Umberto Eco, Tove Jansson and More: My Books of the Month #5

I have been an obsessive reader for as long as I can remember. Here are the books that I have read this past month.


Away with the Penguins
by Hazel Prior (2020)

The environmentalist message, personified by an elderly wealthy British lady (a first in literature?) is certainly a redeeming factor. However, there is much cleverness, depth of character and sophistication sacrificed for the sake of writing yet another feel-good novel. Which I’m sure makes it super-popular.


Our Europe: Banquet of Nations
by Laurent Gaudé (2019)

It’s a fine, positive, epic poem on the history of Europe and the European Union. A call for a revolution of ideas. The sad thing is that it is also among the incredibly few books out there that take this pro-EU and, frankly, pro-democratic stance. This is mad, considering how many books were burnt and are burnt by anything but democracy.

by Miha Mazzini (1987)

Best-selling Slovenian book of all time but I have so little good to say about it. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt — maybe the translation was a bit rubbish. Even then, it’s way, way, way too influenced by Bukowski but lacking the same level of self-deprecating honesty.


How to Write a Thesis
by Umberto Eco (1977)

Good old Umberto Eco to the rescue. He must have been one heck of an educator; he comes across as really caring and understanding without being patronizing at all and even offering the reader the opportunity to consider whether they even want to write a thesis after all. Personally, I had to skip over the parts that seemed more dated. But there’s enough in there to help and encourage just about anybody.


A Light Affliction: A History of Film Preservation and Restoration
by Michael Binder (2014)

I was always going to give this book a five-star rating because it is a major starting point for any research on the history of film preservation. Of course, as often is the case with books of this kind, a major part of the world is missing from this mostly Westernized account of movie history. But, that’s where the opportunity for future generations of African, Asian, Latin American and even Eastern European scholars to fill in the gap.


The Summer Book
by Tove Jansson (1972)

Charming episodic novel lacking the overly romanticized conventions of others similarly exploring relationships between old age and childhood. The fact that it is set on a tiny Finnish island even adds a touch of otherworldliness to it.

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