Reading goals for 2017

In 2016 I set myself six different reading goals and managed to complete only one of them. The reasons for this are too numerous and tedious to go into here, but, in a nutshell, I fell out of blogging and thus didn’t visit these goals throughout the year.

So, new year, new me? Will 2017 be any different? To be honest, I don’t think 2017 will be much different. Reading and blogging have taken a slight backseat in my life and I cannot devote as much time into selecting the books I read. In 2016 I chose my books more impulsively than in the previous years and while I loved it, I also like to have some structure to guide and inform my reading. I enjoy setting myself a challenge and the exposure to new genres and voices that these challenges bring. Having learned my lesson from 2016, I’m nevertheless cutting down the reading goals by half.

My three reading goals for 2017 are:

1. Read 50 books by Finnish authors

For a Finn who enjoys reading, I read a miserable amount of Finnish fiction and non-fiction. When discussion turns to Finnish books, I’m usually the one in the party who keeps her mouth shut and pretends to know what others are talking about. However, in the last two years I’ve been trying to motivate myself into picking up more Finnish fiction and exploring authors that otherwise wouldn’t pop up on my radar. This project has led me into discovering new favourite authors – Tove Jansson, Kristina Carlson, Ilmari Kianto, Risto Isomäki etc. – as well as new voices that I wish to explore more.

But why 50 books? 2017 marks centennial of Finnish independence and, together with the national broadcasting company YLE, several Finnish book bloggers are aiming to read 100 Finnish books in 2017 – one from each year of the independence (1917–2017). I did for a moment consider joining in on the challenge, as I did 100 books in 2016 and could perhaps repeat the record again. However, going cold turkey on English, American and World literature for an entire year is not something I think I could do – or enjoy. So I think a compromise of 50 books is both manageable as well as exciting and will help me to keep the balance of structured vs. non-structured reading. It’ll be a huge challenge for myself and mean great changes and adjustments in my reading, but I know I can pull it off. And after all, it’s only for one year.

I’ll be updating my progress mostly on Twitter and Instagram (@bookarino) with the hashtag #50Finns2017, but I do also plan on blogging on some of the books.

2. Continue the Around the World in 80 Books reading challenge

To balance the massive increase of Finnish literature I plan to continue with the Around the World in 80 Books challenge (run by the fantastic women at Hard Book Habit). I know my reading choices are in general incredibly white and Western –Western European to be precise–, which is why last year I felt it was time to stop the navel gazing and reach out to other cultures. However, in 2016 I read only 13 books that fell within the limits of this challenge and still haven’t blogged about any of them (aside from the unforgetable Compartment no. 6 by Rosa Liksom). So even if I were do devote the other 50 books of this year for this challenge, there’ll be yet another year of world literature to look forward to. And that’s how I like it!

3. Re-read Harry Potter and/or the Moomin books

This is an idea that I’ve been toying with for some time now. I’m not a huge re-reader, and struggle to pick up books I already know and love instead of new exciting titles. Originally I’d already planned on re-reading the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling in 2016, but decided against it because I was already juggling so many goals and challenges. And boy was I right. However, I feel like now is the time to go back and revisit the world of witches and wizards. One of the inspirations for this challenge has been the podcast Oh Witch Please, where two brilliant female academics discuss and analyse all the books and the movies of the series. I’ve only listened to the first two episodes, but I’m already loving it.

An alternative to great Harry Potter re-read, is the Moomin series by Tove Jansson. I think I read this series between the ages of 7-10, so there are bound to be huge gaps in my memory as to what really happens in the series. I adore Tove Jansson and having read her biography, I feel the need to revisit this series and see the parallels to her own life with my own eyes. The series would naturally also count for my challenge of reading 50 Finnish books, although I think I’d really love to read them in the original Swedish instead of the Finnish translation that I’m familiar with.

Whether I’ll end up reading Harry Potter or Moomins, I don’t think I’ll be posting reviews for individual books. However, I’ll try to write a collective review of the entire series at the end of the project, so as to wrap up my thoughts and feelings on both the individual books as well as the series overall.

What are your reading resolutions or goals for 2017? Are you a planner or do you think plans make reading feel like a chore? Let me know in the comments. x

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2016 reading in review

In the beginning of 2016 I set myself six goals which I hoped would inspire me to switch up my reading and pick up new, exciting and challenging books. And I believe this is exactly what it would have done had I remembered my goals. Alas, it was not to be, and here were are, in time for the confessional.

