 
  • Never write in the margins of a novel. In non-fiction it is fine, but only with a pencil.
  • In general, just treat your books with the love and respect they deserve, but don’t let the preservation of the book as an object get in the way of the reading. A book will always suffer a little in a handbag and be affected when read in a park. Accidents can happen when tea and books are consumed simultaneously. But whatever it takes to make the reading experience a good one, it is worth it. Because that is what it is all about, after all!

 

What my reading stats say about 2013

As the year draws to a close we tend to think back on the year that has passed and try to evaluate whether, all things considered, it has been a successful one or not. This year I will attempt a more objective evaluation by looking at what my reading statistics tell me about how I have been feeling during the past year. These statistics are available to me on my Goodreads account where I have diligently input the books I have been reading for the past few years.

The first obvious conclusion to be drawn from the numbers below is a rather sad one. It seems clear that this year is part of a general downward trend in the amount I read. The below chart shows that I read fewer books this year than in preceding years, and compared to 2009 the number is nothing less than appalling.

Books read 2013
Number of books read in 2013

Luckily the low number is partly due to the fact that two of the books I read were enormous tomes, that took ages to get through. If we look at the number of pages rather than books, the result is slightly more optimistic. But the fact still remains that there is a general decline in the long-term, which is worrying. Hopefully the 1648 page increase in comparison to 2012 indicates a reversal of the trend.

Pages read 2013
Number of pages read in 2013

What do these numbers tell me about how I have been feeling in 2013 and how it compares to other years? When I read less it tends to indicate that I am feeling somewhat down. Reading requires some form of commitment, and when I feel low I might turn to the less demanding TV for entertainment. However, we also have to take into consideration other circumstances, such as the fact that in comparison to 2009 I have both a blog and a dog that takes up some of my time. In the first half of the year I also walked to work which did not give me the opportunity to read while commuting.

So let’s look at some other statistics to get a clearer view. The way I rate books also says a lot about how I am feeling. If I give a lot of high ratings I am probably feeling happy and optimistic. Of course this also depends on the books I read, so as evidence it is not at all conclusive.

Book ratings 2013
Ratings given in 2013

In 2013 I did not give a single book 5 stars, but since I rarely do that it is not very telling. The fact that the majority of books received 3 stars says a lot, however. It indicates that I did not get very excited about a lot of books. 3 stars means I liked the book, but did not feel strongly about it. This might of course say more about the books than about me, but still I cannot help but think that the ratings are caused more by my indifferent attitude than the books themselves. Looking at the list now, in hindsight, there are several books that might have deserved 4 star rating.

Another indicator of my mood is the genre of books I read. Since my shelf classification is not that elaborate the statistics generated are not that good, but I can deduce a few things from the below pie-chart.

Genres read 2013
Types of books read in 2013

The most obvious indicator is the large amount of crime fiction I have read. I tend to read crime fiction when I feel tired and need a book that will easily keep my attention. The same goes for the fantasy and children’s literature which I tend to read when I need something a little lighter. The fact that I have not read all that many funny books tells me that I have not been feeling seriously in the need of cheering up, which is a good sign.

The overall conclusion seems to be that I have been somewhat tired and a little low, but not severely so. Of course the statistics might also be read to say that I have been busy with my dog, that this year’s catch at the Bookswappers’ Club was not very exciting and that I happened to buy a large amount of Swedish language crime fiction while on holidays in Finland… As usual statistics can be interpreted in many ways.

Well, Happy New Year to you all! My resolutions are to read more, write more and spend more time with my dog and boyfriend. Anybody have some spare time to sell me?

How I End Up Late Every Morning In 8 Easy Steps

This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge challenged us to use a feature on WordPress, this time the possibility to add several pages to a blog post. 

The background to my post is the fact that I am consistently late for work. This is not as bad as it sounds, since we have flexible working hours, but I have always counted myself among the people arriving at 9.00, and that is no longer the case. I cannot blame public transport since I use my own two feet to get tow work. All I have to do is make sure I leave at 8.30 on the dot…

                                                                                                                                                                      

Step 1: Ignore alarm

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7.00 Alarm rings

When my Lumia Bodyclock begins emitting shrill birdsong at 7 o’clock, I am not happy. This is possibly the worst moment of my day. During my day I am bound to encounter at least one of the following: stress (work related and personal), rain, unhappy people, annoying people, mean people (also good people, but that is not relevant here), but nothing compares to the cruel and inconsiderate way the alarm drags me out of my dream and into real life. No wonder I do not have the courtesy to do as it asks, and get out of bed. Instead I turn it off and return to sleep. Next…

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The end of YA-month

March is at its end but spring is not yet in sight. Outside small leftovers of snow hide in forgotten corners and the decorative lakes in the park are covered in a thin layer of ice. I began the month feeling tired, imagining that by the time we reached April, the sun would have woken me from my winter slumber. But as I sit here, holding my tea-mug close for warmth, spring seems far away.

