Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Mandela, Nelson "Long Walk to Freedom"

Mandela, Nelson "Long Walk to Freedom" - 1994

This has been on my list for a long time but it took another book club to put it on their list until I findally got to touch it.

I have always admired Nelson Mandela for how he coped with his life, for his struggle with oppression, for his fight for freedom. I mean, who wouldn't? He is one of the great heroes of our lifetime and the world would be a better place if everyone had just a little bit of Nelson Mandela in them.

The book hasn't changed my mind about him. If anything, it has enhanced my admiration. I have learned so much from this man just by following his thoughts in his autobiography. I hope I can use at least some of it in my life.

How does anyone cope with being imprisoend for almost thirty years. And not just being imprisoned, the situation in those jails was not exactly ideal, not what you can expect if you have to do time for any crime you would commit in our Western countries, time for a crime you actually commited, not for fighting for some of the basic rights any human being should be granted in the first place.

From his childhood living with an African chief to his studies of the law and the beginnings of his dedication of eliminating the cruel effects of racism in his country, this man has stood up to any injustice caused to the innocence. He was granted the Nobel Peace Prize and there probably has never been anyone more deserving for this.

What more is there to say than: Everybody should read this book.

Nelson Mandela received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993 "for ... work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa".

Monday, 29 October 2012

Movies recommending books

Movies recommending books

I love movies but don't always like them when it's a book I've read (and loved) turned into a movie and have already mentioned that in my blog "Never judge a book by its cover?"

However, there is one thing I don't mind at all, and that is if they talk about books in a movie. If I've read them before, I love to hear what the character (or author) has to say about them, if I haven't read them, it's a good recommendation.

There are certainly a lot of books I heard about in a movie but one that always comes to my mind is “Ballet Shoes” by Noel Streatfeild, a book so vehemently recommended by Meg Ryan in "You've got mail". I must admit, I hadn't heard about the book before that movie, either, but I was just there with "Kathleen Kelly" condemning that book salesman for not knowing it. After all, I didn't grow up in an English speaking country and I don't earn my living with selling books. However, I read the book because Kathleen loved it so much, I just had to read it.

I will try to add more books to this list once I will think about more and/or see more movies that mentione books I read but if any of my readers likes to add some of their suggestions, I'm happy to add them.

Austen, Jane "Persuasion" in "The Lake House"
Austen, Jane "Pride & Prejudice" in "You've Got Mail" and "Fahrenheit 451"
Brontë, Emily "Wuthering Heights" in "The Proposal"

Conrad, Joseph "Heart of Darkness" in "King Kong"
Dickens, Charles "David Copperfield" in "Gone With the Wind"
Dickens, Charles "A Tale of Two Cities" in "On Golden Pond"
and "Up the Down Staircase"
Dickens, Charles "The Pickwick Papers" in "Fahrenheit 451"
Forster, E. M. "Howards End" in "Educating Rita"
Franzen, Jonathan "The Corrections" in "The Holiday"
Hosseini, Khaled "The Kite Runner" in "The Holiday"
McEwan, Ian "Atonement" in "The Holiday"
Rowling, J.K. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in "The Holiday"
Salinger, J. D. "Catcher in the Rye" in "The Good Girl" and "Annie Hall"
Shelley, Mary "Frankenstein" in "Paris When It Sizzles" 
Stevenson, Robert Louis "Treasure Island" in "On Golden Pond"
Stowe, Harriet Beecher "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in "The Other"
Tolstoy, Leo "Anna Karenina" in "The Shop Around the Corner"
Tolstoy, Leo "War and Peace" in "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation"

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Murasaki, Lady Shikibu "The Tale of Genji"

Murasaki, Lady Shikibu "The Tale of Genji" (Japanese: 源氏物語 Genji Monogatari) - early 11th century

A highly  interesting but tough read. How was life a millennium ago in a completely different part of this world.

This book is often considered the first novel ever written. That was partly the reason I was interested in it.

And I didn't regret reading it. The story of Genji is about a young prince in Japan and his life at court. Very different from any life nowadays, this first hand narrative concentrates on the relationship between Genji and the many female members at court, from older ladies to young girls.

Is there a better way to find out how people used to live than reading about them in a book? This is the best way of time travel.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Rutherfurd, Edward "Awakening"

Rutherfurd, Edward "Awakening: The Rebels of Ireland" - 2006

I rarely read the sequel to a book right away, I usually take a little break from the story. But this time, I could not resist. After reading "Dublin", I just had to carry on reading about all those Irish families that witnessed the history of this interesting country first hand.

