My To-Read Pile


I’m spending this week in a semi-vegetative state: sleeping late, taking walks at noon with my wife & kids, eating chocolate, drinking tea, and reading. Here’s my late-2011 selection of reading matter.

  • Svavelvinter. Erik Granström 2004. Swedish fantasy.
  • Proggiga barnböcker – därför blev vi som vi blev. Kalle Lind 2010. About the pinko hippie children’s books of the 1970s.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Jules Verne 1870.
  • Night Train to Rigel. Timothy Zahn 2005. Scifi. (Thanks Birger!)
  • Kinarapport 2011 Yearbook. About China.
  • Diktaren på tronen. Michael Nordberg 2011. About 13th century Spain.
  • Discourses of Empire. Hans Leander 2011. My cousin’s theology dissertation.
  • Landskaparna: Utskrift 11. Halland province archaeology.
  • Sundry pop-sci archaeology mags.
  • Kapten Stofil, jultidning 2011. Swedish comics.
  • Sveriges Nationalatlas. Språken i Sverige. Eds. Östen Dahl & Lars-Erik Edlund 2010.
  • Zeroscape. Michael T. Gamble 2011. Techno thriller written by a physicist. (Review copy.)
  • Köttets poesi 2. Blodet i svensk text från Petrus de Dacia till Ivar Conradson. Eds. Carl-Michael Edenborg & Mattias Forshage 1997. Anthology of Swedish writings on blood through the ages. The first volume is about genitals.
  • The Chalk Circle Man. Fred Vargas 2009. French mystery.
  • Shadow of the Scorpion. Neal Asher 2008. Scifi. (Thanks Birger!)
  • And if I get tired of reading I can watch the old UK scifi series about Bernard Quatermass. (Thanks Birger!)

What are you reading apart from this blog entry, Dear Reader?


  1. #1 Kristina
    December 27, 2011

    Handbook of Medieval Sexuality, A Companion to Malory, and a book on medieval marriage. Yes, I’m having a working holiday….

  2. #2 Martin R
    December 27, 2011

    They must have had pretty dismal sex during the Middle Ages, considering that the handbook wasn’t published until 1996.

  3. #3 Thomas Ivarsson
    December 27, 2011

    “Proggiga barnböcker” seems interesting. Do you remeber what we had on the two allowed state television channels? More socialist stuff like “Ville, Valle Victor” (three socialist bums) and “lost in the pancake”?

    I am reading Stig Welinders “Swedish History 13000 BC -600 AD” and different database/information technology focused books.

  4. #4 Martin R
    December 27, 2011

    I finished that book yesterday. Good fun, recommended! And sure I remember those TV shows. I was a big fan of “Lost in the pancake”. And the three Commie vagrants feature in the book.

  5. #5 Damian Walker
    December 27, 2011

    My current read is (still) “A Summarie of Englyshe Chronicle” by John Stow. I need to find more reading time: 100 pages down, 1200 to go… 🙂

  6. #6 Martin R
    December 27, 2011

    A 16th century historian! Hope it’s an annotated edition or that you have the knowledge necessary to recognise the errors…

  7. #7 Damian Walker
    December 28, 2011

    It’s a 1598 edition of Stow (see name link below), so not annotated. As for errors, Stonehenge built in the time of king Arthur… lots of arithmetical errors too, in addition to miscalculation of dates based on the assumption that the Islamic calendar uses a solar year. But still great fun to read, if a bit hefty.

  8. #8 Martin R
    December 28, 2011

    Awesome! What did you pay for it?

    I transcribed a Swedish 17th century travelogue a few years back and put it on-line. But rather than buying the book, I paid the Royal Library to scan it and put it on a CD for me.

  9. #9 Birger Johansson
    December 28, 2011

    For non-English readers Captain Stofil is an over-the-hill superhero who is so conservative he drives a pre-WWII Tatra car and sends angry letters to the newspapers about every change in the cityscape and every perceived devolvement of mores. He also manages to fight some similarly superannuated supervillains.

    It is as if Newt Gingrich or John Major had a secret life as superheroes.
    — — — — — — — —
    Read during the holiday: “The Complaints” by Ian Rankin:
    Bloody great stuff, mate !

    Also, have read more of the “Bryant and May” detective series, whodunnits crammed with cultural information about London’s past.