Feeling as tired as I do, have no energy for heavy reading, instead (as I wrote at the beginning of the month) I have been reading children’s/YA fiction. After The Hunger Games I read Mister Monday by Garth Nix. Of the books I read this month it is the one I enjoyed the least. Although the ideas are interesting and the book is filled with adventure, the read itself felt kind of boring. There are simply too many new things and too many action sequences. I enjoyed the next book a lot more. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is the kind of book I would have loved as a child, filled with people who love books in the same obsessive way that I do. My final YA-read was Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. This might have been my favourite of the books, were it not for the fact that the love story was so badly done. I was looking forward to the moment that the two main characters would meet, but when it finally happened it was a very unbelievable “love at first sight” story which left me disappointed.

It has been nice to read the entertaining and inventive books meant for people far younger than me. It brings me back to my childhood, when I devoured stories of mystery, magic and adventure, staying up late into the night to finish the story. I shared a room with my sister and could not light my bedside lamp for fear of waking her. Instead I used to sit on the window-sill, with my back to the window, reading by the orange light of the street-lights below. Nowadays, I rarely stay up late with a book, being too aware of the effect being tired will have on my work the following day. I miss those days of carefree irresponsibility, when magic was almost real and adventures just behind the corner.

The library that made me a reader

Following the furore about British children’s author Terry Deary’s views on libraries, I would like to make my own contribution to this discussion. Those who read my blog regularly will know that I am a compulsive book-buyer, and therefore libraries are not the place I go for my book-fix. But this was not always the case. Once upon a time I was a frequent visitor of my local library.

Rikhardinkadun_kirjastoWhile growing up one of my favourite places to go after school was my local library. The Rikhardinkatu Library is a Neo Renaissance style building, built in 1881. It was the first building in the Nordic countries designed to be a public library and it served as the city’s main library until 1986, when a new modern library opened in Pasila. But it is still the most frequented library in Helsinki.

Any building filled with books is beautiful to me, but the Rikhardinkatu library has the added charm of a beautiful interior. When I was young this was the only public library I visited, so I took for granted the magnificent building, imagining that all libraries were the same. Little did I know how many rather boring libraries were out there. I spent most of my time in the children’s department on the ground floor, wandering along the shelves making discoveries, but once I began venturing into the high ceilinged hallways of the library, I discovered the amazing world of this magical building.

 rikhardinkatu3   rikhardinkatu4

The first floor was the place to go for school projects. Here were to be found non-fiction books on all kind of subjects. I remember finding a book that collected news articles from every day for the last hundred years. Already back then the aspiring writer in me imagined this might come in handy one day. But the most impressive part of the room was Richardinkadun kirjastothe spiral staircase that led to the lovely galleries that circled the room. The galleries contained adult fiction and this is where I cautiously began making friends with the books that I would come to love later. The galleries themselves where a wonderful place to be. I was high above the first floor but there were plenty of places to hide among the shelves. From the galleries one could also access the other floors, and I remember discovering an entire department of English language books hidden on the top floor of the building. I was fascinated by how different the covers of the English books looked, and by the large number of fantasy books to be found among them.

Nowadays I rarely go to libraries, preferring to buy my books. And I do buy many of them. But without my local library, I might never have read enough books as a child to make me the faithful supporter of authors and the publishing industry, that I am today. We were not a wealthy family and the books that my parents bought me were always what they could find at the secondhand bookstore. And even those would never have been enough to support my voracious reading appetite. Closing libraries is the worst possible idea if the aim is to save the livelihoods of authors. It is the children browsing library shelves today that are the book-buyers of tomorrow.

I have not visited my childhood library since I moved away from Helsinki 16 years ago. Every time I go back to Finland I plan to visit, but somehow there is never time. This also means I have to admit that the beautiful pictures of the library were not taken by me, but that I found them on the internet. The spiral staircase is taken by Lea Kömi, and comes from her blog http://leakomi.blogspot.be/. The two pictures of the hallway and galleries come from http://nailla-mennaan.blogspot.be/ and the picture of the building is from Wikipedia.

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