I successfully met only one of the six goals. However, looking at my reading statistics I’m positively surprised that some of my goals from previous years are now bearing fruit: my gender balance is close to 50/50, I’ve started actively reading both plays and poetry and am no longer avoiding “big books” (In 2016 I read 4 books that were over 600 pages, and am currently in the middle of two more). All the same, it’s time to look back on those goals and how gruesome where my failures. But first, some numbers:

In 2016, my Goodreads challenge was to read 52 books – and I read 101 books. That’s 4 books more than in 2015. However, according to Goodreads that’s a total of 25,193 pages which is almost 1,000 pages less than in 2015.
In 2016, I read 9 books out of my 274 TBR, which means I now stand at 101/274. That’s down by half from 2015.
In 2016, I read 49 books by male authors and 44 books by female authors. There were also six graphic novels that had both male and female authors/artists.
In 2016, I read 73 books in English, 19 books in Finnish and 7 books in Swedish. Out of these, 12 were translations.
In 2016, I read 47 books by North American authors and 19 books by Finnish authors. The United Kingdom fell into the third place with 15 books. In 2015, the number of US authors was 43 and 30 for UK. The number of Finnish authors on that year was 25.
In 2016, I read 76 physical books and 22 ebooks. Out of the physical books, 61 were paperback and 15 hardcover. I also listened to one audiobook.
In 2016, I read a variety of different types of literature. Compared to 2015, the greatest changes were the decrease of classics (by half from 2015) and the increase of science fiction and childrens literature (doubled) as well as disappearance of some previous genres (horror and contemporary).

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So let’s recap the goals and analyse my failures shall we.

1. Read 20 books I already own

AHAHAHAHAA… This is actually quite sad. I read a measly 8 books that I’d bought before 2016 and continued to buy on seven books a month on average, so this goal was utter failure. This year alone I acquired exactly 100 books, and little over half of them still stand unread on my shelves. Although many of these were either gifted to me or bought with gift cards, I still need to kick the habit of buying cheap ebooks from the Kindle Daily Deals – this amounts to 35 new books of which 19 unread – as well as second-hand books (33 books of which 23 unread).

2. Read 20 books from my TBR 274 list

NOPE. In 2016, I read only nine books from this long list of high-ranked books. I enjoyed most of them, but I’m also seeing a trend of my reading shifting more towards what’s current now instead of picking up the backlist from previous years and decades. This is a shame but also understandable as I often am more exposed to new releases than reviews of older titles. However, I don’t plan on scratching out the massive TBR. I’ll wait for one year and see if the progress continues to be minimal or if 2016 was simply an anomaly.

3. Read at least 4 from the selected list

EH, 2.5/4 ain’t so bad? I was so excited for my choices, but then I never got excited enough to actually pick up and read the books. Why? I don’t know. I guess my downfall was beginning with Anna Karenina which I first procrastinated on for several months and then after starting it had to return it back to the library before even reaching the end. However, I do plan on going back to and finishing Anna Karenina in 2017. The two books that I did finish from the list were Lord of the Flies by William Golding and The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. Lord of the Flies left me a bit underwhelmed, whereas The Strange Library definitely delivered on the strange. I’m definitely want to read more Murakami in 2017!

4. Read 16 books in translation

ALMOST THERE. I read 12 books in translation in 2016 – that’s about one per month. This was mostly thanks to signing up for the Around the World in 80 Books challenge, which forced me to look for books from different countries. In 2016, my reading was dominated by US authors, and although several of them had an immigrant background, they mostly publish their writing in English. However, similarly to the TBR274 goal, I’m not letting go of this one yet. Translations do still make approximately one tenth of my reading, but with more time and conscious effort I might be able to up that into 15 or even 20 per cent.

5. Read at least one book in Swedish and German

YAY for Swedish, nay for German. In 2016, I read the most I’ve ever read in Swedish in year – 7 books! This was partly due to a Swedish literature course that I took in the spring and partly because I came across several interesting Finnish-Swedish authors. My plan is to keep reading around five books a year in Swedish to broaden my vocabulary and improve my reading comprehension. In contrast, I don’t know what I should do with German. In 2015 I read 3 books in German, so to drop down to zero is quite a downgrade. I currently have a couple German books on my TBR shelf, but unless I get round to reading them in 2017 I don’t know when I might read them – if ever.

6. Read 16 books by Finnish authors

SUCCESS! In 2015 I started to make a more conscious effort to read in my native language, Finnish, and to read more Finnish authors. I set myself a 15 in 2015 challenge which I aced and felt confident that next year would be piece of cake. In the end, it wasn’t. Reaching the milestone of 16 books took a real last minute reading sprint. My top three reads were Compartment no. 6 by Rosa Liksom, Sing no Evil by JP Ahonen and The Wednesday Club by Kjell Westö. However, this will not be the end of these goals, as I plan to devote 50% of 2017’s reading solely for Finnish fiction and classics. After the bumpy experience of 2016 I do feel a bit apprehensive, but like they say – no pain, no gain.

