Review: Compartment no. 6 by Rosa Liksom


SERPENT'S TAIL, 2014/2011

A sad young Finnish woman boards a train in Moscow, in the waning years of the Soviet Union. Bound for Mongolia, she’s trying to put as much space as possible between her and a broken relationship. Wanting to be alone, she chooses an empty compartment—No. 6.—but her solitude is soon shattered by the arrival of a fellow passenger: Vadim Nikolayevich Ivanov, a grizzled, opinionated, foul-mouthed former soldier. Vadim fills the compartment with his long and colorful stories, recounting in lurid detail his sexual conquests and violent fights.

There is a hint of menace in the air, but initially the woman is not so much scared of or shocked by him as she is repulsed. She stands up to him, throwing a boot at his head. But though Vadim may be crude, he isn’t cruel, and he shares with her the sausage and black bread and tea he’s brought for the journey, coaxing the girl out of her silent gloom. As their train cuts slowly across thousands of miles of a wintry Russia, where “everything is in motion, snow, water, air, trees, clouds, wind, cities, villages, people and thoughts,” a grudging kind of companionship grows between the two inhabitants of Compartment No. 6. When they finally arrive in Ulan Bator, a series of starlit and sinister encounters bring this incantatory story about a ruined but beautiful country to its powerful conclusion.

Compartment no. 6 is a fantastic novel about travelling – the odd kinship formed between complete strangers – and about Soviet Russia. It begins with the boarding of the Trans-Siberian train, in which a young Finnish student finds herself sharing a train compartment with a boorish Russian construction worker. The girl is looking for an escape from her current situation, because she feels trapped and unable to make up her mind about her relationship with a young man she cares for. Hoping to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Siberian nature and to shut herself from the world, she is, however, forced to come into contact with the brazen, oversharing comrade.

The beauty of the novel lies in the way in which it describes movement. Liksom’s writing is so vivid and compelling that I could almost see the landscape flashing in the train window with my very own eyes – all from the comfort of my comfy couch and centrally heated apartment. I guess it is no wonder that Liksom chose to set the novel during the freezing winter season, as it emphasises the desperation to live and the yearning to die inherent in the nation. The apathy and passion, the poverty and garish luxury – the Soviet Union drawn in Compartment no. 6 is full of contradictions. Even the most despicable travel companion somehow becomes endearing in closed confinement.

Although the many of the details have faded away in the months after reading this novel, Compartment no. 6 is one that still occasionally comes back to haunt me. Although at first it might seem slightly underwhelming in action, the novel leaves a lasting impression. The rhythm of the narration, the pulse of the train on the tracks, feels alive, and the depiction of Soviet Russia as both abhorrent and intriguing is almost loving. There is much to despise in the swearing, uneducated, misogynic male character, but yet there is also the hint of honesty and raw humanity that’s been stripped back to its basest form. So what is the novel really about? In my opinion it’s about two people, two worlds coming together in a closed space; the contact is unavoidable, and though the situation feels occasionally very claustrophobic, there is also much to learn by listening and opening up to these discussions.

I very much enjoyed Compartment no. 6, and I’m glad that it has been translated into several languages and thus has found (and hopefully charmed) readers across the world. If you do ever come across a copy of this book, I urge you to pick it up and read it. For such a short novel it provides fascinating insight to human relationships. I’d especially recommend this to readers who are planning to or have travelled the Trans-Siberian railway or are interested in Soviet fiction in general. If you want more convincing, I suggest you read also Sarah’s and Madame Bibi’s fantastic reviews.


An unknown Russia frozen in ice opens up ahead, the train speeds onward, shining stars etched against a tired sky, the train plunging into nature, into oppressive darkness lit by a cloudy, starless sky. Everything is in motion: snow, water, air, trees, clouds, wind, cities, villages, people, thoughts.

