Non-fiction Books on My Wish List

Non-fiction November is just around the corner. Although this year I’m once again not taking part in this initiative to promote reading more non-fiction books (there are so many fiction books that I want to read instead…), I decided to share with you some of the ones I have on my wish list. Maybe you’ll get some new ideas for books to read.

My wish list of non-fiction features more books than the seven below, but these are the ones that I’ll probably prioritise in the future. They cover various topics, from the Troubles in Northern Ireland to feminism.

 

How to Be Animal: What it Means to Be Human by Melanie Challenger

I’ve only recently added this book to my wish list. But it’s certainly the one I’ll get to first, since I’ve always found the topic it explores interesting – how us, human beings, don’t tend to think about ourselves as animals. Melanie Challenger draws on various disciplines to explore how humans come to terms with being an animal and how it affects our experiences. Continue reading

Different Book Genres and Portuguese Authors

I read books from a variety of genres. When it comes to books by Portuguese authors, however, I mostly only read literary fiction, poetry and classics. I don’t have a definite explanation why. It’s probably a consequence of various factors: the types of books published from some genres don’t usually have the specific characteristics I enjoy; the work of some authors is not well publicised, as there seems to be an unending prejudice against some genres; and the book genres that are easily available and sell the most are not the ones I like reading.

Although the majority of the books by the most celebrated Portuguese authors can be categorised as literary fiction, sometimes mixed with other genres, there are various authors writing books in other genres as well. I selected four book genres – historical fiction, crime fiction, fantasy and romance – and went on an online quest to find authors who have primarily written books from those categories.

 

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is one of my favourite book genres. That doesn’t mean that I find all books from the genre appealing, though. I’m not usually interested in reading stories focusing on royal families, for example, since I much prefer when the characters and the stories are fictional (or them being real is mostly irrelevant, as in Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell), but the time period and the settings are real and believably portrayed. I’ve read various books by Portuguese authors that are a mix between historical and literary fiction. Their entire body of work just doesn’t fit neatly in the historical fiction genre. Continue reading

Huge Books and the Importance of Characters

A massive book can be a great way for us to immerse ourselves in a fictional world. The longer we spend with the characters that give life to the stories on the page, the more interested we become in their personalities, tribulations and activities. Feeling like we know the characters intimately certainly helps to continue to turn the pages of a huge tome, even if it seems that we are not making any significant progress. But what if the characters of a huge book fail to entrance us or don’t feel well developed?

There were four huge books that I wanted to read this year. Although I started all of them, I only finished one – Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb. The other ones I decided to DNF, and the overall reason was the same for all of them. As I was struggling to connect with the characters, I lost all interest in the plot and I could not possibly force myself to continue to slug through the pages just for the sake of getting to the end of the following books.

 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The humongous War and Peace starts during a soirée organised by Anna Pavlovna in 1805. Various characters discuss not only occurrences in their lives, but also the political and military movements of Napoleon. I was not being able to remember whom any of the characters were or their connections with one another. They were just a massive muddle of names on pages with no distinguishable features or personalities. I lost all the desire to read this classic very early on, despite having cherished reading Anna Karenina some years ago. Continue reading

Quarterly Favourites – July to September 2021

During the last three months, I’ve only finished reading four books. It’s the consequence of having spent an entire month reading Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb and not of having watched many films or TV series. With just a few books read, little fiction watched and almost no new music listened to, it wasn’t difficult to pick up just a couple of favourites.

The best book I read during the last three months was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. Set in the 16th century, it’s a poignant, touching and believable fictional story about the death of the son of a famous playwright, William Shakespeare, who is never mentioned by his name. O’Farrell masterfully explores the themes of grief, parenthood, family life and love. The emotions of the characters are palpable and intense, particularly those of Agnes. Despite actions being described in utmost detail, the novel never gets boring, partly because the musicality of the prose is astounding.

Last month, I watched for the first time a TV series (mostly) in Icelandic, and I was pleasantly surprised. Katla, which you can watch on Netflix, is a mystery-drama about the appearance of people covered in ash in the town of Vík a year after the eruption of the subglacial volcano Katla. The inhabitants and visitors of the almost empty town are forced to come to terms with their past. Continue reading

Have I Read the Books I Said I Wanted to?

Since I started blogging, more than five years ago, I’ve written various posts about the books that I want to read, have on my wish list or am excited about. But have I read the books I mentioned in the past? I scrolled through the content of my blog from 2016 until the end of 2020 and discovered nine posts (there may be more) focusing on the books that I had on my wish list back then. For the purpose of this post, I decided not to take into consideration the posts that I wrote this year, since not enough time has passed to make me wonder why I may not have read certain books yet.

 

“Huge Books on My Wishlist”

In the summer of last year, I wrote a post about the massive books I was planning to read. Although I’ve picked up all of the four books that I mentioned on that post since then, I didn’t finish reading all of them. I’m currently reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and became very fond of Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb. But I ended up DNFing The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy early on this year.

 

“Books in Portuguese to Read This Year”

In 2020, I put together a list of six books by Lusophone authors that I wanted to read during that year. I’ve read in their entirety three of those books (not all within the time frame I had set) – O Irmão Alemão (My German Brother) by Chico Buarque, Quatro Contos Dispersos by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen and Gaveta de Papéis by José Luís Peixoto. I also started reading Lillias Fraser by Hélia Correia, but decided not to finish it. I still haven’t read A Maçã no Escuro (The Apple in the Dark) by Clarice Lispector and O Quase Fim do Mundo by Pepetela. Continue reading

Possible Cherished Authors I Haven’t Read Yet

Do you ever have the sensation that the books by an author you have never read will end up being appealing to you for years to come? I have an inexplicable feeling that the work of some authors I’ve never tried will end up taking a lot of space on my shelves in the future. Various of their books have been on my wish list for a long time. I’m confident I’ll like them. But I haven’t yet taken the next step, buy and read them, in order to confirm that those books are to my taste.