  10. #10 Birger Johansson
    December 28, 2011

    Kapten Stofil’s take on Archaeology and the youth of today:

    “Back in my youth we had proper kings, 80-year-old blokes who did amateur archaeology in Toscana. The young whippersnapper who passes for king today thinks Schliemann is a German beer.
    We even had proper enemies, with tanks and nukes and everything. We were 4 billion who got the whole Sarah Connor experience, not knowing if the world would still be there by lunchtime. The kids today worry about bearded blokes detonating a dynamite stick. We used those to pick our noses! Grumble grumble no manners grumble bowler hats respect.”

  11. #11 Damian Walker
    December 28, 2011

    The Stow volume cost me £120 (2001, York book fair) but is lacking its title page. Some later pages are missing too, and other page numbers (but not pages) duplicated, but it appears to have been that way from the day it was bound.

  12. #12 Martin R
    December 28, 2011

    In the travelogue I mentioned, page 167 (right) is followed by page 169 (left). The text of page 168 is missing, and in the rest of the book the left-hand pages bear odd numbers.

    Does your copy of Stow have any interesting marginalia or previous owner’s marks?

  13. #13 Damian Walker
    December 29, 2011

    There are no bookplates or similar in the Stow, though the leather cover is stamped with a heraldic shield that would give a clue to previous ownership (motto UNG(sic) DIEU UNG ROY). There have been a couple of brief (1-2 word) remarks scribbled in the margins so far, but I’m having trouble deciphering them. They appear to be cut off at the page edge, suggesting that the book has been cropped at some point in its life.

  14. #14 Martin R
    December 29, 2011

    Ung is “young” in Swedish and Dieu is “God” in French. This suggests that the book’s former owner (who had it cropped and re-bound) was a member of the Swiss body music band The Young Gods. And apparently a royalist.

  15. #15 Matt B.
    December 29, 2011

    I’m reading The System of the World, the brilliant Neal Stephenson’s third volume of the Baroque Cycle.

    I also read the Handbuch der mittelalterlichen Architektur (Handbook of Mediaeval Architecture) by Mathias Untermann.

  16. #16 Birger Johansson
    December 29, 2011

    Recently read…
    The Victoria Vanishes (Bryant & May 6) by Fowler. Impossible crimes & much British history.
    The Sentry: A Joe Pike Novel by Robert Crais. A British author writes about a very American hero.
    Secrets of the Fire Sea by Stephen Hunt -A good mix of steampunk and fantasy.

    — — — — — — — — —
    (OT) Irikaitz archaeological site — host to a 25,000-year-old pendant “Open-air archaeology”

  17. #17 Martin R
    December 29, 2011

    Matt, I wonder if Untermann has a neighbour named Übermensch.

    Detectives Bryant & May sound like good fun!

  18. #18 Kristina
    December 29, 2011

    Judging by the handbook, they had surprisingly interesting sex even without it. It is not, alas, particularly helpful for my article, which is languishing. Christmas is perhaps not the time to get excited about the erotisation of violence in male sexuality? And if you type that phrase into google you will find out why I have an exception from my work place’s IT policy.

  19. #19 Jonathan Jarrett
    December 29, 2011

    Mainly friends’ and colleagues’ work about early medieval charters: a series editor set us a deadline of the year-end for the delivery of a book manuscript of papers from a set of conference sessions of which I am one of the editors. It now turns out that the deadline wasn’t serious! Well it’s too late now the manuscript is coming anyway! I’m not going to tell the authors they didn’t actually have to do it yet after all now they’ve all sacrificed holiday time to finish on or near time…

  20. #20 Martin R
    December 29, 2011

    Kristina, Michael Nordberg’s book informs me that 14th / 15th century Italy was unusually homophobic, and that this led among other things to certain city-states encouraging straight prostitution because it was believed that this would remove the incentive for much buggery. Into this environment, post-1492 Columbian sailors dropped the syphilis bacterium…

  21. #21 Kristina
    December 29, 2011

    Martin, that would appear to be true – the municipally sponsored brothels (the inmates of which had lower status than streetwalkers) were intended to fight the perceived epidemic of homosexual encounters. Weird, but presumably better than the death penalty. Incidentally, I think the jury is back out on whether syphilis truly came from the new world?

  22. #22 Martin R
    December 29, 2011

    The jury came back in just the other day. A major review of the evidence concluded that all radiocarbon dates that suggest pre-1492 syphilis in Europe are either a) not from syphilitic skeletons, or b) from fish-based economies where the marine reservoir effect can throw off radiocarbon by a century or two.

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