Non-fiction archive at Stray Talk
an archive of my forays into fact and fiction

Archive: Non-fiction


7th July, 2008
Speed reviews: part I
— Love @ 08:43 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Book Blowout, C, Classics, D, English, GLBT interest, Historical, History, Lifestyle, Mystery, Religion, Romance, Science Fiction, Sex, sexuality & gender, Speed reviews, Swedish, To Be Read, Young Adult

Since I’m sick* and way behind on reviews, I’ve realised the only way to catch up is to make them speed reviews and post a whole batch at once.

The Age of Napoleon; Alistair Horne, eng, 235 British
Interesting, but a little choppily written, and also the author assumes you know certain things and never explains them, while others he explains over and over again.
C

Cold Comfort Farm; Stella Gibbons, eng, 253 British
Funny, though I accidentally didn’t read the preface, so I wasn’t 100 % how much of it was intentional (all of it, as it turns out, and as I suspected). Flora Poste is kind of annoying, but all right all the same.
For the TBR reading challenge and as part of the BBC Big Read.
B

Rebecca; Daphne du Maurier, eng, 410 British
A re-read, not as good as I remembered it, but still lovely. Maxim is both wonderful and creepy.
C

Med uppenbar känsla för stil; Stephan Mendel-Enk, swe, 128 Swedish
Interestingly written about men and what’s considered masculine. References Morrissey at some points, mostly in connection with a man who went berserk and killed people. Lovely… not!
C

Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East; Brian Whitaker, swe, 230 British
Interesting, scary and occasionally a little bit hopeful.
C

Ingen behöver veta; Christina Wahldén, swe, 139 Swedish
About male rape and how it does exist, but people find it hard to believe. Kind of a non-ending, but then I suppose that’s sadly the case in most instances of actual male rape also.
C

Ingen grekisk gud, precis; Katarian Kieri, swe, 217 Swedish
Kind of brilliant tale of a young girl who falls for a teacher. Kind of brilliant mostly because the main character is into Morrissey, but for other reasons also. I was a bit worried where it was going to end, but it’s kind of perfect, really.
B

Sandman: The Kindly Ones; Neil Gaiman et al., eng, 335 British
I wouldn’t say Sandman is Gaiman at his best, but I do like the stories and so also in this volume. Not my favourite, though.
For the TBR reading challenge.
C

Doctor Who: The Nightmare of Black Island; Mike Tucker, eng, 255 British
Scary monsters and kiddies with nightmares. I liked it, but not as much as other DW books.
C

Doctor Who: The Art of Destruction; Stephen Cole, eng, 256 British
Farming in Africa, golden statues and creepy aliens. Good, but not great. Doctor’s always nice, though.
C

Doctor Who: The Price of Paradise; Colin Brake, eng, 255 British
References Franz Ferdinand and other pop culture a time or two. Not the best of the DW books I’ve read—I don’t much care for Colin Brake’s style of writing it, though I can’t put my finger on the exact reason.
C

Tro, hopp och burnout; Johan Unenge, swe, 228 Swedish
YA story about a guy who’s really into cars and death metal, who ends up going on a confirmation camp. It’s a decent story, and I was happy to see it didn’t end up quite where I expected it would, but the writing style is very, very choppy and not at all my cup of tea.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
C

Vadå feminist; Lisa Gålmark, swe, 188 Swedish
Basic guide to feminism. I wasn’t too keen on the writing and didn’t like the book all that much. Mostly it made me a little annoyed with the author, though it did contain sections worth thinking about. It bothers me that there is no question mark in the title.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
D

Homofamiljer; Sara Stenholm & Cecilia Strömberg, swe, 312 Swedish
About rainbow families and different ways to get one. Interesting, especially the personal stories, but not fab.
C

*Just a cold, but a bad one. I hate colds. And I’ve run out of Kleenex, which means my nose is very, very sore from regular paper towels. Woe.


9th June, 2008
Annika Larsdotter: barnamörderska; Inger Lövkrona
— Love @ 13:40 Comments (0)
Filed under: Back to History, C, History, Swedish, To Be Read, True crime

Annika Larsdotter: barnamörderska; Inger Lövkrona Annika Larsdotter: barnamörderska
by Inger Lövkrona
Swedish

For the Back to History and To Be Read reading challenges.

Swedish
255 pages
Historiska Media
ISBN: 91-88930-64-5

First line: Boston — Min vän slänger tidningsartikeln på skrivbordet med en kort kommentar: “Ja, här har du en till.”

Back cover blurb:
Annika Larsdotter avrättades 1765, 18 år gammal. Hon hade då erkänt dråp på sitt nyfödda barn genom kvävning. Barnets far var Annikas svåger som hade tvingat henne till sexuellt umgänge, men sedan förnekade faderskapet.

Annika Larsdotter var en av tusentals unga svenska kvinnor som under 1600-, 1700- och 1800-talen anklagades för barnamord eller fosterfördrivning. Brottet ansågs vara samtidens största samhällsfara. Barnamörderskor dömdes strängt och utan förbarmande — kvinnan beskrevs ofta som en osedlig, ondskefull och grym moder, i nära släktskap med häxor.

Denna bok handlar om Annika men också om några av hennes olyckssystrar. Varför valde dessa kvinnor att mörda sitt barn? Varför valde de inte istället att, i likhet med andra ogifta mödrar, ta på sig rollen som ogift mor?

Etnologen Inger Lövkrona söker svaren genom att studera rättsfall från perioden 1729-1776. De bevarade domstolsprotokollen ger unika möjligheter att komma nära barnamörderskornas handlingar, tänkbara överväganden och känslor.

Very short synopsis in English: This is the study of eight cases from 18th century Sweden where young, unwed women murdered, or were accused of having murdered, their newborn children. Why did they do it?

