My favourite books I read in 2017


So this is happening because it’s a comfortingly confined format that’s really hard to procrastinate. Yay.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as well as everyone not comfortable with those labels (as you now legally can be in Germany, whoop-dee-doo): my favourite books I read this year. While I didn’t feel like it for the past few months, this has been an incredibly amazing year of discovering amazing books and a lot of these are up there with my all-time-favourites for sure.

Before we move on to the official eleven, some honourable mentions to keep the tradition up and calm my conscience: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, White Teeth by Zadie Smith and, tragically the only non-fiction in this post, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy by Gabriella Coleman. Cool.


Faust. Der Tragödie erster Teil by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The only German book on this list, and I’m still planning to properly review this one as soon as I’m done reading part two. Until then, some thoughts on a post-it-note: This is incredibly amazingly beautiful, intellectually challenging and full of wisdom. It’s also kind of hard to read, and I’m really thankful for my incredible German teacher (the same one I complained about here, whoops. She’s amazing.) for making it seem so simple and timeless, for asking just the right questions and, after hearing us ramble in a way equivalent to stumbling through a dark corridor hoping to come across a single firefly, giving just the right answers, leading us into glowing ballrooms. I know I didn’t help encourage anyone just now, but it’s probably still worth your time just for the exquisite beauty of that corridor.


The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

A primary example of how amazing my friends are. I’ve talked about this before, like a lot of times, but if a book wasn’t originally written in English or French, I usually read the German translation, because that’s the logical thing to do, right?
Well, it means I didn’t allow myself to pick up any of the Vintage Russian classics, cause I can read those in German. Which I complained about loudly, prompting them to give me this gorgeous object for my birthday just to shut me up.

I adored for all its worth, just thinking of the wind-swept park bench in Helsinki where this photo was taken makes me nostalgic for the magical weirdness of talking cats, bible retellings, opulent satanic balls and subtle irony that is Bulgakov’s novel. You should read it. It’s not fucked up at all *cough*.


Margaret the first by Danielle Dutton

Look at me buying the books and then reading the books and then loving the books. It’s the ciiiiiircle of life…
If you like words, you need this novella-length-still-called-a-novel in your life. I don’t understand how someone can write such whimsical sentences and yet create such flesh-and-bone real characters and emotions. It’s the magic of… tree-people and meteors and tortoiseshell cabinets and aiery atomes and two amazing female writers, one inside the pages and one behind them.


We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

I’m so excited to reread this one for my bookclub in 2018, it’ll be an absolute blast. This proper-novella, which I read in one sitting during Spring Cosy Reading Night this year, is just as whimsical as Margaret the first, and then some, sprinkled with societal commentary, a gruesome murder and an ending that can just be called disturbing but beautiful? This moved me and enclosed me and made me forget that there is a world beyond its covers, which is what I want from a book, please.


The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

You’re wondering how much I loved this book? I got it from the library earlier this year, remember almost walking into fellow pedestrians because I COULD NOT take my eyes of Ryan for a second, and without hesitation asked a friend to buy it for me for my birthday. It’s hypnotic, dazzling, addictive, dark and hilarious. It’s very not me, because it’s got a very male, Raymond Chandler-y premise, which, it turns out, in the hands of a talented female author and set in Ireland, makes my sarcastic, dark-humoured little heart sing (or rather, hum the soundtrack of a hard-boiled black-and-white crime drama).


Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I cannot begin to describe how much I adore this novel. I love it so so much, I read it twice this year and I will read it again. And again. And then maybe backwards.
It’s lyrical, it’s beautiful, it’s clever and it’s one of the most comforting stories I’ve ever lost myself in. Go read my review if you’re wondering in detail.


The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss

Object of, quite possibly, the most aesthetically pleasing photo I’ve taken all year. On a side note, also an amazing novel. I absorbed it in a state of pure happiness while freezing my hands off on a really cold, really drizzly beach walk, not feeling ready to connect with a single author on so many levels. I’m going to say it right here, the culmination of academia, liberalism, feminism, deep thoughts, glittering intelligence and light irony that makes Sarah Moss’ books makes me feel more at home than anything else I’ve read the entire year.


Middlemarch by George Eliot

So this was interesting? I read it for #MiddlemarchMarch as hosted by Jennifer from Insert Literary Pun Here, and I just picked it up without even being aware of what it is in the literary canon. It was hard sometimes, I’m not going to lie, reading a massive, smart Victorian novel without really any time in my life to do so, but it was SO worth it, can I even put it into words. This made me feel like a little cloud of brain ascending out of my body and looking down on human existence, going “oh right, that’s what it all means”. Would recommend that feeling.