This novel picks up in 1597, right after the first one finishes, we follow the descendants of the brave characters from book one carrying on the struggle of their ancestors, we follow them through the occupation through the English with the various trials of erasing all Catholicism from the island through the famine to the Easter rising until the declaration of the Republic. What a vivid history.

One thing this book teaches us more than ever, any religious war or dispute is not really about religion but about power and money.

I also highly recommend  "London" and "The Forest" by the same author.

Find a link to all my reviews on his other novels here.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Strobel, Lee "The Case for Christ"

Strobel, Lee "The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus" - 1998

An atheist journalist is trying to find the truth behind Christ and his resurrection. He travels all across the United States of America to talk to specialists in several fields, science, religion, history, law, philosophy. They all put a case before him and underline how they achieved their evidence.

It is amazing with how many facts these men come up but in the end, they still say it is down to the individual to see whether they believe or not. Interesting book, great for discussion.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Buck, Pearl S. "East Wind: West Wind"

Buck, Pearl S. "East Wind: West Wind" - 1930

This was one of my first Pearl S. Buck novels. I came to adore her, read a lot of her books during my teenage years, probably because they were easy to read, yet so informative. I still love them and still read a book of hers from time to time.

I love the way Pearl S. Buck can explain the life in China, life in China during her lifetime, of course, I am well aware that it has changed a lot again. She has a wonderful way of explaining the Chinese way, almost in parables.

But this is history, life in Asia seen through the eyes of an American. The title already tells us about the divide between the East and the West, how people believe that they cannot be mixed. For example, the protagonist of the story, Kwei-Li, lives in a modern style house and is amazed by a lot of the features. Her brother brings home an American wife who is not accepted by the family. Lots of explanations about the different kind of life in the two different continents. This book achieves to portray this so wonderfully.

The biggest subject of the novel is the custom of arranging marriages. Kwei-Lan is married to a doctor, an educated man, who starts caring for her when she asks him to unbind her feet. Her brother refuses to marry the wife his parents have chosen for him and gets disinherited. A subject, most of us in the modern West are completely unaccustomed to.

Certainly one of Pearl S. Buck's books where we see the difference between our lives and that of the ancient Chinese most, where she serves it to us on a silver platter. I would probably recommend anyone to start with this book if they haven't read one by this great author.

From the back cover: "'East Wind: West Wind' is told from the eyes of a traditional Chinese girl, Kwei-lan, married to a Chinese medical doctor, educated abroad. The story follows Kwei-lan as she begins to accept different points of view from the western world, and re-discovers her sense of self through this coming-of-age narrative."

Find other books by Pearl S. Book that I read here.

Pearl S. Buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces".

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Morrison, Toni "Home"

Morrison, Toni "Home" - 2012

Toni Morrison is one of my favourite authors. I love her writing so much. She manages to describe anything in a way that you feel you've been there, you know the characters in her book.

Like Frank Money, the protagonist in this novel. He has survived the Korean War, well, physically. After a more than difficult childhood, he and his sister don't continue to have an easy adulthood, you find almost any form of abuse and problem in this novel.

I know I will still think about this novel for a long time.

From the back cover: "When Frank Money joined the army to escape his too-small world, he left behind his cherished and fragile little sister, Cee. After the war, his shattered life has no purpose until he hears that Cee is in danger.
Frank is a modern Odysseus returning to a 1950s America mined with lethal pitfalls for an unwary black man. As he journeys to his native Georgia in search of Cee, it becomes clear that their troubles began well before their wartime separation. Together, they return to their rural hometown of Lotus, where buried secrets are unearthed and where Frank learns at last what it means to be a man, what it takes to heal, and--above all--what it means to come home."

Toni Morrison "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. 

Read more about other books by the author here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Diffenbaugh, Vanessa “The Language of Flowers”

Diffenbaugh, Vanessa “The Language of Flowers” - 2011

When I saw this book first, I was attracted by the title. "The Language of Flowers". I love languages but I had never heard that they have a language. Of course, we all know that roses are supposed to mean love but there seems to be so much more to it.