Around the World in 80 Books

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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:

AFRICA
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.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe – READ
Set in Nigeria. Almost a direct response to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Achebe’s tale of a Nigerian village life and the struggles of a successful fighter in the changing climate of colonization – both the good and the bad.

ASIA

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 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.

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

The Vegetarian by Hang Kang – READ
Set in South Korea. The winner of Man Booker International Prize 2016. The Vegetarian follows one woman’s decision to give up meat and the reaction that this causes in her family. It’s a deeply upsetting and raw tale of a woman’s fight against oppression and patriarchal norms.

EUROPE
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.

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.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante – READ
Set in Italy. This is the first novel in the Neapolitan Quartet that follows two girls growing up in 1950s Naples, their friendship and aspirations as well as the society surrounding them.

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.

AMERICAS
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.

MISCELLANOUS
Compartment no. 6 by Rosa Liksom – READ
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

Reading goals for 2016

New year, new challenges! I for one love to make plans and plan out small projects, goals or challenges for myself, and reading is no exception. Last year I made a total of eight goals and had great success with most of the challenges. However, because there were so many different goals, some went completely haywire, which is why this year I’m shifting down a gear and setting myself only six reading related goals. For the past month I’ve been toying with many challenge ideas, such as rereading the entire Harry Potter series, The Continental Challenge etc, but I’ve nevertheless decided to go with goals and challenges that go with my current interests and that I know I could meet with just a bit more dedication. Aside from these six goals, I’ve set my Goodreads reading challenge to 52 books in 2016 (ideally one book a week) and I might also sign up to other challenges as the year progresses just to keep things interesting. However, 2016 will be a busy year for me as I will be graduating and starting the job hunt, so I expect there’ll also be a lot of other things to keep me occupied. We’ll just have to see how that affects my reading.

1. Read 20 books I already own. (And buy less books.)
2015 was a year of big book hauls. So much so that we had to buy a third bookshelf to our apartment. (Not that I’m complaining; I’m very much partial to the library esthetic.) Many of the new purchases, however, went directly to the shelves instead of lingering on my nightstand along with my TBR. In 2015 alone I increased my physical TBR with 30 unread books and read only about 10 books that I’d bought in previous years. If the trend continues, I’ll soon have a full shelf of unread books and a half empty bank account. Part of the problem is that I find myself too often prioritising the library books over my own, which is why I want to #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks in 2016. 20 might seem like a small number, but if I can focus on reading the books I already own for the first half of the year, it should give me more freedom to catch up with the new releases and shortlisters on the latter half of the year. To stop buying books would also be ideal but unrealistic considering that I received for Christmas not one but two gift vouchers to my favourite bookstores. So there’ll be some book hauls in 2016, but I plan to overall cut back on book buying.

2. Read 20 books from my TBR 274 list
Ever since starting this blog, I’ve read yearly around 20 books from my massive TBR 274. I’m currently at 92/274, so with this pace it should take me around nine years (?!) to read the entire list. Last year I managed to read 18 books, so this year I want to repeat the challenge but aim a bit higher. As my reading has begun to shift more towards fiction published in the 21st century, it’s good to have something to inspire me to pick up also the classics. There are still so many that I want to read!

3. Read at least 4 of the following :
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  • Anna Karenina by Fjodor Dostoyevski
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • The Illiad/The Odyssey/Medea/Metamorphoses or other classic text
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • A book by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • A book by Charles Dickens
  • A book by Haruki Murakami

I don’t know about you guys, but there are many classics or authors that I keep meaning to read but never do. This is mostly because the books are either big or sound very challenging. Thus I decided to write down a list of five classics that I would like to read soon and challenge myself to prioritise them this year. In true bookworm style I, however, ended up with six books and three authors. To read all of them might be a bit of a stretch, so I’m setting the bar to four books and aiming higher. Some of the books in this list might also count for my TBR 274 goal and some would classify to the translations goal, so I hope to tick off many of these in the coming year.

4. Read 16 books in translation (either in Finnish or English translation)
As a Translation Studies major I’ve always known that I read an appalling low number of books in translation. Last year only 10% of the books I read were translated, which is why I want to put more emphasis on reading translated fiction. In 2016 I want to read more books in translation, whether it be English books in Finnish translation or Russian books in English translation. Reading one book a month would be be good, but considering that I finished 15 books in translation in 2014, I decided to aim for 16 titles.

5. Read at least one book in Swedish and in German
This one’s a repeat from the previous years. I want to continue reading literature in other languages that I know and to keep up my reading comprehension in languages that I don’t use on a daily or weekly basis. Especially with German I know that I’m beginning to forget more and more, which is why in order to keep my language skills active I should keep reading texts in German. The Swedish side of this goal should be easier to meet as I will be taking a Swedish literature course in the spring.

