Bookish High Fives of 2019

As promised, a post highligting our best reading experiences of the past year 🙂 Though originally we wanted to limit the best to top five, it turned out to be more difficult than expected – so the title should be treated more metaphorically than literally 😉

Piotrek: I wanted to title the post “year in genre”, but I moved a bit from genre this year… our post summing up year 2019 grew too big, so we decided to split it and tell about our reading and watching in a separate one.

I will start, as in our previous post, with some stats, and Goodreads was kind enough to prepare a Piotr’s Year in Books presentation. 79 books read (it’s 81, actually, already, but the stats are not updating fast enough 😛 ) – not as many as in previous years, but, well, life happens. Still not a bad result, and what’s interesting is not the amount, but the composition. And there were some interesting changes in what books I was reading in 2019. Not a radical change, but a slight move in non-genre direction. I’ve read more non-genre lit and non-fiction than I tended to, this decade. Mostly Polish stuff, but it included this year’s Nobel Prize laureate, Olga Tokarczuk. Highly recommended, and there’s even a movie. Her Nobel Lecture is powerful, and beautiful, audio and text available here. Just one quote, but she touches many topics in a very interesting way…

I think we have a redefinition ahead of us of what we understand nowadays by the concept of realism, and a search for a new one that would allow us to go beyond the limits of our ego and penetrate the glass screen through which we see the world. Because these days the need for reality is served by the media, social networking sites, and indirect relationships on the internet. Perhaps what inevitably lies ahead of us is a sort of neo-surrealism, some rearranged points of view that won’t be afraid to stand up to a paradox, and will go against the grain when it comes to the simple order of cause-and-effect. Indeed, our reality has already become surreal. I am also sure that many stories require rewriting in our new intellectual contexts, taking their inspiration from new scientific theories. But I find it equally important to make constant reference to myth and to the entire human imaginarium. Returning to the compact structures of mythology could bring a sense of stability within the lack of specificity in which we are living nowadays. I believe that myths are the building material for our psyche, and we cannot possibly ignore them (at most we might be unaware of their influence).

I’m going to read more Tokarczuk in the future, that’s for sure! But well, that’s Tokarczuk, what about my reading in 2019? It’s been marked by the finishing of my great Discworld re-read. And then I’ve re-read The Trilogy (Tolkien). Both were, in different ways, as good as I remembered them. I’ve also re-read American Gods, while visiting America for work, and it was also a great experience. I will continue to re-read more, there are too many new books published all the time, I will not read them all anyway, and every encounter with my favourites brings so much joy and new observations!

Ola: As a Goodreads non-user, I base my stats on an old good Excel file – which doesn’t show all the nice pics, but is just as reliable (meaning – ultimately only as reliable as my own entries ;)). So, in the end, I know my list is not complete, as I tend to omit the less memorable comics, and usually forget to include audiobooks (there aren’t many of them, only 3 or 4 a year, and I did my best to count them here ;)). All in all, I have managed to read (and record that I have indeed read) 92 books this year, and started but haven’t finished, 2 more. With all the comics I haven’t included, I’ve probably reached the magic number 100.

Of the books I have read this year, 10 were non-fiction, 5 – literary fiction, 4 – re-reads, and 18 – comic books, two of which were beautiful hardcover Hellboy omnibuses (no, I don’t own them, the library does, but oh, I do wish I did!). No books by Polish authors, though – and only four translated to Polish. The price of living abroad, I guess – I got out of sync with Polish literature. Nevertheless, my copy of Tokarczuk’s Księgi Jakubowe will be with me soon  😉

Piotrek: I will limit myself to books read in 2019 for the first time. My top 5 – favourite novels, not ranked, as they are too different for direct comparisons, and a few words about my non-fiction readings.

Continue reading

Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque, A Study in Emerald (2018)

A Study in Emerald

Author: Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque

Title: A Study in Emerald

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 88

Right in time for October spookiness, Gaiman’s cheeky and heartfelt tribute to both Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft is a lovingly crafted mystery clad in horror. Gaiman’s short story won 2004 Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the 2005 Locus Award for Best Novelette, and had been adapted to the comic book medium by Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone,  and Dave Stewart over a decade later.

I must admit I did read the short story back in the time, but the comic book adaptation somehow made a much greater impression on me. Maybe it’s the Lovecraftian vibes, which so greatly lend themselves to the dark, shadowy frames filled with menacing tentacles and splotches of vivid green, or maybe it’s the structure of the story, beautifully misleading the readers, throwing red (or rather emerald) herrings left and right, only to reveal its true nature to the careful reader (and indeed, half the pleasure from reading Gaiman’s take on the world’s best detective stems from knowing all necessary facts about Sherlock Holmes ;))

Continue reading

Bookish Deadly Sins

We do not do tags often, and when we do, it’s usually so late everybody’s forgotten about them 😉 but we did like this one, one explored by several friends of Re-E, and now we’re ready to post 🙂 Seven deadly sins, but for readers!

GREED
What is the most expensive book you own? Which is the least expensive?

