2021 Reading Challenge discussion

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ARCHIVE 2018 > Berit brings her A-game

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message 1: by Berit (last edited Jan 09, 2018 07:53AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments My goal for 2018 is to read 105 books. That's five more than in 2017.

The idea is to broaden my reading by exploring different aspects of the letter A, e.g. A-themes, A-authors, A-titles etc. Every month there will be one major theme or several minor themes. Sometimes, I'll probably throw in some free reading in order to avoid getting bored.

The rules are quite simple. Books that are written in or translated to English will be reviewed in broken English (it's my 4th language), while all other books will be reviewed in Swedish.

Please comment if you have any A-related suggestions on what to read. My mind is wide open.


message 2: by Susy (new)

Susy (susysstories) Interesting idea Berit!!
Wishing you the best of luck with your goal & a very happy reading year!


message 3: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Susy wrote: "Interesting idea Berit!!
Wishing you the best of luck with your goal & a very happy reading year!"


Thanks, Susy. It will indeed be very interesting . I only hope I'll make it to the finish line and don't run out of ideas. Happy reading year to you, too, and of course a very Happy New Year!


message 4: by Susy (new)

Susy (susysstories) Berit wrote: "Thanks, Susy. It will indeed be very interesting . I only hope I'll make it to the finish line and don't run out of ideas. Happy reading year to you, too, and of course a very Happy New Year!"

Thank you Berit!

Well, with almost 15.000 group members I'm sure we'll be able to help you if you get stuck on ideas :)


message 5: by D.G. (last edited Dec 30, 2017 05:18PM) (new)

D.G. Very interesting idea Berit! Here are some author suggestions with some of their books I enjoyed. And as a plus, there's a lot of diversity in the list. :)

Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
Aravind Adiga - The White Tiger
Julia Alvarez - In the Time of the Butterflies
Sherman Alexie - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Jeffrey Archer - A Prisoner of Birth
Sarah Addison Allen - Garden Spells
M.T. Anderson - Feed
Isabel Allende - The House of the Spirits (I haven't read this one but it's her most famous book.)

I'm not giving you title suggestions because I don't know if you're going with English or Swedish titles. :)


message 6: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments D.G. wrote: "Very interesting idea Berit! Here are some author suggestions with some of their books I enjoyed. And as a plus, there's a lot of diversity in the list. :)

Jane Austen - [book:Pride and Prejudice|..."


D.G. wrote: "Very interesting idea Berit! Here are some author suggestions with some of their books I enjoyed. And as a plus, there's a lot of diversity in the list. :)

Jane Austen - [book:Pride and Prejudice|..."


Thanks, D.G, that was really helpful. You mentioned quite a few authors I haven’t even thought of. Happy New Year!


message 7: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen Sarti Hej Berit,

great challenge! I immediatly thought of some favourites from the fantasy corner of the book world: Neil Gaiman - American Gods (and the sequel: Anansi Boys), and two authors from humour fantasy: Piers Anthony and Robert Asprin.


message 8: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments CathleenSarti wrote: "Hej Berit,

great challenge! I immediatly thought of some favourites from the fantasy corner of the book world: Neil Gaiman - American Gods (and the sequel: Anansi Boys), and two authors from humo..."


Hej Cathleen! Excellent suggstions. Thank you so much and Happy New Year!


message 9: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Finally, it's 2018. Let's roll!

The first A-theme of 2018 is Astrid. By Astrid I obviously mean Astrid Lindgren, the outstanding Swedish writer of children’s book.

In secular Sweden, Astrid is the closest to a godess there is. She is above critisism. Therefore, all her books will of course be given five stars, or else my citizenship will be revoked and I will immediately get deported to Denmark.

Every generation have enjoyed and cherished Astrid‘s books since the 1940’s. I still remember my grandparents reading about Pippi, Mio and Emil, and all the other unforgettable characters, at bedtime. Years later I read the same stories for my own children, as well as the new and even better ones about Ronja and the Lionheart Brothers.

Now it’s my grandchildren‘s turn to embrace the magic world that is Astrid Lindgren‘s. In order to become the best granny ever, I will reread some of them to prepare myself properly. So, Max and Alicia (and all your future siblings and cousins), this theme is for you.

The five books included in this theme are:
The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking
Mio, My Son
Emil in the Soup Tureen
Ronia, the Robber's Daughter
The Brothers Lionheart


message 10: by Susy (new)

Susy (susysstories) Berit wrote: "Finally, it's 2018. Let's roll!
...
In secular Sweden, Astrid is the closest to a godess there is. She is above critisism. Therefore, all her books will of course be given five stars, or else my citizenship will be revoked and I will immediately get deported to Denmark...."



Lol 😂

Have fun Berit!


message 11: by Berit (last edited Jan 14, 2018 05:34AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #1. Mio, My Son

Thousands and thousands shining stars.

