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Books I read in March and what I thought about them

Neal Stephenson – Quicksilver

The first book I read by Neal Stephenson was Snow Crash and I have since re-read it once in English and once in Chinese. His other books have been good, but far from awesome, so I was a bit sceptical when I started reading Quicksilver. It’s a real brick of a book, almost a thousand pages, mostly set in 17th century Europe and focusing on different themes such as natural philosophy and politics. The novel is, as far as I can tell, well researched and feels genuine. It’s written in a myriad of different styles and highly digressive, reminiscent of Thomas Pynchon, but slightly more readable (although not necessarily better). The book is divided into three sections and if all were as good as the second part, this would be a really good read, but now it just feels too long. I might consider reading the two other novels in this series later.

陈忠实 – 白鹿原

This 1993 novel is very popular and I decided to listen to it, without having read it before and without any support. The story is about two clans on the “white dear plain”, their rivalry and internal conflicts. It spans several decades, witnessing the fall of the Qing dynasty, the civil war and the rise of modern China. To be honest, listening to literary Chinese read with fervour requires full concentration from me and I still missed quite a lot. I can’t really comment in detail what I thought about the book, but it did made me realise that listening to novels in Chinese is very hard. When reading, it’s relatively easy to guess

Göran Hägg – Nya författarskolan

An interesting and well-written book about writing novels. The book mostly consists of loosely strung together articles, often just a few pages long, about a wide range of topics related to writing novels and being an author by profession. I don’t think I learnt much about writing novels from this book, but it did spark my interest to actually finish some of the projects I’ve been working on. I recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about writing fiction.

Gellert Tamas – Lasermannen: En berättelse om Sverige

I picked up this book mostly because it was mentioned in Göra Hägg’s book reviewed above as a good example of how different perspectives and time frames can be used to tell an interesting story. I wasn’t disappointed. The book is about one of Sweden’s most infamous serial killers, and even though it takes the shape of a novel, the book is actually an historical account based on a large number of interviews and other documents. This way of presenting the data is very effective and as interesting to read as any thriller.

Olle Engstrand -Hur låter svenskan, ejengklien?

I have all my phonetics training in Chinese (and some in English) so reading about Swedish pronunciation is very interesting. As the title implies, the focus of the book, at least the earlier chapters, is how Swedish is actually pronounced (as compared to orthography, how the sounds are spelt). This differs a lot from what most people think (including myself, sometimes). Still, the book then spends a lot of time talking about subjects I’m less interested in, such as various dialects and historical development. Still a good read on the whole.

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  1. Luke’s avatar

    I was so intrigued by the fact you listened to ??? as an audio book. I’ve tried many times before to find good sources of audio books, and never had much luck. One search for “??? ????” on Google though lead me to http://www.ting56.com, and I feel like I’ve found my own personal holy grail of language learning material to motivate and push me to the next level. Thank you!


    1. Olle Linge’s avatar

      Glad you found that site, but just as you know, it’s listed on Hacking Chinese Resources, so just searching for “audio books” would have given you this. :) One note of warning, though, audio books come in many different forms. Some are read in dialect with so much “emotion” that native speakers find it hard to understand, others are just read aloud. I have found that more drama makes it more difficult. Dialects obviously make it even harder. Good luck!