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MissWatson books a score of Richards

2020 Category Challenge

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Edited: Jan 20, 4:14pm Top

Hi, I'm Birgit, I live on the Baltic coast of Germany and this is my seventh year in the challenge. As always, I hope to reduce the TBR, but most likely I'll end up with more books in December than I had in January.

My favourite name for boys has always been Richard, ever since I had my first literary crush on the Lionheart. To mark the year 2020, I have assembled a score of Richards to head my categories. I want to read at least three books in each category.
I have decided to make a small change in the rules: finding books that fit more than one categories is fun, and since we have so many interesting KITs this year, it would be a shame to waste such opportunities. Thus, overlap between the main CATs is not allowed, but with the KITS, Bingo and any other challenge I may decide to participate in.

Edited: Mar 28, 2:01pm Top

Thorin Oakenshield. 'nough said. I have taken quite a few BBs for this genre over the years and I hope to read some of them, at last.

January: a book you meant to read last year
End as a hero by Keith Laumer

March: Series
Best served cold by Joe Abercrombie

Edited: Feb 23, 8:14am Top

One for all, and all for one! He was a very convincing Aramis in the Lester (oh, another Richard here!) version of the Musketeers. And he was wonderful in the Iron Mask. (The Count of Monte Cristo doesn't count. Weird wig.)

1. The Bertrams by Anthony Trollope
2. Le Rouge et le Noir by Stendhal

Edited: Mar 26, 8:01am Top

A great knight, not a great king, by all accounts, but who cares about that at twelve? I'll be re-reading old favourites here.

1. Whose body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
2. Clouds of witness by Dorothy L. Sayers
3. Unnatural death by Dorothy L. Sayers
4. Astérix le gaulois by Goscinny and Uderzo
5. Astérix aux jeux olympiques by Goscinny and Uderzo

Edited: Mar 14, 5:22pm Top

He was an American dancer and created the roles of Romeo and Petrucchio in two famous John Cranko ballets in Stuttgart. And you can't get more classic than Shakespeare, can you?

1. Die Pest in Bergamo by Jens Peter Jacobsen

Edited: Dec 1, 2019, 7:17am Top

C. Northcote Parkinson wrote his PhD dissertation on trade in the Eastern Seas during the French Wars, and he turned this to very good account in his novels about Richard Delancey, RN. This is for the many seafaring books on my shelves.

Edited: Mar 14, 5:19pm Top

He is famous for his lectures on physics, so a perfect face for the non-fiction CAT.

Hosting August: history

January: journalism
Breaking News by Alan Rusbridger

February: travel
Reise nach Arabien by Thorkild Hansen

March: biography
Die Herrscher Sachsens by Frank-Lothar Kroll

Edited: Dec 1, 2019, 7:06am Top

He was an Austrian artist, an early expressionist. I confess that he appears here because I needed a name for my Austrian category. His works can be seen in the Leopold Museum in Vienna.

Edited: Dec 1, 2019, 7:08am Top

He was the founder of modern German egyptology, participated in a Prussian expedition to Egypt in 1842-45 and was a director of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. I won't confine myself to ancient Egypt, though.

Edited: Dec 1, 2019, 7:09am Top

I remember him as playing villains in Hollywood and usually ending up on the losing side. But he did so with true grandeza. I'm trying again to read books in Spanish.

Edited: Mar 11, 9:58am Top

Dr Oetker is a privately held family company based in foods, but with subsidiaries in many other fields. Richard Oetker was the head of the holding company until 2019. He was kidnapped and held for ransom in 1976 which left him with severe injuries.

1. The slave trade by Hugh Thomas

Edited: Jan 6, 10:40am Top

He founded the Ohnsorg Theatre in Hamburg which performs plays in the local dialect. Variations of Low German are still spoken all over Northern Germany. This is the place for books set in Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein or Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, or written by local authors.

1. Tod in der Speicherstadt by Anja Marschall

Edited: Mar 10, 9:57am Top

My usual reading fare is based in Europe and Western culture, generally speaking. I would like to give more houseroom to different ethnicities, countries, continents, cultures. Little Richard will watch over my GeoCAT readings, and I hope to find time for the TravelKIT.

Hosting July: South America

January: Asia I
A very pukka murder by Arjun Raj Gaind
The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter

February: Europe
Astérix et la Transitalique by Ferri/Conrad
Das kunstseidene Mädchen by Irmgard Keun

March: Northern Africa and the Middle East
Die Spur by Nagib Machfus

January TravelKIT: City vs Country
Le jour d'avant by Sorj Chalandon

February TravelKIT: In translation
Reise nach Arabien by Thorkild Hansen

March TravelKIT: Tourist Meccas
Ein Winter in Wien by Petra Hartlieb
L'écluse N° 1 by Georges Simenon

Edited: Mar 12, 11:38am Top

He was the first duke of Normandy, who established the Benedictine order on Mont Saint-Michel to replace the monks already there. I'm planning to continue with the Rougon-Macquart cycle, but we all know what happens to plans…

So here's the list of the cycle in Zola's recommended reading order.
La fortune des Rougon done
Son Excellence Eugène Rougon done
La curée done
Le rêve
La conquête de Plassans
Au bonheur des dames
La faute de l'Abbé Mouret
Une page d'amour
Le ventre de Paris
La joie de vivre
La bête humaine
La terre
La débâcle
Le docteur Pascal

1. Le jour d'avant by Sorj Chalandon
2. La fille de Vercingétorix by Ferri/Conrad
3. Tamango by Prosper Mérimée

Edited: Dec 1, 2019, 7:20am Top

Georgette Heyer has an amazing number of veterans of the Peninsular War in her Regency novels, but I never knew of any "boy" books set there – until Bernard Cornwell came along and presented a hero after my own heart.

"Salt of the earth, good sergeants, salt of the earth. But I'll be damned if I'll see them promoted." (Dear Arthur, how wrong you were!)

The plan is to read the books CS Forester and AC Doyle wrote about this war.

Edited: Mar 4, 3:34am Top

Ringo Starr always seemed to be the Beatle who was in it for the fun of making music with friends. And because RandomCat is always fun, here he comes.

January: New Year Resolutions
Der Herr aus San Francisco by Ivan Bunin

February: Published in a leap year
Blutsbrüder by Ernst Haffner

March: Seasons of Love
Ein Winter in Wien by Petra Hartlieb

Edited: Today, 9:18am Top

He was the nephew of Margarethe Steiff and is credited with the design of the famous teddybear, model PB55 in 1902. Wikipedia had no photo of Richard Steiff or the original bear, so one of my own bears steps in. His name is Richard Sean (guess why) and he was made by my sister.

1. Kurt : Wer möchte schon ein Einhorn sein? by Chantal Schreiber
2. Little women by Louisa May Alcott
3. A wrinkle in time by Madeleine L'Engle
4. Die seltene Gabe by Andreas Eschbach

Edited: Dec 1, 2019, 7:14am Top

Strauss' operas are not among my favourites (I prefer Vivaldi and Händel), but since I cannot abide Richard Wagner, he gets to head my category for books about music and musicians.

Edited: Mar 6, 3:21am Top

The Weizsäcker family have long been prominent in politics and science. Richard von Weizsäcker was German president from 1984–1994 and presided over re-unification.

1. Die Orient-Mission des Leutnant Stern by Jakob Hein
2. Vergessene Kulturen der Weltgeschichte by Harald Haarmann

Edited: Today, 9:19am Top

He played quite a number of villains in his time, one of the scariest ever in Kiss of Death. This is the place for mysteryKIT. I may also join the ScaredyKIT occasionally if I have a book on my TBR for it.

Hosting May: novel to screen

January: historical mysteries
1. Der nasse Fisch by Volker Kutscher
2. A very pukka murder by Arjun Raj Gaind
3. The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter

February: furry detectives
1. Garou by Leonie Swann

March: Golden Age
1. Un crime en Hollande by Georges Simenon
2. L'écluse N° 1 by Georges Simenon
3. Unnatural death by Dorothy L. Sayers

April: Paranormal Die seltene Gabe by Andreas Eschbach

Edited: Dec 1, 2019, 7:16am Top

He was a professor of Chinese studies, worked as a missionary in China for many years and his translations of important philosophical works are still in use today.
Since China is such an important player in the world (again), I feel the need to know more about the country.