10 books I look forward to reading in the autumn

Although I generally fail when it comes to TBRs, I enjoy the thrill of selecting books and curating a list of books that sound interesting or have been recommended to me. For my 20 books of summer project I read a total of 10 books from the selected 20, but instead of beating myself for it, I’ve decided to start afresh. Recently I’ve come across bloggers and vloggers making seasonal TBRs that cover several months instead of making set lists of books that they try to complete in 30 days. Inspired by this, I’ve compiled my own list of ten books that I’m excited about and that I believe will be perfect for the upcoming autumn months. Autumn is the time when I usually get back into classics and pick up heavier books, both in size as well as subject matter. Hence my autumn picks are divided into three genres:


  1. Classics
    1. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – I’ve owned my copy now for over 2 years, and have been putting the book on my TBRs for approximately a year. I shall read this. It is decided.
    2. Anna Karenina – My big book for the summer that I, unfortunately, had to put down. But since I got to the half way point during summer, there’s still hope that I’ll finish this by the end of the year. I just need to commit to it.
    3. Stoner – It’s a bit odd to call this a ‘classic’ seeing that it surged in popularity only recently. However, based on what I’ve read so far, this seems like the perfect autumn read.Autumn2016CR
  2. Crime
    1. Career of Evil – Sadly, there were no beaches for me this summer, so my beach read of the summer will have to become a late-night-with-tea-and-quilts read.
    2. In the Woods – I bought this just recently, and I want to delve into Tana French’s writing. I’ve heard great things, and if I enjoy it, I’ll have five more books to go in this Dublin Murder Squad series.
    3. The Secret History – I won’t be returning to uni this autumn, so I’ll need my fix of university literature.Autumn2016CO
  3. Contemporary fiction
    1. The Vegetarian – I have it. I want to read it. QED.
    2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – I love me some Tim Burton, and seeing that the film adaptation of this book is coming out soon, I want to know what to expect.
    3. OneironOneiron was one of the first books I purchased in the beginning of the year and, like A Little Life, one that I had been waiting to get my hands on for some time. It was the winner of last year’s Finlandia prize and in general one of the most hyped, loved and criticised book of the year. Now that the hype is gone, it should be the perfect time to read this.
    4. Uprooted / Remains of the Day / Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow / The Trial – Okay, so I have too many books that I want to read and cannot decided which one to add as my tenth pick. I’m hoping to get to at least one of these, better yet maybe two or three. Uprooted has peaked my interest with its Polish setting and interesting heroine, Ishiguro is on my 2016 TBR, Miss Smilla a book that I’ve owned almost since the beginning of my studies in university and The Trial a book in German that I’ve been meaning to get to (plus its short and a classic).


    What are you planning on reading this autumn? Do your tastes change with the seasons or am I the only one affected by this? I’d love to hear about you’re reading in the comments! x

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #1)


EBOOK; 864 P.

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

TV and film adaptations truly have the power to pick-up backlist books and make the bestsellers again. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series has been enthralling readers since 1991, but I think it was only after the release of the trailer for the TV adaptation that the younger generation of readers became aware of it. In fact, Outlander is one in a long series of stories to take on new mediums of storytelling – The Song of Ice and Fire, The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina, The Martian, Room. Although book lovers generally prefer to read the book before seeing the adaptation, it must be admitted that these films and TV series often encourage non-readers or casual readers to return to the realm of reading. And yes, I confess that I probably wouldn’t have read Outlander if I hadn’t watched the pilot episode and got invested in the story.

Outlander is a historical fiction novel that begins in 1945 when the protagonist of the novel, Claire, travels to the Scottish highlands with her husband Frank from whom she has long been separated due to war. The trip to Scotland ties together with Frank’s upcoming post as a history professor and his interest in tracking down his heritage. Claire, however, is using the trip to reacquaint herself with her husband and think about her future now that the war is over. Fate, however, has other plans for Claire: visiting one of the many historical sites, she touches a stone and falls 200 years back in time only to run into Frank’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather and there after taken by Scottish countrymen who are planning to rebel against the English rule. Lost in time, Claire tries to adapt herself into her new surroundings whilst looking for a way to return, but finds herself attached to a young Scottish stable lad.

Sounds like your everyday time-travel historical romance novel? Think again. Outlander is a confusing, surprising and conflicting book. The beginning of the story introduces the characters, the time period and the surroundings, and in my opinion it was the point in the story that I enjoyed the most; I can definitely see why so many people have fallen in love with this book. I gobbled several hundred pages in just a few days. However, after the excitement of the new situation started to wear off, the book began to fall apart. The main focus suddenly shifts to the sexual tension between the two main characters which escalates in a span of few chapters, and almost as a counterbalance to all the romance, the book get violent – assault, rape, murder, torture, trauma, you name it. Violence itself doesn’t turn me off a book, per se, except when it’s used for no apparent reason than just adding more pages to the story. I mean if you thought Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life was torture-porn, steer clear of Outlander!

