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Read any good books lately?

EPI and I are going to Croatia at the end of next week. I’ve never been and everyone I talk to and everything I read is overwhelmingly positive, so I’m pretty psyched. We’re staying on the Adriatic coast and possibly we’ll rent a car and do some touring, but mostly I’m looking forward to just basking in the sun and splashing in the sea.

We’ve actually got into the habit of going abroad slightly off-season in the past few years. Last year we went to New York in September, and we’ve gone to Portugal a couple of times in May. The reason is simple: I have a hard time staying away from Iceland in the height of summer, when the light is so magical and the nights so long.

Anyway, my dilemma is this: I need a good book to read. Something that is emotionally engaging as well as a page turner. Something perfect for the beach lounger. Any suggestions? Icelandic or English – I’m open to either.

Also, if you’ve been to Croatia, I’d love any tips you have on things to do, food to order, wine to drink, places to see … all that usual tourist stuff.


With highs around 14°C, no precipitation… they’re saving that for Sunday, apparently. Sunrise and sunset same as last post – evidently there’s no update available since it’s only a few minutes past midnight.

PS. I’ve almost finished The Magus – I’ve enjoyed it, but it hasn’t appealed to me the same way it did 20 years ago. Finding it a bit dated. Times change!



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  • Sonja September 6, 2008, 12:59 am

    The curse of the poco stick eftir Colin Cotterill. Ég hef ekki lesið hana en það var umfjöllun um hana á NPR og þetta hljómaði spennandi.


    Það eru fleiri bækur í þessum flokki, vonandi finnast einhverjar þeirra á Íslandi.

  • Dave Z. September 6, 2008, 1:03 am

    “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. It was my pool lounging book a couple of summers ago. The wife of the traveler lives her life in linear time, whilst the traveler spontaneously and randomly travels through time, but always within his lifetime. The story takes place around Chicago, my home town. It has been made into a movie being released this December in the USA.

    “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom, is a little shorter, so it might be easier to complete on vacation.

  • Professor Batty September 6, 2008, 2:39 am

    The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich, a mixing of American Indian ritual and myth in a realistic setting. Any of her books are good.

  • Zoe September 6, 2008, 3:43 am

    I was going to recommend the Time Traveler’s Wife… but someone beat me to it!

    If you want to read about a terribly co-dependent relationship between a teenage Mary Sue and a sparkly vampire, all the while wondering how this trash got published, go for Twilight! Soon to be a major motion picture!

    I also enjoyed The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neil tremendously. Chick lit that is actually hilarious.

  • marjolijn September 6, 2008, 8:00 am

    I know Croatia well and could tell you where to go, but which part of the coast are you staying? If splashing in the sea is what you are looking for: bring water shoes. Sea-urchins love Croatian waters too.

  • alda September 6, 2008, 1:00 pm

    Thanks, everyone. I’m taking all your suggestions with me when I go to the bookstore this week. Alas, I’m afraid they may not all be available in Iceland, though.

    marjolijn – we’re staying in Istria, Porec to be exact. We were wondering about the national parks – do you have any recommendations there? And yes, I had heard that about the plastic shoes.

  • Jessica September 6, 2008, 3:03 pm

    Hi Alda,
    I highly recommend Dave Egger’s book “What is the what”. It is the story of a young refugee from Darfur and his struggles to make a new life for himself in the Western world. It is a very inspiring story without being sappy and the stories of the young man’s journey through Africa are fascinating. (And the best part is that it’s not part of Oprah’s Book Club so it hasn’t become a cliche!) Eggers uses such interesting viewpoints to tell his stories. It’s a real page-turner!

  • Dumdad September 6, 2008, 4:44 pm

    I recently read The Ghost by Robert Harris. Entertaining yarn.

  • James McNally September 6, 2008, 5:00 pm

    Ooh, Croatia. I’ve been twice. Once in 1989, when it was still part of Yugoslavia. Don’t miss Split or Dubrovnik, magical places both. The most recent trip was in 2006, as part of our trip to Slovenia (which is also amazing). We just went to the Istrian peninsula, and visited some amazing places like Brijuni, which used to be Tito’s island retreat, the mountain village of Motovun, and the town of Porec. You can see just our Croatia pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmcnally/tags/croatia/

    Will look forward to hearing about your trip in person in a few weeks’ time!