A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Moving into the top three realm of books that I would like to build a disturbing candlelit shrine for. I have recommended this to people in my real life as a sublime novel for people who love post-midnight controversial philosophical discussions and because I’m too lazy to think of a new distinction, that’s what I’m going with on the blog as well. If you like language, this will mess with your brain and make you aware of the process of acquiring language in a completely different way than the feeling of just learning a new one, it will feel like a parallel universe where people sound throatier and the streets are grubbier with a slight whiff of fresh milk on the wind – and just when you think you’re just reading a good adventure, you’re hit with events that make you question your own ethical assumptions. It’s an intellectual rollercoaster and I love it.


Night Waking by Sarah Moss

This might be one of the happiest memories I’ve gained this year – being in Lithuania, sitting on the beach listening to the Baltic sea, sitting on a park bench in Vilnius watching the sun rise and freezing my little nose off, sitting in a huge armchair in our holiday appartement – and whereever it was I was currently sitting, I was reading this beautiful, beautiful book. Thinking of it makes me want to cry in happiness because I found humans I want to pull out of it and offer a cup of tea and thoughts that made me feel like my brain was looking into a mirror and Sarah Moss was smiling out of it and offering me that exquisite coherence and eloquence I wish I had myself. She’s quite good, did I mention that already?


East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Let’s just communally agree on two things to finish up this post and praise the thing of pure elegance that is East of Eden:
a) this bookcover is one of the most beautiful things ever to emerge from human civilisation and
b) if it’s looking for some worthy competition in the category of history has been building up to this, the novel it houses would be a damn fine frontrunner. It’s intricate and emotional and clear-eyed and funny and touching and sweeping and all the words people put on book jackets to make their work seem deserving of the paper it’s printed on. This one deserves a forest and a feast, but I’m going to start with this blogpost.

Which it thus concludes. Brilliant.


My problems with ‘Things that can & cannot be said’


Let’s have a conversation, shall we? Let’s tread in the footsteps of American actor and producer John Cusack and renowned Indian author Arundhati Roy and have a bit of a talk. The subject of choice? Their book Things that can & cannot be said, a collection of essays, recorded conversations and quotes, spaciously set and generously upholstered with photos to make up a 120-page-booklet talking about humanity’s love for the imperial governments that are destroying it. Quite chirpy, really.

Unfortunately, reading it isn’t too chirpy a experience. And that’s not because it cleverly challenges your assumptions and belief systems, leaving you slightly offended, but reformed to believe in the right things. (Oh, I wished.) It’s because Things that can & cannot be said, in my opinion, isn’t a particularily good book.

Some friends of mine and I curate a little book club and sometimes share our conversations in the school newspaper, edited down to a readable length and syntax, so I’m truly familiar with having a audio recording of my own imperfect ramblings and the challenge of subtly turning them into something remotely publishable. I understand the fine balance between tweaking your own eloquence and keeping the oral, spontaneous quality of a genuine conversation. Because of that, I feel confident in saying that the dialogues printed do not accomplish that balance. Both Roy and Cusack are obviously very intellectual and articulate, but they more than border the pretentious here. If John Cusack truly walks through his daily life saying things like “It has to metastasize”, then I’ll have to apologetically declare that I can’t relate.

What Cusack and Roy are publishing, and don’t try to convince me otherwise, is popular non-fiction. In which case, they might have taken accessibility into account. As someone truly passionate about and involved with politics and political theory, I always try to imagine handing texts to a less interested friend and wonder whether they would ignite a flame in them. This truly wouldn’t. When describing the first snippets of conversation between whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg with whom they’ve flown to Moscow and Edward Snowden whom they are visiting there, Roy lovingly speaks of “some kind of arcane code language” – meaning the countless agencies, programme names and security clearances inside the US secret services and their cryptic abbreviations.

Very shortly afterwards (a given in a book of 120 sparsely printed pages), in sharing some recorded conversation however, this book does exactly the same.

“Before that, before ’60, only a handful of people, including some reconnaissance experts in RAND who worked with the U-2, knew there was a U-2.”

You still with me? Good for you.
To be clear, they talked for an entire day, of which they published ten pages of recollection – you sure that was the most important bit?