Edited: Mar 26, 8:03am Top

Possible books for challenging squares:
Pun: The Eyre affair; Eats, shoots and leaves
LT Author: Naomi Novik, Philipp Meyer, Sharon Kay Penman
published in 1820 or 1920: The abbot; the monastery; Melmoth, Prinzessin Brambilla, Main Street, Chéri, Côte de Guermantes
Year of my birth: La semaine sainte; Things fall apart; The king must die; Gattopardo

3: Garou by Leonie Swann
4: Ein Winter in Wien by Petra Hartlieb
8: The Bertrams by Anthony Trollope
9: Der nasse Fisch by Volker Kutscher
12: The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter
13: A very pukka murder by Arjun Raj Gaind
20: Astérix le gaulois by Goscinny and Uderzo
23: Reise nach Arabien by Thorkild Hansen
25: Breaking News by Alan Rusbridger

Edited: Apr 2, 9:23am Top

As in previous years, I intend to track the number of pages read per month.

January page count: 2,913
February page count: 2,893
March page count: 3,263

Edited: Yesterday, 6:27am Top

No matter how ambitious my challenge here, I am always tempted by something else. Here's room for whatever takes my fancy in 2020.

I just had a peek at the 2020 Popsugar Challenge, and it has some very, well, challenging prompts. The advanced section is particularly inventive, I think. There's also some interesting overlap with our challenges here, so I'll have a go at it:

1. A book that's published in 2020
2. A book by a trans or nonbinary author
3. A book with a great first line
4. A book about a book club
5. A book set in a city that has hosted the Olympics Blutsbrüder by Ernst Haffner
6. A bildungsroman
7. The first book you touch on a shelf with your eyes closed
8. A book with an upside-down image on the cover
9. A book with a map Tod in der Speicherstadt by Anja Marschall
10. A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book club
11. An anthology
12. A book that passes the Bechdel test
13. A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it
14. A book by an author with flora or fauna in their name
15. A book published the month of your birthday
16. A book about or by a woman in STEM A wrinkle in time by Madeleine L'Engle
17. A book that won an award in 2019
18. A book on a subject you know nothing about
19. A book with only words on the cover, no images or graphics Der Herr aus San Francisco by Ivan Bunin
20. A book with a pun in the title
21. A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins Best served cold by Joe Abercrombie
22. A book with a robot, cyborg, or Al character
23. A book with a bird on the cover
24. A fiction or nonfiction book about a world leader
25. A book with "gold," "silver," or "bronze" in the title
26. A book by a WOC
27. A book with at least a four-star rating on Goodreads Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
28. A book you meant to read in 2019
29. A book about or involving social media
30. A book that has a book on the cover
31. A medical thriller
32. A book with a made-up language
33. A book set in a country beginning with "C"
34. A book you picked because the title caught your attention
35. A book with a three-word title Clouds of witness by Dorothy L. Sayers
36. A book with a pink cover
37. A Western
38. A book by or about a journalist Breaking News by Alan Rusbridger
39. Read a banned book during Banned Books Week
40. Your favorite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

1. A book written by an author in their 20s
2. A book with "20" or "twenty" in the title
3. A book with a character with a vision impairment or enhancement (a nod to 20/20 vision)
4. A book set in Japan, host of the 2020 Olympics
5. A book set in the 1920s Der nasse Fisch by Volker Kutscher
6. A book by an author who has written more than 20 books
7. A book with more than 20 letters in its title
8. A book published in the 20th century Reise nach Arabien by Thorkild Hansen
9. A book from a series with more than 20 books
10. A book with a main character in their 20s The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter

Dec 1, 2019, 6:59am Top

Next one is yours! You are welcome for coffee and cookies anytime.

Dec 1, 2019, 7:12am Top

What a creative idea! I hope you and your Richards have a great year of reading!

Dec 1, 2019, 7:22am Top

Hi Tess, and thank you! I'm sure I will, I'm all fired up for the new year.

Dec 1, 2019, 9:02am Top

Awesome theme! Great choice for Ringo in particular :) Looks like you have everything pretty much covered for your reading year.

Dec 1, 2019, 11:58am Top

A great theme! And some very interesting categories.

Dec 1, 2019, 12:20pm Top

Happy reading! We have a Steiff bear and it is gorgeous.

Dec 1, 2019, 1:01pm Top

Wht a great theme - and so many famous Richards! I am a huge fan of Richard Widmark, as well as villians, he was also very good in Westerns. I predict a great reading year for you is ahead!

Dec 1, 2019, 1:37pm Top

Some very interesting Richards there. I love your choice of categories.

Dec 1, 2019, 3:13pm Top

An impressive collection of Richards. Also impressive - reading books in Spanish, French, German and English.

Dec 1, 2019, 7:48pm Top

Love all your Richards! And I agree, Richard as Thorin Oakenshield - wonderful! But he was smouldering in North and South.

Dec 2, 2019, 12:44pm Top

>28 rabbitprincess: Thanks! I hope they will last for a whole year.
>29 hailelib: Thanks!
>30 Jackie_K: So do I, a gift from my grandmother and a very frail old gentleman by now. But his name isn't Richard.
>31 DeltaQueen50: Oh yes, he stars in some of my favourite westerns!
>32 Zozette: Thank you!
>33 pamelad: I always start with good intentions and then Spanish falls by the wayside when I need books for the CATs. But I will try again.
>34 JayneCM: It was a close call. I almost chose him for the classics because of North and South. That was the first time I saw him.

Dec 2, 2019, 2:41pm Top

Wishing you a fun year of reading with all your favorite Richards!

Dec 2, 2019, 5:31pm Top

Wonderfully clever and educational!

Dec 3, 2019, 4:43am Top

Dec 3, 2019, 1:27pm Top

I love your score of Richards! Happy reading in 2020. :)

Dec 3, 2019, 3:17pm Top

This was a really fun and clever idea! I'm reminded that for next year Bernard Cornwell is on my "to I read" list. I've only read the first in the Sharpe's series and will likely read it over since it was several years ago when I read it. I thought it was terrific though.

Dec 4, 2019, 12:13am Top

>40 clue: My brother has been telling me for years to read Sharpe's - I promise I will get to it one day!

Dec 4, 2019, 3:21am Top

>39 christina_reads: Thank you! Wishing you the same!
>40 clue: I hope you enjoy them! My favourites are the Spanish episodes, Sharpe and Harper make a great team.
>41 JayneCM: They are ripping yarns solidly based in history.

Dec 5, 2019, 1:26pm Top

What a clever theme! Looking forward to following along.

Dec 6, 2019, 4:03am Top

>43 VivienneR: Thanks for dropping in! I hope you're feeling well?

Dec 11, 2019, 10:47am Top

>10 MissWatson: I remember him from "Fantasy Island" more than anything. Hope you enjoy your 2020 reads!

Dec 12, 2019, 4:38am Top

>45 thornton37814: Thanks, Lori! I'm putting aside some books for January now...

Jan 1, 7:09pm Top

Love your Richard categories!

Jan 2, 11:47am Top

Jan 2, 12:48pm Top

Great "Richards" theme, and I'm with you on the Richard musicians, but it's hard to think of a Richard in classical music other than these two. Maybe Richard Rodgers? There's always Keith Richards ;)

Jan 2, 1:21pm Top

What a clever theme, Birgit! I especially love your choice of Ringo Starr and Richard Ohnsorg - if Ohnsorg Theater is not northern German, then what is? Happy New Year and enjoy your reading!

Jan 2, 1:39pm Top

>49 kac522: Worth considering if I change my mind halfway through!
>50 Chrischi_HH: Thanks! I hope to find lots of books for that category.