6. Read 16 books by Finnish authors
The year 2015 was “The Year of Book” in Finland and to celebrate Finnish literature I vowed to read 15 books written by Finnish authors. Overall it was an amazing year and I soared through the challenge with a total of 21 books. Although meeting the goal was easier than expected, the challenge nevertheless inspired me to seek out new authors and helped me to discover new and interesting voices. This year my goal is to read at least 16 books by Finnish authors. I already have a few titles in mind, but for the most part I plan to target especially books that have been translated into English.

Lastly I have one goal that I’m not going to give a number for because it is simply this: Be more active in commenting. I am sometimes embarassingly slow when it comes to replying to your lovely comments and also guilty of just clicking the Like button after reading a blog post. Clicking on the button is, however, not as fruitful as commenting because it means that I often miss the insightful discussions. In 2016 I want to give more to other people. Most of the bloggers I follow are writing such intelligent and thoughtful posts, that I want to let them know that I appreciate what they are doing. After all, it’s the social element of blogging that makes this such a lovely hobby!

So there you have it! These are my six reading related goals for 2016. Let me know in the comments what are your reading resolutions for 2016 or which Murakami/Ishiguro novel I should start with. I’ve heard Norwegian Wood is a good place to start with Murakami, but for Ishiguro I have no clue. I hope you had a lovely weekend! x

Looking back at 2015 – statistics and reading goals

In the beginning of 2015 I set myself eight goals which I hoped would inspire me to switch up my reading habits and to inspire me to pick up different types of books. This is exactly what it did and, for the most part, I was very successful in meeting these goals. Some of them even led me to discover new favourites. In honor of the new year, it’s time to look back on those goals and how I did in 2015. But first, here’s some numbers:

In 2015, my Goodreads challenge was to read 50 books – and I read 98 books. That’s 21 books more than in 2014. According to Goodreads that’s a total of 26,246 pages.
In 2015, I read 18 books out of my 274 TBR, which means I now stand at 92/274. That’s one book less than in 2014.
In 2015, I read 53 books by male authors and 45 books by female authors.
In 2015, I read 73 books in English, 22 books in Finnish, 1 books in German and 3 book in Swedish. Out of these, 10 were translations.
In 2015, I read 38 books by North American authors and also 30 books by authors from the UK. The third largest nationality was Finnish with 25 books. In 2014, the number of UK and US was both 26. The number of Finnish authors was 22.
In 2015, I read 73 physical books and 25 ebooks. Out of the physical books, 46 were paperback and 24 hardcover.
In 2015, I read even greater variety of genres. Compared to 2014, the greatest changes are the increase of historical fiction (almost tripled), the arrival of new genres such as horror, comedy and poetry, the decrease of mystery (one fourth of 2014), and the joint increase of science fiction and fantasy (4 and 2 respectively in 2014).

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Now let’s look at each challenge more closely.

1. Being more conscious about the gender balance in authors

SUCCESS. In 2015, I wanted to be more conscious of the gender divide. Due to reading classics my reading tends to be dominated by male authors. In 2014, 59% of the authors I read were men, which is why I wanted to try and get the balance close to 50/50 in 2015. And I did surprisingly well. I’m my July reading update report I was in fact almost exactly at the 50/50 mark without much effort. My situation stayed rather stable all the way up to September–October when I read 10 male authors in succession. Despite my efforts of catching up, the men kept dominating the last quarter of my reading year and, in the end, my percentages were 54% men, 46% women. It’s not really 50/50, but it is close enough for me.

2. Read 50 books for Goodreads reading challenge

SUCCESS? I set up the Goodreads challenge to 50 despite reaching almost 80 books last year. Back in January I already knew that I would succeed in the challenge, but to have almost doubled the amount seems unreal to me. This year the counter didn’t create any pressure to read more or encourage to pick up shorter books – that I did all by myself. Statistically I read shorter books in 2015 which is most likely because of a combination of reading more graphic novels, poetry and essays. Which leads me to my next challenge…

3. Read big books: 1 Dickens novel, 1 A Song of Ice and Fire novel, and 2 novels over 600+ pages

ALMOST THERE. I wanted to read more big books in 2015 and, to be honest, I can’t really say I read a lot of those. I did read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – which is surprisingly short for a Dickens novel – as well as two novels over 600 pages: Night Film by Marisha Pessl and The Egyptian by Mika Waltari. I did also read a few books over the 500+ mark, so I can’t really say there were no bigger books other than those. However, I didn’t even try to pick up the over 1,000 paged Storm of Swords – maybe next year, then? There are rumours that Winds of Winter would be coming out in 2016, so I need to really start reading if I want to catch up by then.

