Authors I Want to Read Every Year – A Rethink

I don’t ever want reading to feel like a chore. When in 2017 I wrote a post about the authors that I wanted to read every year, I didn’t expect to constantly have to check it a couple of years down the line in order to make sure that I would have enough time to read books by those authors. The fact that I was almost forcing myself to find the time is certainly a sign that I am not truly eager to read books by them. A rethink is obviously needed!

My list of authors to read every year featured Margaret Atwood, Charles Dickens, John Burnside, Ian McEwan, Daphne du Maurier, José Saramago and Mia Couto. From these authors, there are only three that I feel I would have picked up books by this year if it were not for the list – Daphne du Maurier, José Saramago and Margaret Atwood. Unsurprisingly, these authors are some of my favourites of all time.

Why am I not as excited to read books by the other authors as I was before? I don’t have a definite, single answer. In the cases of Charles Dickens and John Burnside, it’s probably because I was disappointed with the latest books that I picked up by them. Mia Couto’s novels were starting to feel a bit samey to me, though I enjoyed them all. And I’ve always had a difficult reading relationship with Ian McEwan, having enjoyed some of his books and disliked others. Continue reading

Favourite Authors of All Time

There are authors whose work we, as dedicated readers, want to continue to explore for years to come. We treasure almost all of the books that we read by them and, thus, cannot wait to pick up again a few more of the novels, poetry or short story collections that they wrote for our enjoyment.

My favourite authors of all time are those whose work I’m constantly recommending to other readers, even though I didn’t equally love all of the books that I read by them and don’t think that all of them are perfect. I have read three or more books by the authors below, and their work has a special place in my heart.

 

Daphne du Maurier

I fell in love with Daphne du Maurier the moment I read Rebecca, my favourite book by her followed by Jamaica Inn. Her work doesn’t fit neatly into one genre, comprising both historical fiction and sci-fi, for example. But both her novels and short stories tend to be atmospheric, enthralling, gripping and slightly mysterious. The characters that she created are vivid and many unforgettable. I’ve read nine of Daphne du Maurier’s books so far! I haven’t finished exploring her work yet, though. I still have at least eight of her other books on my wish list. Continue reading

Do I Want to Read My Goodreads Recommendations?

After watching Sophie’s video “If Goodreads was a dating App” on her YouTube channel, Portal in the Pages, I decided to take a look at my Goodreads recommendations. Did any of the books there appeal to me? Did I discover new books to add to my wish list? From the 40 books (I’m not going to list them all) that Goodreads thinks that, for some reason, I would like, I’m certain that I want to read merely four. I’m ambivalent about other two. These books were either already on my wish list, or I had at some point considered adding them to it. I sadly didn’t discover any new books that I may want to read in the future. Exploring my Goodreads recommendations ended up not being particularly useful.

Nevertheless, I still want to share with you the four books that I plan to read from that list, plus the two that I’m uncertain whether I want to read or not!

 

O Retorno (The Return) by Dulce Maria Cardoso

I’ve recently mentioned this book on a post about the contemporary Portuguese authors I want to read books by. It is set in 1975 after the independence of Angola. The main character, Rui, is a young boy who has recently arrived in Portugal. His family had to flee Angola and he is having a hard time settling in. Continue reading

Most Owned and Read Authors – Second Update

There’s something special about reading a book by an author whose work we are becoming increasingly familiar with. It doesn’t matter how many books we have read by some authors, we still want to continue to explore their work, compare and contrast, discover similarities or disparities between books. For that reason, there are some authors that are more prevalent than others on our shelves.

I wrote my first ‘Most Owned and Read Authors’ post in 2017. Back then, I still had on my shelves many of the books that I had read as a child and a teenager. I since then gave almost all of them away, as I didn’t plan to read them ever again and had lost that somewhat inexplicable sentimental connection with them. I also started to only keep on my shelves the books that I either loved or enjoyed, plus some that I only found passable but that have some special characteristic to them. Still, as there weren’t many changes on the authors featured on the first update of my most owned and read authors a year later, I decided to stop writing this kind of posts annually.

I have now realised that two authors (Daphne du Maurier and José Saramago) who didn’t even make it onto the list before have since then become significantly prominent. The time has come for a second update! It’s important to recall that these are not necessarily the authors that I have read more books by. But they are in a way the ones that I’ve enjoyed the most books by, either because they have written book series I cherished or because I’m an admirer of their work in general. Continue reading

‘Provavelmente Alegria’ by José Saramago

My rating: 4 stars

José Saramago is renowned for his novels, but he also wrote plays, poetry and short stories. Provavelmente Alegria, which has not been translated into English yet as far as I’m aware, is one of his three poetry collections. The majority of the poems featured in this collection don’t have a blatant message, their meanings need to be unearthed, each word dissected. For that reason, my interpretations may be different from those of other readers. But isn’t that part of the magic of reading poetry?