Who can bring all the ingredients of classic story-telling together, spice it up with a little Freudian psychological theory, and get away with it? Astrid Lindgren can, of course. And the result is not only good, it’s really yummy.

Mio, my son is my third all favourite Astrid Lindgren book. I really loved it as a child, although some parts were quite scary. An orphan boy, who lives with his unloving foster parents, meets a genie in a bottle and travels to Farawayland to unite with his real father, the King. In Farawayland he has to fight the evil Sir Kato to save the world.

Rereading Mio, my Son was everything I wanted it to be: The genie in the bottle – Check. The outcast finding his extended family – Check. The prophecy of the coming prince – Check. The classic struggle between good and evil - Check. The enchanted animals – Check. The magic sword that cuts through stone - Check. The invisibility cloak – Check. The white horse with the golden mane – Check.

As a grownup I also discovered the Freudian aspect of family romance. Wikipedia explains it better than I do: The Family romance is a psychological complex identified by Sigmund Freud in 1908, whereby the young child or adolescent fantasizes that they are really the children of parents of higher social standing than their actual parents.

The end is also very ambiguous when rereading the book. Is it “reality” or just a neglected boy’s fantasy? Is the protagonist dead or alive?

This is indeed a book with many layers.


message 12: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Susy wrote: "Berit wrote: "Finally, it's 2018. Let's roll!
...
In secular Sweden, Astrid is the closest to a godess there is. She is above critisism. Therefore, all her books will of course be given five stars,..."


Thanks, Susy. I will.


message 13: by Berit (last edited Jan 14, 2018 05:36AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #2. Pippi Longstocking, Pippi Goes On Board, Pippi in the South Seas

Five orange supernovas

They both have orange hair. They both lie without hesitation. They both look down on education. They both are impulsive and reckless. One of them is Pippi Longstocking.

Rereading Pippi Longstocking in the era of Trump was for me a truly overwhelming experience. Suddenly, I realised that Trump is actually Pippi’s evil younger brother. A very strange insight, indeed.

Pippi was born in 1945 when Astrid’s daughter Karin asked her mum to tell a story about a girl called Pippi Longstocking. Trump was born the following year. Two products of a long and destructive war. Logically, at least the non-fictional one should have matured and calmed down by now. However, that does not seem to be the case.

Pippi is just as reckless and full of lies as her little brother. But she spends a lot of time and effort to milder the consequences of his actions. When he is greedy, she is generous. When he is evil, she is compassionate. When he bullies, she comforts and fights oppression.

Vote Pippi in the next election, and make the colour orange great again. She will bring you universal healthcare. And free candy.

Pippi quotes to remember:
“I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”
“Don't you worry about me. I'll always come out on top.”
“I have noticed several times that people don't think I know how to behave even when I'm trying as hard as I can.”


message 14: by D.G. (new)

D.G. Berit wrote: "Finally, it's 2018. Let's roll!

The first A-theme of 2018 is Astrid. By Astrid I obviously mean Astrid Lindgren, the outstanding Swedish writer of children’s book.
In secular Sweden, Astrid is the closest to a godess there is. She is above critisism. Therefore, all her books will of course be given five stars, or else my citizenship will be revoked and I will immediately get deported to Denmark."


Hahahahaha!!!


message 15: by Berit (last edited Jan 14, 2018 05:37AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #3. Stora Emilboken

Five fabulous comets.

I actually know Emil quite well. The only difference is that my Emil is a girl. Girl-Emil is just as blond, just as reckless, and just as good with animals.

Inspired by her own father’s memories of his childhood Astrid Lindgren wrote the hilarious books about the prankster Emil and his little sister Ida. Emil has a good heart, but trouble is his middle name. Pranks aren’t planned. They just happen. All the time.

I can confirm this, since I am Girl-Emil’s mother, and can truly feel Emil’s mother’s pain until this day. But things all went well in the end, just as it did for Emil. Girl-Emil is now a grown-up woman, and turned out really fine.

This book is not translated into English, but contains three books that are: Emil and the Soup Tureen, Emil's Pranks, and Emil's Clever Pig.


message 16: by Blagica , Cheerleader! (new)

Blagica  | 11903 comments Wishing you the best of luck with your goal this year.


message 17: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Blagica wrote: "Wishing you the best of luck with your goal this year."
Thanks, Blagica.


message 18: by Berit (last edited Jan 14, 2018 05:38AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #4. Ronia, the Robber's Daughter

A galaxy of glittering stars

Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter, has no evil dragon or emperor to kill. Instead she has to fight for her independence, and for the right to decide her own future.

The stormy night Ronia is born, lightning cleaves her family's fort in two. She's raised within the confines of the stronghold by her mother, Lovis, and her father, the robber chief Matt.

One day Ronia encounters a boy named Birk, son of the rival chief Borka, and saves him from a terrible fall into the abyss. Borka's wife and his band of robbers have moved into the other side of the fort, infuriating Matt.