Most of the rest of the book is a stage for the confident intellectual Arundhati Roy. Selling her conversations with John Cusack as such is a stretch, as they never fundamentally disagree. Which makes them rather an exercise in spontaneous essay-speech-crossover-slamming for her, with Cusack only offering one-line-incentives or quotes that keep the conversation moving.

Roy’s political views thus being established to basically make up this book (which isn’t necessarily what it’s sold as, might I add), let’s talk about those to round up this little discussion. She can clearly write, as I already deemed when reading her gorgeous novel The God of Small Things, and her argumentation in this one is clear and interesting: we need to stop worshipping nations as god-like entities that are in their essence good and humanitarian, if often corrupted. She critizises trust in governments, the trust that makes citizens express disappointment, disillusionment when hearing of political scandals such as the mass surveillance revelations – what did you expect of such an imperial construct, she seems to shout.Roy talks about Lifestyle wars being fought to keep up the Western nation’s status of wealth and privilege, she dissects US foreign policy since before 9/11 and the developement of nuclear weapons; and she always falls back on civil disobedience as the most natural, the only way to cope with all that is wrong today. If that means violence, so be it.

She argues these points with the sparkling eloquence you’d expect, leading to exceptional quotes such as

“We can decide the most convenient place on which to airdrop history’s markers. History is really a study of the future, not the past.”

Most of the time, however, she remains juggling very specific references to Indian politics, unclear accusations against anything in power and no clean-cut solutions, as she herself acknowledges, but doesn’t venture to rectify.

So that’s my Spark Notes on what I believe this book wanted to say. What it was marketed to be, however, was the result of an impactful meeting with one of the most talked about whistleblowers of all time, Edward Snowden, and the state of states in our century. And what it ended up saying was probably close to so we stole away from this very fancy dinner to have a deep conversation about Imperialism, and didn’t we enjoy ourselves. Particularily because John wasn’t allowed to say anything.

Adapting Non-Fiction November and NaNoWriMo?


So I love having projects. I love doing reading projects to challenge myself, and I
l o v e  community-type projects because it excites me to be part of something that, without the internet, I wouldn’t even know existed.

Non-Fiction November is one of my favourite long-term reading projects and I’d really like to participate properly at some point (I half-heartedly tried last year), but November just isn’t that kind of month in my life. Which also always stops me from another project I’d really love to challenge myself with at some point: National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

Once again, as the end of October approached, I sat in front of my planner trying to tell myself I can fit something in, but it just isn’t going to happen. Again.

I’ve got exams galore in November, I have an important presentation coming up, and by far most important: the much alluded to thesis is due in January. The latter got me thinking, though…

I’m not making the progress I’d like to see on it, and actual panic is starting to kick in right now, so I’ve decided to take what for me is the positive essence of both Non-Fiction November and NaNoWriMo and use it as a little kick in the bum to get back to work.

So. NaNoWriMo for me essentially means writing where usually you’d just plan on writing, pouring out words without too much of a filter to finally do it. It in my case being this thesis, and this in my case being very much necessary to fight paralysing perfectionism.
Non-Fiction November is even more directly applicable to my situation, as I’ll take this month to put aside any other reading ambitions and fancies (besides the two fiction books I’ll have to read for school) and just read my damn research.

With those two focus points set for the month and a massive internet community doing kind of the same thing, I’m all ready for progress and productivity. And once again thankful for the existence of bookish projects for me to adapt and make my own.

Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

bearbeitet2.PNGI never allow myself to have too many ambitions about reading complete shortlists (or even longlists) for literary prizes, but I do quite like to know about them to then randomly stumble across one or another of the nominated books on my next library trip.

I’ve just talked about how much I like reading books I don’t really know anything about – it’s something I really miss, being a child in a library full of books I’d never heard of and checking them out based on description or even cover because what, really, did I have to lose?

So I went to my favourite library last week looking for a new audiobook to get lost in. I got four, but that’s a story for another day. The one that excited me by far the most, and the one I’m here to talk about, is Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.
Apparently (and I only saw this after listening to it), this audiobook has in itself gotten quite a lot of attention because of its all-star-cast of 166 narrators (!), giving each source and character a distinct voice.

