Update to 2013 Reader Resolutions: Item 14

Last week I posted my 2013 Reader Resolutions.

Item 14 on the list is “I will read a book written by a non-American.”

I figured this one would be fairly easy for me, given my love of Nordic mysteries and thrillers. I’m reading my fourth book of the year, and already half of them qualify for Item 14:

Punishment, by Anne Holt (also called What Is Mine). The first book in a series featuring Johanne Vik (a profiler trained by the FBI) and Adam Stubø (of the Norwegian National Criminal Investigation Service).

Detective Inspector Huss, by Helene Turstene. This is the first in a series featuring Detective Inspector Irene Huss of the Göteborg, Sweden, police.

Part of what I enjoy about Nordic crime novels is their wider focus. Many American crime novels focus specifically on the crimes under investigation. But Nordic society is so different from ours–in many ways they’ve been fairly homogenous, so relatively recent and generous immigration and refugee policies are having a different kind of impact in those countries than they would on the U.S., which views itself as a nation of immigrants.* A central theme in many Nordic crime novels is “What does it mean to be Swedish/Norwegian/Danish/Icelandic?” Another theme is the emerging racism in countries that view themselves as welcoming and tolerant. For me as an outsider, seeing wider societal issues addressed in crime fiction makes the books more compelling than American crime novels, which often focus on the psychology of the individual and ignore the broader social issues.

*It’s entirely possible that as an outsider, I’m reading something into these books that isn’t actually there, but even if that’s the case, it’s still fascinating to me!

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2013 Reader Resolutions

2013 is getting better. My eyesight is improving, slowly but surely, and the bronchitis is going away. Now if only we could have some semblance of winter, I’d be happy (it’s been in the 80s here, which is too darn warm).

Now that I can read again (albeit in HUGE type on my Kindle), here’s my 2013 reader resolutions, adapted from a list by Camille Del Vecchio of the Penfield Public Library (in NY).

1. I will reread a book that I loved as a child.

2. I will finally read that classic from high school that I’ve been avoiding.

3. I will find a book of poetry and read some aloud.

4. I will spend an hour in aimless browsing at a library.

5. I will read a book written in the year I was born.

6. I will create a journal and keep notes about the books and magazines read.

7. I will assemble a list of my favorite people and send them my ideas about books (favorites, recent reads, and the like).

8. I will read a book to a child.

9. I will gather a few friends and read a play out loud.

10. I will read a book on the history of my town.

11. I will read a book written from a political point of view totally opposite my own.

12. I will read a book about a place I’ve never been.

13. I will reread a book that I just didn’t “get” when I was eighteen.

14. I will read a book written by a non-American.

Items 4, 6, 11, and 12 should be fairly easy, as they’re things I do anyway. I’m really looking forward to items 1, 5, and 8!

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Hello again, and books

It's been a long time since I've posted here. I spend a bit of time on Twitter and Facebook now, and since I don't feel like i have a whole lot to say, those tend to be a better forum for what I do say, if that makes sense.

 and I were in the UK for the BSB UK event in Nottingham, which I enjoyed. I got to know a little more about some of the BSB authors and editors as well as meeting and talking to readers. Plus we made sure to eat plenty of tikka masala before we came home. As always, I came home with about 20 books, many of which are not available in the U.S. I'm slowly but surely making my way through that stack. I love walking by my to-be-read bookcases; there's so much waiting for me on them!

Right now I'm reading Chasing the Devil: On Foot through Africa's Killing Fields by Tim Butcher. In 2009 I read another book by Tim Butcher: Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, which was a fantastic book. Here's the cover blurb from Blood River:

When "Daily Telegraph" correspondent Tim Butcher was sent to cover Africa in 2000 he quickly became obsessed with the idea of recreating H. M. Stanley's famous expedition – but travelling alone. Despite warnings that his plan was 'suicidal', Butcher set out for the Congo's eastern border with just a rucksack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots. Making his way in an assortment of vessels including a motorbike and a dugout canoe, helped along by a cast of characters from UN aid workers to a campaigning pygmy, he followed in the footsteps of the great Victorian adventurers. Butcher's journey was a remarkable feat, but the story of the Congo, told expertly and vividly in this book, is more remarkable still.