4. Read at least one book in each language that I know (Finnish, English, Swedish, German)

SUCCESS. This challenge came quite naturally for me, and what’s more, it’s fun to see how the numbers are divided between the languages. In 2014, I read 3 books in German and 1 book in Swedish; in 2015, the numbers were exactly the same, only the other way around – 3 in Swedish, 1 in German. As to English and Finnish I read a great deal more books in English than in Finnish. Almost 75% of the books I read in 2015 were in English, so in this year I hope to read more books in Finnish.

5. Read four poetry collections

SUCCESS. It took me quite a while to get around to this goal because the first collection that I started took me several months to finish. However, in challenging myself to read poetry I naturally had to do some research and thus discovered many new poets to check out. The four collections were a complete collection of Edith Södergran’s poetry, The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy, Aniara: An Epic Science Fiction Poem by Harry Martinson, and Rakkaus on ruma sana (eng. Love is a Dirty Word) by Ismo Alanko. Of these four, both The Bees and Aniara made it to my Top Reads of 2015 list, so I’m more than pleased by the end result!

6. Complete Reading England 2015 challenge

FAILED. Sooo… This should act as a warning example of “How Not To Do It”. I signed up to this challenge already in November, setting myself a goal that was slightly higher than my comfort zone. The first three months of the year went well, but after that none of the books on the list of potential books to read for the challenge just didn’t appeal to me. As spring transitioned to summer I quite honestly forgot about the challenge, until the moment I started writing my reading update in June and realised the sorry state of affairs. Instead of immediate plan of action I, however, let the thing slip hoping that the autumn would inspired me to get back to classics and thus to read books for the challenge. No such luck. The classics that I read were either not set in England at all, or if they were, the setting was always London. In the end, I managed to read 2 counties in classics: London and Yorkshire, and 5 counties in my “Modern Detours” – Channel Islands, Cambridgeshire, Kent, London and Surrey. You can find the exact books for each county HERE. If you count the two together, I’d have barely reached my goal, but because my intention was to read especially English classics, I must admit my defeat. Nevertheless, had I had more enthusiasm for the challenge, this could have been great fun!

7. Read 15 books by Finnish authors

SUCCESS. 2015 was “The Year of Book” here in Finland, and thus readers were challenged to read 15 Finnish books in the course of the year. As I had read 22 books by Finnish authors in 2014, it seemed like a doable challenge. However, what surprised me the most was the fact how quickly my list of interesting Finnish books began to grow once I started to look into the challenge. Although in the end I read only one book more than in 2014, I became more conscious of Finnish literature in 2015 – especially Finnish literature that’s been translated into English. Out of the 23 books, 8 have been translated into English: The Rabbit Back Literature Society, When the Doves Disappeared, Mr Darwin’s Gardener, The Beggar and the Hare, The Egyptian, The Summer Book, The Black Tongue, and The Brothers. In 2016, I hope to read more contemporary Finnish fiction as well as some of the classics that I haven’t read yet.

8. Read approx. 20 books from the TBR 274 list

ALMOST THERE. The year 2015 began with a new addition to my opulently large TBR when BBC published its critics’ Greatest Novels of 21st Century (so far). The list included many interesting titles of good variety, so I decided to add them to my list – transforming the TBR 254 into TBR 274. In 2015, I read slightly more classics and modern classics than in the previous year, most of them listed in the TBR. My year included amazing novels such as A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Red Line by Ilmari Kianto, as well as a bunch of William Shakespeare’s fantastic plays (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, King Lear). From the more modern end of the list, I really enjoyed The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. There were, naturally, also ones that didn’t quite live up to the rest, such as Maa on syntinen laulu by Timo K. Mukka and Juoppohullun päiväkirja by Juha Vuorinen. In total I checked off 18 books off the list, so I’m not going to beat myself up for not reading two more books.

There! That’s a lot of figures and links to take in, so I’m going to leave it at that for today. I will post my 2016 reading goals tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Let me know in the comments if you keep a record of the books you read in a year and what are the things that you track!

Summer Reading in Review: BONTS Bingo, 20 Books of Summer and Extras

Summer is finally at an end, which means that it’s time to pack away summer clothes, bring in the sweaters and return to university. And saying goodbye to summer also means it’s time to wrap up my summer reads in preparation for the new season. This past summer has been very prolific for me in terms of reading, and it took me few recounts to verify that I really read 30 books during the three summer months. One explanation this is that I set myself two rather ambitious reading challenges in the beginning of June: Books on the Nightstand Summer Bingo and the 20 Books of Summer list. Choosing books for these challenges motivated me to read things I otherwise might not have picked so readily, and I was also happy to finally read some titles that had been sitting on my shelves for quite some time. In the end, I got 21 squares and 4 ‘Bingo!’s in my BONTS bingo chart and read 17 out of 20 from the 20 book challenge – the only books I didn’t get to were A Storm of Swords, The Tenant of Wilderfell Hall and Hägring 38. However, all three are ones that I can see myself reading during the autumn months.