Lincoln in the Bardo is based on two main factual ideas: on the one hand the death of Willie Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, amidst the American Civil War (which hands down, I know nothing about…) and the tale that he apparently spent at least one night in the graveyard grieving for his son; on the other hand the concept of “bardo” which originates in Buddhism, where it describes the transitional state between death and rebirth. Combining these, Saunders has concocted a tale of grief and spiritual existence after death, a tale of Abraham Lincoln not alone in the nightly graveyard, but rather surrounded by spirits unwilling to move on to the afterlife, while unable to communicate with the living – his son Willie one of them.

What makes the first novel of the acclaimed short story writer so special is the writing, which is unlike anything I have ever read. The story is told from different character’s points of view, in a way that reminisces of a play rather than a novel of changing narrators, with narration strands disrupting and correcting each other – a style that works remarkably in the audiobook form.
This basic narration style is disrupted by quotes from numerous historical sources, weaving a factual basis for the fabulist story unfolding in the cemetery.

Listening to this, very oddly, felt like a guilty pleasure for how much I loved it? Not something I expected when approaching (*takes on snotty literary critic voice*) a book nominated for the Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious book prizes in existence. But I actually think Saunders has managed to strike a fragile balance with Lincoln in the Bardo: experimental writing of (in my humble opinion) actual literary merit, which I wouldn’t mind writing an essay on, which at the same time is highly readable, at times even indulgent.

The style is unusual, of course, and takes a minute or two to get used to, with the author giving you no hints or orientation in the first few chapters as to what the hell is going on, and without formal introduction of any of the characters, but once you get it, I found it a beautiful way of combining source material, dialogue and stream of consciousness. The closest I could probably come to defining it is a collective stream of consciousness, with distinct voices and styles all coming together in one coherent story thread, albeit a multifaceted one.

The most obvious theme around which all else seems to center for me is letting go, be it Abraham Lincoln letting go of his lost son or the dead letting go of their existence on earth by acknowledging their own death. The book looks at how we take the legacy of departed loved ones on with us, which is why I think I might like it even more once I’m old enough to have an understanding of grief and losing someone (is it weird that I have an inofficial post-loss TBR in my mind? Like, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter? Nevermind.)

Saunders also quite cleverly builds this narrative into the historical background, seemingly building a firm foundation for his story by quoting several sources, just to immediately undermine his own efforts, making you question the reliability of contemporary accounts by having them contradict each other on questions as whether the moon shone one particular night, making you subsequently question all historical description and to some extent preparing you for the unreliability of subjective narrative voices.

He also touches on the pressures the raging war put onto the president, and paints a delicate emotional picture of losing your own son while daily receiving death tolls from the war front, complimented by the accounts of soldier’s mothers who talk about losing their sons to what they seem to coin Lincoln’s war.

I could go on for hours, but I think you get the picture. It’s a fantastically clever, tender and beautiful book which I didn’t expect to even read and ended up loving a lot. If you can get your hands on the audio narration especially, I’d say give it a go – just maybe have a look at the physical book first and make yourself familiar with how the text is laid out so you don’t get completely lost, as seems to happen to a lot of people…

That being said, I might get myself a print copy to reread at some point, because I’ve heard it’s a very different experience yet, and I’m so up for more time in the bardo.

“begat” or: Some thoughts on reviewing books


So I mentioned begat by Felix Culpepper in my recent bookhaul and even linked you to my goodreads review, so I genuinely thought I was done talking about it. Turns out my brain isn’t ready to let the whole thing go quite yet.

I have been thinking about my relationship with reviewing books, prompted by this particular experience. Little backstory in case you’re one of the very few people in the universe who haven’t read my last blogpost. *awkward silence*
I went to London recently, and went bookshopping, including a trip to a indie bookstore I’ve never been to before. They had an uncorrected proof copy of this little novella called begat, a sign proclaiming it ‘the first satire novel for Trump-era America’ or something of that general disposition and prompted you to take one and have a read.

I really like books, you might have noticed, and I spend a lot of my time engaging with them. I find reviewing and criticism to be incredibly valuable parts of how we meet literature and I will time and time again force myself to write as many reviews as I can.

All this chasing the rather vague concept of good literature. Like what even?

I’m very much amenable to influence. If someone I respect a lot tells me a book is badly written, I find it hard to completely convince myself of anything otherwise. It’s something I’m working on, but for me, it means I never one hundred percent trust my own judgement – of course I go into a book expecting a certain level of writing, and I regularly wonder if subconsciously I make a book what I expect it to be.