Aside from the violence, what confused me in Outlander was the lack of an overarching storyline. Usually books have several storylines, but there tends to be always one that is stronger, more emphasised, and that carries throughout the novel. In Outlander, however, none of the storylines seem to stand out; it’s more like a series of storylines that sometimes overlap, but mostly stay separated from each other. Having grown used to the overarching type of stories, reading this book was both distracting and fresh. I found the story hard to grasp at times, and especially towards the end the book started to drag on and on without any indication of coming to an end.

All this being said, what I loved about Outlander was its take on heros and heroines. The book steers clear of some of the most common tropes of the genre and doesn’t shy away from the cultural clashes between gender roles in different time periods. The book also takes acknowledges the aspects of both physical as well as psychological healing. Overall, I’m sad to say that Outlander wasn’t my cup of tea, and I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with the series. However, if you’re interested in historical fiction, Scotland and don’t mind violence or descriptions of sex, you might want to give this a try. I wouldn’t recommend this to younger readers, though, as it is rather graphic.


Seen without the suddenness of surprise, there was nothing frightening about the dead man; there never is. No matter how ugly the manner in which a man dies, it’s only the presence of a suffering human soul that is horrifying; once gone, what is left is only an object.

Have you read Outlander or watched the TV series, and if yes, what did you think of it? I’d love to hear other opinions on this book.

20 Books of Summer + BONTS Bingo

Summer’s here! Yes, it’s finally time to put on that sunscreen and dust the picnic quilt. For me summer is synonymous with ice scream, bright summer nights, swimming in the lake and, of course, summer reading. Last summer I participated in both the Books on the Nightstand Summer Bingo as well as 20 Books of Summer, and read far far more than I expected. I had so much fun planning my TBR and trying to come up with books for different bingo categories that I knew I had to do it again this summer. Moreover, thanks to the challenges I discovered some absolutely wonderful books that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have taken time to read. I’m not deluding myself in thinking I could improve upon last year’s success, but because I’m crazy for lists and reading challenges (and because I’m kinda failing my other resolutions for the year), I want to try my best.

20 Books of Summer is hosted by Cathy from 746 Books, and the aim of the reading challenge is to set yourself a summer TBR – and stick to it! You can go with either 10, 15 or 20 books, or as many as you think you can manage during the summer months. Last year I completed 17 out of 20 books, so I’m setting the goal again to 20 books. My list of books consists of both library books and of books I’ve been meaning to read or have owned for a long time. In addition, I’ve included the two books that I didn’t get round to reading last year: A Tenant of Wilderfell Hall & A Storm of Swords. One of my summer reading traditions is also to try and tackle a big classics – last year it was The Egyptian and the year before that Moby Dick – and this summer I’m tackling Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, which I’ve already started reading.

Introducing my very ambitious, realistic-only-in-an-alternative-universe 20 Books of Summer TBR:

  • The Tenant of Wilderfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
  • ISO by Pekka Hiltunen ✓
  • Room by Emma Donoghue ✓
  • Brave New World by Aldos Huxley
  • Sonja O. kävi täällä by Anja Kauranen ✓
  • Is That a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos (currently-reading)
  • Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg
  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  • When I Forgot by Elina Hirvonen ✓
  • Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee
  • Pollomuhku ja Posityyhtynen by Jaana Kapari-Jatta ✓
  • Musta satu by Aki Ollikainen ✓
  • Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (currently-reading)
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr ✓
  • Silent House by Orhan Pamuk ✓
  • Manillaköysi by Veijo Meri ✓
  • Essays by George Orwell
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (currently-reading)

I picked up books for the challenge based on what I was interested in reading right now as well as books that I’ve been putting off because of subject matter or the length of the book. I own way too many “I’ll read this some day” books, which is why I’m using this challenge as test to see if I really want to read those books or if I should just give them away – yes, I’m looking at you A Song of Ice and Fire box set. But in order not to bury myself under a pile of heavy books, I’ve also included some rather short books, that I can easily carry with me to the beach. A few non-fiction books and a collection of essays will be perfect for travels and for the cold rainy days I can armchair travel to Italy, France, Istanbul or Westeros.

