Tuesday, 31 May 2016

101 Best Selling Books of All Time


"A list of the best selling books of all time, fiction and nonfiction best sellers. What are the best selling books of all time? Since religious and political books, such as The Holy Bible, are often given away for free, they have not been included on this list. These top selling books span multiple centuries, covering many genres and original languages. And if you think Harry Potter or Twilight top this list, think again, they're not even close."
This list appeared on the page List Challenges .

It is interesting to see which books are bought most often and then see how many of them you have read or even know. I was surprised how some of them made it onto the list but I guess that's life. So far, I have read 37 of them.

1. Dickens, Charles "A Tale of Two Cities"

2. Tolkien, J.R.R. "The Lord of the Rings"
3. Tolkien, J.R.R. "The Hobbit"
4. Tsao Hsueh-Chin "Dream of the Red Chamber"

5. Christie, Agatha "And Then There Were None"
6. Lewis, C.S. "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"
7. Rider Haggard, Henry "She: a History of Adventure"
8. Saint-Exupéry, Antoine "The Little Prince

9. Brown, Dan "The Da Vinci Code"
10. Salinger, J. D. "Catcher in the Rye"
11. Coelho, Paulo "The Alchemist"
12. White, Ellen G. "Steps to Christ"
13. Spyri, Johanna "Heidi"
14. Spock, Benjamin "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care"
15. Montgomery, L. M. "Anne of Green Gables"
16. Sewell, Anna "Black Beauty"
17. Eco, Umberto "The Name of the Rose"
18. Hite, Shere "The Hite Report"
19. White, E.B. "Charlotte’s Web"
20. Potter, Beatrix "The Tale of Peter Rabbit"
21. Rowling, J.K. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"
       (only read "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone")

22. Bach, Richard "Jonathan Livingston Seagull"
23. Hubbard, Elbert "A Message to Garcia"
24. Brown, Dan "Angels and Demons"
25. Ostrovsky, Nikolai "How the Steel Was Tempered"
26. Tolstoy, Lew Nikolajewitsch "War and Peace"
27. Collodi, Carlo "The Adventures of Pinocchio"
28. Hay, Louise L. "You Can Heal Your Life"
29. Archer, Jeffrey "Kane and Abel"
30. Frank, Anne "The Diary of a Young Girl"
31. Sheldon, Charles M. "In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?"
32. Lee, Harper "To Kill a Mockingbird"
33. Susann, Jacqueline "Valley of the Dolls"
34. Mitchell, Margaret "Gone With the Wind"
35. García Márquez, Gabriel "One Hundred Years of Solitude"
36. Warren, Rick "The Purpose Driven Life"
37. McCulloch, Colleen "The Thorn Birds"
38. Hill, Napoleon "Think and Grow Rich"
39. Bradford Huie, William "The Revolt of Mamie Stover"
40. Larsson, Stieg "The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo"
41. Carle, Eric "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"
42. Lindsey, Hal "The Late, Great Planet Earth"
43. Johnson, Dr. Spencer "Who moved my cheese"
44. Grahame, Kenneth "The Wind in the Willows"
45. Orwell, George "Nineteen Eighty-Four"
46. Redfield, James "The Celestine Prophecy"
47. Puzo, Mario "The Godfather"
48. Segal, Erich "Love Story"
49. Rog, Jiang "Wolf Totem"
50. Holander, Xaviera "The Happy Hooker"
51. Benchley, Peter "Jaws"
52. Munsch, Robert "Love You Forever"
53. Gaarder, Jostein "Sophie's World"
54. French, Marilyn "The Women's Room"
55. Murkoff, Heidi "What to Expect When You're Expecting"
56. Sendak, Maurice "Where The Wild Things Are"
57. Byrne, Rhonda "The Secret"
58. Jong, Erica "Fear of Flying"
59. Wise Brown, Margaret "Goodnight Moon"
60. McBratney, Sam "Guess How Much I Love You"
61. Covey, Stephen R. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People"
62. Clavell, James "Shogun"
63. Sebring Lowrey, Janette "The Poky Little Puppy"
64. Follett, Ken "The Pillars of the Earth"
65. Carnegie, Dale "How to Win Friends and Influence People"
66. Süskind, Patrick "Perfume"
67. Evans, Nicholas "The Horse Whisperer"
68. Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Shadow of the Wind"
69. Young, William Paul "The Shack"
70. Adams, Douglas "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"  
71. Albom, Mitch "Tuesdays with Morrie"
72. Caldwell, Erskine "God's Little Acre"
73. Tamaro, Susanna "Follow Your Heart"
74. Hinton, S.E. "The Outsiders"
75. Dahl, Roald "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
76. Murakami, Haruki "Norwegian Wood"
77. Metalious, Grace "Peyton Place"
78. Herbert, Frank "Dune"
79. Camus, Albert "The Plague"
80. Dazai, Osamu "No Longer Human"
81. Morris, Desmond "The Naked Ape"
82. Waller, Robert James "The Bridges of Madison County"
83. Alighieri, Dante "The Divine Comedy"
84. Achebe, Chinua "Things Fall Apart"
85. Gibran, Khalil "The Prophet"
86. Blatty, William Peter "The Exorcist"
87. Donaldson, Julia "The Gruffalo"
88. Heller, Joseph "Catch-22"
89. Follett, Ken "Eye of the Needle"
90. Hawking, Stephen "A Brief History of Time"
91. Dr. Seuss "The Cat in the Hat"
92. Sebold, Alice "The Lovely Bones"
93. Chang, Jung "Wild Swans"
94. Eloy Martínez, Tomás "Santa Evita"
95. Wiesel, Elie "Night"
96. Hosseini, Khaled "The Kite Runner"
97. Confucius "Yu Dan's Insights on the Analects of Confucius"
98. Morgan, Marabel "The Total Woman"
99. Tsakaiya, Taichi "The Knowledge-value Revolution"
100. Hua Guofeng "Problems in China's Socialist Economy"
101. Bolles, Richard H. "What Color Is Your Parachute?"