I enjoyed reading this story very much. Set as a diary of a young girl who grew up in foster homes, this book is telling two stories at the same time, the time she spent in various institutions and homes until her eighteenth birthday and the time after. Same as the time divides the protagonist's life, the book is also divided into two different parts, the story of the girl and her problems, covering an extensive range of psychological issues she has with this world and the story of the flowers, how they came to mean something special.

I was quite happy to learn that the stephanotis I had chosen as the main flower of my bridal bouquet about thirty years ago was promising happiness in marriage, and I can say that this is entirely true. I did not like the fact that my favourite flower, the peony, stands for anger. Maybe it's a good thing they are only available for a very short time during the year.

Now, whether you believe in the language of flowers or not, this book offers so much more than just that. It picks up a lot of different topics without getting too confusing or chaotic.

You can find the whole "Flower Dictionary" on the Random House website here.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Peace Prize of the German Book Trade

Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (German: Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels)
Peace Prize given by the German Publishers Associations

Every year during the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (German: Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels) is awarded to a humanist and writer who "contributed to the idea of peace ... through their exceptional activities, especially in the fields of literature, science and art". As those who know me are aware, I always love lists and often find valuable literature, especially among those awarded a prize for their works. I have added the books I have read in brackets behind the author's name and will add more as soon as I read more and/or write more reviews.

1950 Max Tau, Norway (Das Land, das ich verlassen mußte)
1951 Albert Schweitzer, France
1952 Romano Guardini, Germany
1953 Martin Buber, Israel
1954 Carl Jacob Burckhardt, Switzerland
1955 Hermann Hesse, Germany (Siddhartha, Steppenwolf)
1956 Reinhold Schneider, Germany
1957 Thornton Wilder, United States
1958 Karl Jaspers, Germany
1959 Theodor Heuss, Germany
1960 Victor Gollancz, United Kingdom
1961 Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, India
1962 Paul Tillich, United States
1963 Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, Germany
1964 Gabriel Marcel, France
1965 Nelly Sachs, Germany
1966 Augustin Bea + Willem Adolf Visser ’t Hooft, Germany + the Netherlands
1967 Ernst Bloch, Germany
1968 Léopold Sédar Senghor, Senegal
1969 Alexander Mitscherlich, Germany
1970 Alva + Gunnar Myrdal, Sweden
1971 Marion Gräfin Dönhoff, Germany
1972 Janusz Korczak (posthumous), Poland
1973 Club of Rome
1974 Frère Roger, Switzerland
1975 Alfred Grosser, Germany
1976 Max Frisch, Switzerland (The Arsonists, Homo Faber)
1977 Leszek Kolakowski, Poland
1978 Astrid Lindgren, Sweden (Seacrow Island, The Six Bullerby Children)
1979 Yehudi Menuhin, Israel
1980 Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaragua
1981 Lew Kopelew, Soviet Union
1982 George F. Kennan, United States
1983 Manès Sperber, Austria/France
1984 Octavio Paz, Mexiko
1985 Teddy Kollek, Israel
1986 Władysław Bartoszewski, Poland
1987 Hans Jonas, Germany
1988 Siegfried Lenz, Germany (The German Lesson, Landesbühne, Zaungast)
1989 Václav Havel, Czechoslovakia
1990 Karl Dedecius, Germany
1991 György Konrád, Ungarn
1992 Amos Oz, Israel (A Tale of Love and Darkness)
1993 Friedrich Schorlemmer, Germany
1994 Jorge Semprún, Spain
1995 Annemarie Schimmel, Germany
1996 Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru (Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, The Storyteller)
1997 Yaşar Kemal, Turkey (The Birds Have Also Gone, The Drumming-Out)
1998 Martin Walser, Germany
1999 Fritz Stern, United States
2000 Assia Djebar, Algeria
2001 Jürgen Habermas, Germany
2002 Chinua Achebe, Nigeria
2003 Susan Sontag, United States
2004 Péter Esterházy, Hungary
2005 Orhan Pamuk, Turkey (A Strangeness in my Mind, The Black Book, Istanbul – Memories of a City, The Museum of Innocence, My Father's Suitcase, My Name is Red, Snow, The Silent House, The White Castle)
2006 Wolf Lepenies, Germany
2007 Saul Friedländer, Israel
2008 Anselm Kiefer, Germany
2009 Claudio Magris, Italy
2010 David Grossman, Israel (To the End of the Land, The Zig Zag Kid)
2011 Boualem Sansal, Algeria
2012 Liao Yiwu, China (Testimonials or: For a Song and a Hundred Songs)
2013 Swetlana Alexijewitsch, Belarus (Voices from Chernobyl, Second Hand Time)
2014 Jaron Lanier, USA
2015 Navid Kermani, Iran/Germany (Dein Name [Your Name])
2016 Carolin Emcke, Germany (Gegen den Hass [Against Hate], Echoes of Violence)