 

Ola: Huh, the book that springs to mind most quickly is my Folio Society’s edition of The Once and Future King, because I paid for the pristine, mint condition book personally 😉 But I do have a few signed books, or rare first editions, that may be worth more. Never really considered it though, and besides, I left them all back in Poland, for now – with a promise I made to myself, that I will bring them home one day, wherever it will ultimately be.

Least expensive? Old used books bought on Amazon Marketplace. I’m not counting the gifts, because those that I received as a gift were definitely expensive, to the giver 🙂

Piotrek: Well…I paid £75 for a Folio Society Edition of Dune, but some of the XIX-century volumes I own might be actually more expensive, I’d have to have them evaluated. They are family heirlooms, so I’m not going to sell them anyway.

Clipboard01

Least expensive… I have dozens of volumes bought from Amazon Marketplace at £0.01 + postage and packing, great value for money, although recently the postage got more expensive, and less reliant – I blame notoriously unreliable Polish Post Office.

Continue reading

Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology (2017)

NorseMythology.jpg

This year, before American Gods hit the TVs as probably one of the most anticipated series of the year, the readers were treated to a new Gaiman’s book. At least things look like this if you judge the book by the cover 😉 But Gaiman’s name on the front page is more than a bit misleading – because he’s in no way the author of the collected myths; he himself presents his role in the introduction as that of a humble narrator, a storyteller refreshing ancient and beloved tales. I guess that his name on the cover serves as a selling device – and probably serves quite well. But even though I can understand this approach from a mercantile point of view, it still smacks of hubris to me. How can one present oneself as an author of mythology? That is a minor point, though – if this way more people will learn of Norse myths, I will only applaud and cheer.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t start with the cover. The English version of the cover, presented above, is IMO simply beautiful. A detailed rendering of Thor’s hammer, gold and grey on dark background, accompanied by simple, elegant lettering that in no way distracts from the graphics – what’s not to admire? It’s just perfect. I only wish Polish version were the same… Alas, you can’t always get what you wish for, and in most cases that’s a good thing 😉

As for what’s inside – it’s Norse mythology and no mistake. Gaiman openly states in the introduction that he’s just retelling the old myths, giving them simpler, more digestible form suitable for modern readers who are not necessarily mythology buffs. There is nothing new or unusual in there – for those who know Norse mythology. Those who got acquainted with Nordic myths through Marvel comics or movies might be in for a surprise ;).

Continue reading

Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, Marvel 1602 (2003)

1602 cover

In the wake of last night’s match (Poland vs. Portugal in EURO2016, for those who didn’t watch, it was 1:1 and Poland lost in the penalties) I decided it was high time to take a closer look at certain aspects of alternative reality. Let’s indulge into a bit of “what-if”, shall we? 😉

Neil Gaiman is known mostly as an author of very popular and critically acclaimed fantasy/horror novels, such as American Gods, the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards winner, but he’s also a great comic book writer. His series The Sandman, an imprint of DC’s Vertigo, had been one of the most influential – and popular graphic novels of late 90’s and 00’s. But this post is not about The Sandman ;), besides I’m sure Piotrek has much more to say about it than I ever will. No, this post is about a one-off job Gaiman did for Marvel in 2003, a few years after The Sandman ended.

Marvel 1602 is a traditional, albeit a bit tongue-in-the-cheek, what-if story. In an alternative reality, Marvel superheroes live in the Elizabethan times, fighting against threats from this and other worlds. The main story arc revolves around the discovery that their sole existence, which happened 400 years too early, is inseparably linked to a lethal threat to their whole world.

Continue reading

No time for writing, Santa came to town…

Ola: We wish you a very bookish Christmas! 🙂 It’s a family time in Poland, but there’s to hope you’ll also find some time to rest, read and enjoy the spring weather! 🙂 If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then happy Sol Invictus, or any other great festival on the occasion of the season change!

Piotrek: Merry Christmas to everyone it applies to 😉 Have fun, be with your family, enjoy some books and/or other genre media. To everyone else – all the best for your seasonal occasions. The crucial thing is – share the spirit of goodwill, don’t take anything too seriously, if liberal atheists like us can enjoy traditional Christmas, I hope everyone else can at least benevolently ignore it…

There is some Christmas cheer in everybody:

Video-quote from excellent Batman: The Animated Series, Christmas is a great time for a sentimental re-watch, and this is a great series!

Continue reading

To be read, to be bought…

Ok, so here it is, and I will wait with the Temeraire review, maybe till I finish the first trilogy. It’s late, but recent Paris bombings occupied my mind most of the weekend. I’ve even spent lots of time arguing about politics on the internet, never a good idea and something I’ve tried to avoid for a long time. But I had an unusually emotional reaction and needed to rant a bit 😉

First – both my TBR (To Be Read) and TBB (To Be Both) lists measure in hundreds. I’d like to read everything and I’d love to have a hardback copy of most of the fantasy & s/f books ever published.

The End.

Continue reading