Monday, 30 May 2016

Mercier, Pascal "Perlmann's Silence"


Mercier, Pascal "Perlmann's Silence" (German: Perlmanns Schweigen) - 1995

I have read one other book by Pascal Mercier, "Night Train to Lisbon". Ever since, I wanted to read another one of his novels. He has a special way of telling a story, a quiet, almost dreamy way. I think the author is one of the best ones German language writers at the moment.

After having lost his wife, Philipp Perlman hosts a linguistics conference in Italy. While there, he reflects on his life and notices that he has lost all his willpower to go on. We follow him in his endeavour to find a reason for getting out of his predicament.

This book is so hard to describe, the protagonist goes through so many agonies but it doesn't read like a drama. Almost like a philosophical exploration of our thoughts and wishes. An analysis of a life well lived and coming to a slowdown, maybe even a halt.

The story is very intense, we get a glimpse into the mind of a troubled person, how he seems to get from one depth to the next without ever really looking out. You want to persist reading, even if you don't see him going anywhere.

Granted, the book is long and there doesn't seem to be a lot of "action" going on but there is so much  going on in his thoughts. I also really liked the part about linguistics. The protagonist learns Russian and I found it fascinating how he did it. The description of an academic life was also very well done.

A compelling, intriguing read, certainly not an easy one but well worth it. Certainly a must if you love philosophic literature.

In the book, Perlmann also reflects about this one:
Walser, Robert "Jakob von Gunten" - 1909

I read this in the original German language.

From the back cover: "A tremendous international success and a huge favorite with booksellers and critics, Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon has been one of the best-selling literary European novels in recent years. Now, in Perlmann’s Silence, the follow up to his triumphant North American debut, Pascal Mercier delivers a deft psychological portrait of a man striving to get his life back on track in the wake of his beloved wife’s death.

Philipp Perlmann, prominent linguist and speaker at a gathering of renowned international academics in a picturesque seaside town near Genoa, is struggling to maintain his grip on reality. Derailed by grief and no longer confident of his professional standing, writing his keynote address seems like an insurmountable task, and, as the deadline approaches, Perlmann realizes that he will have nothing to present. Terror-stricken, he decides to plagiarize the work of Leskov, a Russian colleague. But when Leskov’s imminent arrival is announced and threatens to expose Perlmann as a fraud, Perlmann’s mounting desperation leads him to contemplate drastic measures.

An exquisite, captivating portrait of a mind slowly unraveling, Perlmann’s Silence is a brilliant, textured meditation on the complex interplay between language and memory, and the depths of the human psyche."

