Review: Norse and Nordic Oxford

Norse and Nordic OxfordNorse and Nordic Oxford by Ann-Turi Ford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a mixed bag of a review, in part because I think the book itself is a mixed bag. I bought this book last year at a signing/launch event at Blackwell’s bookshop here in Oxford – being a huge Nordophile this was right up my street. My memories of the event are now a little hazy, but overall it was funny (one of the authors – Richard, is British with that ever depreciating sense of humour), if a little awkward. On reading the book, I realised that the jokes scattered within had been relayed at the author event – so double edged sword of having heard them before, but being able to read the book in Richard’s jovial manner – I don’t think I would’ve gotten all the jokey/ironic/amusing bits had I not been aware of his manner – which segues into the book. The book itself was really interesting full of historical and more modern day facts about any Nordic/Scandinavian links with Oxford whatsoever (and yes, some are tedious links), the delivery could’ve been slicker – I think I stopped counting after 10 grammar/spelling/wrongly labelled photo errors – but this is down to the publishers/editors – something I might expect from a self published ebook but not something purchased in hard copy from Blackwell’s if I’m honest. There was also a couple of historically incorrect pieces such as the statement that there are 3 days of the week in English that are named after Norse gods – with Tuesday being named after Thor (as we geeks know: Tyr – Tuesday, Thor – Thursday), but again, with a proper publisher, wouldn’t this have been fact checked? 10 seconds on wikipedia will find the answer.
The longer into the book I read I found it becoming more travel guide than Guide to Norse and Nordic Oxford, eg you should visit places X,y,z in Oxford that have no known links to Norse/Nordic culture but are must sees for any travellers to Oxford – I guess I found these snippets unnecessary and some recommendations were repeated several times over the course of the book – but again, I felt that these were things that an editor would eliminate along with incorrectly labelled photos and the photos in the book that were lovely but had no context.
So overall a really interesting book, but due to poor editing gets 3/5

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Review: The Little Book of the Icelanders

The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old DaysThe Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days by Alda Sigmundsdóttir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In her signature, incredibly easy to read style, Alda gives you a lesson in the history of olden days of Iceland with facts and fun in equal measures over the course of 50 mini essays. Covering everything from the quirks and superstitions of what happens when someone visits a croft (when to knock on the window rather than the door), to food, sheep, community, evening entertainment. All this interspersed with the etymology of the Icelandic words and some cute illustrations – highly recommended to anyone with a passing interest in Iceland and/or its history.

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