  • Andrew September 6, 2008, 6:53 pm

    Hi Alda, just found your blog through Annie’s. I put out a book appeal much like your one a few weeks ago when i was going on holiday and got a few decent responses. One suggestion was Persepolis, which I wasn’t able to find before I went away, but have recently bought. It’s a graphic novel about a girl growing up in Iran and it’s excellent. I imagine it’s been translated into Icelandic (though the English version would be easy for you to read) and it should be widely available at the moment due to it being made into a film recently.

    Failing that, the Time Traveller’s Wife is as good as people are saying, though for some reason I never got round to finishing it.
    short stories are brilliant on holiday, so for that reason I would recommend a different Dave Eggers book, How We Are Hungry. His stories vary hugely in length but they’re all good.

    Hope this helps, and enjoy your holiday. My brother’s just been in croatia and says it’s beautiful but I haven’t seen him yet to hear any specific recommendations.

  • Kate September 6, 2008, 9:54 pm

    Short stories by Isaac Singer like Short Friday, Gimpel the Fool , The Seance etc. belong to my favourites, they are full of wonder, humour and irony, pleasure for soul and flesh equally for holidays in the sun as well as for long winter nights!!!

  • Mark Larson September 6, 2008, 9:56 pm

    I agree, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is quite a page-turner. Good stuff. But my first thought was to recommend Larry McMurtry’s book, “Lonesome Dove.” Good luck… be sure to report back.

  • hildigunnur September 6, 2008, 10:56 pm

    Anything by Iain Banks. If he spells it Iain M. Banks it’s science fiction. Can probably get some of the books at the library, even.

  • Victoria September 6, 2008, 11:50 pm

    Croatia :
    Nearby will be Pula – with its famous ruins of Roman amphitheatre; beautiful Roving – a small town with picturesque streets and delicious bakeries; National Park on Krk. If you rent a car – Plitvice Lakes are the absolute must, the colour of their water is absolutely mesmorizing. Split and Dubrovnik are gems but they are quite far away from Porec.
    Food-wise – all fish related dishes are good, from deserts – tiramisu considered to be their speciality, ice-cream is excellent and comes in wide range of flavour.
    Have a good time.

  • Tannálfurinn September 7, 2008, 12:06 am

    everything by Paulo Coelho.. Brida is good and so is Aska, áður en ég dey, dauði trúðsins and so on and so on. I sometimes read a book a week 🙂

  • Tannálfurinn September 7, 2008, 12:09 am

    ó já.. gleymdi Þúsund skínandi sólir og Flugdrekahlauparinn!!! Sólirnar eru betri en drekarnir finnst mér. Moving books

  • Ruth September 7, 2008, 12:46 am

    Hi Alda!

    Eat, Pray, Love is a neat book and quick read. Entertainng yet philosophical tale of a woman who, after a divorce and another failed relationship, tries to find herself through the fun and frolic of Italy, then to the spiritual quest for God in India, and finally to Indonesia to put it all together.

    Have a fabulous trip.

  • marjolijn September 7, 2008, 7:22 am

    I agree with Victoria. To add some more: If you stay in Istrie, I would recommend you go inland. As for the coast, Trogir en Zadar are good places to visit, but it’s a bit far maybe. From Rijeka – not too far from where you are staying- you can take a ferry boat to one of the islands: Cres and Krk. You can reach Krk by car as well, there is a bridge south- east from Rijeka. The islands – to me- are the best places to go. The national park Plitvice is nice and by this time of the year not too busy. Food and wine can be excellent, depending on where you go. Many restaurants try to please the average tourist. Try Croatian cheese and of course fish and some local wines and rakija. And being away from Iceland: lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
    Have a nice trip!

  • christina September 7, 2008, 9:34 am

    Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin.
    I do recommend it. It´s a novel about a crime but it’s also about Öland, an island southeast of Sweden. Islands are special, there is something about the importance of the weather and the sea that people living on the mainland can´t understand.
    This is Johan Theorin’s first novel, but that is impossible to get when one reads it. He did win some newcomer’s award in Great Britain, I think, and the book was translated faster than anything.

  • Kirsten September 7, 2008, 12:26 pm

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo…… by Stieg Larsson – 1 of 3 and they are all great books.
    You can buy it in english but not yet in icelandic.
    Enjoy Croatia 🙂

  • alda September 7, 2008, 1:01 pm

    Thanks everyone! Some of the books you recommend I’ve already read (e.g. both of the Afghanistan books) but most of them I haven’t. I’ll see which of these are available here – either at the library or in a bookstore.