Ronia and Birk become devoted friends, meeting in secret in the woods surrounding the fort.

But when their feuding parents discover their relationship, Ronia is disowned by her father and the children run away to live in the forest. Ronia is heartbroken to have to choose between her birth family and the boy she calls brother.

Often "Ronia, the Robber’s daughter" is compared to the story about Romeo and Juliet, but with a happy ending. For me, the book is not primarily a classic love story. It is about the art of letting go. How to let go of your children when they grow up, how to let go of your anger, how to let go of the prejudices you have, and how to let go of your loved ones who are to leave this world.

This is my second best favourite of Astrid Lindgren’s books. It was also her last major work. Maybe this incredible story was her way of saying goodbye.


message 19: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #5. Bröderna Lejonhjärta

All the stars of an expanding multiverse.

After reading "Brothers Lionheart", my favourite Astrid Lindgren book of all times, I have no words left. Everything is already said and done. This is pure perfection, and I’m truly blessed to be able to read this book in its original language.


message 20: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments A-theme no. 1 is now completed, and I will throw in two extras before the next theme.

Ett jävla solsken: En biografi om Ester Blenda Nordström
The Scandinavian Belly Fat Program


message 21: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #6. Ett jävla solsken: En biografi om Ester Blenda Nordström

Four stars.

A great book, but not yet translated. The review is therefore in Swedish.

Ester Blenda Nordström var alla Wallraffares moder. Förklädd till piga avslöjade hon de jordbruksanställdas orimliga arbetsvillkor. Hon var också äventyrerska av första klassen. Lapplands och Kamtjatkas ödemarker, finska vinterkriget och en tredjeklasshytt på Amerikalinjen var inget som avskräckte henne.

Onekligen en udda fågel i en tid då kvinnan inte var en fullvärdig medborgare och då hennes uppgift vara att vara en god maka och mor. Att hon dessutom var lesbisk gjorde säkert inte saken lättare. Trots de dåliga oddsen gjorde sig Ester Blenda snart ett namn som en lysande skribent. Hon blev kändis, en slags dåtidens Camilla Läckberg – fast begåvad.

Inre frid fick hon dock aldrig. Otillräckligheten demoner jagade henne och hon flydde in i alkoholmissbruk. Det som berörde mig mest i den här boken var beskrivningen av hur kreativiteten kan tära på en människa, en situation som kan leda till alkohol eller drogberoende. Att Ester Blenda föll offer är inte förvånande. Vi har sett det förut och vi kommer att få se det igen.

Detta var ett intressant stycke kvinnohistoria. Fatima Bremmer har gjort ett bra jobb. Ändå var det något litet som fattades för att det skulle bli full pott. Vet inte riktigt vad.


message 22: by Berit (last edited Jan 09, 2018 07:49AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #7. The Scandinavian Belly Fat Program

Not yet rated.

I’m a chocoholic. White sugar is my heroin. I admit I am powerless over sugar - that that my life has become unmanageable. It’s time for some change, or at least time to read a book about change.

I’ve been a bit on the chubby side during the last few years. During Christmas, I went to an all-inclusive holiday resort in the Caribbean for two weeks, where I of course ate too much and drank far too many piña coladas.

Still, I haven’t felt as thin in years. There were lots of guests from North America at the resort to compare with. In the beginning being “chubby but still thin” felt fine, but after a while I was grossed out. The portion sizes, the constant snack intake, the obese guests with their obese kids… That did not, however, stop me from eating and drinking even more.

When I returned home, my scales went bananas and registered an all-time-high. Sad! Also, I didn’t look thin anymore compared to everybody else. Even sadder! It was me who was the fatty one. Something had to be done. Read a book, for example.

Nobody can take responsibility for your health, but yourself. So, I rolled down to my local library to pick up this book. The author is Norwegian, and they are really thin people, I thought. Her first name is Berit, just like mine, hence she must be a really smart lady.

I’ve now read the entire book. It’s the usual stuff: no sugar, no white bread, smaller portions, more vegetables etc. Lots of recipes omitting the usual suspects. Nothing new, really. I know this shit. Still I’m chubby.

A week ago I started to apply Norwegian Berit’s twelve week program. During the first week you omit sugar, during the secobd you omit the carbs with high GI and so on. So far it hasn’t been too terrible, and I’ve lost 2 kilos. Happy days!

I’m not going to rate the book yet, but I’ll be back in twelve weeks to rate both the book and myself. It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.


message 23: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments The second A-theme in January is Afghanistan.

Imagine living in a country that has been constantly at war for over forty years. Two generations of Afghans have never really experienced peace, circumstances that affect people in the most profound ways.

During the refugee crises in Europe 2015-2016 I volunteered at a temporary refugee shelter in my municipality. Many of the arriving refugees were Afghan families. Psychological traumas were quite common, as well as physical illnesses. And don’t even get me started on the women’s situation…

But it was especially depressing to watch the kids. They did just not know how to play. When they for example got hold of some Lego, they built very realistic machine guns (of which they knew all the different brands) instead of houses and cars. They hid behind sofas and chairs and spent the entire days shooting at each other.

