The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth (goodreads page)
Published: 2014
Pages: 320

Topic: Scandinavian culture during the Viking age
Author agenda: providing a wider view of Vikings beyond mere pillagers
Information balance:
Prerequisite knowledge a reader should have: some knowledge of European geography
What you can learn from the book: a wider, more complete view of all things Scandinavian (as well as their effects on the world) during the Viking age.

1 minute summary
The Vikings maintain their grip on our imagination, but their image is too often distorted by myth. Drawing on a wealth of written and archaeological evidence, The Age of the Viking looks at Viking endeavors in commerce, combat, politics, discovery, and colonization, as well as arts, literature, and religious thought.

My rating: 3/5 – solid but not for me; but may be enjoyed by others.
1 sentence review: although chock full of interesting academically-sourced information that provides a fascinating nuanced view of Scandinavian culture, this book can also be weedy and repetitive.

Pros: lots of interesting information, nicely contained chapters focusing on each subject
Cons: not very causally readable, author can get lost in a weeds; information can sometimes get repetitive

Good for readers who: want a good resource for Norse culture beyond Vikings, are comfortable with more academic language and European geography.
Not so great for readers who: enjoy more casual non-fiction books, just want simple interesting information.

I chose this non-fiction book because its intention was to cover information beyond the realm of bloodthirsty Vikings. Not knowing anything about Norse culture except vague media-shaped ideas, I wanted to make a conscious effort to understand the full range of it.

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Xenos (Eisenhorn #1) by Dan Abnett (goodreads page)
Published: 2015
Genre, sub-genre: Sci-Fi: franchise (warhammer 40k)
Pages: 416

Notable aspects:
Warnings: medium gore and wartime suffering

1 minute summary
The Inquisition moves amongst mankind like an avenging shadow, striking down the enemies of humanity with uncompromising ruthlessness. When Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn finally corners an old foe, he is drawn into a sinister conspiracy full of dark powers and daemons racing to recover an arcane text of abominable power.

My rating: 4/5
1 sentence review: Full of action and interesting world-building, Xenos is a great rollicking space mystery and adventure.

Pros: great action, excellent world building, nicely crafted characters.
Cons: a bit thin on both information and immersive details.

Good for readers who: enjoy warhammer 40k lore/games and appreciate interesting world building
Not so great for readers who: like deep-dives into fully-fleshed universes

I typically don’t do full-fledged reviews for franchise books, but Warhammer 40k books are the exception because I know that the lore has many fans beyond those who play the games. Nevertheless, I have difficulty writing reviews for WH40k books because I already have knowledge of the universe, and I’m aware that other readers don’t. So take my review with a grain of salt.

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2046’s science prints are, quite simply, gorgeous. With a touch of mid-century retro that recalls the rise of the sci-fi genre as much as it does the space race, 2046 brings the most exciting moments and concepts in astrophysics, space flight and technology to anyone’s wall. With multiple sets and artistic inspirations, these prints showcase the thrill of science in the beautiful manner they deserve. Prices average between $30-$45 USD.

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Norse mythology and culture has inspired countless storytellers for centuries, so it’s no wonder that their stories have repeatedly captured the imagination of other artists as well. For Norsevember, I present three creative ways that craftsmen use Norse culture in their products.

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (goodreads page)
Published: 2018
Pages: 301

Topic: Mythology
Author agenda:
Information balance:
Prerequisite knowledge a reader should have: none
What you can learn from the book: an overview of major stories in Norse mythology

1 minute summary
A set of Norse myths, starting with the creation of the universe until to Ragnarök, the end of the major gods and the rebuilding of the world.

My rating: 4/5
1 sentence review: well condensed and nicely written, these interconnected myths are easy to read and provide a nice overview of Norse mythology.

Pros: highly readable writing, light and fun with its subject matter.

Good for readers who: want a simple introduction to Norse myths and gods.
Not so great for readers who: want an engaging and deep scholarly dive into the history of Norse mythology, or who expect a SFF/fiction-like retelling thick with details and a slow development of characters.

Welcome to my first book in the Norsevember reading event! This is also my first non-fiction book review for this site, so the format is a bit different.

I started this without knowing what it was about; I actually thought it was fiction. I’ve only ever read one Gaiman book (Stardust), which I found forgettable. But I knew he wrote something called American Gods that was fiction, so I simply assumed this was too.

I ended up really enjoying Norse Mythology because I have no knowledge of Norse culture except through retellings like Marvel’s Thor films. So this was a pleasant and very welcome surprise for me. Gaiman’s writing is clear and easy, and his crafting of the myths are fun and engaging without getting bogged down in details. Despite being fairly simple, I found myself getting attached to the gods he wrote about, and was both pained and fascinated to read about Ragnarök.

Norse Mythology kind of reads like a set of children’s tales (excepting some mentions of sex and butt mead), and that was quite perfect for someone like me, who signed up for a reading event like Norsevember solely to explore a culture that I knew nothing about. Previously, I had intended to read fiction, but Gaiman’s work inspired me to go the non-fiction route, with the realization that reading Viking or Norse-inspired fiction in the future might be all the more interesting and meaningful to me if I understood something about the actual culture and not just the media stereotypes/retellings.

Overall: Norse Mythology is an easy and engaging introduction for anyone looking to get a foundation in the topic.