Because I read so much, I am still quite a bit behind with my reviews – I hear it’s a common problem among the 20 Books of Summer participants. I do plan on writing full reviews for most of these books, but for the purpose of this wrap-up post, I’ll share my quick thoughts on each individual book here. Make sure you have something to drink, because this ride will be a long one!

June 2015

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Set in another country – Riveting and super fascinating read about the 21st immigration experience, on carrying both the past and present with you. Set partly in Dominican Repulic.

Mr Darwin’s Gardener by Kristina Carlson
BONTS Free square – Hauntingly beautiful and thought-provoking novel set in a Kentish village in 1800s. One of the most beautiful writing I’ve read in a while.

Just Kids by Patti Smith 
Set in a place you want to visit & 1/20 –Patti Smith’s memoir about New York in the late 60s and early 70s is truly as good as everyone says it is. It inspires you to create things and to work for your own art.

The Beggar and the Hare by Tuomas Kyrö
Has an animal in the title & 2/20 – “Hare-raisingly” funny romp across Finland with a sort of roadtrip slapstick plot. Also very clever satire on modern Finnish society.

Saving wishes by G.J. Walker Smith
Extra – Recommended by a friend. YA contemporary with insta-love. Lots of eye-rolling.

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride
About a disease & 3/20– Haunting story about growing up in a stiflingly religious environment. Strangely luring writing style and anonymity that gets under your skin.

Tähtikirkas, lumivalkea (Snow White, Star Bright) by Joel Haahtela
4/20 – Interesting novel about a young man driven away from his home country and making a new life for himself in the cusp of 20th century.

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Ambitious summer reading plans is the way I roll.

The Sandman, vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman
That “everyone” but you has read – My latest dip into the works of Neil Gaiman proved to be very successful and I very much enjoyed the twists that Gaiman and co. have put to the legends and myths.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
5/20– A modern classic dealing with mental health and anxiety of a young aspiring female writer. Very poignant and harrowing read.

July 2015

Dracula by Bram Stoker (illustrated by Becky Cloonan)
Written for adults, but with illustrations & 6/20– Surprisingly accessible and exciting gothic classic about Count Dracula. The illustrations fit the book well and made it truly an object of beauty.

Ich bin kein Berliner. Ein reiseführer für faule Touristen by Wladimir Kaminer
Nonfiction – Read in preparation for my second trip to Berlin. A collection of tidbits and experiences that Soviet-born Kaminer has had through his years of working as a broadcaster in Berlin. Funny and surprisingly easy to read!

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
About books, bookstores or publishing & 7/20– A cult classic that makes fun of all the fairy tale and fantasy tropes. Partly about writing the book and being a writer. Didn’t enjoy it as much as the film.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Popular Science & 8/20– Interesting look at introversion and extroversion, their biological and psychological sides as well as how culture plays a part in forming ourselves. Well research and accessibly written. A must read for introverts.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Science fiction & 9/20 – YA science fiction and fantasy novel retelling of Cinderella. Loved everything aside from the retelling part and was hooked enough to want to continue with the series.

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Travel reads à la Berlin. (The colourful one is my calendar.)

Half Bad by Sally Green
Extra – YA fantasy novel that came highly recommended. Interesting premise and some promising points, but overall a bit of a let down.

Dikter och aforismer by Edith Södergran
Poetry collection – My first foray into the world of poetry was perhaps a bit over-ambitious as I chose to read a complete collection of a poet and in a foreign language (Swedish). It took me months to get through this entire collection, but there were some moving pieces that I’ll never forget. I think I enjoyed the later collections in this bind-up more than the earlier ones.

Blog by the book: blogiopas by Miki Toikkanen & Noora Kananen
By an author who shares your first name – A Finnish non-fiction book about blogging. My expectations going in weren’t high, but I quickly realised that despite the effort that the writers had put to this book, it read quite poorly. The writing needed editing and the claims had no factual backing. Came close to DNF’ing.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Published before 1900 & 10/20 – I don’t know why I haven’t read Dickens’ possibly most well-known novel before because it is a beautiful, beautiful treat of literature. I adored this from start to finish; the language is swoon-worthy. Published in 1859.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of a Pie by Alan Bradley
11/20 – Again, I had heard nothing but great things about the Flavia de Luce series and really wanted to enjoy it. However, I just didn’t find the story and the characters believable and that bothered me a lot. Perhaps a bit too quaint for me?

