Tove Ditlevsen

It is always interesting when a local author is discovered by the rest of the world – which appears to be the case of the Danish author Tove Ditlevsen, who has been published to rave reviews in both the UK and USA.

Tove Ditlevsen is not a new author, but is one of those authors in Denmark, that everyone knows, and have read while in school. She committed suicide back in 1976, so it is interesting what has caused her work to suddenly be discovered outside the Nordic countries.

Anyway, here are some of the reviews about her works:

This notorious poet is required reading in Denmark. Her masterpiece is now out in the US. (VOX)

‘The Copenhagen Trilogy,’ a Sublime Set of Memoirs About Growing Up, Writing and Addiction (NY Times)

Tove Ditlevsen: Why it’s time to discover Denmark’s most famous literary outsider (Penguin)

In the Green Rooms excerpt from Dependency (The Paris Review)

Reality Under My Skin (Harper’s)


Most of the reviews talk about Tove Ditlevsen’s status in Denmark, but as with all such things, things are not quite as simple as presented. For a more nuanced view of how Tove Ditlevsen’s literary reputation in Denmark, see this twitter thread by Olga Ravn, who is someone who can talk about the subject with authority

I suggest reading the whole thread.

As someone who has grown up in Copenhagen, I have read Tove Ditlevsen’s works in both primary school and in high school. Though I was born around the same time as she died, I could recognize many things from her writing in the city I was a kid in. Now, living in the same neighborhood as she lived in her whole life, there is very little left to recognize. The area has been entirely gentrified over the last 25 years, and while (most of) the buildings are still here, the population and shops are nothing alike to back when she was living here.

This means that Tove Ditlevsen’s works are, for me, a glimpse into the city’s past, reminding me of a time where the population of Copenhagen was less well off, and where well-off families tended to leave the city. Do note that I am not glorifying those times – Copenhagen in the eighties was a long way from being the busy cultural hub that it is today. It was poor, schools and the infrastructure was falling apart, and there was an unhealthy level of pollution – and don’t get me started on how much the quality of food has increased since then.

A side note: Back when I went to school, Tove Ditlevsen was usually referred to working class literature. I wonder if this category is still used, given the fact that the classic working class has to a large degree disappeared.

The 100 best books of the 21st century

The Guardian has created a list of the books they consider the 100 best of the 21st century (so far). The list and the description of each book can be found here.

As always with such lists, people are looking at it, and trying to figure out how many they have read, and as a bibliophile, I am no exception. So, I have recreated the list below in order for me to share.

If a title is bold, it means I own the book. If I have struck through a title, I have read the book. If a title is in italics, the book is on my to-read list.

  • I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron (2006)
  • Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou (2005), translated by Helen Stevenson (2009)
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2005), translated by Steven T Murray (2008)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (2000)
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)
  • Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan (2004)
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
  • Darkmans by Nicola Barker (2007)
  • The Siege by Helen Dunmore (2001)
  • Light by M John Harrison (2002)
  • Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck (2008), translated by Susan Bernofsky (2010)
  • Bad Blood by Lorna Sage (2000)
  • Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman (2001)
  • Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood (2017)
  • Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis (2017)
  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (2006)
  • The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy (2018)
  • Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli (2016), translated by Luiselli with Lizzie Davis (2017)
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002)
  • Harvest by Jim Crace (2013)
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002)
  • The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (2009)
  • The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (2015)
  • Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera (2009), translated by Lisa Dillman (2015)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011)
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (2009), translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (2018)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (2016)
  • Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick (2009)
  • The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff (2019)
  • Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware (2000)
  • Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller (2003)
  • The Infatuations by Javier Marías (2011), translated by Margaret Jull Costa (2013)
  • The Constant Gardener by John le Carré (2001)
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (2018)
  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli (2014)
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
  • On Writing by Stephen King (2000)
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010)
  • Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn (2006)
  • This House of Grief by Helen Garner (2014)
  • Dart by Alice Oswald (2002)
  • The Beauty of the Husbandby Anne Carson (2002)
  • Postwar by Tony Judt (2005)
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2000)
  • Underland by Robert Macfarlane (2019)
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (2006)
  • Women & Power by Mary Beard (2017)
  • True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2000)
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004)
  • Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (2009)
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2003)
  • Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (2011)
  • Night Watch by Terry Pratchett (2002)
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2000-2003), translated by Mattias Ripa (2003-2004)
  • Human Chain by Seamus Heaney (2010)
  • Levels of Life by Julian Barnes (2013)
  • Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit (2004)
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (2014)
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis (2010)
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001)
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000)
  • The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
  • The Green Road by Anne Enright (2015)
  • Experience by Martin Amis (2000)
  • The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal (2010)
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk (2014)
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (2006)
  • The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (2010)
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (2015)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)
  • A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard (2009), translated by Don Bartlett (2012)
  • Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy (2005)
  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro (2001)
  • Capital in the Twenty First Century by Thomas Piketty (2013), translated by Arthur Goldhammer (2014)
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018)
  • A Visit from The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011)
  • The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon (2001)
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders (2013)
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (2011), translated by Harari with John Purcell and Haim Watzman (2014)
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2013)
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night‑Time by Mark Haddon (2003)
  • The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein (2007)
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006)
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (2001)
  • The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)
  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (2002)
  • Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
  • The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004)
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (2011), translated by Ann Goldstein (2012)
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)
  • Cloud Atlas David Mitchell (2004)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (2016)
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
  • The Amber Spyglasse by Philip Pullman (2000)
  • Austerlitz by WG Sebald (2001), translated by Anthea Bell (2001)
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)
  • Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich (2013), translated by Bela Shayevich (2016)
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2004)
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009)

All in all, I have read 10 books on the list, and want to read 32 more of them. I have already bought some of those books.

Reading list

As many other readers, my appetite for books is greater than my reading list, and thus I have a pile of to-read books (both physically and virtually). I thought I’d give you a peak into what I am planning on reading until the end of the year and over the holidays. All of the links take you to Amazon Smile, which allows you to purchase books while supporting charity.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum. This has been on my radar for a while, but for some reason or another, I haven’t bought it until recently.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson. A classic science fiction book that somehow had gone under my radar.

Pratchett’s Women: Unauthorised Essays on Female Characters of the Discworld by Tansy Rayner Roberts.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. It has been highly recommended by several people as a must-read if you want to know more about race relations.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.

Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick by Maya Dusenbery.

The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Beyond the Phoenix Project: The Origins and Evolution of DevOps (audio) by Gene Kim and John Willis.

Stiletto: A Novel (The Rook Files Book 2) by Daniel O’Malley. I greatly enjoyed the first book of this series, The Rook, but for some reason, I haven’t yet gotten around to read the second volume.