That’s why I like to challenge myself to reading books I don’t know anything about. Literal blank pages. (Well not literal blank pages. I like my books to come with text, I’m conservative with that.) I’m not even allowed to have heard anything about the author. That way, I have to confront the bare writing completely unclouded by previous judgement. Which is something I want to be able to do.

Finding fascinating books that nobody has even mentioned is hard though. If you’re an absolute nobody comme moi who doesn’t get flooded with proof copies, interesting blank canvases can be hard to come by. Which is why I didn’t think twice to have a try at reading this one and being one of the first people to make my opinion heard. Because it’s really fucking exciting.

While, as I discuss in my review, the book itself didn’t overly impress me, it already feels weirdly important to me. I wouldn’t normally keep a two star-read, but I might have to hold on to this one to reread in a few years, reminisce about being a naive seventeen-year-old and reading this in a stuffy, rumbling tube train, jotting down mental notes on the narrator voice and the Frankenstein references. Teaching myself literary analysis. Constructing a professional review for a handful of people to ever see on goodreads.

That, I suppose, makes this my unprofessional thoughts on begat. Which are bordering on the ridiculous – consider this: I wanted a book to objectively review without any circumstances swaying my opinion. And yet here I am scribbling one of the most unobjective rambly posts of them all to tell you how profusely important writing a small goodreads review was to me. Maybe I’m just not a very objective human being?

Favourite London bookshops (+sneaky bookhaul)

So I went on a little trip, not nearly long enough to once again excuse my absence from the internet, but more than sufficient to go on an extended bookshop crawl. As the cool kids do.
I was planning on just doing a bookhaul to ease myself back, but I ended up digressing into bookshop gushing just too much to not rename the entire project. So here goes nothing: all of the beautiful bookshops I always come back to when going to London, plus the (very few) books I acquired.

Chain Bookshops

Just going to squeeze these in at the beginning: While I really try to be a good human and buy my books at indie shops, sometimes I’m a chain bookshop-special offer-victim and so it happened with the first few on my list…


1984 / Animal Farm / Down and Out in Paris and London; all by George Orwell

So this is neither original nor news, but I do love me some Orwell. I’ve read both 1984 (review!) and Animal Farm, but didn’t own either and could not resist these completely gorgeous editions. Down and Out in Paris and London is apparently an autobiographical piece about Orwell living on the streets of – now, you’ll never guess which cities. Don’t let me spoil it for you.

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The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

So this one’s gotten a spot of hype? Famously including our bookseller at Waterstone’s who couldn’t contain her excitement over my buying it. It’s a historical fiction set in Victorian Essex featuring, as far as I can gather, atmosphere and myth and feminism, so I’m sold.

The London Review Bookshop

The London Review Bookshop in Bloomsbury might just be my favourite physical space in the universe. It’s two levels of extremely well-chosen and sorted books of all varieties, a little cafe to get your obligatory cake intake and some of the most competent booksellers I know. They’re lovely as well, and whenever I’m in London, I try to get a few books there to let them know how much I appreciate their existence. These ones for example.


Bodies of Light and Signs for Lost Children; both by Sarah Moss

I’ll confess myself obsessed. Sarah Moss is magically talented, mindblowingly clever and quite possibly one of my favourite writers. So I had to get my hands on more, obviously.

These two seem to follow the same cast of characters, are set in Victorian England with a detour to Japan and loosely connected to her fabulous novel Night Waking which I’ve just read and lost my heart and ability to love other books to, but let’s be real, Moss could write about microbiology or ancient sculptural art and I would be the first to pay good money.


Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

Seeing this book in other people’s hands online I’d always assumed it to be a deliciously rubbery-matte paperback when it is, physical contact revealed, a gorgeous little hardback. That aside, I’m overly excited about the content as well.
You’re looking at a fictionalized version of the life of Margaret Cavendish, a 17th-century British duchess who wrote and published fiction, poetry and philosophy books at a time when women were supposed to, well, not write. From what I’ve seen of it, it appears to be written deliciously beautiful, almost bordering the prose poetry and it just appealed to me in a way that made it jump up my wishlist without much further research. Very excited for it.