August 2015

Nineteen Eight-Four by George Orwell
A classic that you should have read in school & 12/20 – The first time that I tried to read this, I couldn’t get into it because life was too hectic. And I’m glad I put it down then, because this book really requires you to let go of everything else and immerse yourself in this dystopian world and its functions. Excellent book and one that I didn’t expect to love as much as I do.

Books on the Nightstand - Summer Bingo Card

Colour coding: red for June, purple for July and mustard for August

Arvin kieliopas (Arvi’s Language Guide) by Arvi Lind
Extra – I picked this up on a whim at the library after having talked about it with a friend. A short collection of column from the newscaster Arvi Lind that don’t really focus on how language works, but more on how you should pronounce certain words and some cases where people’s grammar tends to slip. I expected more and better.

The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
Longer than 500 pages & 13/20 – My big and daunting classic book challenge of the summer (last year it was Moby Dick), The Eqyptian is a surprisingly easy to read. Intriguing intertextuality and research shines in this historical fiction novel set in the 1300 BC Egypt. 779 pages.

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
A novella & 14/20 – My second Evelyn Waugh, and I loved it more than the first one! Waugh fears nor spares no one in his satirical look at British expats in Hollywood in the 1950s and the absurdity of funeral arrangements. Stretching the definition of a novella with its 127 pages, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken, right?

The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy
That you chose because of the cover – I checked out a bunch of poetry collection from the library after finishing Edith Södergran’s work, and this was luckily one of them. Absolutely stunning pieces that I kept reading over and over again. Became one of my favourites for the year.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
15/20 – Next book in the Cormoran Strike series proved to be as good as the first one, but I’m still not really sold on the concept. I will probably continue reading the series, but will be checking them out from the library instead of buying. The publishing industry gave an interesting premise to the mystery.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Reread something – I bought a boxset of Jansson’s short story collections and wanted to re-experience the quaint vignettes of The Summer Book. Rereading the collection was very strange but very familiar at the same time.

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The best mornings are ones with a good book, a nice view and a cuppa.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
Was turned into a movie or TV show & 16/20 – Beautiful and sad story about war, young love, misunderstandings and terrible mistakes. McEwan’s writing carries the feel and sense of the pre-war Britain and the desperation of the approaching tragedy wonderfully, and though slow at places, Atonement was a pleasure to read. Movie adaptation (2007) starring Keira Knightley – with that green dress.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
Extra – A hearty story of a part-time working mother-of-three switching to a full-time position to plan a e-reading lounges and having to rediscover her work-family balance. Slightly different from what I usually read, but I enjoyed reading a book that was both bookish and all about the importance of family.

Rakkaus on ruma sana – valikoidut lauluteksti (Love is an ugly word – collection of song lyrics) by Ismo Alanko
Extra – A collection of song lyrics from 1980s to the 21st century. Reading the lyrics instead of listening to them being sung was a curious experience, and Alanko’s lyrics tell strange tales. Entertaining, but I’d exchange it for a live concert in a heart beat.

Kiinalainen puutarha (The Chinese Garden) by Markus Nummi 
About a religion with which you are unfamiliar & 17/20 – A charming but terrifying story of cultural collisions, love and terror in Kashgar, China. Set in the 1930s, it’s a bildungsroman of a young muslim boy growing up in the midst of Christian missionaries from Sweden.

– – –

Phew, this wrap-up post ended up a lot longer than I anticipated! Nevertheless, I am grateful for all the three book-filled summer months and so glad to have been able to discover so many new favourites. Because this post is already too long, I’ll be sharing my September TBR in a separate post tomorrow. If you’re interested to know what will be on my nightstand for the upcoming weeks, keep your eyes open for that! x

Reading update – The first half of 2015

ginnerobot_flickr

© ginnerobot / Flickr

2015 has been an interesting reading year so far. I’ve been challenging my reading habits, testing my reading tastes and picking up titles more impulsively. There’s also been a variety of formats in my reading, and though my preferences still go for the paperback, I’ve also grown to enjoy the benefits of ebooks. In the first six months I read 13 ebooks and 35 physical books. I wish I could also say that owning a Kindle has decreased my need to buy more books, but it really hasn’t. In total I’ve acquired almost 30 books during the first half of the year. Nevertheless, I’ve also been actively using my local library and checking out books every month – for free! And now that the first half of the year has passed, it’s good moment to check how I’m doing with the goals that I set myself in the beginning of the year.

In short, my reading goals for the year 2015 are to read equally both men and women, to read bigger books, to read more poetry and to read more Finnish books. I wrote down these challenges in the beginning of January, and for the most part, I’ve been sticking with them. For the most part. In many cases I’m doing better than I imagined and in some, my progress is barely on the line of trying at all. For example, I was surprised to find out that my male-female ratio is almost where I want it to be. It’s not fully 50/50, but it’s definitely looking good and, to be honest, I haven’t even had to try very hard to achieve it. Go me!