After about six months the temporary shelter closed, and the families were scattered all over Sweden. I have often wondered what happened to them. Did they get asylum? If so, will they ever adapt to their new country? Were they sent back to Afghanistan? What will happen to them there? I’ll probably never know.

The six books included in the Afghanistan theme are:
The Kite Runner
A Thousand Splendid Suns
And the Mountains Echoed
The Bookseller of Kabul
The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan
Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War


message 24: by Berit (last edited Jan 12, 2018 01:06AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #8. A Thousand Splendid Suns

Five splendid suns.

“Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.”

Religion has always been a very efficient tool for men to control women’s bodies, rights and behaviour. The three Abrahamic religions Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are no exception. You can see it today all over the world.

In catholic El Salvador a woman can be convicted for murder and sentenced to up to 50 years in prison if she has a miscarriage or, even worse, an abortion. In Israel ultraorthodox Jews want to have laws about gender separation and special seats for women in busses. In many Muslim countries women have no civil rights whatsoever. The upcoming right for women to drive a car in Saudi Arabia does not make up for the fact that women aren’t allowed to vote or to travel freely.

In "A Thousand Splendid Suns" Khaled Hosseini tells us a very moving story about two Afghan women, the older Mariam and the younger Laila. At 15 Mariam is married to the much older Rasheed, who is a cobbler in Kabul. Rasheed is very abusive. He hits her frequently, and when Mariam wants to leave their house, she has to be covered by a light blue burqa.

Mariam can’t have children, so one day the younger Leila arrives at the house as Rasheed’s second wife. She has just lost her entire family in the Russian bomb raids, and she suspect that’s she is pregnant with her lost lover’s child. Pure desperation drove her to marry Rasheed.

Mariam is not happy with the situation, but after a while the two women find comfort and support in each other. They are like sisters, and it is that feeling that will give then courage to change their lives in the most profound way.

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a painful read, since the protagonists have to sustain so many ordeals. You really get an insight of how it is to live in a poor country, full of misogynists, without being able to decide over your own life.


message 25: by Rachael (new)

Rachael (allons-y-bookworm) | 2972 comments What a great way to tackle your reading challenge. It's so interesting and I wish you luck.
Some ideas for you, which I would really recommend. They are some of my favourite books
* The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
* The Amber Spyglass (third novel in His Dark Materials, best trilogy ever in my opinion)


message 26: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Rachael wrote: "What a great way to tackle your reading challenge. It's so interesting and I wish you luck.
Some ideas for you, which I would really recommend. They are some of my favourite books
* The Hitchhiker..."

Thanks, Rachael. I read Douglas Adams last year, but I’ll definitely look in to the His Dark Materials trilogy.


message 27: by Berit (last edited Jan 12, 2018 06:29AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #9. The Kite Runner

Four stars.

“The Kite Runner” is a tale of fathers and sons, and of friendship and betrayal. An unlikely friendship develops between Amir, the son of a wealthy Afghan businessman, and Hassan, a servant to Amir and his father.

During a kite-flying tournament, an unspeakable event changes the nature of their relationship forever. Amir eventually leaves the war-torn and chaotic Afghanistan with his father.

As an adult he is haunted by his childhood betrayal, and he seeks redemption by returning to his native land to make peace with himself and reconcile his cowardice.

“It's wrong what they say about the past, I've learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out.”

Some random thoughts:
This is a very sentimental book. I usually don’t like those, but this one was sentimental in a good way.
The language is beautiful.
I liked the first part, better than the second. The story gets less interesting away from Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is probably on Trump’s list of shithole countries. Just like Sweden.


message 28: by Jakob (new)

Jakob (4841) Berit wrote: "Book #5. Bröderna Lejonhjärta

All the stars of an expanding multiverse.

After reading "Brothers Lionheart", my favourite Astrid Lindgren book of all times, I have no words left. Eve..."


I've been meaning to read this again as an adult. I even have it on my bookshelf at home (in Icelandic). My mom read it to me when I was four or five and I remember the general plotline, but not the details... What I do know is that I was terrified of the black horsemen and had nightmares about them. I've also seen the 1977 film and maybe a decade ago it was put up as a play here in Iceland.

How is it reading the book as an adult? I've also considered reading it in Norwegian to make it a little more challenging (lived in Norway and speak Norwegian, but don't get much practice unfortunately).


message 29: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Jakob wrote: "Berit wrote: "Book #5. Bröderna Lejonhjärta

All the stars of an expanding multiverse.

After reading "Brothers Lionheart", my favourite Astrid Lindgren book of all times, I have no w..."


Hei Jakob! When ”Brothers Lionheart” first was published in 1973, I was a tough teenager and would never ever read another Astrid Lindgren book in my life, I thought. The first time I read it was to my children in the 1990s’. I was then a grown-up in my late thirties. Therefore I can’t really compare it with reading it as a child, which I can with Pippi, Emil and Mio. Brothers Lionheart is still a very wonderful story. Of course you should rearead it. What struck me this time was that the language is more old-fashioned than I remembered it to be. It’s probably a very good choice to read it Norwegian, since the languages are so close. I guess Icelandic would work, too. If you want a challenge you can listen to Astrid herself reading Ronja on Youtube. Search for full audiobook Astrid Lindgren. Till lykke! Håber att du liker den.


message 30: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Jakob wrote: "Berit wrote: "Book #5. Bröderna Lejonhjärta

All the stars of an expanding multiverse.

After reading "Brothers Lionheart", my favourite Astrid Lindgren book of all times, I have no w..."


Gratulerer med seieren i håndbollen glemte jeg å si.


message 31: by Jakob (new)

Jakob (4841) Berit wrote: Gratulerer med seieren i håndbollen glemte jeg å si.

Ja, takk! God begynnelse til oss, men ikke sa god til dere da. Svenske treneren er islending, ikke sant?

Tror jeg skal prove a finne boken pa Norsk -- kommer kanskje til a være litt vanskelig pga det er bare tre bibliotek som har den og dem er alle barneskole bibliotek.


message 32: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Jakob wrote: "Berit wrote: Gratulerer med seieren i håndbollen glemte jeg å si.

Ja, takk! God begynnelse til oss, men ikke sa god til dere da. Svenske treneren er islending, ikke sant?

Tror jeg skal prove a ..."


Ja, han heter Kristján Andrésson. Han är född i Sverige, men har isländska föräldrar, och har spelat landskamper och i OL 2004 i Aten för Island. Det var kanske därför Sverige förlorade :-)


message 33: by Berit (last edited Jan 22, 2018 09:15AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #10. And the Mountains Echoed

Three stars

“And the Mountains Echoed” is composed of a couple of loosely connected stories. It starts out with a story about a destitute father who has to sell his little daughter Pari to a rich couple in Kabul. Pari is separated from her beloved brother Abdullah.

Then Parwana, the stepmother of Pari gets her story. This is also a story about siblings, and all the love and rivalry there is between them.

We return to Kabul to hear Nabi’s story. He is Pari’s uncle, and works in the house where Pari’s adoptive parents live. It was his idea that Pari’s father should sell her to the childless couple. He is secretly in love with Pari’s adoptive mother. When things get tougher in Kabul, Pari and her new mother leave for Paris.

The book was really good until here. “Kabul is a thousand tragedies per square mile.”

Then the reader get to meet a bunch of more or less irrelevant and uninteresting people. Two Afghan brothers returning from the US, a Greek plastic surgeon and his friends, an Afghan drug lord and his kid. It’s somewhere here where I lose track.

This wasn’t really my kind of book. Too many stories, too many irrelevant people, too many loose ends. The book should have benefitted greatly if Hosseini had applied the "kill your darlings" principle. Still, I don’t think it’s badly written. Hosseini is a good writer and I really liked some of the stories.


message 34: by Blagica , Cheerleader! (new)

Blagica  | 11903 comments Berit wrote: "My goal for 2018 is to read 105 books. That's five more than in 2017.

The idea is to broaden my reading by exploring different aspects of the letter A, e.g. A-themes, A-authors, A-titles etc. Ever..."


I love the concept of your plan you should think about developing it into a challenge for the group.
ideas can be posted here
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...
Either way I wish you the best of luck I will be back next month to see what your plans are happy reading.


message 35: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Thanks, Blagica. I’ll think of it, and maybe give it a try. See you! Next A-theme might be a bit controversial ;-)


message 36: by Berit (last edited Feb 18, 2018 01:15PM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #11. The Bookseller of Kabul

Three stars.

Just after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad went to Kabul to live with a bookseller and his extended family. The result was a semi-authentic book about the family members.

It did not end well. The bookseller sued the publisher for libel in a Norwegian court, won the case, and got about 250,000 NOK (about $30,000 or 25,000 Euros). I think there was also another law-suit before the English edition was released.

This being said, one can go on forever discussing the dangers related with mixing journalism and fiction. I will not go down that road, at least not in this review. However, describing a book as a documentary novel is generally not a very smart thing to do.

But what about the book? Well, it’s a well written story about the Kahn family told from a Western woman’s perspective. We get to meet several family members of the Kahn family.

Sultan Kahn (real name Shah Mohammad), the bookseller himself, is not portrayed as particularly nice man. Family honour is important. He treats the women in his family badly.

I found two stories especially disturbing. The first is about a young woman who wants to become a teacher. She signs up for English classes, but there are men in the classroom, so she has to give it up to protect her honour. No teaching career for her. Later she is married off to an older relative instead. The second story is about the grandmother. She is depressed, very obese, and hardly ever leaves the house. Her only joy left in life is to eat.