Housmans Bookshop

So, the people at Housmans near King’s Cross blurb themselves Radical booksellers, which is something I can get behind… They have a massive non-fiction section sorted into areas of left-wing politics such as feminism, race relations, peace, anarchism, marxism, socialism and global relations. They also have lots of pamphlets, magazines and random little publications from smaller presses, as well as – and I appreciate this a lot – zines! The basement is split into a bargain room of £1 second hand books as well as a small, but select choice of fiction, poetry and art books. I’m rambling now, suffice to say, it’s literal paradise, you’ll come across books you never knew you needed and you’ll want them right there.


begat by Felix Culpepper

So here we have another thing about Housmans I love: they had a table of indie-published fiction, and on there was this, an uncorrected proof copy of a novella, free to take and have a look at. Which, being a wannabe book reviewer and always trying to challenge myself, I decided to do. I have already read it and written an in-depth review on goodreads in case you care, but let’s just say I didn’t love it.


The Rise of the Right by Simon Winlow, Steve Hall and James Treadwell

Finally, a piece of non-fiction and one I really wanted to look out for while in London, as it comes highly recommended by Sophie and just sounded SO good. It’s very niche, I suppose, and something I’ll have to concentrate on as I don’t know too much about British politics, and I might end up trying to pair it with Owen Jones’ The Establishment as that sounds like a lovely intense combination, dunnit?


Yet more non-fiction: Things that can and cannot be said by John Cusack and Arundhati Roy, who apparently put it together from interviews and essays, all prompted by a conversation with Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg, looking at society and power structures and big stuff like that? It sounds exceedingly interesting…

Any Amount of Books

So this one gets talked about a lot, but I’ll join the party. Any Amount of Books is a fucking magnificent second hand bookshop on Charing Cross Road who sell books in great condition for really fair prices. Especially since they’ll always give you spontaneous discount if you buy several books. They also have a shelf of recent hardback releases for second hand prices, which is particularly exciting.


Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss

So I’ve been trying to ease myself into reading essays this year and find myself massively enjoying them (other than last year – but we don’t talk about that…), specifically if I concentrate on social justice issues. Also, this is so embarassingly shallow, but I’m head over heels in love with the Fitzcarraldo editions and got to the point where I just couldn’t justify not buying one anymore.

Enter Notes from No Man’s Land, from what I can gather, essays focusing on race relations – a one-line blurb that will forever sell me.


In the Castle of My Skin by George Lamming is one I probably wouldn’t have picked up if I hadn’t stumbled across it in prostine condition here, but I quite like the sound of it. I’m really into Latinamerican and Caribbean literature right now, and this one’s set on Barbados, following a young boy on the brink of adulthood, the island around him shaped by crumbling colonialism, and it seems to be semi-autobiographical as well, so that sounds brilliant.


Foyles, also on Charing Cross Road, isn’t a well-kept secret either, but it’s such a wonderful place to be. Several storeys of literally every book ever (not true), shelves you can get lost in and once again, a place to rest with some coffee and cake. Good stuff.


Things we lost in the fire by Mariana Enriquez is a translated short story collection from Argentina, set in the murky backstreets of Buenos Aires and apparently playing with classic ghost story tropes, turning them around on their heads, adding a seasoning of magical realism with eerie Shirley Jackson vibes, so that’s that.

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Last one, guys, last one. This is, funnily enough, also my currently reading, and I’m completely in love… The Secret History by Donna Tartt has been on my mental wishlist forever, and would probably have remained a someday, maybe if I hadn’t spotted this breathtaking edition well-concealed amidst all the classic black ones. Well, now I’ve got it and was so excited I couldn’t wait a day to start it. I probably should listen to my mental wishlist more.

So there we are. A modest little selection *cough* which I’ve been saving up for, just to clarify, so that’ll last me a while as far as book buying goes. Onto the fun part, I say.

Consent Awakening.


Of all the many things still wrong in Western societies, public attitude to sexual consent is something that manages to disproportionately shock me everytime.
I cannot believe that in the year 2017, the concept of marital rape is still denied by some people; that laws like this one in North Carolina still exist and that there are people who think that joking about non-consensual sex is ‘just boy talk’.

So although I’d like to believe the following is common sense, here’s the definition I like to keep in mind: if someone involved did not explicitly consent, you’re having non-consensual sex.
It’s not that hard, is it? Feels like the kind of thing you could teach every kid without much strain. Maybe, like, mention it in sex ed? Well, I don’t know about where you’re from, but where I go to school, nobody taught me the basics of rape or not-rape.