There are five authors whose work I haven’t read yet, but that I think I’ll cherish.

 

Shirley Jackson

The American author Shirley Jackson has forever been on my wish list. Having lived from 1916 to 1965, she is famous for her horror and mystery books, two genres I don’t tend to read often, but that I’m eager to explore further. Four of her books appeal the most to me: The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, The Sundial and Hangsaman. How unsettling and terrifying will they be? Continue reading

Books I Want to Read Until the End of 2021

There are only three full months left in 2021, and I’m falling behind in my reading challenge. In order to complete it, I will have to finish the eight books that I’m truly eager to read until the year is over. The list features both novels, short story collections and poetry. Some authors are new to me, while others are old acquaintances. Some books are massive, others are tiny. In terms of genres, they are as diverse.

 

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

I’ve only recently started reading The Luminaries and don’t have a strong opinion about it yet. As I don’t think I’ll DNF it, though, it is one of the books I want to finish until the end of the year. Set in 1866, it follows Walter Moody as he arrives in New Zealand to try his luck at the goldfields and to search for his father, who disappeared from Scotland. At the Crown Hotel, he encounters a group of twelve people who are discussing a series of crimes.

 

Não Se Pode Morar nos Olhos de um Gato by Ana Margarida de Carvalho

Set at the end of the 19th century, this novel by the Portuguese author Ana Margarida de Carvalho has been on my wish list for years. The time has come to finally read it. After the abolition of slavery, a boat illegally carrying slaves sinks near the coast of Brazil, but a group of people manages to survive. They are the main focus of this book, which seems to be most of all a character study. Continue reading

‘Ema’ by Maria Teresa Horta

My rating: 4 stars

Both the structure and the writing style of a book have a significant impact on the reading experience. Ema by the Portuguese author Maria Teresa Horta is a collection of snippets about the lives of three characters all named Ema. This assortment of memories ends up being engaging, because the writing style has a haunting poignancy and the book is relatively short. The recollections flow into one another in a captivating rhythm. Although I would have liked to know more about the women that are at the heart of this novella, the structure chosen by the author wouldn’t have worked as well in a more detailed and far-reaching book.

Ema has killed her husband. But which of the Emas? The three women that are the main characters in this book are different from one another, their lives are not exactly the same, but at the same time they are almost indistinguishable. It’s difficult to know who is specifically being focused on at each given moment. The violence they endure, the value they are not given and the oppression they feel almost merge into one single form of unhappiness.

As the story progresses, it becomes clearer how the various Emas are connected and how the past influences the present. The suffering that transpires from the pages becomes even more affecting. Continue reading

‘Ship of Magic’ by Robin Hobb

My rating: 4 stars

Ships and pirates don’t usually play a significant part in the fantasy genre. That is not the case of the first book in The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb, though. Told from different perspectives, Ship of Magic introduces readers to a world where the figureheads of ships can become alive. Throughout the book, various exciting and fleshed out characters seem to be put in the right place for a couple of questions to be answered in the rest of the series. How did liveships truly come about? Why are serpents following some ships and attacking their crews?

Kennit is the captain of one of many pirate ships. He had legendary good luck, and no one could have any doubts about it. For that reason, he kept it a secret that he owned a charm, a carved face of wizardwood, to avoid being subject to enchantments. He aspired to unite and be king of the Pirate Isles. He would then offer safe use of the Inside Passage up to the coast of Bingtown and Chalced to the merchants and traders, but for a fee of course. In order to know if he would be successful, he went to Treasure Island to offer valuable objects to the Others, a species with magical powers, in exchange for an answer. The general reply was yes.

The old Bingtown Traders own liveships, the only type of vessels that can sail the Rain Wild River. They are made of wizardwood and quicken when three family members from successive generations die on their decks. When that happens, their figureheads become alive, being able to talk and experience emotions. They have a special bond with the members of the family that bought them from the families that live in the Rain Wilds, the only place where wizardwood can be found. Continue reading

Women’s Prize for Fiction Winners – Books I Read and Want to Read

Susanna Clarke has been chosen as the winner of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction with Piranesi, a book I haven’t read yet but that I definitely want to. I don’t tend to pay much attention to literary prizes, to be honest. However, the enthusiasm that so many readers show for the Women’s Prize usually makes me at least want to know who has won and what the book in question is about.

Having taken a quick look at the prize’s website, I discovered that I’ve read three of the previous winners and am interested in reading not only Piranesi, but also other four in the future. None of the books ended up on my wish list because they were the winners of this particular prize. It was either the premise or the general work of the authors that first appealed to me.

 

Winners I Read

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

A fictional story about the events surrounding the death of the son of a famous playwright, William Shakespeare, Hamnet was a worthy winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. The feelings of the characters are tangible and duly intense. Agnes’s suffering in particular is poignantly portrayed. Set mainly around 1596, this book about grief, parenthood, love and family life also has some chapters set in previous decades, which allows readers to learn more about the characters and better understand their actions. Continue reading