I finished the 2021 reading year on a high note, and thinking back, it’s been a very good reading year – many good books in a variety of genres from diverse authors in many different settings.
Mid-year I discovered The Book Girls’ Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge and completed it with books I had already read during the year and continued on my own schedule for the rest of the year. It’s an impressive selection of books I’ve read, if I may say so myself; click here to see the map with completed reads. One area remains, Arctic & Antarctic, which I plan to complete in January with a book that takes place in the Scandinavian Arctic area.
I also completed my Scandinavian Reading Challenge by the end of year unlike other years when I’ve had to wrap up some reads in the first month of the new year. Of the 12 books I read for the challenge, half were by non-Norwegian authors, which I was pleased to see, but only three were in Norwegian, a number I would like to increase in the next year.
Speaking of my next Scandinavian Reading Challenge, it will be a little different in 2022. Instead of creating my own prompts for the challenge, I will be participating in The Book Girls’ Decades Reading Challenge and reading Scandinavian plus potentially Icelandic and Finnish books to complete those prompts. Stay tuned for more information on that.
How’s your reading year been, and what have you been reading lately?
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
This was a spontaneous read that was nowhere near my TBR list, but I was immediately drawn to the cover and the premise: a mother and teenage stepdaughter’s journey to discover what’s going on when their husband/father suddenly disappears leaving only a mysterious note. The question of whether we can ever truly know the people we love the most is an intriguing one. I enjoyed the evolving relationship between the stepdaughter and mother. It was a fun read that took me from the houseboats of Sausalito, CA, to the university town of Austin, Texas.
The Tenant (Kørner and Werner #1) by Katrine Engberg
(Translated from the Danish by Tara Chace)
Katrine Engberg is a Danish crime writer, a new-to-me Scandinavian author whom I learned about from Abby at Crime by the Book, a great fan of Nordic Noir. I definitely enjoyed the setting of Copenhagen during summer time, and the crime and ensuing investigation were intriguing. However, I was not a fan of the pair of male and female investigators. They just did not seem like good partners. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the writing and/or the translation was not as smooth as I had expected. There were unnecessary sexual descriptions and subplots. At times some translated words seemed more vulgar than they needed to be and this turned me off. Upon checking a Norwegian version of the book, it seems this may be a translation issue?
🇩🇰 Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A book by a new-to-me Scandinavian author
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
This was an unread Book of the Month selection that my book club chose to read, and it made for a very good discussion. It’s an unusual reading experience, a suspenseful, slow burn with nothing really happening, just the characters going about their business as something unknown and mysterious is happening in the background. A family with teenage kids rents a house for a week’s vacation on Long Island, NY, but their stay is interrupted when an older couple arrives after a blackout has hit New York City. With no TV, Internet, or cell service, they try to figure out what’s happening. It’s a book that leaves the reader with many questions, many of which stay unanswered. It’s a great one for book clubs because everyone will have different opinions on the writing style, characters, and plot.
The Darkness (Hidden Iceland/Hulda Series, #1) by Ragnar Jónasson
(Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)
This best-selling Icelandic crime author has been on my radar for a long time thanks, once again, to Abby at Crime by the Book. I didn’t know whether to start with his debut crime series, Dark Iceland, or this newer one, Hidden Iceland. I ended up just selecting what was available immediately. A traditional police procedural, it was a very captivating read. I liked the main character Hulda Hermannsdóttir, a 64-year-old detective forced into early retirement, who takes on one last case, a cold case about a dead female Russian asylum seeker. I liked the setting, Iceland during spring time with glimpses of winter time. I learned after finishing the book that this trilogy is in reverse chronological order. Knowing this and with the ending as it was, I’m eager to continue the series sooner rather than later.
🇮🇸 Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A book set in a Nordic country you would like to visit or revisit
Winter Stories by Ingvild H. Rishøi
(Translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley)
I don’t normally read short stories, but at a virtual event with Norwegian authors, this particular author was mentioned as a must-read and I was drawn to the serene winter cover, so I decided I’d save it as a winter read. It’s a collection of three long short stories, all of which take place during winter time in Norway and are about vulnerable people (a young single mother, an ex-convict, and a teenager) trying to do their best for the young children in their lives, but with difficulty. The author does a compelling job of exploring their struggles, and in every story there’s an unexpected stranger whose compassion makes a significant difference. A five-star read for me.
🇳🇴 Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A Nordic book you chose for the cover AND A Nordic book in genre you don’t normally read
What have you been reading lately?
By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at a great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.
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Our book club read Leave the World Behind as well. We all disliked it, but did have lots to talk about surrounding the characters and the plot. We also read The Last Thing He Told Me and we all loved that one.
As always Patricia, “you’ve” added books to my To Be Read list! In 2021 I changed my focus a bit. I only read 4 books in Swedish…two biographies, one fun book (Double Portrait which is the “discussions” between Agatha Christie and Kokoschka as he painted her portrait) and one documentary (so to speak). I guess I could say I did “go around the world” a bit! Three of the four books in Swedish took place in Sweden. Lisa See’s The Island of Sea Women took me to Asia, Half of a Yellow Sun to Nigeria, And The Mountains Echoed to Afghanistan, The Forgotten Daughter to Canada, The Paris Library to France (also added to my historical fiction WWII list), The Queen’s Fortune also to France (and kind of to Sweden), The Thursday Murder Club to England and In Every Mirror She’s Black to Sweden, US and England (and to my BLM list). Also added to my BLM list, The Warmth of Other Suns. To my Native American Heritage list I added Killers of the Flower Moon and The Night Watchman. A couple of other favorites were Where the Crawdads Sing and The Giver of Stars. And I am glad I FINALLY read Eleanor Oliphant. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was interesting and another story of the Pack Horse Library Project as well as the “blue-skinned.” There were more books however, this is getting long! I did have a great variety of books…the upside of a pandemic!
You and I have similar reading interests! Besides the Scandinavian reads, we travel around the world. I always enjoy hearing what you’ve been reading. Thanks for sharing!