Thoughts: This was a very interesting read, but what struck me as most shocking was an excerpt at the very beginning of the book, about “prom moms”. It’s easy to read about a case from the 18th century, where shame and desperation led someone to commit almost unspeakable offenses, and think that at least we’ve moved on from that now. Not everywhere we haven’t. Young women still sometimes don’t see any other way out. It’s absolutely horrifying and sad — it was then and it is now.

The book was sometimes a bit tricky to follow, but that always happens to me when I haven’t read academic texts in a while. All things considered, a C grade is in order.


18th May, 2008
Tjuvlyssnat; Damon Rasti & Gloria Hedman
— Love @ 18:34 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, Humour, Non-fiction, Swedish

Tjuvlyssnat; Damon Rasti & Gloria Hedman Tjuvlyssnat
by Damon Rasti and Gloria Hedman
Title translated to English: Eavesdropped
Swedish

Swedish
140 pages
Känguru
ISBN: 978-91-85476-61-9

First line: n/a

Back cover blurb:
Vi har alla gjort det: tjuvlyssnat på andras samtal.
På tunnelbanan, i kön i mataffären, på ett café—det går helt enkelt inte att låta bli. Att tjuvlyssna är mer än ett behov. Det är en livsstil, ett folknöje, en del av samtidskulturen. Men vad är det egentligen de säger?
Sedan ett år tillbaka finns några av de bästa tjuvlyssningarna publicerade på sajten tjuvlyssnat.se. Men de allra bästa är sparade till denna bok. Här blandas högt och lågt, humor och allvar, det personliga med det allmängiltiga.

Thoughts: Tjuvlyssnat.se is basically the Swedish version of Overheard in New York and similar sites. I read the site pretty much every day and today I ran out of reading material on the train and decided to buy the first book of collected Tjuvlyssnat gems to help pass the time.

It’s hilarious most of the time, which earns it a B grade, but it’s not exactly something that sticks in your mind.

Can I just say also that I will never again read fourteen books in a single week without writing reviews after each one? Because writing fourteen catch-up reviews in a single evening is hell, even if the reviews are short and utter crap like mine.


14th May, 2008
Ior och hästarna; Renata Wrede
— Love @ 18:08 Comments (1)
Filed under: Biographies, C, Fiction, Swedish

No cover image available Ior och hästarna
by Renata Wrede
Title translated to English: Eeyore and the horses
Swedish

Swedish
133 pages
Forum
ISBN: 91-37-06412-6

First line: Vi låtsas inte om, känns inte vid, vill inte medvetet medge den mänskliga faktorns existens, i alla fall inte hur stark den är, trots att den är det starkaste vi har, den är starkare än vi.

Back cover blurb:
“Kärleken till hästar har många namn: mani, passion, snobbism, dårskap eller lyte”, säger Renata Wrede i denna entusiastiska bok om ett livs hästupplevelser. Själv kallar hon det alltså kärlek.
Ior och hästarna är en lovsång till hästen och prisar samarbetet mellan häst och människa. Den är fylld av glädje och beundran.
Renata Wrede berättar om hästar som hon känt, vårdat, tävlat med eller bara ridit. Hon skildrar hästar med personlighet: Courbette, U-17, Naseva, Herr Hildeberg och andra. Glimtar från krigstidens sjukstall, från tävlingsbanor—Kviberg, Skabersjö, Niinisalo, Rom—från skånska och finska landskap utgör bakgrunden till dessa intensivt livfulla porträtt av hästen som kamrat och medarbetare—och av människorna i sadeln.

Very short synopsis in English: Renata Wrede writes about horses she’s known in her life.

Thoughts: Decent book about one woman’s love of horses. I used to read this kind of book by the dozen when I was younger. A C grade.


12th May, 2008
Kårnulf Was Here; Josefine Adolfsson
— Love @ 17:49 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, Biographies, Fiction, Swedish

Kårnulf Was Here; Josefine Adolfsson Kårnulf Was Here
by Josefine Adolfsson
Swedish

Swedish
167 pages
Bokförlaget Atlas
ISBN: 91-7389-132-0

First line: När jag och min tonårsbästis Anna är femton, flyttar hon hem till en trettio år äldre man som heter Charles.

Back cover blurb:
“När jag och min tonårsbästis Anna är femton, flyttar hon hem till en trettio år äldre man som heter Charles. Vi sitter ofta i soffan på hans inglasade veranda och äter chokladkladdkaka och sköljer ner Valium, Stesolid, Sobril och Rohypnol tillsammans med te och honung. Vi håller alltid varandra i handen när vi somnar.”

Så börjar Kårnulf Was Here—en dokumentär roman om det som skaver. Det handlar om människor som på olika sätt försöker att skaffa sig en plats i samhället men som hamnar utanför ramarna. Moa som knaprar Valium för att klara av att gå på svenskalektioner, Ida som drömmer om att bli aupair hos Madonna och Cecilia som föredrar att gömma sig hos torskar som misshandlar henne framför att hamna på institution.

Kårnulf är en reaktion på en vuxenvärld som abdikerat och ett samhälle som föredrar att förenkla. Men Kårnulf är också motstånd, lust, kärlek, nyfikenhet och vänskap. Ett försök att skapa ett eget utrymme och hantera känslan av att det finns något som skulle vara förutbestämt eller normalt, något som man själv inte har tillgång till.

Kårnulf Was Here är en hembygdsskildring från Sverige.

Very short synopsis in English: Moa and her best friend Anna start doing drugs at the age of fourteen. This is fact-based fiction telling their story.

Thoughts: This was a quick read, but one that left a bad taste in my mouth. Not because the writing sucked or because I didn’t think it was interesting, but because of the subject matter and what these girl have lived through.

As always, non-fiction (even if this technically isn’t that. It’s fact-based fiction, which, though close, isn’t the same thing) is hard to rate. A B grade is what it ends up with.


