This is a bit of a different book for to review, it isn't a novel, and it isn't a biography! This book is about what is says on the cover. If you want to read about chopping, stacking and drying wood - and then burning it and the sort of stoves you might burn it in - then this is the book for you.
It is also the book for you if you are interested in reading about things you didn't know about before, a different way of life in a different country to yours, science, the artistry you can make with wood, tools, or if you are just looking for a calming and interesting read.
Norwegian Wood, Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way by Lars Mytting is the best book that I have read this year! For the record - although my review isn't yet finished - I am keeping this one on the shelves, I will read it - or parts at least - again in the future and I give it an 11 out of 10 it was so good.
Lars Mytting starts by telling us about his elderly neighbour Ottar who he sees stacking wood to burn over the following winter. He writes about what it means to Ottar to have chopped stacked and stored wood all through his adult life and how he cares for his family by doing this. The process of dealing with the wood also helps Ottar to get his spring back in his step.
Lars becomes intrigued by the whole process of wood burning and the rest of the book tells the factual - the bit about Ottar is factual too - story of wood burning. The book is in different chapters, telling us about The cold, The forest, The tools, The chopping block, The woodpile, The seasoning, The stove and The fire. It almost sounds like a recipe book, but instead of a recipe for food it is a recipe for a happy and warm home.
I found everything in this book to be calming and meditative in a way that I would never have expected. In the foreword Ray Jacobsen writes "In my experience, chopping wood is a personal business. I've often wondered what kind of chopper of wood I am, whether I am the stoic type, like Kjell Askildsen, a fellow Norwegian writer who can stand there with his ax for hours on end and think just one thought. Think it all the way through. Or the more sanguine type, who forgets all his cares as the wood chips fly and the woodpile grows. Or maybe more like my father, the slightly neurotic type, the hoarder, typical of the generation of Norwegians who lived through the Second Word War, with all its shortages."
It was the part about thinking just one thought the whole way through which really appealed to me. to have time to just really think about something. That sounds wonderful to me!
I could go on waxing lyrical about this book, and I am sure that I am not the only one, reports indicate that this book has sold hundreds of thousands - perhaps millions by now - of copies and there must be something in its popularity mustn't there. I could share with you the details about the fire lighting poem, types of axes, the reason for having a tyre around your chopping block, which wood gives the greatest heat, how to avoid a chimney fire or a hundred other things, but really you should just get your hands on a copy and read it for yourself. At the very least buy a copy for the man in your life and then borrow it back again.
As I said before, I give this book 11 out of 10 and I really mean it. I loved it. I hope that you will too. It is interesting, tells a good story and is well written and factual. Go and get a copy!
At the time of writing this I am nearly through my next book which is - so far! - also a great read so I will share that shortly, and then I am back to my diet of murder and light romance for a couple of books. Norwegian Wood therefore made a great interlude in proceedings. Thank you Lars for your great work.
Oh and apparently - according to the blurb on the back - Lars is also an acclaimed novelist so if you fancy some more of his work it might be worth looking for them, if they are written as well as this they will be good. Not being a Norwegian speaker I will wait for now...