EU reading challenge

Flag of Europe

I have spent almost three years feeling pretty low about Britain voting to leave the EU, but I have decided that in this bonus time created by the latest extension, I want to do something to celebrate the EU. So I’m going to try to read a book from every one of the 28 EU countries (yes, that’s including the UK).

Ideally, I’d like every book in the challenge to be written by an author from the designated country and set in that country. But if that’s not possible for every country, then I’ll take one or the other where I need to. I already have several books to get started with, but I’m going to need to do some research/get some recommendations to complete this.

I started by making a pile of books from my TBR that are by EU authors. There are some duplicate countries in here, so I have some decisions to make (again, recommendations will be welcomed). And I’ve only included one book from the UK – the collection of Welsh legends known collectively as The Mabinogion.

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March 2019 reading round-up

ukiyo-e by Gigado Ashiyuki
1827 print of actors in a play about a courtesan by Gigado Ashiyuki.

We ended this month visiting Bristol City Museum for the second part of their Japanese prints exhibition. I love ukiyo-e, and this collection on the theme of “life in the city” is definitely worth a trip if you’re anywhere near Bristol before 12 May.

My reading has been up and down – possibly because I have been really trying to get through The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov for six weeks now, but I’m just not enjoying it. I think it might be time to give up. I also read a couple of badly written books, which I wouldn’t usually stick with. Thankfully I also read some gems, including Inferior by Angela Saini, which I genuinely recommend to everybody. I bought my Mum a copy for Mother’s Day. That will not be the only copy I give as a gift.

I also started running again this month after a five-month break. It’s been tough getting back into it but I am starting to feel the benefits. Now I just have to…keep it up.

How was your March?

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World Book Day

World Book Day

This might seem redundant on a book blog, but I really do love books. I love books in all their forms: print or electronic; old and tatty or crisp and new; beautifully designed or so plain it’s practically a printout. All of them. I love books that educate, entertain, shock, horrify, uplift, sadden or amuse me.

I have always tried not to be in any way snobby about books or reading. If some people prefer to only read for information-gathering, or only for total escapism, that’s up to them. I think all reading is beneficial – even the backs of cereal packets. I might have a literature degree and have ticked off a lot of titles on those “must read” lists that do the rounds, but I also read a lot of Mills & Boon as a teenager – and really enjoyed them!

That’s not to say I don’t want to change the balance of what I read to better represent the world I live in (I now read slightly more women than men, but most of these authors are white and, to the best of my knowledge, cis-gender and able-bodied). And if I can encourage others using positive means to read more broadly then that’s brilliant.

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February 2019 reading round-up

Tiramisu ingredients

It’s been an interesting month. From below-freezing temperatures and snow storms to summer weather in three weeks. We took a long weekend to play countless hours of Civilization and eat a lot of very rich food, but I honestly can’t remember much of the rest of the month. Brain fog, apologies. I didn’t get much reading done either, for which I also accuse brain fog.

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January 2019 reading round-up

lunchtime reading
Lunchtime reading.

I feel like a lot has happened already this year, especially considering two weeks were written off by having a bad cold (it’s still lingering but on the way out now). I had a birthday, we’ve spent time with friends, had a weekend away. Which handily included long train rides for reading.

Because one of my birthday presents was a box set of Penguin Mini Classics, I’ve decided that this year in-between each full-sized book I will read either a comic or a mini book. In addition to giving me a sample of lots of authors I’ve been meaning to read, it also makes my numbers on Goodreads look really good!

Like last year, February looks set to be much colder than January so I foresee some cosy reading days ahead.

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2018 end-of-year round-up

Pompeii muse
Even wall paintings from 1st century Pompeii revere reading and writing.

It feels like 5 minutes ago that I was writing my end-of-2017 post. How does time pass so quickly now? We’re not in a far-flung locale this holiday period, but instead at home in Bristol, repeatedly looking at photos from last year’s dream holiday in Japan and eating rather a lot of Japanese food to aid and abet the reminiscing.

This year I have read 67 books (I am halfway through one right now, so maybe that will be 68 by midnight) of which 25 were by men, 38 by women and the rest by multiple authors. I think this was one of my more modern reading years, by which I mean that I read 51 books from the 21st century, 15 from the 20th century and just one book from the 19th century – nothing older than that. Should I try to read more older books again? I’m not sure. I’ve liked my reading this year, even if I haven’t done as much of it as in previous years (in 2011, the first year I tracked my reading, I managed 100 books – life was quieter back then). I read 20 books in translation, of which 9 were from Japanese, again showing the influence of last year’s holiday.

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December 2018 reading round-up

Lego Christmas train and Christmas books
Lego Christmas train and Christmas books.

I love Christmas and New Year, but I really don’t enjoy the long build-up and the pressure that comes with it. Which is why running away to Japan last year was both perfect and a little bit sad.

This year we spent just a few days at my Dad’s and didn’t do any of the country walks we usually would. We’ll have to go back for another visit soon to remedy that.

I did, as always, get lots of books for Christmas, which I’ll blog about soon. I want to read them all right away.

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Discovering Hallyu

The Heirs

I have just finished watching The Heirs (2013), and for the first time with a K-drama I don’t want to give it a proper review, even though there is a LOT that I could say about it. It just has so many problems and I fear a review would only encourage other people to watch it. Which has got me thinking more generally about my K-drama fixation.

It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that this past few months I have immersed myself in K-drama, and generally become super-interested in Korean life and culture. The Korean Wave (Hallyu) has most definitely found me. But why would a feminist like me swoon over these shows that are not only repetitive and cliched, but commonly outright misogynist and selling dangerous ideas to the Korean youth they are aimed at?

First, let me back up the second part of that question with some examples. K-dramas are all about romance, but that romance usually begins with a man who is in a position of power over the woman (in almost every case I’ve seen the man is super-rich while the woman is poor) repeatedly grabbing her wrist and dragging her around; claiming ownership of her when she has not expressed any interest; and forcibly backing her into kisses that she does not want or respond to. Even more worryingly, said woman then always falls for the man in question and looks back on those forced kisses as beautiful moments.

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Reading round-up November 2018

Photo of a woman with a book and umbrella
CC0 Evelyn from Pexels

How are we this far through the year already? Time has flown and I have done very little of anything. But after October’s abysmal attempts, I did do better on the reading front. I decided to kickstart my reading brain by starting with some comics. Not that all comics are easy reading – Sandman definitely isn’t – but some of them are, and they were just what I needed. Tim started me off with some old Avengers comics in the Marvel app, and then I picked some trade paperbacks off my TBR. It was a good strategy.

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