6th May, 2008
My War: Killing Time in Iraq; Colby Buzzell
— Love @ 15:30 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, Biographies, English

My War: Killing Time in Iraq; Colby Buzzell My War: Killing Time in Iraq
by Colby Buzzell
American

English
358 pages
Berkley Caliber
ISBN: 0-425-21136-3

First line: Kids from the suburbs don’t really join the military.

Back cover blurb:
Colby Buzzell traded a dead-end future for the army—and ended up as a machine gunner in Iraq. To make sense of the absurd and frightening events surrounding him, he started writing a blog about the war—and how it differed from the government’s official version. But as his blog’s popularity grew, Buzzell became the embedded reporter the army couldn’t control—despite its often hilarious efforts to do so.

The result is an extraordinary narrative, rich with unforgettable scenes: the Iraqi woman crying uncontrollably during a raid on her home; the soldier too afraid to fight; the troops chain-smoking in a guard tower and counting tracer rounds; the first fierce firefight against the “men in black.” Drawing comparisons to everything from Charles Bukowski to Catch-22‘s Yossarian, My War depicts a generation caught in a complicated and dangerous world—and marks the debut of a raw, remarkable new voice.

Thoughts: You’ll have to forgive me for being briefer even than usual in this review, but I don’t quite know what to say about this book. It was interesting as all that, and I quite liked Buzzell’s language, but he seemed sometimes so completely removed from me and my world that I didn’t know what to make of him (and sometimes he was closer, such as when he mentioned music and really digging The Smiths/Morrissey).

The book is based on Buzzell’s blog (http://cbftw.blogspot.com), but seems to be much more than just the blog entries transfered onto a book page. In the end, I liked it enough for a B rating and I don’t mind recommending it to others.


5th May, 2008
I Am America (And So Can You!); Stephen Colbert
— Love @ 21:17 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Humour, Politics, Religion, Sex, sexuality & gender

I Am America (And So Can You!); Stephen Colbert I Am America (And So Can You!)
by Stephen Colbert
American

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
iPod audiobook

First line: Hi, I’m Stephen Colbert and I am no fan of books.

Back cover blurb:
Realizing that it takes more than thirty minutes a night to fix everything that’s destroying America, Colbert bravely takes on the forces aligned to destroy our country — whether they be terrorists, environmentalists, or Kashi brand breakfast cereals. His various targets include nature (“I’ve never trusted the sea. What’s it hiding under there?”), the Hollywood Blacklist (“I would have named enough names to fill the Moscow phone book”), and atheists (“Imagine going through life completely duped into thinking that there’s no invisible, omniscient higher power guiding every action on Earth. It’s just so arbitrary!”). Colbert also provides helpful illustrations and charts (Things That Are Trying to Turn Me Gay) and a complete transcript of his infamous speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner all of which add up to a book that is sure to be a bestseller and match the success of Colbert’s former Daily Show boss Jon Stewart’s America (The Book).

Thoughts: I recently decided that I really need to get fitter and as a step in the right direction, I’ve started going for walks with audiobooks on my iPod. I can’t listen to them unless I’m out for a walk (or, as time goes by, a run), which I’m hoping will be a bit like killing two birds with one stone—I get fitter and I get some reading done, all at the same time!

Works great so far. I Am America (And So Can You!) was the first book I picked. It’s just over three and a half hours long and I finished listening to it in three walks. Or, in other words: the plan worked! I wanted to go out walking so I’d get to hear the next part of the book, which I found really amusing (worthy of a B rating, actually).

Exercise and audiobooks really are the ideal combination. My only problem is that I can’t figure out how to count these in my book stats, as page counts are a vital part of them, and that doesn’t quite work with the spoken word. I’m sure I’ll figure something out at some point, though.


4th May, 2008
102 minuter: den sanna berättelsen om kampen för överlevnad inne i World Trade Center; Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn
— Love @ 20:38 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, History, Swedish

102 minuter: den sanna berättelsen om kampen för överlevnad inne i World Trade Center; Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn 102 minuter: den sanna berättelsen om kampen för överlevnad inne i World Trade Center
by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn
Original title: 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive inside the Twin Towers
American

Swedish
427 pages
Bra Böcker
ISBN: 91-7002-370-0

First line: Under 102 minuter på morgonen den 11 september 2001 slogs 14 000 människor för livet i World Trade Center.

Back cover blurb:
At 8.46 am on September 11, 2001, 14,000 people were inside the Twin Towers in New York — reading emails, making calls, eating croissants… over the next 102 minutes each would become part of a drama for the ages, one truly witnessed only by the people who lived through it — until now. Of the millions of words written about that unforgettable day, most have been from outsiders. New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn have taken the more revealing approach — reporting solely from the perspective of those inside the towers, 102 Minutes is the epic count of ordinary men and women, and includes incredible stories of bravery, courage, and overcoming unbelievable odds including the construction manager and his colleagues who pried open the doors and saved dozens of people in the north tower; the police officer who was a few blocks away, filing his retirement papers, but grabbed his badge and sprinted to the buildings; the window washer stuck in a lift fifty floors up who used a squeegee to escape; and the secretaries who led an elderly man down eighty-nine flights of stairs.

Chance encounters, moments of grace, a shout across an office shaped these minutes, marking the border between fear and solace, staking the boundary between life and death. Crossing a bridge of voices to go inside the infernos seeing cataclysm and herosim one person at a time, Dwyer and Flynn tell the affecting, authoritative saga of the men and women — the 12,000 who escaped and the 2,749 who perished — as they made 102 minutes count as never before.
(This text refers to an edition other than the one I read.)

Thoughts: This was one of the books I got in the book sale this year and this morning, when I woke up at five am with terrible cramps, it was one of four books I brought into my bedroom to try to keep my mind off the cramps, before the ibuprofen and paracetamol had time to work their magic. The plan was to read a chapter in each book and then decide which one to continue in. What happened was I picked up 102 Minutes, read a chapter, then read another chapter, until I found it was nearly seven o’clock and I was about a hundred pages in. I went back to sleep again then, and when I woke up again later, I picked the book right up and finished it.

It’s a good book, though a horrifying read, and cried for parts of it. It was hard not to, reading what those people went through, and given the fact that if things had been different — organised differently, built differently, communicated differently — it might not have been a disaster on such a massive scale.

A B rating, though as always I find it hard to rate non-fiction.


1st May, 2008
Rockabilly: en bok om de sista romantikerna; Josefin Ekman
— Love @ 17:26 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, Fashion, History, Lifestyle, Music, Swedish

Rockabilly: en bok om de sista romantikerna; Josefin Ekman Rockabilly: en bok om de sista romantikerna
by Josefin Ekman
Title translated to English: Rockabilly: a book about the last romantics
Swedish

Swedish
263 pages
Atlas förlag
ISBN: 978-91-7389-303-9

First line: I juli 1959 reste den amerikanske vicepresidenten Richard Nixon till Moskva för att öppna American National Exhibition, en utställning om de tekniska och materiella framsteg som USA gjort.

Back cover blurb: n/a

Very short synopsis in English: This book is a report on the state of rockabilly today, mainly concentrating on Sweden, but briefly dealing with the US as well. A book about those whose passion in life is rockabilly—the music, the cars, the style.

Thoughts: I’ve had a fascination with the rockabilly style for a couple of years now, so when I saw this book I knew I had to read it sooner or later. It was an interesting work of non-fiction and I learnt a thing or two—apparently, true rockabilly fans absolutely abhor psychobilly (personally, I really like psychobilly), and (this was news to me) rockabilly is more alive and kicking in Sweden than almost anywhere else. I had no idea! (In other words: if this is true, why do I almost never see anyone with a quiff?)

Ekman’s language is well suited for the work and was a big part of why I enjoyed this book as much as I did. A B rating seems perfectly in order. And now I’m off to take a bath and wash my hair. You see, unlike 50’s hairstyles, mine does not stand to go more than a day or two without a wash.


9th March, 2008
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew; Daniel Pool
— Love @ 13:39 Comments (4)
Filed under: B, English, History, Literature

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew; Daniel Pool What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew
by Daniel Pool
American

English
416 pages
Touchstone
ISBN: 978-0-671-88236-5

First line: What were the assizes?

Back cover blurb:
For every frustrated reader of the great nineteenth-century English novels of Austen, Trollope, Dickens, or the Brontës, who has ever wondered whether a duke outranked an earl, when to yell “Tally-ho!” at a fox hunt, or how one landed in debtor’s prison, here is a “delightful reader’s companion that lights up the literary dark.” (The New York Times)
This fascinating, lively guide clarifies the sometimes bizarre maze of rules, regulations, and customs that governed everyday life in Victorian England. Author Daniel Pool provides countless intriguing details (did you know that the “plums” in Christmas plum pudding were actually raisins?) on the Church of England, sex, Parliament, dinner parties, country house visiting, and a host of other aspects of nineteenth-century English life—both “upstairs” and “downstairs.”
An illuminating glossary reveals the meaning and significance of terms ranging from “ague” to “wainscoting,” the specifics of the currency system, and countless other curiosities of the day.

Thoughts: I’ve read a lot of 19th century British fiction in my day (though there’s a lot more out there that I haven’t), and some things I’ve picked up on from context, but some (most?) I still had a woeful lack of understanding for. This book cleared up some of those, by virtue of being full of useful facts.

What’s more, though, is that it is also full of little interesting anecdotes related to these facts. My favourite, which made me giggle out loud, follows below.

The neutral ground of a great estate, after all, was one of the few mattress-filled places a woman could go in the days before “ladies” could visit restaurants and hotels. Assignations, therefore, were apparently not unknown, although negotiating one’s way around a large mansion at night in order to carry them out was sometimes eventful. Lord Charles Beresford in the 1880s flung himself gleefully into a darkened room one night and jumped into bed, with a shout of “Cock-a-doodle-do”—only to find, when the lamps were lit, that the bishop of Chester was on one side of him and the bishop’s wife on the other.

Also, as the back cover promises, it gives one (if one is at all interested) the definition of the word “wainscoting”, which has had, for the past five or so years, an uncanny ability to randomly pop up inside my head and refuse to leave me alone, so I’m stuck having to silently repeat the word time and time again inside my own head. (I might have inadvertently proclaimed myself to be mental right there, but I’m not much bothered.) For those of you who don’t know:

Wainscoting: Wainscot was a kind of fancy oak imported from Russia, Holland or Germany. The term “wainscoting” was applied to panels that were originally made out of such oak.

All in all, a very interesting book which, apart from earning a B rating, has made me really want to re-read Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, preferably two seconds ago. Alas, I don’t think I have the time for it at the moment, so I’m saving it for later on this month when I have a lot of time off from work (and also plan on reading Crime and Punishment).


4th March, 2008
Sanna historier om andra världskriget; Paul Dowswell
— Love @ 13:08 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, History, Non-fiction, Swedish, Young Adult

Sanna historier om andra världskriget; Paul Dowswell Sanna historier om andra världskriget
by Paul Dowswell
Original title: True Stories of the Second World War
British

For the A-Z challenge.

Swedish
160 pages
Historiska Media
ISBN: 91-85057-78-9

First line: Trots att det nu gått mer än sextio år sedan andra världskriget rasade kommer det hela tiden nya filmer, tv-dokumentärer och böcker om kriget som vittnar om ett fortsatt starkt intresse för kriget.

Back cover blurb:
Sanna historier om andra världskriget berättar om några av de mest hjältemodiga, mest katastrofala och några av de mest avgörande händelserna under andra världskriget. Paul Dowswell förmedlar en stark känsla av det lidande människor drabbades av, men också av det med som många soldater och civila visade. Berättelserna skildrar olika sidor av kriget; de spektakulära sjöslagen mellan jättelika krigsfartyg, de stora drabbningarna mellan arméer med hundratusentals man, dueller mellan fientliga prickskyttar och ensamma individers kamp när de ställs inför en nästan säker död.

Thoughts: What a waste of human life is war. Especially the sort of modern warfare that was first seen in the first and second world wars. With a machine gun (or a hundred…), where’s the need for man-to-man combat? With the atom bomb? It’s really, really terrifying. Not that man-to-man combat with swords, bayonets and rifles, as of old, isn’t horrifying in its own right (I can’t decide if I think it more or less brutal than the impersonality of modern war).

While an interesting subject, Dowswell’s writing leaves something to be desired, so the rating ends up nothing more than a C.


23rd February, 2008
The World According to Clarkson: And Another Thing…; Jeremy Clarkson
— Love @ 13:28 Comments (1)
Filed under: D, English, Humour, Non-fiction

The World According to Clarkson: And Another Thing...; Jeremy Clarkson The World According to Clarkson: And Another Thing…
by Jeremy Clarkson
British

English
340 pages
Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0-141-02860-6

First line: I suppose all of us were out and about before Christmas, pummelling our credit cards to within an inch of their lives.

Back cover blurb:
Jeremy Clarkson finds the world such a perplexing place that he wrote a bestselling book about it. Yet, despite the appearance of The World According to Clarkson, things — amazingly — haven’t improved. Not being someone to give up easily, however, he’s decided to have another go.

In And Another Thing… the king of exasperated quip discovers that:

  • bombing North Carolina is bad for Yorkshire
  • we can look forward to exploding at the age of 62
  • Russians look bad in Speedos. But not as bad as we do
  • wasps are the highest form of life.

Thoughts: I love Top Gear, which, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is an outrageous sort of motor programme that even such car un-enthusiasts as myself can thoroughly enjoy. As Clarkson is one of the three presenters on the show, I found it hard to resist when I saw a copy of one of his books in a bookstore. After reading it, I discovered that it had been better for me had I managed to resist the temptation. Simply put: he drives me up the wall and infuriates me with pretty much every little column he’s ever written. I have thus come to the conclusion that I will keep watching, and enjoying, Top Gear, but will keep as far away as possible from anything of Clarkson’s that is not directly related to the show. (I now have to figure out if I should give in to the temptation to read any of the books by James May and Richard Hammond (the two other presenters), or if it’s best to just stay away from those as well.)

As for the rating, a D will do.


23rd February, 2008
Den hemlösa sexualiteten: en antologi
— Love @ 13:21 Comments (0)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, D, GLBT interest, Religion, Swedish, To Be Read

Den hemlösa sexualiteten: en antologi Den hemlösa sexualiteten: en antologi
by a number of different authors
Swedish & American

For the A-Z and To Be Read reading challenges.

Swedish
286 pages
Bokförlaget Libris
ISBN: 91-7195-402-3

First line: n/a

Back cover blurb:
Homosexualitet är en av de mest brännande frågorna i kyrkorna i dag. Ämnet väcker starka känslor. Många tycker att det är svårt att ta till orda, andra tycks redan vara klara med frågan.
Antologin Den hemlösa sexualiteten vill medverka till ett konstruktivt och nyanserat samtal i kyrkan om homosexualitet. Om kristen tro innebär att man ställer hela livet i relation till Gud och evangeliet, då är homosexualitet också en teologisk angelägenhet för kyrkan. Det väcker frågor om:

  • Vad säger Bibeln om homosexualitet?
  • Vilken syn har kristna på sex och samlevnad?
  • Hur ska kyrkorna reagera inför de orättvisor som homosexuella drabbas av?
  • På vilka villkor kan homosexuella välkomnas i församlingen?
  • Kan partnerskap välsignas i kyrkan?

Författarna till Den hemlösa sexualiteten tar upp dessa och andra frågor. Utgångspunkten är klassisk kristen tro i förening med lyhördhet och respekt inför de homosexuellas situation. Frågorna blir belysta ur fyra olika perspektiv — bibliska, etiska, kulturella och pastorala. De 18 författarna representerar olika kristna traditioner.
Boken ger inga färdiga svar, men läsaren får hjälp att själv orientera sig i frågorna utifrån en kristen livsvärld.

Thoughts: This is another book I got in the 2006 book sale and that has been in my TBR-pile ever since. Unlike Profile of a Criminal Mind it is actually included on my list for the TBR-challenge, so I can strike one off there now. Yay!

Another thing that differs compared with Profile… is that I really liked that one, and I didn’t particularly like this. I have to admit that when I bought it, I thought it was a different sort of book than it turned out to be. I initially thought that it was a collection of essays by Christians who were positive when it came to homosexuality, perhaps homosexual themselves, and how they managed to make their beliefs and their sexualities match. That was not the case, however. Rather, the approach in the book is more along the lines of “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Interesting, yes, but also a little prone to making me angry. I will not touch on that too much, but I will mention one thing in particular: it drives me absolutely nuts that people so often seem to think that bisexuality always means a complete lack of ability to be monogamous. Seriously, people, homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality are on a completely different scale than monogamy vs. polygamy/polyamory. You can be heterosexual and polyamorous, or you can be bisexual and monogamous. Just because a person has the ability to be attracted to persons of both genders1, doesn’t mean that they want to be with people of both genders at the same time. (Sorry for rambling, but that really is a pet peeve of mine.)

