Writer profiles

We’ve been adding writer profiles to our guide to The Press Christchurch Writers Festival. Here are some of the latest additions

A taste for Sweden

The girl with the dragon tattoo
The girl with the dragon tattoo

The girl with the dragon tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The girl in the title is only one of several colourfully drawn characters in this translation of the runaway Swedish novel. I am generally not a fan of the mystery novel but every now and then one catches my eye and this one is right up there on my list of accidental but incredibly worthwhile reads.

I found no reference to sauna or Abba but herring and Nokia did get a passing mention. Unusually, archival research, an Australian sheep station and obscure biblical references combine to guarantee a pace to rival a Scandinavian sleigh ride.

The deaths, though grisly, end up being incidental to the story which ranges from corporate fraud, financial journalism, computer hacking to incredibly clever in-depth investigation and deep, dark family secrets. There are many characters in the Vanger family whom you would not care to meet but the central character Blomkvist (don’t ask me how to pronounce that) is someone I could spend time with, especially if I wanted a doggedly determined friend with benefits who spent two months in prison rather than discredit Millenium (his left-wing magazine renowned for uncovering the misdeeds of the corporate world.

Lisbeth Salander is the girl with several tattoos who becomes Blomkvist’s unlikely but powerful ally (in more ways than one!) in uncovering information where no-one has uncovered it before and revealing that the power of knowledge is often tempered by your gender and situation in life.

The book is the first in a series called Millennium– the next titles are The Girl Who Played With Fire”, (2006, UK release Jan 2009) and “Castles in the Sky” (2007, working title, UK release Jan 2010). Tragically the author died suddenly after finishing the third novel but had several more planned.

If, like me, you’re tempted to learn Swedish before the translations are published, and are keen to see the movies (currently in production) without reading the subtitles, look no further than our Swedish language resources

Single use books?

I have an interest in clutter. Decluttering actually, making my life and surroundings as efficient and stress free as possible. One principle that makes this easier is eliminating single use objects from my life.  You know the ones, the juicer that takes up half your kitchen cupboards, the ham stand that comes out once a year for Christmas Dinner, the lilo you used three summer holidays ago or the Uroclub.

This got me thinking about books that are single-use. Books you use at one time and then they earn a permanent spot on your bookshelf for perpetuity.

I can think of a couple that I’ve got in my book shelf –

  • Workbooks for courses
  • Self help books for a particular stage of your life
  • University Textbooks
  • Instructional books for a particular hobby
  • Books you received as gag presents
  • Travel guides from a long-forgotten-but-still-on-the-Visa -trip

But some other books seem to surpass their original functionality. We read them, pass them onto friends, refer to them, quote from them and dip into them time and again. I’ve luckily got a significant number of them on my shelf too –

So what other ones can we think of? Do single use books deserve a place on the bookshelf?