Edited: Jan 3, 12:06pm Top

Richard Steiff

My sister loaned me a lovely children's book from her library: Kurt : Wer möchte schon ein Einhorn sein?, a reading-aloud book about a unicorn reluctantly roped in to save a princess. Very funny and enjoyable for anyone sick of pink unicorns.

edited for touchstone

Jan 2, 1:53pm Top

Richard von Weizsäcker

We also took a trip to Münster to see an exhibition of paintings by William Turner, which was quite a drive. We finished an audiobook, Die Orient-Mission des Leutnant Stern, which is a fictionalised account of a diplomatic mission during the First Word War. Lt Stern is sent to Constantinople escorting a dozen Muslim POWs who are to join in the jihad against the Colonial powers about to be declared by the Ottoman Empire. This was an abridged version and it ends very abruptly, so I need to find the printed version some time.

Jan 2, 3:50pm Top

I love your Richard categories - so many of them! Good luck. The Popsugar challenge looks pretty good too.
Last year I only managed to read one from the Rougon-Macquart cycle but hopefully I can manage one at least each year.
>52 MissWatson: That unicorn book looks fun, not translated as yet though so I'll just have to enjoy the cover art.

Jan 3, 6:26am Top

>52 MissWatson: I could take a look inside the book on Amazon - looks perfect for me to practice my reading!

Jan 3, 12:09pm Top

>54 avatiakh: Thanks, it seemed like the last opportunity for having as many categories as the year count. I wishlisted a couple of more Rougon-Macquarts for Christmas and actually got them, so I'm honour-bound to go on.

>55 JayneCM: It is meant to be read aloud to kids, so it is pretty easy to follow.

Jan 4, 12:46pm Top

You have so many wonderful categories. Amazing how you managed to find a Richard for everyone.

Jan 4, 2:10pm Top

Love the theme. Good luck with your reading.

Jan 5, 8:38am Top

>57 Trifolia: I had a few more lined up, so I can switch categories if one of them doesn't work.
>58 lowelibrary: Thanks, and the same to you!

Jan 6, 10:51am Top

Richard Ohnsorg / Popsugar #9

Tod in der Speicherstadt is set in Hamburg in 1896 in the recently built Speicherstadt (a huge warehousing complex that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and features a contemporary map which was too small to be of much use, even with a magnifying glass. But since I have actually walked most of the streets mentioned in the book I didn't really need it.
This is the third book about Hauke Sötje, a former merchant navy captain, now with the police in Schleswig-Holstein. A suspicious death on a boat smuggling coffee leads him to the warehousing district where both he and the reader learn a lot about coffee trading and snooty Hamburg merchants. The writing is workmanlike rather than inspired, and Sötje's fiancée a little too determined to get herself into dangerous situations, but I like the way the author brings the past to life.

Jan 11, 9:56am Top

For the January MysteryKIT I chose Der nasse Fisch, a historical mystery set in 1929. As such it also fits a Bingo square and one of the advanced prompts of the Popsugar Challenge.

It's the first in a series about Gereon Rath, a police officer transferred to Berlin, which is a handy concept to introduce both the character and the reader to Berlin in these eventful times. Things are off to a slow start, the author takes his time to set the scene which involves Berlin gangs, exiled Russians fighting each other on foreign territory and rivalries within the police force. Quite a heady cocktail, and events speed up considerably with the murder of Rath's colleague.

The series was much hyped when it was first published, so I stayed away from it until I found the first books in Hugendubel's alluring remainders bins. I'll definitely be reading the next instalments, because – a few slight anachronisms apart – this looks to me like a well-researched book, decently written and suitably grey instead of black and white in its description of tumultuous times.

Jan 11, 9:19pm Top

Great theme for your challenge this year!

Jan 11, 9:27pm Top

>61 MissWatson: THere is a translation in English. Goes on my wish list!

Jan 11, 9:55pm Top

I love the Richard theme and the banners you built for them! Learned a bunch and got some nice eye candy. :)

Jan 12, 8:01am Top

>62 mathgirl40: Thanks!
>63 Tess_W: I hope you enjoy it. I think many of the characters we meet will return in future instalments.
>64 pammab: I learned quite a bit myself. And yesterday I watched a documentary about archaeological digs in Egypt where they consulted Lepsius' notebooks from his expedition which made me wish I could dedicate an entire year just to ancient history. It is such a fascinating subject. But then, there are so many others...

Jan 13, 4:49am Top

Richard Starkey / Popsugar: prompt 19

Finally! I have read something in Russian! Der Herr aus San Francisco is a novella, published in a bilingual edition (hence the German title) by Reclam in one of their cute little booklets. I almost bailed halfway, because of the complicated grammar, and several printing errors didn't help. But I am glad I persevered.
It is the story of a rich American who takes his wife and daughter on a European vacation and dies in a hotel on Capri. There's virtually no dialogue, just detailed descriptions of the ship, people and places. Bunin's stylistic tool of choice is the participle which enables him to spin complicated sentences sprawling across half a page. This is something you can do in Russian without losing track of who is who and what is what because noun and verb endings clearly identify them. But recognising the verb in the participles, so I could look them up in the dictionary, proved hard work. But I was pleasantly surprised how much came back to me.

Jan 13, 4:54am Top

>66 MissWatson: Congrats! I want to be like you when I grow up!

Jan 13, 5:18am Top

>67 Tess_W: Thank you! I am so looking forward to retirement and spending more time with these neglected skills. Three more years...

Jan 13, 6:33am Top

>68 MissWatson: two for me!

Jan 13, 3:44pm Top

>66 MissWatson: - Congratulations! To read a book published in Russian when it isn't your first language, is impressive, IMO.

Jan 14, 3:58am Top

>70 lkernagh: Thanks Lori.

Jan 14, 4:03am Top

Richard Cœur-de-Lion

Re-reading Whose body feels like coming home, and after a book with virtually no dialogue the witty conversations sparkle even more.

Jan 16, 3:32am Top

Richard Starkey / Popsugar: prompt 5

I was at a loss in which category to put Blutsbrüder, and then the February RandomCAT thread showed up, and hey presto, here it fits. Even if it's a little early...
Some things in Kutscher's Der nasse Fisch made me wonder if they were real or probable and I wanted to read something written in that period. It's the story of a group of boys who live on their own on the streets in Berlin, because they have no families, or have been abandoned by them, or simply run away. They form a tightly-knit gang and we follow them through a year, as they move from one rough sleeping spot to another, earning money from prostitution or petty crime, as they run up against rival gangs, police and social services and finally go separate ways. Some become habitual criminals, two actually manage to survive on self-employed work, at least at the time the book ends.

It's is a bleak subject matter, and knowing what came after makes it more bleak. It's written in a deliberately modern style, almost as a reportage, which shows the author's origin as a journalist. His descriptions are very vivid.

It was published in 1932 and banned almost immediately by the Nazis and has only been rediscovered recently.

Jan 17, 5:30pm Top

Late in getting around to wish everyone a Happy Year of Reading. Good luck with your challenges.

Jan 18, 5:20pm Top

Richard Armitage

It's only a short story, but I meant to read this last year, together with a few others I have on my e-reader. A bit weird, this one.

Jan 18, 5:32pm Top

Saturday notes

My normal Saturday routine is to go to the farmers market and buy my vegetables for the week, return home, make coffee and read the arts pages of the Frankfurter Allgemeine when it's ready. There are always book reviews that make me want to go out and buy the books. Of course I don't, and a few years later I run across them, the title or the author is vaguely familiar, but I can't remember why. Maybe if I write up notes, I can find them again later. This is a bit of an experiment.

Hermann Parzinger reviewed the German translation of Tim Flannery's Europe A Natural History. Very enthusiastically. He has some issues with Flannery's conflation of Neanderthals and homo erectus, and some other early hominid genealogies, but even for this section he has mostly praise, as it considers humans as part of nature, not the most important bit. One for the wishlist.

Elmar Schenkel reviews a new German edition of the works of Arthur Machen. From his description it seems that he shares a lot of ideas with Kafka. Definitely worth checking out sometime.

Jan 18, 8:15pm Top

>76 MissWatson: What a great idea to keep notes on the reviews we read in the media. When I go to a bookstore or library I keep seeing titles that look familiar but have to wait until I go home to find out if I already own or have placed a library hold on them. Of course, by that time, I've forgotten the titles.

Jan 19, 11:37am Top

>77 VivienneR: I know! I do have a notebook and pen in my handbag to make a note if a title seems familiar.

Jan 19, 12:25pm Top

>76 MissWatson: Great idea! I'm often scratching my head when perusing the library catalogue or out at the bookstore -- I can never remember why a title sounds familiar and if it's for a good or a bad reason!

Jan 19, 1:53pm Top

>61 MissWatson: This is a BB for me.

It's a good idea to make notes when coming across interesting reviews. I used to make pictures/screenshots with my phone, but those always got lost with all the other pictures around. Now I made a separate folder for the bookish pictures, let's see if that helps me.

Jan 20, 4:06pm Top

>79 rabbitprincess: I just need to stick with the plan!
>80 Chrischi_HH: They started a rerun of the TV version on some channel or other just at the time I was reading the book, and I immediately returned to the book. It's a bit of a slow start, but it grew on me. I hope you like it, too.

Jan 21, 6:18am Top

GeoCAT / MysteryKIT / Bingo: read a CAT

I've decided to relax the no overlapping rule for the KITs, because it's so much fun finding books that fit several prompts. While looking for something else, I came across A very pukka murder which seemed a good fit for the GeoCAT and a quick read. But: be warned, here comes a rant.

This is a waste of time, ink and paper. US spelling in a tale set in British India was distracting. Okay, this is a personal prejudice. A glossary for the many Anglo-Indian phrases was sadly missed. I've read my fair share of books about the British Raj and knew many, but not enough. Okay, so a small independent publisher may not have the manpower to set this up. The writing was overblown, derivative and far too much concerned with brand names. The mystery was rudimentary: a man is found dead, the Maharajah, a hobby detective and puzzle-solver, wants to find out the truth, interviews a number of witnesses, sets up suspects and exonerates them, finally rounds up everyone in his palace and presents his solution to an awed audience in the manner of Hercule Poirot. Okay, he's not the only author to use this style. But.
But then there are the many tiny mistakes. On the first pages I ran across distances measured in kilometres (hello? in India?), and things liked that just piled up until I was ready to fling the book across the room. The author aims to present the English in an unflattering and revealing light, yet amply demonstrates the same clichés and prejudices. Some of the protagonist's reactions to the secrets unfolded to him strike me as very 21st century American, an Englishman or English-educated Indian of the time wouldn't have batted an eyelid. We are told how self-controlled and calm the man is, yet during his interviews he constantly loses them. He is also an arrogant, obnoxious showoff who is quite happy to abuse his position when interviewing his Indian subjects.
And then the sloppy handling of dates. We are told the Resident was 44 at the time of death (1909) and that his father died a soldier at Sebastopol (1856 at the latest). Neither the author nor the detective take the slightest notice of this discrepancy. It gets worse: The resident's housekeeper, Miss Jane, is described as a thirty-to-forty year old. And yet she is presented to us as the murderess and the victim's daughter!

Stay away from this.

Jan 21, 7:37am Top

>82 MissWatson: You notice the same things I do. I don't read much historical mystery because it is rife with anachronistic attitude. And the dates . . . !

Jan 21, 9:33am Top

>83 NinieB: I quite enjoy them if they are well-written and well-researched, but so many try to rewrite history to their own agenda.

Jan 21, 6:06pm Top

>82 MissWatson: The only way I'll ever get some finished is to allow a book to count for more than CAT/KIT if it fits.

Jan 22, 4:04am Top

>85 thornton37814: I know the feeling.

Jan 27, 5:22am Top

Saturday notes

No reviews to report, and no reading done either. My best friend came to stay the weekend, we caught a transmission from the Bolshoi at the cinema, a new version of Giselle which was wonderful, and we watched some DVDs. Among them Hidden figures, and now I need to find the book just to get the details.
Until then, back to my book for the Non-fiction CAT which is like a trip down memory lane: Breaking news.

Jan 30, 12:57pm Top

I love your Richards! How difficult was it to create your banners?

And I have favorited your post on the Rougon-Macquart cycle - I need to have this as a category at some point. And I think you have convinced me to try the Popsugar challenge this year - I don't think there's any way I'll be able to complete it, but I could use it like I use the BingoDOG and see what happens.

Kudos to you for reading in Russian!

Finally, I'll take a BB for Blutsbrüder, which it looks like I can get in English.

Jan 31, 3:44am Top

>88 LisaMorr: Thanks for dropping in! I've got to use Photoshop at work sometimes, so I know how to do basic stuff, but truly creative composition is way beyond my skills. (And just to clarify: I did not do these during work.)
The Popsugar is very much oriented towards Goodreads and the US, but I liked the play on the 20s and the Olympics. I don't expect to find books for all prompts, but it does mean that I look outside my usual genres.
I'll be interested to know how Blutsbrüder comes across in translation.

Jan 31, 3:58am Top

Non-FictionCAT / Bingo: journalism / Popsugar: prompt 38

For long stretches, Breaking News by Alan Rusbridger was a trip down memory lane. From 1983 to 2005, I read the Guardian at work, and so many of the changes happening in those years, so many crises and affairs are still vivid in the mind.
However, I never warmed to the concept of reading news online and so missed much of what happened after 2005, and for this he provides a riveting account. And he helped me to understand quite a few of the disturbing developments of the last years. He is very much focused on the UK, of course, given his background. But a book I can wholeheartedly recommend for people interested in how the media work today.

Edited: Jan 31, 9:37pm Top

>90 MissWatson: I never warmed to the concept of reading news online

I don't like reading news online either and I'm sick at heart because the best newspaper in our state has just informed subscribers they will only be online beginning tomorrow. The Sunday paper can still be bought but it's $8.50 a week and that's a huge jump. I'm going to try getting to the library on Sunday afternoon to read it but I'll probably find a lot of other people doing the same. It's so much better than my local newspaper I don't know how I'll do without it and will probably breakdown and begin to buy it on Sunday.

Feb 1, 8:14am Top

>91 clue: I can see the economic argument for hiking prices for the printed version, it is a business after all. But it is also a severe loss in terms of cultural technique, in reading carefully, in having related topics presented on the same page etc.

Edited: Feb 1, 8:28am Top

Richard sans peur / TravelKIT

The bus drivers are on strike again, so I had to pass up on my French book club, and finished our book instead: Le jour d'avant. This is difficult to describe. The narrator describes in the present his trial for attempted murder of a former foreman at a coal mine, and in other chapters takes us back to his youth, when his much older brother was a miner who died in a severe mining accident. The relationship dominates his life, most of all his brother's death, and he sets up killing the foreman as vengeance for the accident. And then, suddenly during the trial, everything he has told us so far is stood on its head...
To say more would be spoiling, but I have to say that from this moment on the story no longer worked for me. The obsession with the mining company's disregard for safety, its culpability and his anger about his brother's death rang true, what comes after less so. I'm looking forward to the discussion in our next meeting, though.

ETA: This also works for the January TravelKIT, as it is set in the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France, and there is much talk of the contrast between the farms around the small mining villages, the mining industry and the gradual depopulation as people move to the cities for jobs.

Feb 1, 9:04am Top

Saturday notes

Today's edition had no remarkable reviews, but the Wednesday edition reviewed Der Ofensetzer (no touchstone) by Christian Ahnsehl, a novel about the Stasi which looks very promising.

Feb 1, 10:25am Top

>93 MissWatson: Sorry this really didn't do it for you! I have one of his books on my TBR, Return to Killybegs, but it's way at the bottom!

Feb 2, 7:49am Top

>95 Tess_W: Hi Tess! It was really impressive until this sudden U-turn. I looked at his other titles and was rather wondering what his connection or interest in the Troubles is.

Feb 2, 7:52am Top

Richard sans peur

I was browsing at the local bookstore, looking at the new books, hioping for a glimpse of Der Ofensetzer which hasn't arrived yet. Instead I came home with the latest Asterix adventure: La fille de Vercingétorix which was fun.

Feb 2, 2:16pm Top

You can never go wrong with an Asterix. :)

Breaking News sounds interesting!

Feb 3, 4:20am Top

>98 Chrischi_HH: Oh yes, it was fascinating!

Feb 3, 4:34am Top

Richard Widmark / Bingo: pen name

For the February MysteryKIT I picked Garou by Leonie Swann (which is a pen name, real name withheld) where the story is told from the viewpoint of the sheep. As in the first instalment it is difficult to make sense of the actual crime, as the sheep only see a very limited part of the things going on and some of what they see is interpreted very oddly. I almost chose it for the GeoCAT, because the flock and their shepherdess are now in France, but this doesn't mean anything to the sheep, so there is no real sense of being in France. As a mystery, it doesn't work very well, but the interaction between the sheep and the goats in the next pen is hilarious. There's also a fair amount of wordplay where I wonder how that can be translated...

The author now lives in England, according to her publisher's website and has a new book out in May. Note to self: must ask my sister if she's buying it for her library.

Feb 3, 4:39am Top

Richard Penniman

And because La fille de Vercingétorix was fun, I finally picked up Astérix et la Transitalique which I bought in Normandy in 2018. This is about a chariot race from Monza to Naples, with a large number of barbarian teams cheerfully propagating national stereotypes. The Roman champion has the rather unfortunate name of Coronavirus which sits badly with the current epidemic in China, but otherwise wonderful fun.

Feb 9, 9:59am Top

Saturday notes

No reviews this time, but a reprint of a speech given by Marie Luise Knott, a member of the board of the Deutscher Übersetzerfonds, a charitable association funding literary translations into German. She urges that translators' legacies should be preserved just like those of authors in archives. Most of the text was about Peter Urban, translator of Cechov, whose papers are now in the German Literature Archive in Marbach. He had a separate desk for every author he translated...and I am reminded again of the unread volumes of Cechov on my shelves. Sigh.

Feb 11, 2:06am Top

I am slowly adding all my 1920s, 30s, 40s books from my grandpa to LT. There certainly seem to be 'favourite' translators that pop up. Aylmer and Louise Maude kept appearing so I looked them up and they translated all Tolstoy's works and were friends of his. Apparently there were plenty of inferior translations available as Tolstoy had waived his rights over translations. The Maudes wanted to ensure that his works were read by English speakers in a high quality translation.
I do find translation very interesting - there were many that spent their whole lives doing only that.
I often wonder when reading a translated book whether I am really reading what the author intended as some translations can vary quite widely.

Feb 11, 4:03am Top

>103 JayneCM: It is a fascinating subject. We would never know about all those other lives and worlds without them, and yet there's always the small niggling doubt if they've got it right. If they know the author personally they have an enviable advantage!

Feb 11, 8:10am Top

Richard Chamberlain / Bingo: from a Legacy Library

Progress has been slow because I read this during lunch breaks, but I have finally finished The Bertrams, a group read in the 75ers. And since it featured in the Legacy Libraries of Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, I can claim another Bingo square. Not among his best, and I didn't really like either of the main characters, but Trollope is still better than many other authors.

Edited: Feb 15, 10:15am Top

Saturday notes

Another week not conducive to reading. We've had another strike of the bus drivers, three days, and somehow all that walking ate into reading time. Not to mention my energy.
No interesting reviews in the FAZ, but I came across one in the Economist: El vendedor de silencio. Remains to be seen if I ever run across it.
And now that I have found all the hearts in today's treasure hunt, I can finally start reading. I may take a respite from the Stendhal, though.

ETA: It's gonna be Peter Wimsey. I need some fun right now.

Feb 16, 7:08am Top

Richard Coeur-de-Lion / Popsugar: prompt 35

Clouds of witness is one of my favourite Wimseys. I just love the good common sense of the Dowager Duchess: "...I'm an old-fashioned woman and I call it mother-wit, and it's so rare for a man to have it that if he does you write a book about him and call him Sherlock Holmes."
Besides, there's that memory of Charles Parker buying frivolous French silk undies for his spinster sister...

Feb 16, 7:19am Top

Today is my 8th Thingaversary, and such a happy time it has been! So, in keeping up with the tradition, my Thingaversary acquisitions are:

Der unschickliche Antrag by Andrea Camilleri (found in a charity shop)
Our souls at night by Kent Haruf (a BB from many fellow LTers)
Katzenberge by Sabrina Janesch (from a charity shop)
Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster by Gustav Meyrink (just curious about this)
Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon (an author frequently praised on LT)
The handmaid's tale by Margaret Atwood (it's high time I read this)
Wikmans Zöglinge by Jaan Kross (I loved the Czar's Madman and finally found an affordable copy)
Die Frauen von Wesenberg oder der Aufstand der Bürger by Jaan Kross (another lucky find)

and one to grow on: 1794 by Niklas Natt och Dag

Feb 16, 10:04am Top

Happy Thingaversary!

That quote from Clouds of Witness is one of my favourites from that book :)

Feb 16, 11:47am Top

Congrats & enjoy!

Feb 16, 12:01pm Top

Happy thingaversary! I'm on LT 8 years this year too, though the actual day isn't until August.

Feb 16, 12:16pm Top

Happy 8th Thingaversary, Birgit!

Feb 16, 1:19pm Top

Happy Thingaversary, Birgit! Great choices. :)

Feb 17, 3:15am Top

>109 rabbitprincess: The Dowager is absolutely fabulous!
>110 Tess_W: Thanks, Tess, it will be hard to decide which to read first.
>111 Jackie_K: Thanks, Jackie!
>112 DeltaQueen50: Thanks, Judy!
>113 Chrischi_HH: I hope so, too.

Feb 17, 6:56am Top

Happy Thingaversary! I cannot wait until I have been here that long so I will be 'allowed' to buy so many books at once! Enjoy your new reads.

Feb 17, 7:29am Top

>115 JayneCM: It will happen faster than you think!

Feb 23, 8:20am Top

Richard Chamberlain

And I have finished Le Rouge et le Noir. I also read the introduction and the additional material, some of which was interesting, but none really helped me understand what Stendhal is trying to tell us here.

Edited: Feb 26, 3:36am Top

Richard Feynman / TravelKIT / Bingo: historical event / Popsugar: advanced prompt 8

Reise nach Arabien was published in Denmark in 1962 and tells the story of a Danish scientific expedition sent out in 1761 to explore "Arabia Felix", the Yemen. Five scientists are chosen to go, only one returned in 1767. Back home, a new king sat on the throne, and nobody cared about the results, the specimens sent back had been neglected and even allowed to rot, and Carsten Niebuhr had to pay for publication of the most important papers himself. Hansen tells of the rivalries, the bad luck, the joy of discovery, the curiosity for the world. The part about Niebuhr's solitary voyage home was strangely uplifting, considering the melancholy events.


Feb 26, 8:45am Top

>118 MissWatson: I see that this has been translated to English, so on my wish list it goes!

Feb 27, 4:10am Top

>119 Tess_W: I hope you enjoy it. I learned quite a few surprising things from it.

Feb 28, 4:17am Top

January GeoCAT / January MysteryKIT / Bingo: set in Asia / Popsugar: advanced prompt 10

There was no way I could finish a book for all the February challenges, so I took something from the pile that caught my eye: The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter, a mystery set in India in 1837.
It did not start well: I do not generally like first person narrative, and I'm not overfond of young men out of their depth and doing stupid things for the wrong reasons. The prospect of spending 300 pages with William Avery, an ensign in a East India Company regiment recently arrived in India, made my heart sink. He is unsatisfied with his lot as a pennyless younger son, the country is nothing like the romantic notions he had of it after devouring the heroic poetry of Xavier Mountstuart, he wastes his time with the usual gentlemanly pursuits of drinking and gambling and moans incessantly. Things get even worse when he is assigned to a mission from the political department. The leading man, Jeremiah Blake, is an experienced India hand, definitely not a gentleman, who has committed two cardinal sins in the eyes of his fellow Brits: he's gone native and exchanged a captaincy in the Company army for a job with the politicoes. Avery would have balked if the assignment hadn't been to find his hero, the poet Mountstuart, who's gone missing somewhere in the interior.
Blake has no time for this greenhorn whom he suspects to report back on him and so we spend an inordinately long time trekking along the Grand Trunk Road with Avery refusing to do anything that would betray interest in the country and its people, insisting on wearing his uniform no matter how unsuitable it is for their kind of travelling etc etc. And then, after nearly a hundred pages, we reach the town of Jubbulpore where Mountstuart was last seen, and things finally get going. We learn more and more about Blake, Mountstuart and the political shenanigans behind this mission. From here on in, the book gets better and better, with surprising twists, and I ended up really liking it. Not Avery, mind you, but at least he has learned a lot by the time they're back in Calcutta. I will definitely look out for the next book about Blake and Avery.

The book also gave me lots to think about which is always a good thing. The author paints a very unflattering portrait of Company rule in India, and the time she choses is significant, in my eye. We are on the verge of the Victorian age, and there's a sense of a changing of the guard in the conversations Blake has with Mountstuart and the Rao of Doora. The men who were genuinely interested in the history and the civilisation of India, who took pride in studying the languages and the cultures, and who had no fear to mingle with other races, are replaced by narrow-minded, bigoted bureaucrats who keep themselves apart from "the natives". Toward the end we meet Lord Auckland and William Macnaghten and the disastrous first Afghan War casts its shadows.

It is strange how sometimes books that seem to have nothing in common complement each other. Carsten Niebuhr in Reise nach Arabien belongs to an earlier generation, one of those explorers who learned the local language to be able to speak with the people directly, who adopted local clothing and customs in order to get a real sense of what living in such a place means. Blake and Mountstuart have a similar mindset, whereas Avery (initially) sees only dirt and heat. And one of the reviews of Le rouge et le noir which was included in my French edition gives a short summary of how under the Bourbon Restauration education was given over to the Jesuits who spread the narrow-mindedness, hypocrisy and straightlaced morality that looked down on Enlightenment rationalism. The same kind of change happened in Britain, in Germany we call this time the Biedermeier. It is the beginning of active imperialism, proclaiming the superiority of the white race and the need to bend the rest of the world to their notion of civilisation. I am currently in the last stages of reading The slave trade, I have reached the time when the British patrolled the seas to hunt down slave traders and pressured weaker states into making the slave trade illegal, and the disturbing thing here is that the arguments that the slave-trading nations produce to justify the continuance of the trade are the very same arguments that the Company men in India spout to justify their own proceedings. I guess this is what earned the British their reputation for duplicity: do as I say, not as I do.

Feb 28, 8:44am Top

I found The Strangler Vine in the ebook collection of one of my libraries so I added it to the wish list there.

Mar 1, 8:02am Top

>122 thornton37814: I hope you like it. It requires some patience at the beginning.

Mar 1, 8:17am Top

Richard Penniman

On the last day of February I finished Das kunstseidene Mädchen. This features on quite a few lists of books you should read, and I must admit, I totally fail to see why. Doris, barely twenty years old if I read this correctly, writes about her encounters with men, in a style exactly as if she told this to a friend, without grammar and jumping from topic to topic. She works as a typist for a lawyer in a city on the Rhine – presumably Cologne, the author's hometown, gets fired, steals a fur coat and flees to Berlin where she moves in with the friend of her best friend. She enjoys the nightlife and picks up men and ends up living with one of them – for a while. She desperately wants to be someone, yet she ends up spending the days in the waiting room of a train station, strongly determined not to earn her living by work. I simply can't get into her head.

Mar 1, 9:14am Top

Saturday notes

No book reviews this week. I don't know where the month went, but at least the bus drivers have agreed to a wage settlement and we won't have any more strikes. Right now we're worrying about the Covid virus, a first case has been reported in Schleswig-Holstein and there's a definite risk that we must cancel the conference we co-host in Berlin every year.
On the reading front, the best books have been Clouds of Witness, Reise nach Arabien, the Astérix book and The Strangler Vine. The rest was meh at best. Onwards to March!

Mar 2, 1:41am Top

>2 MissWatson: I just re-watched your Richard #1 (Armitage) in North and South. My DVD has an extra feature interview with him, which was lovely. **she sighs wistfully**

Mar 2, 12:35pm Top

>126 kac522: That was my first encounter with him, too. Such a good memory!

Mar 2, 2:46pm Top

>127 MissWatson: And there are so many of the smaller parts in that DVD I recognize from more recent productions: Brendan Coyle (aka Mr Bates in Downtown Abbey); Anna Maxwell Martin (in lots of things, but most memorably as Esther Summerson in Bleak House); Jo Joyner, currently in the series Shakespeare & Hathaway; and one other guy (didn't catch his name) who is a recurring character ("Flambeau") on the current Father Brown series. Also Tim Pigott-Smith and Sinead Cusack from various places. None of these I knew when I first watched the movie back in 2004.

Mar 3, 3:30am Top

>128 kac522: I sometimes think it must feel like a family reunion for the actors for so many of them up in these period dramas.

Mar 4, 3:49am Top

Richard Widmark

For the MysteryKIT I read Un crime en Holland, a Maigret novella published in 1931. It is rather odd: he is sent to a small town in the Netherlands, where a French professor is the main suspect in a murder. Maigret doesn't speak Dutch, so he can't interview people only through translation. As usual he gives a very good portrait of the passions running under the calm surface, of the small world touched by the crime and of the landscape it is set in, real-life Delftzijl on the estuary of the Ems river. But I found the solution rather perfunctory. And it was odd that there is no mention of Germany lying on the other side of the estuary: wouldn't smuggling have been a large part of the local economy at the time?

Edited: Mar 5, 3:24am Top

Richard Penniman / Richard Starkey / Bingo: books, bookstores, libraries

Another quick read was Ein Winter in Wien which I found in the remainders box back in January. A nice, fluffy romance about Marie who is nanny to the children of Dr Arthur Schnitzler (yes, the author), recently arrived in Vienna from the countryside and awed by the big city. She is courted by Oskar, sales clerk in a bookstore. There are more books to come, probably all with a seasonal title, which I may or may not pick up, depending on my mood.

ETA: I'm also counting this for the March TravelKIT, Tourist Meccas. I loved Vienna when we visited.

Mar 6, 3:26am Top

Richard von Weizsäcker

Vergessene Kulturen der Weltgeschichte presents 25 civilisations forgotten until archaeology dug them up, starting with a hunting camp of homo erectus discovered in a North German plain. Some of them were familiar from other books or TV documentaries, so the articles about the mummies of the Taklamakan and the Chachapoya fell flat for me. There's not enough new stuff to keep it.

Mar 8, 11:01am Top

Richard Penniman / Richard Widmark

L'écluse N° 1 is another Maigret, set in Paris among the barge skippers plying the Seine and the canals, first published in 1933. This was quite unusual, Maigret spends nearly all the time in the company of the big man owning numerous ships and quarries who was the victim of an assault. Sometimes his inspector turns up, passing on the results from some routine inquiries, but mostly this is a psychological duel between Maigret and Ducrau. This is supposed to be Maigret's last case, as he will retire from the police the following week, and I was also surprised to find that he gives Joseph as his first name (later, it's Jules). Strange, but pleasing, and it made me nostalgic for Paris, walking along the banks of the Seine in fine weather...

Mar 8, 11:14am Top

Saturday notes

We had exceptionally fine weather on Saturday, and all places on the farmer's market were filled: the gardening season has started, and I bought some daffodils for my balcony. Now a storm has come up, and it's raining again, I hope they survive...

The FAZ had a special section of book reviews to coincide with Leipzig Book Fair (cancelled because of Covid, although many small publishers will stage events, because they can't afford not to). But only one of the books appealed to me, Lutz Seiler has a new novel.
The regular arts pages yielded more: Lombardo's Graffiti palace looks interesting. There's also King's Gods of the upper air, I had no idea that Zora Neale Hurston was a colleague of Margaret Mead. Or that Franz Boas hailed from Minden.
Plus Hitlers Spion, Österreichs Stimme about Wilhelm Hendricks-Hamburger. Some stories defy imagination.

Edited: Mar 8, 1:04pm Top

>134 MissWatson: Bummer about the cancellations, it's happening here, also. Our local newspaper has little or nothing in the arts pages except ballet and theatre and I go to both. However, I think my friend and I will start attending more author meet and greets at the James Thurber House. It's a bit expensive, but if we cut out one play and one ballet (we have seen all the ballets as least twice), then we can go to two author meets. Going to see Ariel Lawhon for sure as we have read two of her books. Not sure who the other author will be! http://www.thurberhouse.org/evenings-with-authors

Mar 9, 11:53am Top

>135 Tess_W: Some of the smaller publishers are carrying gamely on, because for them it is a huge financial burden to cancel everything. I'll be watching from afar, but one day I hope to go to Leipzig book fair.

Mar 9, 1:26pm Top

>136 MissWatson: London Book Fair is meant to be on right now, but was cancelled last week too. I think here too there are some smaller events still happening, but on a much smaller scale than the fair usually is.

Mar 9, 9:16pm Top

>136 MissWatson: Too bad about the cancellations. We haven't had many events cancelled here in Canada, but I expect that will be coming.

Your Maigret reviews are making me want to get back to reading more from that series. I do have a "books in French" category this year, so these would be good options.

Mar 10, 9:55am Top

>137 Jackie_K: Things are getting to be real scary. We haven't cancelled our library's conference yet, but I'm wondering how many of the participants will turn up tomorrow.

>138 mathgirl40: I find them also very quick and easy reads, the last one had just 158 page in very large font. An old dictionary may be helpful for all the technical gadgets long since obsolete.

Mar 10, 10:05am Top

Richard Penniman

Die Spur by Nagib Machfus caught my eye in the charity shop, so I picked it up. I was surprised to find it was written in the 1960s and only translated into German when he received the Nobel prize. I didn't like the main character, a selfish, spoiled, work-shy young man, and the translation was unsatisfactory, too. I hope his other books received better treatment.

Mar 10, 3:43pm Top

>140 MissWatson: I've read the Palace Walk trilogy and Midaq Alley and didn't notice anything annoying about the translations, so they must be OK! All four books were well worth reading.

Mar 11, 5:36am Top

>141 pamelad: I have got the first part of the Cairo trilogy on my TBR and will give it a try. If all else fails, I can always look for an English translation.

Edited: Mar 11, 10:17am Top

Richard Oetker

It has taken me almost three months to read this (during lunch breaks, which is admittedly not much time in a day). I'm counting it for the economic history even if economics are barely mentioned.
The books covers the time from 1492 to the late 1890s and concentrates on the slave trade on the Atlantic, so no general discussion of slavery per se. In all, the amount of work that went into the book is amazing, but the result leaves me lukewarm. The author is fond of extremely long sentences, building subclause upon subclause, until you get lost in all the commas, and he often includes comments that seem totally unnecessary: do we need to know that some slave trader's wife was of immense girth? How is this tidbit pertinent to his subject? The whole thing is weighed down by too much detail, after the seventeenth description of a ship naming length, master, owner and destination my eyes glazed over.
However, there is enough information contained in the book to make me look at European, and especially English literature with a different eye: all those big 18th and 19th century fortunes made in sugar that pointedly make no mention of the slave labour needed to build them.

ETA: Dear oh dear, forgot to include the title of the book: The slave trade by Hugh Thomas.

Edited: Mar 12, 11:46am Top

Richard sans peur

One of the more memorable things about Thomas' hefty tome is that he often mentions literary works that deal with the slave trade. So I tracked down a free online copy of Tamango, a short story by Prosper Mérimée. It's public domain, just the text, and no way to tell if this was based on a real event. From some of Thomas' comments it appears plausible.

An African chief assembles a load of slaves to sell on to a French captain, is enslaved himself, and starts a revolt on board the ship where the entire crew is killed. The slaves do not know how to sail the ship, and they all perish, except for Tamango who is picked up by a Royal Navy ship and taken to Jamaica. The fact that he is more or less set free (even if made to work for the government) sets the story somewhere after 1834. Sadly, while it deplores slavery, it demonstrates all the racist prejudice current then, depicting the Africans as stupid and excitable.


Mar 14, 5:26pm Top

Richard Cragun / KITastrophe

Given the current situation, reading about the plague feels a bit ghoulish, but Die Pest in Bergamo was suggested by the Süddeutsche as quarantine reading. It's ashort story by Jens Peter Jacobsen, whose Niels Lyhne is a classic in Denmark. Very lyrical in style.

Mar 15, 10:49am Top

Saturday notes

Corona dominates everything, and since Leipzig Book Fair cancelled most events and LitCologne is also cancelled, there was little about books in the papers. On my patch, schools and kindergartens are closed, and our library will be closed to the public from tomorrow, like all other libaries. It feels very strange to see a nearly empty street.
On the plus side, the weather has been fine and I spent some hours on my balcony reading Unnatural death.

Mar 15, 12:02pm Top

>146 MissWatson: The virus is dominating everything here in Canada as well, Birgit. It's very eerie to watch the world slowly shut down!

Mar 15, 2:37pm Top

Stopped by as I'm trying to catch up on LT and going away with two more books on my wishlist - the one about the Danish expedition and the one in India.

The virus is dominating everything here as well with all kinds of cancellations and many universities finishing spring terms wholly online.

Mar 15, 2:52pm Top

A belated Happy Thingaversary! You found some excellent reading.

Too bad about the cancellations. I live in a sparsely populated, off the beaten track area of British Columbia and so far our ski resorts are still open with only things like council meetings being cancelled. We have a hard time getting a large group of people together at the best of times. I hope this continues but I expect some places and events will be closed eventually.

Mar 16, 1:47pm Top

>147 DeltaQueen50: Very eerie, indeed. The government district was almost silent when I left work today.
>148 hailelib: I hope you enjoy them!
>149 VivienneR: Thanks, Vivienne. Our state capital is not exactly the centre of the world, but with so many events cancelled it feels very isolated all of a sudden.

Things have gotten truly serious today with a decision by the state government to send civil servants into home office. This includes our academic library, so from tomorrow I'll be working from home. This is going to be real weird, as I have always tried to keep work and home life strictly separate. But I'm in the risk group, over 60, so no excuses. At least the library has provided me with a fully equipped notebook, so I don't have to mess with installing software and stuff like that. It's going to be difficult enough, I guess.
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!

Mar 16, 1:52pm Top

Richard-Coeur-de-lion / Richard Widmark

Re-reading Unnatural death is always fun, but I think I need a new copy. Every time I am irritated by the typos and the fact that on at least three pages a line of dialogue is missing. The question is: how do I know which editions have perfect text?

Mar 16, 6:12pm Top

Good luck with the teleworking! It's definitely an adjustment, especially if you haven't done it often or before. I like to get up at my usual time and read before work; I'd be reading on the bus anyway, so reading makes it like a pretend commute ;)

Mar 16, 10:04pm Top

>150 MissWatson: Ditto here, Birgit. Teaching 6 classes online (4 high school and 2 college). Took me 12 hours today to set up the platform (Google classroom) and get 3 days worth of work posted for each class. I'm sure it will go quicker in the future now that I know what I'm doing (ahem)! I, too, being over 60 and just having had radiation last year makes me a high risk, so I guess I'm glad to be "isolated" here at home. But no book club, no ballet, no school, no eating out, no library (except ebooks-which is ok!), no traveling, makes me weary!

Mar 17, 3:19pm Top

>152 rabbitprincess: >153 Tess_W: Thanks for the encouragement! A few glitches still need to be ironed out, so I'm dropping in at the library tomorrow for an appointment with the IT guy, but otherwise I am pleasantly surprised by the ease and speed of things working. The real challenge now is to stick to a work routine and to keep busy as the world slows down in a total lockup. Right now we're busy preparing our annual report. We'll take it from there...

Mar 17, 6:11pm Top

All the best with working from home, Birgit. Take your time to develop your work routines, and then try to stick to them. I liked some of the suggestions in this article: (in German, und mit einem Augenzwinkern zu verstehen) https://www.spiegel.de/kultur/homeoffice-zehn-regeln-zum-ueberleben-kolumne-a-4b...

Mar 19, 5:07pm Top

>155 Chrischi_HH: Thanks, that was nice! I am also relieved to find that I actually did most of what she suggests. Like getting started first and tidying up later. What's the situation like at your company? We all had to change over on Monday, and the most amazing thing for me was how the IT team managed this challenge.

Of course, I'm lucky with a new notebook and a VPN connection to the intranet, but still. Right now things are running surprisingly smoothly, and our first virtual meeting today went without a glitch. I didn't have much energy left for reading on the first days, working with such a small screen is unexpectedly stressful. But I'm getting used to it, and now I can enjoy books again.

Mar 20, 7:30am Top

>156 MissWatson: glad to see most things are on the positive side. My transition went about the same. My only upside is my personal computer has a 23 inch screen while my work computer only had an 18 inch, so not complaining there. Our teaching has been online since Wednesday. I have a total of 129 students in 6 classes. Of those 129, 10 have had no presence, yet. If they don't show up by 3pm today, I have to make phone calls to parents--ugh!

Mar 20, 2:04pm Top

>157 Tess_W: It will be interesting to see if online teaching will get a push from this crisis. Most German schools are woefully behind the times technically. Universities hadn't started yet, so there's less pressure.

Today's FAZ reviewed Hilary Mantel's new book very favourably, so I may at last tackle Wolf Hall again. Just as soon as I finish Best served cold. I felt an urgent need for some fictional bloodshed. There's not much else to do this weekend, after all.

Mar 21, 9:35am Top

Saturday notes

The reviews were unfavourable, so no need to remember the books. A lot of other stuff about Corona, among them people reporting on their experiences with working from home. Some were quite funny, but they also made me realise how difficult it will be if you have to stay at home with young children.
I nipped across the street this morning to the farmer's market and bought the ingredients for chicken soup. It doesn't stave off the virus, but it helps with keeping up the spirits. The smell is so wonderful...

Okay, and now off to visiting threads.

Mar 21, 11:48am Top

>159 MissWatson: I must admit I'm a little anxious about being home with a cooped-up 6 year old! Although I can't help thinking that I would find it harder if she was a teenager - right now she still quite likes us, and isn't resenting the curtailing of freedom.

Mar 21, 4:21pm Top

>155 Chrischi_HH: In our company the transition to home office was more or less smooth. At work I use two bigs screens, and most of my team took one of them home. It looked a bit strange when we all left on Tuesday, with screens and boxes under our arms. However, our company's network was not fully prepared to so many working from home. They are working on the basics and things should improve by Monday. Have a good Sunday and stay safe!

Mar 22, 9:28am Top

>161 Chrischi_HH: A screen would be really helpful now, but we couldn't take ours home. The directors may yet change their minds.

Right now I wish it were less cold and windy so I could spend some time on the balcony. Some areas had frost last night.

Mar 22, 1:55pm Top

>158 MissWatson: LOL ...felt the need for fictional bloodshed!

Mar 24, 4:12am Top

>163 Tess_W: Yeah, so many people behaving stupidly got my blood up a little. It's much calmer and quieter now.

Mar 25, 5:10pm Top

Thanks for your updates on what's happening where you live. And I'll take a BB for The Strangler Vine.

Mar 25, 5:12pm Top

I'm with you in finding a great deal of comfort and escapist reading in crime novels right now.

Mar 26, 7:59am Top

>165 LisaMorr: Thanks for dropping by! Things are settling down in my immediate surroundings, the streets are quiet but not entirely deserted. Today at lunchtime I watched a dad taking his girls for a spin on their bikes on the big square across the street. Normally it's a parking lot, on Wednesdays and Saturdays the farmer's market is held there, but today it was all theirs and they could tire themselves out. It must be so hard on them to be cooped at home.

>166 RidgewayGirl: The main point in my mind is that it should be fictional. I'm not really up to non-fiction featuring mayhem and murder.

Mar 26, 8:05am Top

Richard Coeur-de-lion / Bingo

And to mark the passing of Albert Uderzo I fished two Astérix adventures from the shelves: Astérix le gaulois and Astérix aux jeux olympiques because one of the obituaries mentioned that the authors had smuggled a self-portrait into it. I had never noticed this before...

Mar 26, 11:24am Top

>167 MissWatson: I don't know - even the most prolific and hard to catch serial killer is such a finite and manageable problem.

Mar 26, 12:29pm Top

>169 RidgewayGirl: Hmm, good point. It would reinforce the belief that people are usually rational. The present hysteria over flour and toilet paper suggests otherwise.

Mar 28, 2:06pm Top

Richard Armitage / Popsugar: prompt 21

It took me longer than expected to finish Best served cold, a book loosely tied in with Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy. On the one hand, because I'm always a bit tired after a full day working from home and don't have the energy for much reading, on the other because it didn't have the same page-turner quality. Monza's single-minded pursuit of vengeance for her brother's deatrh makes it a perfect fit for the cardinal sins prompts, though.

Mar 29, 6:03am Top

Saturday notes

Straumeni by Edvarts Virza, which is apparently a Latvian classic and now translated for the first time. The concept sounds intriguing: one year in the life on a Latvian farm with lots of nature observation.

Uwe Timm turned 80 this month and they reviewed a couple of books about him, which put me in mind that I have some of his on my TBR...

There was also an essay on urban planning, partially inspired by X-Ray Architecture which argues that modern urban planning with its insistence on sun, air and white was a reaction to the devastating pandemics of the 19th century. It also cites Robert Musil's take on modern houses: “Modern man is born in a clinic and dies in a clinic, therefore he shall also live in a clinic.” Looking at magazines about interior decoration, I'd say he has a point.

And of course there's an article about La peste, currently not in print in German, but available from any used bookstore, I should think. The way the reviewer describes it it sounds very apt for our current situation. Even more interesting seems Das Ende der Welt by Boualem Sansal, whom he mentions briefly as having grown up in the same quartier as Camus.

And finally, Kyle Harper's Fate of Rome, about the end of the Roman Empire. I think I need a second life, just for reading.

Edited: Mar 29, 6:05am Top

April showers have arrived early. Yesterday a marvellous sunny day with temperatures above 12°C, today a force 5 wind is howling from the north, making weird noises. Well, at least the rain has stopped. Looks like a perfect day for staying indoors and visiting threads.


Mar 29, 5:05pm Top

>173 MissWatson: At least the weather is making it easier to stay home?

Mar 30, 11:07am Top

>174 RidgewayGirl: Definitely. We had snow on the roofs this morning. Now the sun is out again, but the wind is still cold, so I will snuggle up with Little Women.

Apr 2, 9:42am Top

Richard Steiff / Popsugar: prompt 27

I have finished Little women and I can see why it has such long-lasting appeal. I was looking at new copies in my bookshop before the lockdown and was surprised to find that it comes in different versions, some have both parts in one volume, others split it in two. I was even more surprised to see it recommended for the 8-12 years age group. I cannot help wondering if modern fare aimed at this age group features words like concatenation...

Apr 2, 4:34pm Top

>176 MissWatson: In third grade, when I was eight, my teacher gave me a copy of Little Women and I loved it so much. It took me some years to realize that I had an abridged version. The story is perfect for that age range, though.

Yesterday, 6:24am Top

>177 RidgewayGirl: That explains a lot. All those French phrases! I remember abridged versions of Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island and the Leatherstocking tales.

Yesterday, 6:32am Top

Richard Steiff / Popsugar: prompt 16

A wrinkle in time is tagged as time travel, but as it plays only a marginal role as a concept here, I'm not using it for the SFF KIT. But since Meg excels at math and her mother is a PhD in chemistry and biology, it works for the Popsugar STEM prompt.
I was very pleasantly surprised by this, lots of hard science and a very convincing female heroine. I did roll my eyes at her hysterical reaction to meeting her father again, but it was psychologically understandable and relatable. This has got only recently on my radar although it must have been around in my school days. I'm looking forward to the next instalment.

Today, 9:27am Top

Richard Steiff / ScaredyKIT: paranormal

I didn't think I had any books on the TBR that would fit the paranormal theme, but while searching for something else I came across Die seltene Gabe, a thriller for young adults where a telekinetic breaks out from a top secret government installation in France and is chased by French agents across Germany. He hides by breaking into houses and thus runs across Marie who tells the story. He drags her along on a wild chase that never lets up until he makes his getaway. Andreas Eschbach knows how to build tension and action, and although Marie's perfect grammar is a bit unrealistic (her use of the subjunctive would make Thomas Mann very proud), there is enough juvenile snarkiness to make this a fun read.

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