2017 Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin)

Friday, 12 October 2012

Forster, E.M. „Howards End“

Forster, E.M. „Howards End“ - 1910

I read „A Passage to India“ quite a while ago and really liked it. When a friend of mine said she always wanted to read „Howards End“, we agreed to read it together. Unfortunately, her eReader died on her, so we ended up not reading it at the same time. (Yet another point why I don't read eReader, but more about that here.)

I wasn’t disappointed. A great account of life within British society a century ago. The different classes and what it meant to a person born into a certain one.

Even though this was written about a century later, the story reminded me a lot of Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, that type of writing I enjoy so much. There are sisters who are educated but not rich, there is the rich family, there is the poor guy whose life is doomed before it even begins. A lot of social as well as moral issues that are discussed delicately. Still, quite a bit of action for those who don’t just want to read about philosophical questions.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Ephron, Nora "I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman"

Ephron, Nora "I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman" - 2006

Nora Ephron. I have loved and admired her during all her creative years. "When Harry Met Sally" is one of my favourite films ever, I love her sense of humour but I had never read any book by her. So, when she sadly passed away earlier this year, I thought it was time to fill this incredible gap. "I Feel About My Neck", the title itself is very promising already.

There are so many great thoughts in this book. I was particularly struck when Nora Ephron asked whether anybody still reads "The Golden Notebook". Well, we read it in our international book club in January 2009 and most of our younger members did not really like the book very much. We had the feeling that the younger readers couldn’t really follow the reasons this book was written for.

Her book is also full of quotes. If you want a little taster, check out these links:

Nora Ephron's 27 Best Quotes On Love, Life, And Death

One of my favourites (from this book):
"Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter."

But it's so much better to read the whole book. Great thoughts, great humour, a lovely memory of a wonderful woman.

Friday, 5 October 2012

de Winter, Leon “Zionoco”

de Winter, Leon “Zionoco” (dto.) - 1995

If you didn't know Leon de Winter was Jewish, you would guess after reading a couple of his books. In most of them, the main character seems to search for his Jewish roots in one way or another, which makes me think whether this is the author himself.

I love reading about those sort of topics. Only, de Winter seems to digress a lot from his original purpose. Sex is always in the way. And so, this novel is a mixture between a porn novel including the description of alcoholics and the search for an identity, for a normal life. It's a mixture of a lot of subjects, a trial to bring them all together. But in the end, the search for the Zionoco, the mountain of Zion, is just as unsuccessful as this book. I found it flat and boring. This is my second and probably last book I have read by this author. I didn't care much for "De Hemel van Hollywood" either.

de Winter, Leon “The Hollywood Sign"

de Winter, Leon “The Hollywood Sign" (De Hemel van Hollywood) – 1997

Three unsuccessful actors try to get back into "business" by planning the big coup, not entirely legal but with a chance of success. Apparently, the novel is supposed to be a satire about the American film business. I didn't really see that. I didn't like the plot (too far-fetched), the writing (neither funny nor intelligent), frankly, I don't understand the success of this author.

This was my first novel by de Winter. I gave him another chance and read "Zionoco" which did not change my opinion of his writing.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Tademy, Lalita “Red River”

Tademy, Lalita “Red River” - 2007

A couple of years ago, we read Lalita Tademy's account about her ancestors from her mothers side ("Cane River") in the book club. We all thoroughly enjoyed it, a great story about the history of African-Americans since slavery.

Well, she's done it again. This time, she tells the story of her father's ancestors, the Tademy family that came all the way from Egypt as free men only to be turned into slaves in the States. The story begins after the Civil War when the slaves have officially been freed but white supremacists don't want to accept that, so there is still a long struggle ahead of them.

As a European, I am shocked again and again when I read that "people of colour" were not allowed to vote until a hundred years after the war. I mean, right until the middle of the last century there were people in a modern country denied the most basic rights. Unbelievable.

And this is exactly why I think books like this are so important, to show us what we did wrong and how we can avoid those kind of mistakes in the future.

Great book!