Let me finish with something positive about the not-so-nice protagonist: I liked the parts where we could follow Sultan Kahn’s work in the bookstore, and his struggle to protect his precious books.


message 37: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #12. The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan

Four and a half stars.

Is gender a social construct? Before I read this book, I would have leaned against a no. Now I’m not so sure anymore.

A woman in Afghanistan has no purpose but to breed. Provided the baby is a son, that is. Sons are necessary to protect the family honour. A family without sons is a family without honour. But, if you don’t have any sons you can just invent one by dressing up one of your daughters as a boy. Problem solved. Don’t ask. Don’t tell.

This new third gender is called bacha posh. Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg has written a remarkable book about the bacha posh. She interviews a number of bacha posh about their and their families’ situation. How do they cope with the new gender that has been assigned to them? How does it feel to go back to being a girl when entering puberty? And those who choose to remain boys, how will their lives turn out?

At one point Jenny Nordberg asks one of the bacha posh what she should do to be a man herself. She had then for several months tried very hard to behave like an Afghan woman, i.e. cover herself, avoid speaking and looking at people. She didn’t excel very well in this. The bacha posh just said: “I can’t teach you anything. You are already a man.”

Even if you don’t have the intention or the time to read this ground-breaking and thought-provoking book, I would strongly recommend everyone to visit the website www.bachaposh.com to read shorter articles (in English) about the subject.


message 38: by Berit (last edited Jan 19, 2018 11:26PM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #13. Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

Five stars.

This might be the most heart-breaking book that I’ve ever read. A choir of voices gives you the uncensored realities of war.

If you, like me, live in a country which hasn’t been to war for a very long time, the ability to imagine a war gets lost somewhere on the way. There is no one left to remember, no memories to share, and all the old tales are gone.

Sure, some people go to war as UN-soldiers, volunteer in the French Légion Étrangère or another foreign military force. But they are few, very few. Not many enough to keep the collective memory alive.

Therefore it’s probably extra painful for people like me who “don’t do wars anymore” to read a book like Zinky boys. For everyone else closer to a war, I guess it is old news.

The book tells a story from the Soviet occupational power’s point of view. Privates, officers, medical personnel, and administrative personnel all tell approximately the same gruesome story of betrayal and disbelief.

And the mothers at home, their stories. The mothers who had to receive the sealed zinc coffins with their sons and daughters (or parts of them, or coffins just filled with sand). (Hence the title “Zinky boys”.) Most of the stories were so terrible that I had to digest them little by little.

This was my first book by Svetlana Alexievich. She is a pure genius. I’m so glad she was awarded the Nobel Prize so her books will have the opportunity to reach a wider audience. “Zinky Boys” should be mandatory reading for everyone who is in the position to ever start a war or to send people into war.

And the saddest thing of them all is that history is repeating itself again at this very moment, this time in Syria. When will they ever learn?


message 39: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments The third A-theme in January is American politics.

During the past two years I’ve really tried to understand the raging shit storm that is American politics, and the mechanisms behind it. It hasn’t worked out very well. I’m more confused than ever.

As a European, there are so many strange things in the American political debate that I just don’t get. For example:

• The universal healthcare thingy. To revoke this is any European country would be political suicide. It’s a good thing. Believe me. And it’s cheaper.
• The gun control thingy. The love affair with guns. Crazy people with guns. Mass shootings. School shootings. Toddlers with guns. Gun control is a good thing. Believe me. Fewer people get killed.
• The voting system. Why isn’t the voter registration automatized? Why doesn’t the Electoral College represent the vote outcome?
• The Putin thingy. ’Nuf said. (That guy is everywhere!)
• The education thingy. The home schooling. A president who loves the poorly educated. The war on science.
• The Christian church as a political power. Very strange for a country that boasts itself to have freedom of religion.

It feels like I could go on forever, but I’ll just stop there. Now, I’m going to read five books, that either are going to make me understand a little more or get me even more confused, but at a higher level:

The Constitution of the United States of America
Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency
What Happened
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need


message 40: by Joanne (new)

Joanne Bailey (jmbailey1) I agree with you 100%. I am Canadian and I don't understand American politics at the moment either. All I know I am too close for comfort being 45 minutes from the American border. Not sure whether I could read anything about Trump right now as I don't go a day without hearing about him.


message 41: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Joanne wrote: "I agree with you 100%. I am Canadian and I don't understand American politics at the moment either. All I know I am too close for comfort being 45 minutes from the American border. Not sure whether..."
Hi/Salut! I guess the Trumpmania it’s even worse on the other side of the pond. As an ex-Torontonian I can feel your pain. In my opinion, the US really is in deep trouble, kind of the same proto-fascist state that Russia was in during the early Putin era. They need to find a common ground, and get their shit together. If the French could do it, so can the US. And if they can’t, then the best solution probably will be to split the country again. I’ve read some hundred pages now, and still don’t get it, but at least some of the names that are thrown around in the debate have fallen into place.


message 42: by Susan C (new)

Susan C (sacorwin) | 906 comments Berit wrote: "The third A-theme in January is American politics.

