Birthday Book Haul

I wanted to make a short post about the books I recently received for my birthday, as I’m pretty excited about all of them.  Well, I picked them out and got them with gift cards, but you know what I mean.  Everyone who knows me knows that half the fun for me is deciding which books to get, and no one I know, including family, is really a reader, so they don’t really have a lot of bookish ideas and recommendations that they want to share with me.  So I suppose it’s simpler all around to let me do the choosing; and I’m perfectly happy with that!

I suppose it doesn’t help matters that I’m one of those sad babies born between Christmas and New Years, when everyone is pretty much celebrated out.  *heavy holiday baby sigh*  So, at the risk of sounding maudlin, even small things mean a lot to me around my birthday.  It’s just nice that people remember!

I had a list of books I wanted to round up, including recent releases, but I ended up going in a completely different direction.  I got four books that are harder to come by, if not obscure, plus one omnibus I’ve been wanting to read for ages.  (One of these was actually on my original list…how’d I manage that?)

All descriptions are from Goodreads.

obabakoakObabakoak:  Stories from a Village by Bernardo Atxaga (Margaret Jull Costa, translation) (Basque/Spain 1988, on the 1001 Books list)

“…winner of Spain’s National Prize for Literature, Obabakoak, a work of fiction, is one of only several hundred books to be written in four centuries in Basque, a language understood by few (the author himself had to translate his book into Spanish to broaden its appeal throughout Europe, where it has been published to ecstatic acclaim).   Obabakoak means “the people and things of Obaba (a Basque village)” 

 “Obabakoak is a shimmering, mercurial collection about life in Obaba, a remote, exotic Basque village. A schoolboy’s miningengineer father tricks him into growing up, an unfortunate environmentalist rescues deceptively harmless lizards, and a rescue mission on a Swiss mountain-climbing expedition in Nepal turns into murder. Obaba is peopled with innocents and intellectuals, shepherds and schoolchildren, while everyone from a lovelorn schoolmistress to a cultured but self-hating dwarf wanders across the page. Hints of darker undercurrents mingle with moments of wry humor in this dazzling collage of stories, town gossip, diary excerpts, and literary theory, all held together by Bernardo Atxaga’s distinctive and tenderly ironic voice. “

budapestBudapest by Chico Buarque (Brazil 2003)

This cross-genre musing on language, linguistics, culture, culture shock, Hungary and love is by an author better known for being one of the most loved composers /singers/guitarists from Brazil.

My family on my father’s side is full Hungarian, and I read most anything I can get my hands on from or involving the country.

“Jose Costa is a ghostwriter – and not the kind who appears in all the magazines with models at his side. He knows he is fated to remain in the shadows of his illustrious clients – judges, politicians, the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro – and that writing another’s life will always feel like “having an affair with somebody else’s wife,” but he takes his craft seriously. His best work is framed in his office overlooking the Copacabana Beach. But something is nagging Mr. Costa. While having a beer one day, he decides to buy a ticket to Budapest.  In the city by the Danube, he falls in love with “the only tongue the devil respects” – and with a strangely enchanting woman named Kriska. After insisting that one does not learn the Magyar language from books, Kriska offers to teach him in a much more intimate way. First, though, he must observe the old proverb – “there is no life outside Hungary” – and abandon his thoughts of samba, sunbathers on Ipanema, Sugarloaf Mountain, and his wife in Rio; and turn himself over to a strange, hallucinogenic world of pumpkin rolls, late-night discos in old Buda, and endless bottles of Trojak wine. And of course, always Kriska, the willful seductress and disciplinarian who is as hard to fathom and tame as the language she speaks. But what will become of Jose, now Zsoze, when his time in Budapest comes to an end and life as he knows it is turned upside down?”

seed to harvestSeed to Harvest:  Patternmaster #1-4 omnibus by Octavia E. Butler (US, orig. pub. 1976-1984)

Contains the novels Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark, and Patternmaster.

In her classic Patternist series, multiple Hugo and Nebula award winner Octavia E. Butler established themes of identity and transformation that echo thoughout her distinguished career. Now collected for the first time in one volume, these four novels take readers on a wondrous odyssey from a mythic, primordial past to a fantastic far future.
In ancient Africa, a female demigod of nurture and fertility mates with a powerful, destructive male entity. Together they birth a race of madmen, visionaries, and psychics who cling to civilization’s margins and back alleys for millenia, coming together in a telepathic Pattern just as Earth is consumed by a cosmic invasion. Now these new beings–no longer merely human–will battle to rule the transfigured world.”

an imaginary lifeAn Imaginary Life by David Malouf (Australia 1978)

In the first century A.D., Publius Ovidius Naso, the most urbane and irreverent poet of imperial Rome, was banished to a remote village on the edge of the Black Sea. From these sparse facts, Malouf has fashioned an audacious and supremely moving novel. Marooned on the edge of the known world, exiled from his native tongue, Ovid depends on the kindness of barbarians who impale their dead and converse with the spirit world.Then he becomes the guardian of a still more savage creature, a feral child who has grown up among deer. What ensues is a luminous encounter between civilization and nature, as enacted by a poet who once cataloged the treacheries of love and a boy who slowly learns how to give it.”

indigoIndigo by Marina Warner (UK 1992, on the 1001 Books list)

Indigo is a shimmering, lyrical novel about power and transformation. Inspired by Shakespeare’s magic play The Tempest, prizewinning writer Marina Warner refashions the drama to explore the restless conflicts between the inhabitants of a Caribbean island and the English family who settled it. From that violent moment in the seventeenth century when the English buccaneer Kit Everard arrives at Enfant-Beate, the islanders’ fate is intertwined, often tragically, with that of the Everards. The voices that map the fortunes of those born, raised, or landed on the island pass from the wise woman Sycorax in the past, a healer and a dyer of indigo, to the native nanny Serafine Killebree, who transforms them to fairy tales for the two little Everard girls in London in the 1950s. At the center of the modern-day story is the relationship between these two young women: Xanthe, the golden girl, brash and confident, and Miranda, self-conscious and uneasy, who struggles with her Creole inheritance. When Xanthe decides they should return to Enfant-Beate to restore their fortunes, she binds the family closer to its past and awakens a history marked with passions and portents that takes the two women on very different paths of discovery. Sensuous and earthy, humorous and magical, Indigo is a novel of powerful originality and imagination.”

So…a few more welcome editions to the TBR piles.  I hope to get to at least a few of them this year.  If I don’t, I’m sure they’ll end up on a “read the books you already own” challenge next year!


8 thoughts on “Birthday Book Haul

    • Several years back, I realized the same thing – I didn’t read enough outside of my own language/culture. Since I branched out, I’ve been much more satisfied with the breadth of my reading experience. It’s revitalized my love of reading, which had begun to lag a bit in my early 30s (when my son was little.) Now that I’m in my early 40s and realize I have a whole world to read still, I’m fully back into book obsession.

  1. Happy Birthday! (slightly belated) My birthday is a week before Christmas so I know what you mean. Personally, I just sort of celebrate during the entirety December.

    What an interesting list! Budapest certainly catches my eye, but all seem pretty extraordinary.


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