The previous editions:
Note, only six books this time. I just don’t have many Finnish books in my personal library. I used to have more, but I gave away around half of my books around three and a half years ago during a move. I guess that included a lot of Finnish books. I don’t want to put anything I can’t get my hands on in these lists, so that limited this quite a bit.
I started writing this in English out of habit, so I’m going to write the rest in English as well. Some of these might be available in other languages, but since many of these are quite Finland-centric, I doubt that. The English names are thus my own translations.
1. Perttu Häkkinen – Valonkantajat (Lightbearers)
A look at the history of occultism in Finland. Well, not really the history, because there isn’t a real continuum here (except for some strands). It’s more like glimpses to the occultism in Finland. The interesting thing here is that it delves into how these ideas can come about in very different circumstances. These are not just isolated weirdos. Some of these ideas have permeated the higher levels of society and universities as well, and the book takes a look at all of these. The ideas explored by these people are always wacky, but sometimes better obfuscated by religion or academia.
2. Tuomas Tapio – Geotalouden paluu (The Return of Geoeconomics)
This is for very specific games, where international politics come into play. It’s about how nationalism has returned to international trade and how various decisions would influence decisions by others. There’s a lot of talk of protectionism, which was a common policy for centuries, so much of this information could apply to a fantasy world as well, which could be very interesting.
3. Martti Backman – Vakoojat (Spies)
This is the story of Vilho Pentikäinen, a Finnish spy, whose defection to USSR in 1933 started a process which eventually unraveled a web of spies in Finland and even around Europe. Sadly, the book is written in the form of fiction, which is in some ways interesting, as this is common in movies, but I haven’t seen this before in a book form. On the other hand, we look for different things in movies and I don’t feel this method quite works with books (or the author is just not good enough). I do feel some parts are pretty forced to get more length to the book.
Despite that, the practical side of spy networks and how mundane they are in the end, is actually interesting. These are quite normal people, who somehow get tangled in all this, because they had a weak moment or just didn’t know better.
4. Petri Tamminen – Suomen historia (History of Finland)
Despite the mundane name, this is actually quite a good book, because it has a very unique approach to the fairly short history of Finland as an independent country (we have been independent since 1918): It’s just anecdotes. There’s hundred of them, but they are clustered around important events such as WWII and Helsinki Olympics in 1952. And they are very, very Finnish. I mean this in the best possible way. We might have been mostly rural and fairly uncivilized until the 50s, but these stories show us in a very positive light.
The very first story is about two men delivering food for the reds during the Civil War. They find the son of one of the men dead in a ditch. The father, who doesn’t know anything besides having to just persevere, only asks whether it would be possible to put the body in the other man’s sleigh, as there’s more room. That’s the extent of the discussion. Later on, there’s a story about a family, who travel to Helsinki to see colored people. There’s nothing malevolent. They just had never seen a black person, so they were interested, but they understood how this could be seen, so the parents caution the children not to stare. There’s also a story about a kid, who remembers sticking her tongue out at Mannerheim, who was the field marshall of our armed forces at the time.
How does this serve RPG purposes? Well, it’s a look on what people find important and remember about our past. This would actually be great for players as well.
5. Mervi Koski – Maailman merkillisimmät kummitustarinat (The Weirdest Ghost Stories in the World)
You could probably exchange this for any number of similar books, which boil down to being collections of pretty similar stories, which aren’t in any way believable. Because a certain part of the population does believe in ghosts, I guess there is an interest in these kinds of books, but I just don’t see how this could actually enforce your beliefs, as the stories are just so clearly a combination lies as promotion or just self-indulgence and people been manipulated into believing this stuff. Still, from the point of view of a GM, you might as well read the title as “a bunch of story hooks for supernatural campaigns”.
(It’s kind of embarrassing that this was partly written with a stipend from The Association of Finnish Non-fiction Writers. They should be fucking ashamed of themselves and actually follow their own rules which call for expertise and ethics from their members.)
6. Jukka-Pekka Raeste and Hannu Sokala – Maailman 50 vaarallisinta yhtiötä (The 50 Most Dangerous Companies in the World)
I’m actually in the middle of reading this book, so I haven’t read all of it yet. Right now I’m quite ambivalent about it. The idea for the book is very interesting, but I’m not on-board with all the additions to the list. Worse yet, I often get the feeling they haven’t done their due diligence with the companies they did include, because they seem to be missing a lot about how these companies function or have functioned in the past, or they didn’t understand the risks regarding some of the things these companies are doing. Still, it does give you ideas on how to build a believable corporate antagonist. How do the people behind these companies think and how do they separate the people within from their personal ethics? Well, here’s some answers. I do also think that if you are not as deep into this shit as I am, there’s plenty to learn from this book. I just feel they should have researched at least some of the companies a bit more.