I’ve mentioned it before, but I find rating non-fiction quite difficult. A book can be well-written and well-argued, but if I personally don’t agree with the views expressed in the book, that will obviously colour the grade I give it. Keep that in mind when I now dole out a D to Den hemlösa sexualiteten.

1. Or is attracted to people with a complete disregard of gender. I am being consciously simplistic here.


22nd February, 2008
Profile of a Criminal Mind; Brian Innes
— Love @ 13:16 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, Diseases and disorders, English, True crime

Profile of a Criminal Mind; Brian Innes Profile of a Criminal Mind
by Brian Innes
American

English
256 pages
Silverdale Books
ISBN: 1-85605-791-7

First line: The criminal has been an unwelcome element of society since time immemorial, and the attempt to penetrate his or her mind, to discover whether he or she differs significantly from the person who is considered an honest citizen – and if so, to what degree – has preoccupied people for centuries.

Back cover blurb:
Profile of a Criminal Mind is a comprehensive exploration of criminal profiling. Beginning with the early suppositions of 19th century physicians Cesare Lombrosco and Albert Bertillon, the author examines the work of criminologists such as Robert Ressler at the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and David Canter and Paul Britton in Britain, before coming right up to date with recent developments in handwriting analysis and the ‘criminal geographic targeting’ (CGT) computer system.

This fascinating and authoritative study examines some of the major cases of the 20th century, including Ted Bundy, Andrei Chikatilo (the ‘Rostov Ripper’), Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert DeSalvo, Peter Sutcliffe (the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’), Ted Kaczynski (the ‘Unabomber’), Edmund Kemper and George Metetsky.

Thoughts: This book has been in my shelf, unread, since I got it in the annual book sale 2006. I decided to read it now because I thought I’d put it on my list for the TBR-challenge, but when I’d finished it, I discovered that I was mistaken in that. Oh well, no harm done. I got to strike one more book off my TBR-list, official or unofficial, and that’s always something.

More importantly was the fact that it was a good book. I am extremely fascinated by true crime and like to read about it, but sometimes the books are a little too sensationalist for my tastes, or I end up reading one that just restates the facts of half a dozen others I’ve read on the same topic. Not so this one. It brings a new perspective, and while it does touch on some common cases, it doesn’t feel like repetitiveness at any point. In fact, a lot of the times the author assumes that one is already familiar with the cases. There are some cases he mentions in passing more than once, but never elaborates on. It’s a little frustrating at times, because I don’t actually remember much about those cases at present, but in the end I quite like that approach. I have a bunch of other books I could look them up in, if I really feel the need to refresh my memory.

I also really like the layout. It’s divided into clear-cut chapters that deal with one subject or another, and along with the main text, there are bunches of photos and illustrations, as well as “fact boxes”, which I thought were a nice touch.

It’s always difficult, I find, to rate a non-fictional work and I rarely give out higher grades to them, but this time I’m going to have to go with a B. One of the more interesting and well-executed books I have read on this topic in quite some time. Bravo, Mr. Innes!


3rd February, 2008
Mamma sa att jag var sjuk; Julie Gregory
— Love @ 21:13 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, Biographies, D, Diseases and disorders, Swedish

Mamma sa att jag var sjuk; Julie Gregory Mamma sa att jag var sjuk
by Julie Gregory
Original title: Sickened
American

For the A-Z reading challenge.

Swedish
259 pages
Bra Böcker
ISBN: 978-91-7002-361-6

First line: Det värsta var att bli rakad.

Back cover blurb:
An unusual memoir describes growing up as the victim of Munchausen by proxy, a dangerous form of child abuse in which her mother invented or caused a series of illnesses and ailments, and her struggle to escape her mother’s serious psychological problems to rebuild her life as a healthy, compassionate young woman.
(This text refers to an edition other than the one I read.)

Thoughts: This book paints a truly horrific picture of Gregory’s childhood and adolescence, but while it was moving at times, I just couldn’t like it. I always feel bad when I don’t like a book by someone who’s gone through terrible things, but there are writing styles I just can’t stand, and Gregory’s is one of them. Perhaps I’d have got more out of the book, had I read it in the original English, but I didn’t and I don’t plan on it either, so I guess I’ll never know now.

I’m giving the book a D rating, because as a book it just wasn’t very good at all. It makes my stomach churn that anyone has had to go through what Gregory has, though. It’s absolutely terrible and chilling that someone would treat their child that way.


30th January, 2008
The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl; Shauna Reid
— Love @ 19:38 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Biographies, English

The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl; Shauna Reid The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl
by Shauna Reid
Australian

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
408 pages
Corgi Books
ISBN: 978-0-552-15578-6

First line: I’ve got the biggest knickers in Australia.

Back cover blurb:
In January 2001 Shauna Reid was twenty-three years old and twenty-five stone. Determined to turn her life around, she created the hugely successful weblog The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl and, hiding behind her Lycra-clad roly-poly alter ego, her transformation from couch potato to svelte goddess began. Today, 8,000 miles, seven years and twelve and a half stone later, the gloriously gorgeous Shauna is literally half the woman she used to be.

Thoughts: I saw this book mentioned in one of the many book blogs I read (I forget the exact one. Sorry!) and added it to my wishlist after reading a little about it and snippets of the blog it’s the book version of. When I next made a book order, I added it to my shopping cart “just because.”

Can’t say I regret it one bit! The book was funny and interesting and I was instantly hooked. Finished it in one sitting, in fact.

It gets a well-deserved B rating, and a shorter “review” (these random and rather incoherent thoughts don’t exactly count as the proper thing) than it really deserves, because I am too tired to think straight.