    Great suggestions for Croatia, too. I’ll have to read up on those places in the guidebook.

  • Eyfjord September 7, 2008, 4:42 pm

    Hi Alda,
    I’ve been finishing those 2 books and i will recommand them, they are easy to read and offer quite a good time.
    A long Way down by Nick Hornby, everything about nick hornby is good to take actually. This story could have been tragic but it is extremely well written and quite funny.
    Kristof Magnusson, Zuhause (Retour a Reykjavík in french).I do not know the title of this book in english nor Icelandic, i’ve been reading it in french and it has been written in german. the writer has icelandic background but lived in Germany. I loved it, here too the story could have been sad and tragic but it is funny, full of music references and icelandic sagas.
    with or without those books have a great time in Croatia, i’m thinking about dragging my husband there next september.

  • Rachel September 7, 2008, 8:32 pm

    I’m so jealous you’re going to Croatia- it’s one of my favourite holiday spots! Porec is lovely- we stayed in the Diamant apartments which was probably the best place I’ve ever stayed in on holiday [I checked that out on TripAdvisor before we went 🙂 ] We went on a trip to Slovenia while we were there- to the caves in Postojna which were pretty amazing,and the stud farm in Lipica.I’m not particuarly interested in horses,but it was all quite interesting.I’d definitely recommend going over the border,it’s not too far away.

  • alda September 7, 2008, 9:05 pm

    Rachel – so glad to read your input, especially since we’ll be staying at the Diamant apartments as well! The TripAdvisor reviews for them are excellent, so we’ve felt fairly confident about it. One question, though: how far is the beach, and is there a shop nearby to buy food? (OK that’s two questions. :))

  • France September 8, 2008, 9:03 am

    Hello Alda,
    Long-time reader but first time commenter. Couldn’t pass up on the chance to offer suggestions for a book!
    I’ll second everyone on The Time Traveller’s Wife. It’s an amazing and original book.
    Other suggestions:
    – Perfume, by Patrick Süskind (it’s been translated from German into gazillion languages, so it may quite possibly be available in Icelandic too)
    – The Pursuit of Happiness, by Douglas Kennedy (That’s his best one, as far as I’m concerned, but other good books by him include: A Special Relationship, The Woman in the Fifth).
    I’ll stop there, but I’m really making an effort!
    Bonnes vacances, Alda, and thanks so much for your very entertaining posts,
    France from France

  • alda September 8, 2008, 10:12 am

    Hi France and welcome! Glad to have your first comment … that wasn’t so hard, was it? 😉

    The Time Traveller’s Wife is getting some stellar reviews here and has me intrigued. I’ve already read Perfume, but not the others. The Pursuit of Happiness – is it the same as the film starring Will Smith?

  • Lizzy September 8, 2008, 12:05 pm

    I’ll put my vote in for the Time Travellers Wife too… I read it a few years ago, but it really sticks in the memory . A completely different book to any that you’ll have read before, and hughly recommended.

  • Rachel September 8, 2008, 4:13 pm

    There wasn’t a shop anywhere nearby when we stayed there,but I think it was all fairly new then and they were still developing the site,so there may be one now.The beach isn’t too far away,10 minutes at the most if I remember rightly.It isn’t the greatest beach in the world,but it doesn’t get rammed with people like some of them do.There’s also lots of pine forest around which is nice to go and sit in when it gets too hot.It was around 40 degrees when we went,so it came in very handy!

  • marjolijn September 9, 2008, 6:50 am

    To go to Cres or Krk there is a better option from Istrie. You shouldn’t go to Rijeka as a wrote before, but to Brestova. From Cres you can go to Krk.


  • Rozanne September 9, 2008, 9:17 pm

    OK. I guess I’m going to be the only one who doesn’t recommend The Time Traveler’s Wife. Couldn’t get into it AT ALL. And, what’s more, I know the author–she’s a good friend of one of my friends. I really wanted to like the book for that reason, and I know I’m vastly in the minority. Most people are very, very enthusiastic about it.

    Anyway, I’m telling you this because I think we have v. similar taste in books. In fact, if memory serves the reason I found your blog (or you found mine?) was because we both listed The God of Small Things as one of our fave books.

    If you like Indian fiction, my all-time fave is A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Extraordinarily well-written and a page turner. It’s a massive tome, but when you finish reading it, you will wish there was more.

    I also recommend Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (wickedly good satire), When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (laugh out loud funny and a perfect vacation read), and Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller.