12 books I look forward to reading in 2017

2017 has started off with a bang and here I am, still trying to process how come it’s already March. [Cue confused Travolta GIFs.] In my previous post I swore I wasn’t going to sign myself up for any additional reading challenges in 2017. Well, turned out I was wrong. One of my absolute favourite book podcasts of the moment (Sivumennen, in Finnish) started their own reading challenge called “The Shelfwarmer” challenge. According to them, a shelfwarmer is the literary equivalent of a benchwarmer in sports – a book that just keeps sitting on your bookshelves, sometimes for years and years, waiting for its moment to shine. The idea is simple: choose twelve books – one for each month – and, you guessed it, read them!

Seeing that it’s already March, I’ve already finished two books from my list. Some of them you might recognise from my previous 10 books I look forward to reading in the autumn list and some come with a track record of previous trials. As per usual, the books on this list are a mix of Finnish prize-winners, classics and a few popular bestsellers from the past decade. I’ll try to provide brief descriptions for each of the books, but as I haven’t read them, there isn’t really that much to say.

12 books. 12 months. Let’s read.

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JanuaryThe Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The first book I finished from this list has actually only been sitting on my shelves for less than six months. However, it could have easily sat there for years. The Elegance of the Hedgehog was an international bestseller back in the mid-2000s, and it’s also been turned into a film (which I didn’t know until after I’d read the book). It’s a poetic and philosophical exposé at the life of an old French concierge in a Parisian apartment building as well as one of the residents of the building, a highly-intelligent young girl planning her suicide.

FebruaryThe Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
My second read was Joan Didion’s autobiographical reflections on the year after she unexpectedly lost her husband of 40 years and had the daughter hospitalised for pneumonia. Didion is often hailed as one of the “iconic American writers” and I’ve been curious to find out why. I enjoyed The Year of Magical Thinking and I think it’ll grow on me over the years, but there were times when it also felt a little cold and distanced. Moreover, I don’t think this book answered my question. I guess I’ll have to dig up some of her earlier works, such as Slouching towards Bethlehem or The White Album to find out.

March – Huojuva talo by Maria Jotuni  
Huojuva talo (trans. Precarious house) is a Finnish modern classic about domestic violence, abusive relationships and expectations in relationships. It was written in the 1930s but published 20 years later posthumously, I believe partly because of its autobiographical nature as well as the heavy subject matter that Jotuni disentangles. The book follows a young woman’s search for a true family. It covers issues of parental alcoholism, mental illness, marital abuse, inequality between sexes as well as class. I expected the book to be a heavy read, but I was surprised by how very readable and beautiful the prose was. The narration flows with ease and the beauty of the language alleviates some of the pain inside.

He eivät tiedä mitä tekevät by Jussi Valtonen (trans. They Don’t Know What They’re Doing)
The winner of Finlandia Prize 2014 is a novel on father-son relationships, science, animal rights, social media, globalisation and … that’s about all I know. Some say it’s a literary thriller which I’m all for. Moreover, the World English rights of the novel have been sold to Oneworld, so I guess we should expect a translation soon?

Jokapäiväinen elämämme by Riikka Pelo (trans. Our Daily Life)
The winner of Finlandia Prize 2013 is a story about a Russian poet and her daughter at the break of 20th century who flee the country to central Europe following the revolution. The writing is said to be stunning and the plot to be tear-jerking, so I think I’ll save this for the autumn months. It feels like it’ll make an enjoyable cosy-up read. The book also came third when Finnish book bloggers voted for their favourites of the year in 2014.

Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt
The winner of Finlandia Prize 2015. (See a pattern here?) Oneiron tells the story of the meeting of eight women from different countries, races and ages who meet after their death. It has been praised left and right, the rights have been sold to several European countries and I even listened to the author talk about the book twice before I caved into the hype and bought the book. And then… I just didn’t read it. I tried to pick it up late last year, but couldn’t get into the right frame of mind. The World English rights have also been bought by Oneworld, but there are no news as to when the English translation is expected to come out.

Stoner by John Williams
Similarly to The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I’m also cheating with Stoner. I found my copy from a charity bookshop in about 8 months ago. Despite falling in love with the prose after the first five pages, I’ve never settled down to reading it. It’s one of those books that I know I’ll love and that I’ve been saving up for that “perfect moment”. Stoner is a “forgotten classic” that tells the story of quite an ordinary man named William Stoner who, though born into a poor farming family, gets into a state university to read English literature and becomes a scholar.

The Trial by Franz Kafka
My education in German literature is quite elementary, and especially Franz Kafka is an author that I’ve always found fascinating. However, I’m sorry to say that the only book of his that I’ve read is The Metamorphosis because it was a required read. However, the premise of The Trial is quite famous: A man named Josef K is arrested and charged for a crime that is never revealed to him. I bought my German edition of this classic a couple of summers ago on a whim. However, the absurdity and reputation of Kafka has intimidated me to avoid this short novel.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Gulliver’s Travels is another classic that’s been sitting on my shelves for years. I honestly can’t even remember when I bought this one. Sometimes I’ve even forgotten I own it and been pleasantly surprised to find it lodged between other classics. What I know of Jonathan Swift’s most famous work – aside from the lilliputtians – is that is a satire and social commentary on humankind. I’ve also heard it being compared to Twain’s snarkier writings, which sounds promising.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina was supposed to be my big summer book of last year. I started reading it in May and got about half-way through by the end of June, but after that I fell off the reading wagon. The story of this Russian aristocratic family had so many characters and overlapping plot lines that I just couldn’t keep up with it, especially with my otherwise busy schedule. So this year I plan on dedicating one month to Anna Karenina and hopefully the second try will reveal better results.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
Anne Brontë is the lesser known Brontë sister and often overshadowed by her more popular sisters Charlotte and Emily (of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights fame). However, the little bird on the blogoshpere tells me that out of the three it was, in fact, Anne who was the feminist, the forward-thinking and boundary-breaking rebel. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a story of a young widow who moves to a new village and has the local tongues wagging due to her secretive past.