Human beings and our myriad of emotions take centre stage in this collection. In various of the poems, there’s either a contrast between people and nature or a communion between the two. ‘Ainda Agora é Manhã’ is a visual description of the sun rising in the morning and how it differs from the sorrow felt by a person. ‘Paisagem com Figuras’ also features descriptions of nature, which surrounds a couple. When they hold hands, the place turns into paradise. ‘Ao Centro da Esmeralda’ establishes a correlation between the human body and natural elements, such as the moon, the sun, the green grazing land. One of the shortest poems in the collection, ‘Flor de Cato’, meaningfully compares the human heart with the flower of a blossoming cactus.

My favourite poem from the collection is ‘Na Ilha por Vezes Habitada’, which draws a parallel between humans and an island. Though we live through good and bad moments, our connection with the land offers peace of mind and makes life worth living. Continue reading

3-Star Books I Kept Because of a Specific Feature

A few years ago, I decided against keeping on my shelves all of the books that I read. First, I gave away almost all of the books that I read when I was a child and a teenager. I only kept the ones that I assumed I would still enjoy if I ever read them again as an adult. Then I decided to only keep the books that I enjoyed or loved, that is to say the ones that I rated with either four or five stars, plus some special three-star reads.

You may be wondering what makes a three-star book special. It has to fall within at least one of a couple of categories: having been almost a 4-star read, which was the case of Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors and The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis; being part of a collection, such as the Penguin English Library, or of a book series which I enjoy in general; or featuring a specific element that stood out to me because of how well it was crafted. I also used to keep 3-star books by authors whose work I overall cherish, but I only do so now when they fit into one of the previous categories.

The eight books below stood out from other 3-star reads because they feature a character that I loved, an interesting structure, an intriguing narrator, a tangible array of feelings or one strand of many that I highly enjoyed. Continue reading

Nobel Prize in Literature Winners I’ve Read

The American poet Louise Glück has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in this bizarre 2020. I’ve never read her work, so I don’t have an opinion on how deserved the recognition is. There are other Nobel Prize Winners whose books I’ve read, though. Some I liked immensely, a couple I have almost no recollection of, and others I just didn’t enjoy at all. Literature is not objective after all and we all have opinions.

 

Svetlana Alexievich

The Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2015 “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”, as the Swedish Academy put it. I’ve only read one book by her, so far. I had high hopes for Chernobyl Prayer, but my expectations weren’t met. This non-fiction book about the nuclear disaster that took place in 1986 in Ukraine and highly affected Belarus is a collection of testimonies, some of which are invaluable. Alexievich interviewed former workers of the power plant, doctors, scientists, soldiers and displaced people. Although it raises interesting questions, overall it lacks context and editing to make the testimonies more engaging.

 

Mario Vargas Llosa

In 2010, the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat”. Many years ago, I read the novel The Way to Paradise, which I don’t remember much about to be honest. I’m not even sure whether I enjoyed it or not anymore. It focuses on the painter Paul Gauguin and the feminist Flora Tristan, who was his grandmother. Continue reading

So Different and So Similar Pairs of Books

Two books can have significant elements in common and still tell different stories. Characters may face similar situations, but their individual choices take the plots in completely different directions. The themes of two novels may be similar, but the action, the characters and the writing style ensure that they are ultimately distinctive and readers are still experiencing a fresh story.

I’ve read (at least) four pairs of books that are both different and similar for various reasons.

 

História do Cerco de Lisboa (The History of the Siege of Lisbon) by José Saramago + The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

These two novels have in common being my least favourites, so far, by José Saramago and Daphne du Maurier, two authors I adore. This is not the reason why I chose them to be part of this post. Both of them are also set in two different time periods, which are connected by a man. The tribulations that the characters face, however, are completely different. Continue reading

Favourite Opening Lines

By the time that we finish reading most books, the opening lines have already vanished from our memory. A selected few, however, linger on, long after we close the books and start new ones. They remain forever imprinted in our mind. My favourites are long and short, summarise the premise of the book or just leave readers wondering. There’s not a specific characteristic that distinguishes all of them.

 

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Continue reading

Books I Almost Loved

Very rarely do I rate books with five stars. For that to happen, a book has to be perfect in every regard in my opinion. I can’t even have a minor complaint. As I decided early on not to use half stars on my ratings, I always award four stars to books that weren’t flawless but that I almost loved. Only by reading the review can my high esteem for such books be fully perceived. The following eight books fall under that category.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

This retelling of an Ancient Greek myth resembles a fictional memoir. Circe, the daughter of Helios (the god of sun) and Perse (a nymph), was sentenced to exile as a punishment for using witchcraft against her own kind. Throughout the book, Madeline Miller delves into the meaning of love and the fear of losing a dear one. The prose is gripping and the characters feel truly real, thanks to a tangible portrayal of emotions, particularly those of Circe. However, the book loses a bit of its enchantment when Circe tells stories about Odysseus.

 

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

The first book in The Farseer Trilogy is not only a story of court intrigue and lust for power, but also a true interpretation of human emotions. When he was 6 years old, Fitz was left by his grandfather at the castle of the town where they lived in, because he was the bastard son of the Crown Prince, Chivalry. Some years later, he started being trained as an assassin in secret. The detailed and absorbing writing style is one of the highlights of this fantasy book. Unfortunately, the last chapter is not as thorough and some events are just briefly mentioned. Continue reading