Book on the Nightstand is one of my favourite literary podcasts – gutted to hear that it’s ending this summer – and they host an annual summer reading bingo that runs from May 28th to September 1st. The bingo charts are generated from a large variety of categories HERE (note: refreshing the page will automatically create a new bingo card), and the BONTS Goodreads group offers plenty of solid recommendations for books in different categories. I’m rather pleased with the card that I got and have already spent a wee while dreaming about the books I will read. However, if you have any recommendations as to books with main characters over the age of 50 or 60, I’d love to hear them (I can only think of Etta, Otto, Russel and James or Elisabeth is Missing).

My BONTS Summer Bingo Card:
BONTS Summer 2016 Bingo

I’ve intentionally matched some of the bingo squares with the 20 Books of Summer TBR – such as Barnaby Rudge for “Obscure novel by a famous author” or Is that a Fish in Your Ear for “Has been on your TBR for longer than two years” or Silent House for “Any book by a Nobel Prize winner” – in order to motivate myself to actually read the books I say I would love to read. However, I’m well aware that I have two books over 1,000 pages on the list (A Storm of Swords and 1Q84), so it’s quite possible that I will only get to one of them. I’ve also left some room to fill in books that are not on my TBR, because I am essentially a mood reader and will want to veer from my TBR every once in a while.

So, I guess now that that’s all set, I’ll just have to get started on the actual reading. I’ll try my best to review books as soon as I finish them, but if that doesn’t happen, there’ll at least be a wrap-up post coming in September. What are you reading this summer? x

Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (Cormoran Strike #2)

EBOOK; 455 P.
SPHERE, 2014

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before…

I read the first book in the Cormoran Strike series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, two years ago during summer holidays. Although the book didn’t altogether blow my mind – with JK Rowling the expectations run higher than usual –, it turned out to be an exciting and fun summer read. However, continuing the series was pushed back as I was soon after slightly spoiled about the events in The Silkworm and needed some time to erase the information from my memory. In the end summer arrived once again with a short vacation at the summer cottage and upon choosing the books to take with me, I decided to purchase The Silkworm for my Kindle and see where the story would go (and whether it would improve).

Whereas The Cuckoo’s Calling centered around fame and celebrity culture, The Silkworm focuses on the publishing circles of London. Like many other readers I, too, am fascinated by stories – fiction or non-fiction – set in the world of books, which is why I was super intrigued to see how the story and the plot would plan out. The story begins when private detective Cormoran Strike is alerted about a missing author Owen Quine. Right before his disappearance Quine had sent several people a copy of his manuscript that throws strong accusations about several leading figures in the publishing world. The circumstances around the authors disappearance are murky and it seems no one has a nice word to say about the missing author.

The Silkworm is an enjoyable detective novel. It’s great in the sense that it makes you want to read until the end to find out who did it – a perfect read that will keep you entertained for a day or two – and it doesn’t give clues too easily. However, looking back at the reading experience it’s apparent that the book failed to leave a lasting impression – I had to look up several things while writing this blog post. The most exciting thing about this novel was the publishing world setting, but other than that, I found my interest slipping. I guess it might be just me, but I found neither the plot nor the characters particularly gripping. Aside from the mystery itself, the novel focuses a lot on Cormoran Strike’s assistant Robin and her struggles in balancing work and relationship. This could have been interesting in itself, but in the end it felt that the two plotlines of The Silkworm didn’t connect with each other – they were like two incomplete parts of two different books that had been sown together.

I don’t mean to say that The Silkworm is particularly bad novel, but it’s not exceptional either. All in all, the book left me a bit disappointed in the series as a whole. JK Rowling knows how to write and to craft realistic characters, so it’s always a pleasure to read her books, but I just don’t think she writes crime well. As a concept the Cormoran Strike series is an interesting one, but it just doesn’t seem like the one for me. Lucy from the Hard Book Habit struggled also with the first two books in the series, but based on her review things get more interesting in the third book. Hence I might try to read The Career of Evil over the summer (and continue to read the next books in the series for the sake of pop culture references). However, I’ll definitely stick to checking them out from the library instead of buying my own copies.


Review: Aniara by Harry Martinson


The great Swedish writer Harry Martinson published his masterpiece, Aniara, during the height of the Cold War – right after the Soviet Union announced that it had exploded the hydrogen bomb. Aniara is the story of a luxurious space ship, loaded with 8,000 evacuees, fleeing an Earth made uninhabitable by Man’s technological arrogance. A malfunction knocks the craft off course, taking these would-be Mars colonists on an irreversible journey into deep space. Aniara is a book of prophecy, a panoramic view of humanity’s possible fate. It has been translated into seven languages and adapted into a popular avant-garde opera.