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg
Another book that has frequented my TBR lists, Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow deals with the disappearance of a young boy that turns into a murder mystery. One of the themes of the book is study of identity politics between people from Greenland and from Denmark, which sounds interesting as I know next to nothing about life in Greenland. I bought this during my first years of university in hopes that it would get me back into reading. Well, I did eventually get back but not because of this one.

I haven’t yet decided which book I should choose as my March book. At the moment I’m drawn between Huojuva talo and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but a part of me is also suggesting that maybe I should try tackling one of those Finlandia tomes instead. We’ll see what happens. I’ll keep you posted. xx

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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

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.

Best Books of 2016

‘Tis the season for reminiscing and hygge, so here I am, back at blogging to tell you about my favourite books read in 2016. As per usual, most of these were not published in 2016, although there are also a few of those lurking on the list. Due to the (on-going) blogging slump [enter vague explanations here] there are no reviews to link to, so I’ll try to be brief with my praise.

Saga, volumes 2–6 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
For me 2016 was the year of Saga (which is why I’m counting this series as one book). Although I read the first volume of this science fiction graphic novel series back in late 2015, it was only after volumes 2 and 3 that I knew I was properly hooked. This genre-defying kickass story tells of an unlikely couple running from the wrath of two warring races and its diverse cast of characters, dark humour and wider themes make each volume and each issue such a joy. In short, Saga will keep you at the edge of your seat and still manage to surprise you with its twists and turns.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Another science fiction favourite of the year is Huxley’s Brave New World. It’s a classic for several reasons and often compared to Orwell’s 1984 – which I read last year and that also made it’s way to the top 10. Personally, however, I found that its pleasure-seeking, conditioned and manipulated population was far more scarier than any of the prospects in Orwell’s dystopia. Perhaps it’s the clear parallels in today’s society or the chillingly good writing that made this such an unforgettable read.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Both in 2015 and in 2016 one of the big and debated issues in print media and literature was race – especially in the US. The Black Lives Matter campaign and many instances of wrongful conduct raised awareness of these injustices. One of the buzz books at the heart of the discussion was Citizen, a brilliant, thought-provoking and angry collection of poetry and essays on what it’s like to be black in America. It opened my eyes, made me furious and angry cry at the unjust world.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Dept. of Speculation is a special book in the sense that I’ve never heard of it anywhere else but the blogosphere. That is not say that Jenny Offill isn’t a household name, because she sure as hell should be. This book is deceptively short but it still manages to map the course of a woman’s life – relationship, marriage, trust, family and career, family versus career, artistry, the mundane. I devoured this book  in a day and I know for sure that I’ll return to this book in years to come.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
So I’m probably the last person in the world to read and adore Elena Ferrante. I purchased my copy at the beginning of 2016, but held back a long time in order to try and let the hype die down. And I loved it. I think the charm of My Brilliant Friend is that it’s nothing extraordinary – if you’re looking for a new and exciting, unique story, this is not your book. However, if you’re looking for well-written characters that come to life, that you recognise and that become your friends, this is your book. Perhaps 2017 will be the year of Ferrante?

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This book. I have a draft of a review on A Little Life which I started back in January and have since then unsuccessfully tried to edit and polish. It’s hard to put to words what this book did to me, what it made me feel and how it made me think. I know it’s the big marmite book of 2015 – you either love or hate it, with passion. I don’t think it’ll be a modern classic or something taught at schools, but it is very much “of its time” and manages to capture something essential of this generation of individuality.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Do you know those books that suck you in from the first page and keep you in their grasp until the last page? The Vegetarian is one of them. Told from three outsider perspectives, this story of a young woman’s decision to become vegetarian is a harrowing, raw and almost titillating. Moreover, Deborah Smith’s translation is so fluent that it feels like the story could have been written in English. It also won this year’s Man Booker International Prize.

Silent House by Orhan Pamuk
To be completely honest, I’m actually quite surprised to find Orhan Pamuk’s Silent House on my favourites list. Similarly to My Brilliant Friend, it’s a rather quiet and calm book – although with a lot simmering under the surface – and it’s that overall sense of stifling heat, guilt and shame that’s captured in this book. Funnily enough, this was passed on to me by my mother who gave up on it because “it’s dull – nothing’s happening”. A family saga on the cusp of Turkish revolution”.

Where I’m Reading From by Tim Parks
In 2016 I managed to read a few non-fiction pieces, but translator-author-columnist Tim Parks’ Where I’m Reading From blew me out of the water. It’s one that I’ve seen many times in the Goodreads “Because you read X you might enjoy…” bar, which to be honest is often a hit-or-miss. Being a translator and a budding editor this naturally covered a lot of the things I already know about and am interested in, but it’s the style in which Parks presents his ideas and doesn’t mince his words that really had an impact on me.

Compartment no. 6 by Rosa Liksom
Inspired by the Around the World in 80 Books reading challenge I picked up this Finnish Finlandia Prize winning novel set on the Trans-Siberian Express Train. I didn’t know what to expect and was positively surprised by this novel. Similarly to Silent House, Compartment no. 6 has also slowly sneaked its way to my favourites list. The vivid descriptions of Soviet surroundings and the sense of constant movement have stayed with me for the most part of the year. I read this in its original Finnish, but I’ve heard the English translations by Lola Rogers doesn’t pale in comparison. (Pssst. It also gained a mention on the WSJ best books of the year list, you know.)

 

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:

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  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).

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    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

World Book Day 2016

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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

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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 :
2016kollaasi

  • 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