When I heard Tim Butcher had written another book (Chasing the Devil), I couldn't wait to read it. As with Blood River, the author has followed in a famous man's footsteps, this time Graham Greene, who with his cousin Barbara undertook a 350-mile journey by train, by foot, and by boat across Sierra Leone and Liberia. Greene's book about this experience, called Journey Without Maps, was published in 1936. Mr. Butcher re-created this journey in 2009, some 75 years after Greene, and only a few years after the end of Liberia's brutal civil wars–which Mr. Butcher viewed firsthand as a correspondent for the Telegraph.

Because so much of Chasing the Devil is about the paradoxes of an Africa that is both changed and unchanged since Greene's visit, I decided to read Journey without Maps as well.

Next up: The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe, by Peter Godwin, who also wrote Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa and When A Crocodile Eats the Sun.


RIP Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I think One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich opened my eyes to literature as more than just telling stories. It was the first time I realized art could be a form of protest, could teach me more about the world than just what appeared on the pages or on the canvas or on the screen.

what I’m reading redux

A couple of weeks ago I posted about a book called Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa, by Peter Godwin, which I enjoyed both for the writing style and for the insights into the history of Southern Africa (specifically the transition from Rhodesia to Rhodesia Zimbabwe and ultimately Zimbabwe).

I just finished reading the sequel, When A Crocodile Eats the Sun. It starts in 1996 when the author returns to Zimbabwe during a family health crisis. This again is a memoir, and it tells the parallel stories of the declining health of the author’s father and the declining health of the nation of Zimbabwe.

Crocodile, much more than Mukiwa, is a book about politics. The story is being told by a white man who was politically aware during the events he recounts, and who has seen his family suffer as a result of the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe. That being said, it’s not a polemic. The author is a white African, but he makes clear that everyone outside of Zimbabwe’s political elite is affected, black and white. The primary emotion is not anger or even bitterness, but sadness, a profound sense of regret and “it didn’t have to be this way.”

What I’ve Been Reading

I just finished reading Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa, by Peter Godwin. It’s the story of a young man growing up in Southern Africa–Rhodesia, to be specific–from the 1960s to the 1980s.

The book begins with Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain. Britain had announced that its African colonies would not be granted freedom until the minority white governments had been replaced by governments in which the majority of the population were allowed to participate. Rather than accept such a change, Ian Smith, the Rhodesian prime minster, thumbed his nose and declared independence. This was followed by years of sanctions that crippled the nation’s economy, and increasing unrest and outright war that developed between white government forces and the various tribal militias. Finally, in 1979, white minority rule came to an end, and the country was renamed Zimbabwe Rhodesia, later shortened to Zimbabwe.

Peter Godwin grew up during all of this, and upon graduating from secondary school was conscripted into the Rhodesian army. A journalist who was a foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times, Godwin has a writing style that is clear and easy to read. Although the book necessarily includes some description of the political and economic situation, these appear mainly as a backdrop. The book is not a political statement, it is a memoir: one man’s reactions to a turbulent time.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of Southern Africa. I’m looking forward to reading When A Crocodile Eats the Sun, based on the author’s experiences when he returned to Zimbabwe in 1996.


Useful Article

In the wake of the Cassie Edwards plagiarism scandal, the good people at Dear Author have posted this article called “The Proper Application of Fair Use.”

It’s easy to read, not overly laden with legal jargon, and I found it quit interesting and useful.

Books I’ve Read in 2007

This is the list of books I’ve read for fun, and does not include books I’ve worked on in any professional capacity. I read some of them for book club(s), and there are a lot of mystery/thrillers in there because that’s what I tend to read when I travel, and I did a lot of that in 2007. Thirty-nine books that I remember reading; not bad considering how much I edited!

ETA: And sure enough, I forgot some titles. Sigh.



What I’m Reading

I just finished reading Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday. I started reading it the day I began the Project of Doom last week, and every night I had to force myself not to read it until the project was done (eyestrain was a very real concern).

This is a wonderful book. It’s the first book by Paul Torday, and it combines satire and romance and hope and belief . . . and fishing.

A sheikh approaches Britain’s National Centre for Fisheries Excellence to help him achieve his fondest dream: introducing salmon, and salmon fishing, to the Yemen. A ridiculous scheme, yes, but impossible? Perhaps not.

Book Meme

This is apparently the list of the 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing. Or something.

Anyway, bold what you’ve read, italicize what you started but didn’t finish, strike through books you hated.

And here’s my list.