Once upon a time, in a far far corner of a nice Irish pub I asked my reader friend to recommend me a good science fiction book (he’s an expert, you see). The response was immediate – Aniara by Harry Martinson –, so much so that at first I thought he making a joke. However, the name stuck in my mind and about a month later I checked the book out from the library. The only copy available in my local library was in Swedish, but I decided that it would have to do. I mean, how hard can it be to read about space travel in Swedish? (Answer: Hard, but so bloody worth it.)

Aniara begins with the launch of one of the gigantic ships that are transporting people from the no longer inhabitable Earth to Mars to begin a new life there. Unfortunately the evacuation flight gets pushed off track by a collision with an asteroid, and due to a technical error it can’t return back to its original course: the ship is lost in space, floating around with no hope of ever reaching its target. However, the technology of the ship allows its 8,000 passengers to continue to live luxuriously for several decades within the spacecraft. With no immediate danger, the people try to return to their normal lives by building their own society within the spaceship. Aniara is an exploration of the psychological side of life in a closed community: the ship’s inhabitants form their own microcosm of class divisions, religion and morality.

The epic of Aniara consist of 103 songs describing mostly the life and thoughts of an engineer running a machine called Mima that relieves the homesickness of the passengers by showing old images of the Earth. As Earth is the only main connection between the huge mass of people in the spacecraft, the machine is thought have mystic powers and its rooms in the ship come to serve as a church of some sort. Aniara show the human need to control fate as well as the horrors born from conflicts between different groups. As the flight of the ship progresses, the reader learns more about the reasons behind the destruction of Earth as well as the horrifying secrets behind the evacuation plan. Aniara is a tragedy and the heartbreakingly beautiful songs give the story a true feeling of a tale passed on from generation to generation.

I fell in love with Aniara from page one. Although the language made me jump through some hoops with the dictionary, the end result was fantastic and mind-blowing. The book’s themes of humanity, societies and international politics tick all the boxes for me and combined with the stunning poetry, it was clear that the book would become one of my favourite reads. Martinson won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1974 “for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos” – although there were some controversy surrounding the process – and in my opinion he has definitely earned it. Unfortunately copies of the English translation are currently almost nonexistent (so I’m told). Some ecopies can be found online, for example from Scribd where you can browse or read a sample of this stunning epic. I highly recommend this if you enjoy beautiful and tragic writing about societal issues and human psyche.


Protesting we were innocent, we sought
to reason without learned reference
and in the language most of them were taught
propound the barest modicum of sense.
But this same language, meant to clear up all,
grew murky for us too, a rigmarole
of words avoiding words and playing blind
amid the clarity of cosmic soul.

World Book Day 2016


Happy World Book Day!

March 3rd 2016 is World Book Day which, according to the organisation running the event in the UK, is “a worldwide celebration of books and reading.” The aim is to share books and book recommendations, and to encourage especially children into reading. I’ve lately been too busy juggling with studies, internship and part-time work to update you about my most recent reads, but never too busy to steal a few moments with a good book. Simon from Savidge Reads came up with this great idea (which I’m blatantly copying here) of celebrating the day with some quick bite-sized book recommendations. Go check out his recommendations and share your own in the comments!

Your favourite book: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. On-point social commentary, a dab of romance and strong female characters – what more can you ask for from a 19th century novel?
A recent reading highlight: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s been almost two months since I finished this book and it’s still by far the best book I’ve read this year.
A book people might not have heard of or read but really should have: Compartment No. 6 by Rosa Liksom. One of the best pieces of Finnish literature I’ve read recently; Compartment No. 6 is an excellent novel about a young woman’s journey along the Trans-Siberian Railway during the Soviet years. Need more convincing? Check out Sarah’s review.
A book which might get someone who doesn’t think they like reading back into books: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. If you think you don’t like science fiction-y novels about the end of the world, read this. For reading in general, Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader is quite alright.
A book you can’t wait to read by a favourite author: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey (2016?). I’m generally quite bad at keeping up with the new releases, but after reading The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, I cannot wait to read her next novel!

