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Winter Reading

January 20, 2012

Fourteen books in a month. That’s a lot better than I’ve done in a while! Seven rereads, seven new – with that, I’ve reached my reading goal for winter (eleven books a season, six of them new) in less than a month. The languages are a little unbalanced this time, eleven German books and only three English ones.

1. Wolf Haas, Silentium (reread, German): One of the few Austrian writers I know/read. Crime fiction with humour and a very distinct tone – I can’t write right after reading one of Wolf Haas’ novels, because I’ll write like Wolf Haas. Crime fiction is usually “read it and forget it” for me, but here I appreciate it, because I can re-read the books every couple of years and not remember the plot.

2. Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz und die dunkle Bibliothek (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians) (new, German): Not a book I’d have bought for myself (it was a Christmas present), because it’s aimed at a younger audience, but a good read all the same. The characters are a little too… absurd for me to get attached to them, but the whole absurdity is what makes the book so funny. Characters with names like Alcatraz, Bastille and Sing Sing, with talents like breaking things, being late and tripping (and yes, they are talents, not flaws. You might even say super powers), librarians as secret evil overlords, magical eyeglasses, and a mission to rescue a bag of sand… crazy stuff piled on crazy stuff until you barely notice smaller absurdities like polite British dinosaurs along the way. And a writer who’s constantly poking fun at his own craft, claiming that authors only write to torture their readers.

3. Khaled Hosseini, Tausend strahlende Sonnen (A Thousand Splendid Suns) (reread, German): This is one of the books that make me feel a little ashamed of what I usually read, making fantasy seem like such cheap escapism, reminding me how much I ignore the terrible things that go on in the real world. It’s a hard book to stomach sometimes, but I have a soft spot for reunion scenes, so… Also (it feels a little disrespectful to say this, but…), as a NaNoer, I can’t help but grin and think of the Travelling Shovel of Death.

Fourteen books. Huh, piled up like this, that looks like quite a lot!

4. Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz und das Pergament des Todes (Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones) (new, German): what I said above for 2.

5. Robin Hobb, Der Weitseher (Assassin’s Apprentice) (reread, German) and
6. Robin Hobb, Royal Assassin (new, English): I think the Farseer trilogy deserves its own post.

7. Jenny-Mai Nuyen, Nocturna (new, German): It’s a little humbling to think that Nuyen is younger than me and has already published half a dozen books. She does some things that would bother me in other books, such as a mish-mash of real and made-up names, and some rather fantastical places even when the book is set in the real world, but she carries it off in such a way that I don’t mind. I just can’t put my finger on exactly why I don’t mind. I can only say, “something about her tone”, which is a very unsatisfactory explanation. In any case, I can’t help but like a main character who can’t tie her shoes, and a story in which there is no clear “good” and “evil”.

8. Walter Moers, Die Stadt der Träumenden Bücher (The City of Dreaming Books) (reread, German): I liked Moers’ books better a couple of years ago. It’s still a good book, but I find it hard to form a connection with a main character who is a dinosaur. Even if he’s having adventures in a city full of books, books, and yet more books.

9. Walter Moers, Das Labyrinth der Träumenden Bücher (The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books) (new, German): This was the reason why I reread City of Dreaming Books. Might not even have been necessary, as much of the book was a recap of what happened in CoDB, in the form of the main character watching a play based on the book he wrote about his own adventures (confused yet? Moers is pretending he is just the translator of these books, while the actual author is the dinosaur main character). As with CoDB, I couldn’t really care for the characters (a similar problem to the ‘Alcatraz’ books, again it was the absurdity of the characters and world that was the problem, and at the same time it’s also what makes the book work.) But I had a good time with it once I realized that the names of the writers in the books are anagrams of real-life writers, and started trying to puzzle them out. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to think of, say Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or William Shakespeare without a grin. What was odd was that I did better at recognizing the names of composers than those of writers, even though I don’t much about music, and most definitely not about classical music. I wish I’d read this book while I was still at school, it would have made German lessons so much more amusing.

Still so much waiting to be read. And there's at least one other book on the way.

10. Andreas Gruschke, Tibetische Mythen und Legenden [Tibetan Myths and Legends) (new, German): I picked this up at a flea market some time last summer – took me a long time to read it! I do like myths and folk tales, but this book was written for people who know more about Tibet than I do, so I often felt a little “lost” in a mythology and way of thinking that were quite foreign to me. There are commentaries to the stories, but they are written in an unnecessarily complicated way – there was at least one time when I actually had to analyse a sentence to figure out what the author was trying to say. I thought I was done with finding subjects, predicates and objects when I left secondary school, or at the very latest with my last Latin exam!

11. T.H. White, The Sword in the Stone (reread, English): I know I must have read this book before, because I got the whole series from the library once, but I have absolutely no memory of it. I didn’t even realize that the movie I watched with my little cousin once was based on this book (in German, the titles are different, so no hint there). It’s sometimes a little weird, but funny.

12. Robin Hobb, Assassin’s Quest (new, English): As I said, going to need a separate post.

13. Don Rosa, Onkel Dagobert – Sein Leben, seine Milliarden (The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck) (reread, German): Yes, it’s a comic book. And yes, I count it as a book. It’s over 400 pages, after all, with several pages of commentaries to each story. I think Don Rosa was the first comic writer/illustrator whose style I recognized as a kid. I still adore his detailed drawings, and the way he mixes actual history and “facts” from Carl Barks’ stories, and I still remember how pleased I was when I finally found this book. I remember we were at the bookshop to buy something for a Harry Potter party, and I was at least as excited about this comic book as I was about the next HP book – I definitely yelped rather loudly, and I might have bounced.

14. Leonie Swann, Glennkill (Three Bags Full): A murder mystery. With sheep. It sounds silly, but it’s not. It’s funny, yes, but not silly. Funny in the way that looking at the world from an unfamiliar angle always is, and definitely well written – definitely a book I can recommend! There’s a second part out now, and I can’t wait!

And now, enough writing. Back to reading! I’m trying to make my to-be-read pile shrink, but more books just keep getting added to it, sometimes by me, sometimes by other people.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2012 19:46

    I love Jenny-Mai Nuyen! Might have mentioned that once or twice? But she’s one of the few fantasy writers I still like to read and it’s mainly because of the lack of good and evil in her stories. Also, I agree that there’s “something about her tone”… not sure what it is either. ^^;

  2. January 31, 2012 20:11

    A bookseller acquaintance recommended her books to me when she had only published one or two, and I’m quite grateful to her for that. Glad to see that I’m not the only one who can’t say exactly what makes her writing so good. 😀

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