Which is what I believe desperately needs to happen. Until that is mandatory, though, can we please at least try not to glorify rape??
Cause yes, that’s something that happened. In 10th grade German class, our curriculum includes reading the 19th century play ‘Frühlings Erwachen’ (‘Spring Awakening’) by Frank Wedekind.
Now, don’t get me wrong. That’s a great play and I massively enjoyed studying it. It shows the sexual awakening of a group of teenagers in late 19th century Germany and very openly critizises the sexual education and taboos of its time. We talked in detail about how that lack of open conversation caused the tragic results shown in the play, and most of the discussions we had in class were liberal and brilliant.

Which is why the following shocked me so much. In our final exam, we were given a scene in which two of the characters have sex, initiated by the male character who has managed to educate himself quite well, while the female character is simply clueless. She excessively protests the act, but is ignored by him.
Asked in our exam to judge whether the scene portrays a rape situation, I relativised this definition with circumstances, but insisted that sexual relations in which one partner protests verbally cannot be called anything else, even if she ‘did want it too’.

I got detracted points for an interpretation mistake. Given hints in other scenes that she did enjoy and want it too, I was supposed to classify the scene as consensual. Which the rest of my course did.

This is not me whining about a grade. I have discussed that intensely with the respective teacher; the only thing we could agree on being that we disagree.
This is me telling you how fifteen people went out of that German class having learned that no can also mean I secretly want this just as much, don’t you mind my protesting. That’s shit, man.

I genuinely believe that a critical approach to literature cannot just consist of contextualising it historically and socially to explain character’s behaviour. Keeping in mind problematic attitudes on sexuality and gender in many renowned classics, we have to keep applying contemporary thought and not excuse everything as ‘of its time’.

Our norms and morals aren’t a thing taught from textbooks in one specific class. They have to be the framework of everything we’re taught – which is why revolutionising the way we talk about sex has to happen in biology class, but it cannot stop there!

Doubleplusungood – 1984 by George Orwell

I do regularly write for my school newspaper, and recently I drew up an article on 1984 by George Orwell. To cure my blogging slump, I’ve now translated that article into English with some minor changes and decided to share it with you. Do enjoy.


The Second World War had just ended when in 1949, George Orwell published his last novel. In a world crumbling of post-war-atmosphere and a dawning Cold War, Orwell tried a look at the year 1984, distant future to him. Considering the world around him, it’s no wonder that got rather pessimistic.

In his worldwide renowned dystopia, Orwell conjures a world separated into three superstates instead of numerous smaller ones; Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. The three are constantly at war, a war whose fronts and alliances are as changeable as it’s goal is unclear.

Through the eyes of his protagonist Winston Smith, Orwell describes life in Oceania, the allegory of a totalitarian state. Every aspect of everyday life is meticulously controlled by “The Party”, lead by the mysterious “Big Brother”.

This Big Brother and the regularly cited sentence “big brother is watching you” have found their way not only into reality television, but also political debates.

After all, Orwell confronts the reader with the perfect surveillance state. Omnipresent, so-called telescreens watch the civilians at all times, from waking up to going to bed, while sleeping, eating, dressing, working and even spending their scarce freetime. Even critical thoughts concerning the political system are condemned as crimes (“crimethink”) and the Party is working at establishing a new language (“Newspeak”), that makes them literally impossible.

Winston, employed at the “Ministry of Truth”, describes his surroundings with mild disgust, but also the knowledge of absolute powerlessness. Only slowly does he find ways of silent resistance, for example by documenting the actual course of events in a diary. And then, he meets Julia, with whom he starts an affair. Bolder and bolder they try to find niches in a system of absolute control.

Orwell’s novel isn’t comfortable. It’s captivating, but also aggrieving, so terrifying the society he creates, so total the powerlessness of the individual.

Still, “1984” is more than worth the read. Not only is it gripping to the last page, it also palpably illustrates, why it is so important to defend freedom and privacy against pretended safety in times of terrorism and mass data collection. Because total surveillance would be disastrous for all of us. Or, to say it in Newspeak, doubleplusungood.

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards – Kristopher Jansma

This is an incredibly hard one to review. The more time passes since my reading of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma, the less I like it…?

Let’s start with a brief synopsis, because this is not one all over the book community. In fact, I’ve only seen Olive from bookolive talk about it, but she just sold it so damn well that, on coming across it at my local library, I couldn’t help my curiosity.

This novel follows an unnamed narrator and his quest to write a novel while maintaining relationships of some sorts with his best friend Julian McGann and his crush-hookup-maybe-slightly-manic-pixie-dreamgirl-but-also-friend-I-suppose-does-anyone-actually-like-her Evelyn. It jumps place a lot as the narrator travels around the world, always tormented by the absence of his literary success (or literally anything that would merit his life, as he just floats through abscure countries earning his living, drinking and not letting go of the two single-most pretentious people ever to enter a book, Julian and Evelyn).