During the past two years I’ve really tried to understand the raging shit storm that is American politics, and the mechanisms behind it. It hasn’..."


I'm an American, and I don't understand most of these things either. I've been sad and angry since election day, 2016.

I believe in universal healthcare, gun control, separation of church and state, science, equality, and a whole host of other things.

Our political system used to work. The Republicans and Democrats have always had ideological differences, but they would work together and compromise for the good of the country. That doesn't happen now, on one side more than the other. The political differences now are more than ideology, it's about values. IMHO, when you support a bigoted, racist, lying, narcissistic (and other things) person for president, that is an indication of your values. Those values are not mine.


message 43: by Berit (last edited Jan 21, 2018 01:27AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Susan C wrote: "Berit wrote: "The third A-theme in January is American politics.

During the past two years I’ve really tried to understand the raging shit storm that is American politics, and the mechanisms behin..."


Hi Susan,
Interesting thoughts. Maybe the US is in a post political state. That’s a term that was used to describe the death of the ideologies (or rather fear of ideologies) during the collapse of the Soveit Union. Party policies then became a tool to preserve society as it is, without visionary thinking, and with the only purpose to get high ratings. As a result the public debate gets shallow and populistic, people get disappointed and eventually give up voting, and only care about themselves. In a post political state, society will be more vulnerable to corruption and echo-chambers. Maybe the problems are more related to indifference than values? I don’t know. Democracy is indeed a constant struggle. The present situation may, on the other hand, be just the wake-up call you need.


message 44: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #14. The Constitution of the United States of America

Not rated.

The Constitution of the United States is the second oldest in the world. Is it still relevant today, even it was written by a bunch of white men from the political elite in the 18th century?

I’ve of course heard a lot about the American Constitution before, but I have actually never read it until now. Since I neither have a law degree nor is an American citizen, I will not rate it. How on earth do you rate a constitution, anyway?

Reading the Constitution gave, however, rise to a couple of questions (bullets below). I have restricted myself to the six I thought were the most important. Maybe some Americans can help with the answers? Is there a discussion going on regarding these issues today?

• Why is a vote worth the same, depending on where you live? A citizen of a low population state has a much greater influence than a citizen of a high population state. Is this relevant, when Congress is handling federal problems? Do you think this is a democracy problem?

• The function of the Electoral College. During the 21st century, a president without a popular majority has been elected on two separate occasions. Do you see that as a democracy and legitimacy problem?

• The Constitution is pretty clear on the freedom of religion. I assume this also goes for the right to experience freedom from religion. Why is it then allowed to implement state laws that give a religious people (let’s call him/her A) the right to affect another person’s life (let’s call this person B) and personal life by referring to the religious faith of A. Then you are violating B’s personal freedom, or maybe even B’s freedom of religion/non-religion. And are all religions created equal in this respect? Can a person for example join the Missionary Church of Kopimism (There is such a thing!) and start bootlegging CD:s and DVD:s arguing that copying is a sacred act? Or are some religions more equal than others?

• Why are the justices in the Supreme Court appointed for life, when nobody else is?

• 2:nd amendment. Militia? Is that even relevant today?

• How come there is no federal funding for elections? Isn’t private funding bribery?

In 2018 there will be elections coming up in both Sweden (regular) and the US (midterms). All votes matter. Use your vote, and when voting, please remember that democracy isn’t something that comes for free. Or as Angela Merkel, the leader of the free world, puts it: “We see that living in freedom and defending freedom are two sides of one and the same coin, for the precious gift of freedom doesn’t come naturally, but has to be fought for, nurtured, and defended time and time again.”

Democracy is a constant struggle. Let’s all use our votes to change the world to the better, whatever that may be. And let’s never forget the fourteen early warning signs of fascism, as stated on the wall of the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

• Powerful and continuing nationalism.
• Disdain for human rights.
• Identification of enemies a unifying cause.
• Supremacy of the military.
• Rampant sexism.
• Controlled mass media.
• Obsession with national security.
• Religion and government intertwined.
• Corporate power protected.
• Labour power suppressed.
• Disdain for the intellectuals and the arts.
• Obsession with crime and punishment.
• Rampant cronyism and corruption.
• Fraudulent elections.


message 45: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #15. Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency

Three and a half stars.

“I love reading about all of the ‘geniuses’ who were so instrumental in my election success. Problem is, most don’t exist. #Fake News! MAGA…”

I guess Trump’s twitter response in July 2017 pretty much says it all. Joshua Green must have got a lot of things right. He has done some impressive research when writing this book. Still I found it a little dry. Maybe he tried a little too hard to stay objective, and that’s why the total impression is a bit bland. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t rock my world.

