This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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106 books of pretension

ramsesbookLovely ones, do you remember the meme doing rounds on blogs in 2008, called “The 106 Books of Pretension”? It was a list of the top 106 (why one-hundred-and-six?) books marked “undread” by Librarything users. The “pretension” referred to books considered classics, or modern classics, that were actually unread by many avid readers and literary aficionados.

Out of the 106 books I had perhaps read around 35. I saved the list, and started reading the remaining 70+ books. I told myself, this is a list of books a civilized person should have read during a lifetime. There were books I had managed to skip during high school English classes. Books that had recently been made into movies. Books that many talked about the moment they were published – and the talk never ceased.

I discovered the curious stories of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell; and of Cavalier and Clay. I found I loved Dostoyevsky and Neil Gaiman, and that the great Grapes of Wrath bored the wits out of me. But most importantly, I exposed myself to once-revolutionary thoughts; great stories; and incredible minds. Book after book I explored thought-worlds that changed the world we perceive as real. Censored books like Madame Bovary. Slandered books like Lolita. Shocking books like In Cold Blood. Classics like Homer’s Odyssey. And I realized that often we repel insurgent views because we hate to be told by a visionary storyteller. Books much hated have become books much respected. It was not the book that changed, but the collective mind and the world around it.

Only four books I could not finish: the Iliad (an account of who fought whom and how they died); Gravity’s Rainbow (I thought I would love this one! Did not get past 150 pages); The Silmarillion (come on, can you really blame me?); and Tess of the d’Urbervilles (what is wrong with me??).

Finishing off this list of 106 books was part of my Day Zero Project. I can now tick this goal off the list, after 10 years of reading (not with perfect adherence to this goal). The list of the top 106 books tagged “unread” at Librarything has changed surprisingly little: 95 are still on the list today. What a great shame as most of these books really are gems worth the effort.

For your reading pleasure, here is the original list from 2008. Have fun exploring 106 new worlds.

  1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  2. Anna Karenina
  3. Crime and Punishment
  4. Catch-22
  5. One Hundred Years of Solitude
  6. Wuthering Heights
  7. The Silmarillion
  8. Life of Pi
  9. The Name of the Rose
  10. Don Quixote
  11. Moby Dick
  12. Ulysses
  13. Madame Bovary
  14. The Odyssey
  15. Pride and Prejudice
  16. Jane Eyre
  17. The Tale of Two Cities
  18. The Brothers Karamazov
  19. Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
  20. War and Peace
  21. Vanity Fair
  22. The Time Traveler’s Wife
  23. The Iliad
  24. Emma
  25. The Blind Assassin
  26. The Kite Runner
  27. Mrs. Dalloway
  28. Great Expectations
  29. American Gods
  30. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  31. Atlas Shrugged
  32. Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
  33. Memoirs of a Geisha
  34. Middlesex
  35. Quicksilver
  36. Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
  37. The Canterbury tales
  38. The Historian : a novel
  39. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  40. Love in the Time of Cholera
  41. Brave New world
  42. The Fountainhead
  43. Foucault’s Pendulum
  44. Middlemarch
  45. Frankenstein
  46. The Count of Monte Cristo
  47. Dracula
  48. A Clockwork Orange
  49. Anansi Boys
  50. The Once and Future King
  51. The Grapes of Wrath
  52. The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
  53. 1984
  54. Angels & Demons
  55. The Inferno
  56. The Satanic Verses
  57. Sense and Sensibility
  58. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  59. Mansfield Park
  60. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  61. To the Lighthouse
  62. Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  63. Oliver Twist
  64. Gulliver’s Travels
  65. Les Misérables
  66. The Corrections
  67. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  68. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  69. Dune
  70. The Prince
  71. The Sound and the Fury
  72. Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
  73. The God of Small Things
  74. A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
  75. Cryptonomicon
  76. Neverwhere
  77. A Confederacy of Dunces
  78. A Short History of Nearly Everything
  79. Dubliners
  80. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  81. Beloved
  82. Slaughterhouse-five
  83. The Scarlet Letter
  84. Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  85. The Mists of Avalon
  86. Oryx and Crake : a novel
  87. Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
  88. Cloud Atlas
  89. The Confusion
  90. Lolita
  91. Persuasion
  92. Northanger Abbey
  93. The Catcher in the Rye
  94. On the Road
  95. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  96. Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
  97. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
  98. The Aeneid
  99. Watership Down
  100. Gravity’s Rainbow
  101. The Hobbit
  102. In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
  103. Treasure Island
  104. White teeth
  105. David Copperfield
  106. The Three Musketeers

(Brande, Denmark; September 2018)


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Interlude: primroses gone wild

springflowersThis is what happens when you buy a couple of yellow primroses for your garden and leave them to flourish over 20 years, remembering each year not to mow the lawn until their bloom is over. Among the primroses are white wood anemones, blue scillas, and the offspring of a few purple corydalis that I planted as a kid. I found them in the local woodland and knew they were endangered – but I wanted them anyway. Well guess what, they are far from endangered in the garden of my parents.

(Helsinki, Finland; May 2018)


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Waiter, there is a bath duck in my minibar

bathduckI know it is late in the day and my brain is probably not at full capacity, but why is there a bath duck in Tirolean gear wedged into the shelf in my minibar?

I sincerely hope this duck has not been in a bathtub. According to a recent publication, the insides of bath ducks are happy homes for astounding amounts of bacteria, not all of them good for our health. While I am aware that our own bodies have larger numbers of bacteria than human cells, I do not favor any additional bugs in the minibar of my hotel room.

(Did some research. Apparently they are collectibles for charity. Points to Hilton for creativity, though.)

(Munich, Germany; March 2018)


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The red lounge

redloungeWhen one walks up the steps to the Atelier Relaxium lounge at Copenhagen airport there is an entire explanation of how the colors work: choose a space according to your energy level and needs. The explanation is needed to blunt the colors that hit the visitor at entry. All the food and most comfortable chairs are in the Red space, which is seriously RED. Hurting-my-eyes red. Actually, so is the yellow and the orange. After my initial shock I went looking for calming blue and green – and noticed that instead of calming down on a couch or chaise longue I would need to sit up straight on a blue or green dining room chair. Not much Relaxium going on there. Whoever painted this lounge did not quite get the intuitive effects of colors on people.

The Apartment lounge which Finnair uses is closed for renovation, so they shunt us here.  My brain, used to the bland Nordic minimalistic color world, can’t cope with these uber-enthusiastic colors. Especially not after a busy day. Thank goodness there is a Yo Sushi at Copenhagen airport. I much prefer that as a lounge, even if I have to pay for the food and drinks.

(Copenhagen airport, Denmark; January 2018)


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A room of one’s own

loviisa-1In this charming, century-old country house there is not a room of one’s own for one person, but for three. The house belonged to my paternal grandfather, who might smile knowing that it now contains the desk and chair of my maternal grandfather. loviisa-2Three rooms, three colors, one wallpaper pattern. In the cold winter light the ambiance in each is different. Which one is your favorite?loviisa-3(Loviisa, Finland; January 2018)