It’s weird, but you’ll quickly see that plot isn’t really the dealbreaker here anyways. What this is marketed as really effectively is

1) brilliant literary writing and
2) a tour-de-force of unreliable narration.

So let’s talk about those.

1) The writing. I went into this the way I always do when I expect a book to be exquisitely written: ready to savor every syllable. And I wouldn’t say that was completely misplaced, because Jansma without a doubt put a lot of thought into the word-composing.
It’s just not a brilliant success in moments where I can literally feel him yield a sentence in form. There’s loads of bits where I forgot his presence and genuinely liked the writing, but when I didn’t, it really pissed me off.

Still I was ready to label it fairly well-written until I read the very last few pages, which just felt crude and badly crafted and really pulled down my impression of the entire thing. Also, I’m not sure how much of that is conscious but whenever there’s excerpts of what the characters in the novel have written (yes, I know, talking about it twists your perception) it’s just shit. Like hands down complete rubbish.

2) The unreliable narrator-ism. I WAS SO DISAPPOINTED BY THIS.
Everyone just kept talking about the narrator’s constant lies and blending fiction and fact and I was so ready to have my mind messed with by him. He just didn’t.
Yes, the way he creates fiction was fascinating to put into relation with what you’re told and what is implied, but I wanted moments of complete mind-blown-overwhelmed-being and just kept waiting.

So yes, this didn’t give me everything I wanted from it. Or really, anything I wanted from it. Still, I wouldn’t say it was terrible or I dragged through it. I just kept waiting for more, and maybe that made me miss the brilliant implications, but I just thought it was an okay-done super weird (in a fun-there’s jungles and palaces and ice and drugs and Russian fishing huts in it-way) but slightly overambitious novel composition with a shit ending. Not really bad, because great bits, but not great either, because really bad bits.

Reading Bingo 2017


So, you might’ve noticed there’s no post of Reading Resolutions or big plans for the year beside my (very chill) TBR. That’s because, while I love challenging myself, all I want this year’s reading to be is enjoyable and pressure-free.
I’ve got a lot of stuff going on in school right now, and there’s just more than enough pressure happening without me contributing to it further. And while I massively enjoyed #bustlereads last year, especially in November it stressed me out a lot because not only did I want to finish all tasks, but I wanted to do it in time for bookmas and loads of reviews.
While that kind of pressure might work for some, it doesn’t for me and makes reading, my literal favourite thing to do, a task I have to force myself to.

That’s why I didn’t want to do any fancy reading challenges for 2017. Until I wrote my wrap-up post for bustlereads and realised how many great books I discovered by doing it. So I decided, to keep it stressfree, to make my own reading challenge just for myself. Enter Reading Bingo 2017.

I called it that because in my reading diary, I drew a bingo field to mark my finished challenges in, inspired by the Diversity Bingo currently making its rounds on the internet. Here, however, I’ll only give you the prompts I ended up using.
I’m basically trying to challenge myself a bit to not fall asleep in my comfort zone, but very much adjusted all the tasks to fit my interests and what I’d like to personally achieve. Some may seem ridiculous, but I really feel this will just serve as a reminder to not get too comfortable, without stressing myself too much, because reading is my comfort place after all and I really need it right now.

Reading Bingo 2017 challenges:

o  Read a Shakespeare Play

o  Read a Collection of Poetry.

o  Read a Hyped Book You Wouldn’t Normally Read

o  Read a Book in French

o  Reread a Book

o  Read a Collection of Short Stories

o  Read a Book by John Steinbeck

o  Read a Book Set In An African Country. (obviously #ownvoices)

o  Read a Book Set In An Asian Country. (again, definitely #ownvoices)

o  Read a Book You’ve Never Heard Of

o  Read a Collection of Essays

o  Reread a Book You’ve Read in 2017.

o  Read a Book Over 500 pages

o  Read a Book That Intimidates You

o  Read a Play NOT by Shakespeare

o  Read a Man Booker Winner.

o  Read a Non-Fiction by Someone You Don’t Agree With.

I’ll try to, once again, do reviews on as many as possible and document my progress on the blog. I hope you’re as excited as I am about this, because I honestly think it’s exactly right for me right now…