29th January, 2008
The Smiths: The Early Years; Paul Slattery
— Love @ 15:32 Comments (0)
Filed under: English, Music, n/a, Photography

The Smiths: The Early Years; Paul Slattery The Smiths: The Early Years
by Paul Slattery
British

English
159 pages
Omnibus Press
ISBN: 978-1-84609-858-1

First line: Taking photographs of bands for a living, I have seen an awful lot of them, good and bad, but I was smacked round the face with the sound and performance that The Smiths gave that night at ULU in May 1983.

Back cover blurb:
For many The Smiths were the definitive rock band of the 80s. A bracing antidote to Thatcher’s Britain for the youth of the day, Manchester-based Morrissey, Marr & Co. even approached something like mainstream success towards the end.

But at the start they were scruffy, uncompromising rebels. This was the period in which Paul Slattery took a series of band photos of great intimacy and power.

Slattery was particularly close to The Smiths in those early days, and his images — many of them seen for the first time here — were an insider’s work: informal, brash, exciting and revealing. Seen together these photos form an exciting visual narrative on the work of an influential band that, for a few turbulent years, cornered the market in lyrical gloom laced with mordant wit.

Thoughts: I love The Smiths, but I wasn’t a fan back when they were still together (would have been really hard to have been considering that I was either a) not even thought of, or b) not really that aware of my surroundings, for the duration of their career). Mind you, I’ve more than made up for it since!

This book was lovely. Full of photographs of the band, some of which I’d seen before, but the majority of which were completely new to me, and little comments from Slattery on most of them. However, as much as I loved it, I won’t officially rate it, because I feel there wasn’t enough text to do that.


18th December, 2007
Ge aldrig upp; Michael Alonzo
— Love @ 13:44 Comments (0)
Filed under: Biographies, C, Swedish

Ge aldrig upp; Michael Alonzo Ge aldrig upp
by Michael Alonzo
Swedish

Swedish
239 pages
Frank förlag
ISBN: 978-91-858565-00-0

First line: Jag sprang in på apoteket.

Back cover blurb:
I Ge aldrig upp berättar Michael Alonzo, den förre sångaren i kultpunkbandet KSMB samt Stockholms negrer, sin egen historia. Det är berättelsen om hur han lever med en kvinna som utåt sätt är kärleksfull och god, men som inom hemmets väggar snart visar sig vara en djävul — en kvinna som slår och misshandlar sin man. När hon senare väntar parets barn bestämmer hon sig dessutom för att hon inte vill ha Michael som far, varpå hon kidnappar pojken och försvinner.

Naket och självutlämnade berättar Michael Alonzo om hur han av sonens mamma blir fråntagen rätten att träffa sin son. Och vi får därefter följa den svåra kampen för att få honom åter.

Thoughts: This book is interesting in that it tells the tale of a man who was physically and verbally abused by his wife. It’s not often you hear stories like that, and some people even refuse to believe that such cases exist. Alonzo, whose tale it is, really had to struggle, not only with having been abused and had his son stolen away, but with not being believed and almost being ridiculed for what he had experienced.

At some points during the book, I was almost boiling with rage, because it was all so completely unfair. If you are a man, and you are a father, and you’ve fallen out with the mother of your child(ren), it’s almost impossible to win back your rights to spend time with your child.

The book could have been better, but it still earns itself a C.


6th December, 2007
Historiens största mordgåtor; Andreas Nyberg (ed.)
— Love @ 10:51 Comments (0)
Filed under: D, Swedish, True crime

Historiens största mordgåtor; Andreas Nyberg (ed.) Historiens största mordgåtor
by Andreas Nyberg (ed.)
Swedish

Swedish
214 pages
Bokförlaget Semic
ISBN: 91-552-3186-1

First line: I det dagliga livet har vi ett stort behov av ordning.

Back cover blurb:
FN:s kontroversielle generalsekreterare Dag Hammarskjöld dog i en flygkrash i Kongo 1961. En olycka menar många. Andra hävdar att en bomb placerats i planet. 1998 fick den sydafrikanska säkerhetskommissionen dokument som tyder på att landets säkerhetstjänst låg bakom kraschen.

Tändstickskungen Ivar Kreugers död 1932 brukar betraktas som självmord, men var det verkligen det? Han hittades skjuten, med en revolver i vänster hand trots att han var högerhänt. Mycket tyder på att han blev mördad av någon som ville åt hans enorma tillgångar.

Sonen till den världsberömda flygaren Charles Lindbergh kidnappades 1932 och återsågs aldrig. Man har antagit att han mördades. Men det finns åtminstone två personer som lagt fram bevisning för att de är den försvunne sonen.

Författarna skriver kunnigt och underhållande om nio av historiens största mordgåtor, bland annat om Marilyn Monroe, den omstridde amerikanske fackföreningsledaren Jimmy Hoffa och Hammarbymordet — Sveriges kanske mest uppmärksammade mordfall.

Thoughts: Apparently all the authors involved in this joint effort are conspiracy theorists and it shows! It’s true that circumstances surrounding these nine cases were a little iffy, but there are limits to how far you can go with wild theories without sounding like a complete nutter. This somewhat ruined what would have otherwise been a pretty interesting book, and pulls the grade down to a D.


30th November, 2007
Movie Icons: Cary Grant; FX Feeney & Paul Duncan (ed.)
— Love @ 20:27 Comments (0)
Filed under: Biographies, English, Film, n/a

Movie Icons: Cary Grant; FX Feeney & Paul Duncan (ed.) Movie Icons: Cary Grant
by FX Feeney and Paul Duncan (ed.)
American

English
192 pages
Taschen
ISBN: 978-3-8228-2212-8

First line: He is the most self-invented man in movies, this side of Charlie Chaplin.

Thoughts: Much like the book on James Dean, this book on Cary Grant was chock-full of photos, but not so much actual text (a fair few quotes, by and about him, though). Following his film career through the pictures was nice, however, and one photo in particular, of him in dreadful drag, had me giggling for minutes.