First lesson learned:
It was interesting to read about Bannon’s background in Wall Street, the navy and in Hollywood, which I didn’t know so much about.

Second lesson learned:
I was quite horrified how lobbyists, organizations and influential individuals, like the Mercer family can buy off politicians for example.

Third lesson learned:
It was also appalling to read about the Supreme Court’s decision to abolish the limits on election spending. Freedom of speech, my ass. This is nothing but hard-core bribery. This was news to me, and I was not aware of the extent of this.

Conclusions:
Well, Bannon-boy is smart. I’ll give him that. Maybe too smart for his own good. A short time after this book was published Steve Bannon was fired. Obviously the White House wasn’t big enough for both him and Trump. Then he was kicked out of Breitbart by the Mercer family. It will be very interesting to see where he will go next. Probably, he is heading to a very dark place.


message 46: by Jakob (new)

Jakob (4841) I'm reading Fire and Fury right now – can only do about a chapter at a time, so it's going to take a while. Will check back to see your thoughts on it when I'm done though.

Anyway. Seems like the ICE-SWE match was a fluke. In the end it was you guys that put the final nail in our coffin and sent us home with that Croatia match, so gratulerer ;)


message 47: by Berit (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Jakob wrote: "I'm reading Fire and Fury right now – can only do about a chapter at a time, so it's going to take a while. Will check back to see your thoughts on it when I'm done though.

Anyway. Seems like the ..."


I started Fire and Fury, but got distracted, so I have to start listen to it all over again. My husband has listened to about 75%. It’ tabloid-like, he says. Still it’s evidently a page-turner. Some juicy stuff, probably.


message 48: by Berit (last edited Jan 28, 2018 01:31AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #16. No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need

Four and a half stars.

Trump is a logo and a brand more than a political program. He is the logical result of a long-term political development. In Trump’s world there are only two categories: winners and losers. Trump stands for winning, and if you oppose him you are a loser. “You don’t need to be objectively good or decent; you only need to be true and consistent to the brand you have created.”

Being a chock strategy himself he orchestrates a coup d’état on behalf of giant enterprises. Interest groups like lobbyists, think tanks and bought politicians have had enough of taking detours around power. Now they have direct access to it. Trump has built his government around high profile executives from Exxon, military, and Goldman Sachs.

Together they are now deconstructing labour rights and environmental protection at warp speed. The result is a society where almost everything is privatized, transparency is non-existent, democracy is weak, and where the winners take it all.

Naomi Klein is angry. Very angry. Her style is demagogic and might put some people off right from the start. But she has a point. Klein wants people to move from refusal to resistance. Via grass root movements and popular movements the world can to change to the better, she argues. The agenda seems a bit fluffy and vague, I must admit. But, she is right in principle. We can’t go on like this.

Read the book! Even if you don’t agree, it’s definitely thought-provoking.


message 49: by Berit (last edited Jan 28, 2018 10:14AM) (new)

Berit Lundqvist | 871 comments Book #17. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

Three stars.

“Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book. He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!"

A tweet from a very stable genius on January 6th. Well, no one sells books like the Trumpster. Many people say that.

This is not a good, well written and coherent book. This is sleazy gossip. It’s a mix of “conversations that took place over a period of 18 months with the president, with most members of his senior staff, some of whom talked to me dozens of times, and with many people who they in turn spoke to”. In other words, Wolff probably sometimes stretches the truth.

But, holy crap, this is a page turner. As a reader I want it to be true, and I like the fact that Trump gets exactly what he deserves. Even if half of it isn’t true, Wolff paints a picture of a government in total decay, with Trump as the uncontrolled baby in charge. The descriptions still fits the picture you get of him from his tweets and speeches.

It's laughabel and horrifying at the same time. And it's so darn juicy. This book really appeals to all my deplorable instincts.

Well, well. Soon it’s Mueller time. While waiting for the popcorn to pop, every US citizen should ponder his/her conscience and ask the following questions:
• Am I a nazi? Yes/No
• Is it OK for foreign powers to interfere in the elections? Yes/No
• Do I believe in true democracy, where every vote has the same weight? Yes/No

Only you have the power to stop this madness now. Tomorrow it will be too late. For the US as well as for the world. Because Sloppy Steve will be back, mind my words. Stronger and angrier than before.


message 50: by Katie (new)

Katie (littlelistmaker) | 61 comments Berit wrote: "But, holy crap, this is a page turner. As a reader I want it to be true, and I like the fact that Trump gets exactly what he deserves. Even if half of it isn’t true, Wolff paints a picture of a government in total decay, with Trump as the uncontrolled baby in charge. The descriptions still fits the picture you get of him from his tweets and speeches."

I'm about a third of the way through Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House right now and I totally feel the same way as you did. It has an approximation of truth and lots of details that seem very made up, but I can't make myself care because it's just an interesting read and I hate everyone in it.


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