I’m quickly surpassing my Goodreads challenge for the year, which was expected, and I’m considering lifting the challenge to 75. However, the focus in this year is supposed to be in quality, not quantity, so I feel that lifting the challenge bar higher might make me forget that and just focus on the numbers. Another challenge that I’m acing at the moment is the 15 in 2015 challenge, in which I try to read at least 15 Finnish titles this year. One of the reasons why that challenge has been coming along so nicely is that I’ve read and reviewed also comics and graphic novels as part of the challenge, but where’s the fun in excluding those?

Half-year progress in Reading goals 2015:

  • Male/Female ratio: 25/23
  • Goodreads challenge: 48/50
  • Big Books: 1/4
  • Languages: Finnish (9); English (37); Swedish (1); German (1)
  • Poetry: 0,75/4
  • Reading England 2015: 1/7 (+3 Detours)
  • 15 in 2015: 9/15
  • TBR 274: 7/20

On the side of not-so-great progress, my score for Big Books seems quite poor now that I look at it. And my Goodreads stats agree: I’ve now read more books than in 2013, but about 2,300 pages less. Hmpf. I believe the lower page count is due to the fact that a) I finished both Gone with the Wind and A Game of Thrones in 2013 and b) I’ve been reading more plays, graphic novels and essays this year than in the previous years. Hence more books, less pages. Contributing to the low number is also the fact that my definition of a big book for this challenge is 600+ pages; if I were to count all the books that surpass the 500 page mark, I would also count The Name of the Rose (557 pages in my Finnish edition). The only book so far to breach that 600 page mark is Night Film by Marisha Pessl which had 602 pages. However, I have some hefty books set on my 20 Books of Summer TBR which should fix the problem.

I signed up for Reading England 2015 challenge already in December 2014 and I was so excited in picking up titles that matched certain counties and looking up new ones. However, I might have been a bit too ambitious with my goal setting as well as blind to my own reading tastes, because lately I’ve just been favouring American classics over the British. It all started with Melville, Steinbeck and Salinger in 2014, and continued with Fitzgerald, Poe, Chopin, Lee and Plath in 2015. Right now I feel like moving on, so I’m not completely giving up, but I’m not yet sure where the road will take me. We’ll just have to wait and see. However, I’ve been keeping track of my Modern Detours, so my combined number is not bad at all.

I’ve also been struggling with poetry, and part of that is because I might have picked the wrong book to start with. I’ve been reading the Complete Poems and Aforisms of Edith Södergran since March and the 300+ paged omnibus has been keeping its hold on me. I probably should have  picked up a shorter collection to begin with, as well as something in my mother tongue. Södergran was a Finnish-Swedish poet in the 1920s and, despite loving to read her in the original, the Swedish of the twenties is a lot different from the Swedish of today. So you could say I’m having a bit of problems in translation.

The last challenge on my list one that I’m most low-key about, and that’s reading 20 books from my super-long TBR 274 list. I set it to 20 books because that’s been the approximate number of books that I’ve read from the list in a year. I’ve currently read only 7 books from the list, which was a bit of a surprise because I expected some of the classics that I read (Waiting for Godot, Dracula, The Bell Jar) to be on that list, but it turned out they weren’t. But as I said, it’s not an issue. I’m often reading more classics during the autumn than during spring, so it should correct the balance naturally.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with how the year is going and hopefully I’ll be able to discover my inner poetry-loving reader soon. And if not, I’m not forcing it – sometimes these things require the right time and place. In the meanwhile, I’m heartily welcoming poetry recommendations!

 

Challenge yourself – literary summer bingo!

Books on the Nightstand - Summer Bingo Card

About six months ago one of my fellow bloggers, I cannot remember who anymore, wrote a post about literary podcasts and recommended Books on the Nightstand – a weekly podcast series where two publishing professionals talk about books and literary events. I got quickly hooked on the podcasts and have been following them for a while now. The BONTS Summer Reading Bingo is a reading challenge that they piloted last summer and due to popular demand are doing again this year. Although I know I already have a lot of catching up to do with my own reading challenges for the year, I think I also need something that’s a little out of my comfort zone. Hence I’m going to take up the challenge and see if I’ll be able to complete at least one row before the end the challenge. The challenge runs from May 25th to September 7th and you can decide yourself which rules to follow. I think I’ll go with the traditional five-in-a-row tactic although I have know idea where to start from.

If you want to participate in the challenge, you can get your own bingo card HERE. The squares will change every time you hit refresh so if the first one seems too hard for you, you can always pick another one. And if you are doing the Summer Bingo, let me know in the comments so that we can cheer for each other and offer suggestions for different squares. I know I’ll need some. (Popular science, anyone?)