Just as with the Dean book, I won’t be rating this.


30th November, 2007
Movie Icons: James Dean; FX Feeney & Paul Duncan (ed.)
— Love @ 20:02 Comments (0)
Filed under: Biographies, English, Film, n/a

Movie Icons: James Dean; FX Feeney & Paul Duncan (ed.) Movie Icons: James Dean
by FX Feeney and Paul Duncan (ed.)
American

English
192 pages
Taschen
ISBN: 978-3-8228-2220-3

First line: He died at age 24 in a car crash, testing a new, lightweight, ultra-swift Porsche Spyder en route to a weekend race in Northern California.

Thoughts: Full of photos, but not so full of actual text (though there are quotes and a short biography), I quite enjoyed this. James Dean is a bit of a favourite of mine, so it was nice to see photos I’d not seen before. However, because of the nature of the book, I will not grade it.


21st November, 2007
Mitt brinnande hjärta; Tasso Stafilidis
— Love @ 15:16 Comments (0)
Filed under: Biographies, C, GLBT interest, Swedish

Mitt brinnande hjärta; Tasso Stafilidis Mitt brinnande hjärta
by Tasso Stafilidis
Swedish

Swedish
234 pages
Normal förlag
ISBN: 91-855505-13-7

First line: Det är tidig höst på Fredriksdalsskolan i Helsingborg.

Back cover blurb:
Mitt brinnande hjärta är Tasso Stafilidis personliga resa genom politiken och teatern. Det är en självutlämnande bok om rättsröta och rättspatos, men också om svikna ideal och slitig vardaglig kamp för förändring. Tasso Stafilidis berättar om hatbrev och mordhot, priset han fått betala för att vara öppet homosexuell och riksdagsledamot.

Mitt brinnande hjärta ger också en unik inblick bakom kulisserna i vänsterpartiet och striden om det kommunistiska arvet. En strid som innebar att Tasso, som tagit avstånd från kommunismen redan som 15-åring, förlorade sin riksdagsplats och till slut lämnade partiet helt och hållet efter 22 år.

I boken får vi också läsa om den rapport som Tasso Stafilidis skrev om homosexuellas situation i Iran, med uppgifter om den svenska ambassaden i Teheran som tidigare inte framkommit.

Thoughts: I have to admit I am a little disappointed in this book. It’s going to sound weird, especially since the biggest reason I wanted to read it in the first place was that it was written by the first openly gay member of the Swedish parliament, but it focused almost exclusively on gay issues. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but Stafilidis complains time and time again that people always zeroed in on the LGBT-issues that he worked with, as if they were the only things he was involved in, when in fact he did so many other things as well. My question, then, is why he doesn’t spend more time telling us about these other things. He mentions them, yes, but not nearly as much as his GLBT-work.

Still, the book is interesting, and I would’ve been willing to overlook the above-mentioned issue and give it a higher grade, had the language been better. As it was, it just didn’t engage me very much, and so it’s a C.


14th November, 2007
Phonephucker; Tanja Suhinina
— Love @ 14:34 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, Sex, sexuality & gender, Swedish

Phonephucker; Tanja Suhinina Phonephucker
by Tanja Suhinina
Swedish

Swedish
203 pages
Hydra förlag
ISBN: 978-91-976885-0-5

First line: Fan i helvetes jävelkuken!

Back cover blurb:
Tanja Suhinina tar dig in i den svettiga världen av telefonsex. Långt in. Som smart, ung, blivande psykolog filéar Tanja telefontorskarna på löpande band. I sin självupplevda debutroman skildrar hon hur kampen för det nattliga brödet kan ta sig många, vitt skilda, och humoristiska uttryck, men att det trots allt ändå är en människa i den andra luren.

Elin Jonssons fuktiga tuschpenna bidrar med illustrationer som suggestivt skildrar både det dråpliga och det chockerande, det burläska och det mondäna.

Thoughts: I liked this book. I really did. When I started reading it, I was just planning on reading one chapter before switching over to another book (and to continue reading this one at a later time). By the time I finally managed to put it down, I was a little more than half-way in. Clearly, Suhinina’s writing style is one that grabs me and amuses me. Another B rating, then, and well-deserved it is.


12th November, 2007
Faghag; Linda Leopold
— Love @ 21:15 Comments (0)
Filed under: F, GLBT interest, Sex, sexuality & gender, Swedish

Faghag; Linda Leopold Faghag
by Linda Leopold
Swedish

Swedish
263 pages
Atlas
ISBN: 978-91-7389-318-3

First line: Året är 1985.

Back cover blurb:
“Man lär känna en och sen lär man känna en till. Sen upptäcker man att den tredje också är supertrevlig. Och sen börjar man liksom samla på dem.”

Faghag är en reportagebok om det speciella förhållandet mellan heterosexuella kvinnor och homosexuella män. Den utspelar sig i Berlin, New York, Göteborg, San Fransisco, Stockholm, Paris och Falun, på allt från sexklubbar till ålderdomshem, bland kvinnor som förenas i kärleken till bögar.
En del faghags föredrar att shoppa och dricka cocktails med sina gaybästisar, andra kämpar politiskt för dem. Några nöjer sig med att beundra bögarna på avstånd, likt de unga tjejerna i Faghagklubben som sitter hemma och skriver homoerotiska noveller.
Faghag handlar om symbiotisk vänskap, politisk kamp och en gemensam dröm om en värld bortom regnbågen.

Thoughts: I really did not like this book. It’s interesting, to be sure, and before I read it, I thought I’d like it a lot. But I don’t. I don’t know if it’s the language, or the author’s attitude, but we just didn’t click, this book and I. Well… except one part of one chapter, but that wasn’t enough to make me want to give it a better rating than an F.