Thursday 12 April 2007

50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About

1. The Summer Book - Tove Jansson
I don't think I'll be causing too much of a literary storm if I suggest that Chaucer and Tove Jansson are odd bedfellows. But, nevertheless, they share the dubious acclaim of being the first authors to be heralded. And Tove is kicking off something I hope to continue intermitently for quite a while: 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About.

Hopefully I'll be able to bring a few to people's attention, which they wouldn't discover on the 3 for 2 tables, and of course I welcome recommendations - which will be ingested, and perhaps appear in this countdown (which is, I hasten to add, in no particular order) in the future. I played around with HTML for a while yesterday, but failed in adding a third column - so a list will be kept of the 50 Reads, down there somewhere on the far left.

I'm easing you in with The Summer Book, which I think has already done the rounds of blogs - certainly spotted it on Cornflower. Translated from the Swedish, and by the author of the Moomin Books, this falls between being a collection of short stories, and a fragmented-but-continuous narrative of the relationship between Sophia and her grandmother. More than anything else, it is a mesmerically beautiful evocation of Summer. Maybe it's because it was originally written in another language, but there is an atmosphere of ethereality and airiness throughout this work. Finding it difficult to put my finger on why this book is
so evocative, but I'm going to give up and just say: it is! Rarely have I left a novel, especially one not especially comedic, loving the characters so much, and appreciating the style of an author more.

Here's the first line, to entice you:
'It was an early, very warm morning in July, and it had rained during the night. The bare granite steamed, the moss and crevices were drenched with moisture, and all the colours everywhere had deepened. Below the veranda, all the vegetation in the morning shade was like a rainforest of lush, evil leaves and flowers, which she had to be careful not to break as she searched. She held one hand in front of her mouth and
was constantly afraid of losing her balance.
"What are you doing?" asked little Sophia'

Do read on. And it's a beautiful book to look at, which can't be a bad thing. That's right, folks, two days in and I'm already judging a book by its cover.

Anyone read it? Or The Winter Book, the sequel currently sitting on my shelf?
Countdown begins...


  1. Just so you know - because Blogger are so good about letting you put any HTML you want into the template, it's entirely possible to use templates that other people have written. Google "3 column Blogger templates" and have a browse around - I found the nifty expandable posts function on a similar kind of site as well, although that one's a little more coding-intensive. And incidentally, The Summer Book also comes heavily recommended by my sister. I may steal it off her shortly.

  2. No I haven't read TSB or TWB but my money is on a certain Miss H appearing in the list of 50 at some time!

  3. you're not wrong, Ruth, not wrong at all!

  4. checking our local libraries and bookstores in the Pacific Northwest ... no luck yet

    boo hoo


  5. Just found your blog (better late than never) and ordered a copy of the summer book - can't wait to read it.

  6. Have seen this on your list ages ago - just found a copy in a generous cafe. TJ was one of my favourite children's authors for Moomintroll and she brings the same style and atmosphere into this book. Same philosophy of letting children see negative emotions as well as positive ones, but not taking oneself too seriously. And a love of all the nature/wildlife on the island. Great book, thanks!

  7. may i ask what are your favorite books?

  8. I've just discovered your blog. What a lovely surprise to find one of my absolute favourite books number one on your must reads. I grew up reading the Moomintroll books and only discovered the Summer and Winter books as an adult. Having since spent a lot of time in Sweden, I've come to appreciate even more the special world Janssen has created in her work. A wonderful writer and a talented artist. Thanks for your post.

  9. And I too have just discovered your blog via Persephone books' blog. What a delight your blog is and to see that you are highlighting this wonderful book, The Summer Book. Like Elizabeth above I grew up on Moonmintroll - a series of books that still resound even into my adulthood. I adore Tove Jansson's style and The Summer Book, for me, is a breath of fresh air... and that's why I picked it up off my shelf only just the other day to read again.

  10. I too have just discovered your blog (via Persephone books). What a delight your blog is and I'm so pleased to see you have mentioned Tove Jansson and The Summer Book. This book for me is a complete breath of fresh air... Funny, but I picked this book up off my shelf again only just the other day to read for the second time.


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