Around the World in 80 Books


I spotted this reading challenge from Hard Book Habit, a fabulous book blog written by two voracious – and hilarious – readers. The idea of the challenge is to read 80 books set in different countries with at least one book set on each continent, one set on sea and one centered around travelling. I’ve for a long time been intrigued by all the reading diversely/across the world/the continents challenges, but this one seems like a perfect fit for me – a low-key challenge with a chance of learning! Reading 80 books for a challenge is quite a hefty task, so luckily there is no time limit for the journey. I assume it will take me more than one year to complete the challenge, two if I put my mind into it.

I got so excited about the challenge that I instantly started to compile a list of books I would like to read and that are either set or written in countries other than Finland, UK or USA (the top three countries according to my reading statistics and ones that I’ll most likely read many books for). I’ve made a shelf on my Goodreads to keep track of the books I read, and I’ll try to review each of them here using the tag #AW80Books. This post will serve as my travelogue/master post for the reading journey which I’ll update my as I go along.

Here’s a short list of some of the first destinations I hope to travel to:

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
Set in South Africa, the book follows an English professor in the post-Apartheid Cape Town. The lovely Kainzow recommended this one to me ages ago, so I think it’s the perfect starting point for a challenge like this.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – READ
Set in Congo. A classic tale of the “white man’s burden” and an exploration of the deep human psyche. Perhaps not the right fit for this challenge. Although it highlights the racism in the Western perspective, it still falls to the pits of western blindness.

The Corpse Exhibition And Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan Blasim – READ
Set in Iraq. Hassan Blasim began his writing career only few years after arriving to Finland, but he has already been named as one of the most exciting Arabic fiction writers alive (according to The Guardian). Considering he’s a bit of a local celebrity where I live, I think it apt to begin exploring the Middle East through his short stories.

In the Orchard, the Swallows by Peter Hobbs – READ
Set in Pakistan. A beautiful and poetic story of love, innocence, kindness and war. Hobbs has beautifully captured the sense of how the Afghan war has disturbed the life in the peaceful small communities.

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami – READ
Set in Japan. A curious exploration of libraries, knowledge, education and the surreal magical realism of Murakami

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Set in Russia. This is one that I really really want to get to this year. Everyone who has read it loves it, so I cannot wait to tackle this and (hopefully) adore it as well.

A Man Called Ove by Peter Backman – READ
Set in Sweden. A heart-warming tale of an old grumpy man who hates the world and modern society, but is pulled out of his shell by his neighbours.

Estonian haiku poetry by Asko Künnap, Karl Martin Sinijärv, Jürgen Rooste – READ
Set in Estonia. A tiny collection of haiku poetry written in Estonian – which I read in Finnish translation. In few words: fascinating and very post-modern.

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg
Set in Denmark/Greenland, this book follows a woman investigating the mysterious suicide of a young boy from her neighbourhood. It’s one that remember reading an extract from ages ago and buying a copy a few years back with the intention of reading it soon. It’s high time to get on this.

A Constellation of a Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Set in Chechnya. This one I actually don’t know much about except that it is a blogger favourite and adored by many of the readers whose tastes often go hand in hand with mine.

Silent House by Orhan Pamuk – READ
Set in Turkey. Understated beauty of a family in the society at the brink of civil war. Aspirations for Western affluence, civilisation, love and acceptance, and terrible miscommunication between sisters and brothers.

Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos – READ
Set in Mexico, the book follows the young son of a drug cartel mafioso. Said to be quirky and Alice in Wonderland like, I’m looking forward to this foray into Mexican literature.

Compartment no. 6 by Rosa Liksom
Set on the Trans Siberian Express. This book won the prestigious Finlandia prize in 2011. It’s by the Finnish author Rosa Liksom, who’ve I’ve been meaning to read for a looong time, and it’s also one that has been translated into English.

Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne – READ
This one’s a re-read for me, because I read it the first time when I was twelve and then maybe again the next year. So it’s been over 10 years since I last read it! I haven’t touched any of Verne’s books as an adult, so I’m both interested and scared to see how I feel about them now. Might count this one as the one set on sea.

Let me know if you have any suggestions as to books/countries that I should check out – I’m especially curious about South America, since my knowledge of the literature from the continent is almost nonexistent. Also, if you’d like to participate, please do so! More details can be found from HardBookHabit. Happy reading! x