Friday, 27 May 2016

Book Quotes of the Week




"There is an art of reading, as well as an art of thinking, and an art of writing." Isaac D'Israeli 


"I cannot live without books." Thomas Jefferson

"If the book is second-hand, I leave all its markings intact, the spoor of previous readers, fellow-travellers who have recorded their passage by means of scribbled comments, a name on the fly-leaf, a bus ticket to mark a certain page." Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

"Unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye." John Milton

"The best education in the world is that got by struggling to get a living." Wendell Phillips

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Robertson, Adele Crockett "The Orchard"


Robertson, Adele Crockett "The Orchard: A Memoir" - 1995

One of the books I discovered in our local library. It sounded interesting, so I picked it up.

What a heartfelt memoir by a woman who was a good and kind person, who wanted the best for everybody. After her father died, she struggled to keep up his apple farm, more or less on her own. What a tough life, quite hard work, even for a man it would have been hard.

After she retired, Adele Crockett Robertson wrote down her story and her daughter saved and published it. I am glad she did. So nice to read about such a wonderful person. She had the same age as my grandmother who also grew up on a farm and I pictured her and her challenges during, between and after the wars. I would have liked to have known her then and this book made it almost possible. So, thanks to Betsy Robertson Cramer, we received a good insight into life at the beginning of the 20th century. And she also showed us that women can do anything.

From the back cover: "An exquisite, poignant memoir of a young woman's spirited struggle to save her New England apple farm in the depths of the Depression. The Orchard, recently discovered by the author's daughter, tells the story of Adele Kitty Robertson - young, unmarried, and unprepared by her Radcliffe education for the rigors of apple farming in those bitter times."

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

McCall Smith, Alexander "Emma. A Modern Retelling"


McCall Smith, Alexander "Emma. A Modern Retelling" - 2015

I am not a fan of fanfiction. I usually don't read that kind of stuff. But somehow I was quite interested in the idea of transplanting one of Jane Austen's books into our world..

Yes, the idea sounds nice. Almost like communism. Wouldn't if be nice if we all were equal and had the same chances? Well, because people are people this fantastic idea will never work in the real world.

Neither does Emma Woodhouse in the 21st century. Most people don't like her in the original version "Emma". They will hate her in this one. We all know better in the meantime and so should she.

Alexander McCall Smith has written some fabulous books about life in Botswana ("The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency" Series). I think he should stick to it. Not that this was written badly, I just don't like it when someone picks up someone else's idea and moves it further.

So, yes, not my thing but if you're curious and like this type of book, I think you might even enjoy it.

From the back cover: "Sometimes it takes time to discover who you really are. And for Emma Woodhouse the journey is only just beginning. After graduating, Emma returns home to Norfolk, where she plans to set up a design business. But that summer, as Emma begins to match-make various friends and neighbours, some important lessons about life and relationships await her…"

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Mitchell, David "Cloud Atlas"


Mitchell, David "Cloud Atlas" - 2004

An interesting book. Quite different from anything I've read before. A mixture of a few genres I like and others that I'm not so keen on. Imagine Robert Louis Stevenson, Daniel Defoe, the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Michael Crighton, Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, George Orwell, Douglas Adams and Margaret Atwood got together to write one continuous story going from any of their times and genres to the next. That's about what the result would be. Really, very interesting and hard to describe.

It's almost like several short stories in one book, only they do belong to each other. The closest type of book I have ever read must be "If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller" (Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore) by Italo Calvino although that is still quite a different story.

I think you have to like dystopian literature, otherwise this might not be for you but apart from that, the writing is quite captivating. We start in the past, get to know the protagonists and their stories, move into the future and then go back to see the end of the different stories. In short: quite fascinating.

From the back cover: "Six interlocking lives - one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity's will to power, and where it will lead us."
And another one: "A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified 'dinery server' on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation -- the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.
In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’ s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us."

Monday, 23 May 2016

Goscinny, René; Uderzo, Albert "Asterix the Gaul"


Goscinny, René; Uderzo, Albert "Asterix the Gaul" (Astérix le Gaulois) - 1959

The stories about the little Gallic warrior Asterix and his huge friend Obelix have made history. They have accompanied many a young person through their youth and carried on living with them into adulthood. I am one of those youngsters, I started reading them when they first came out, first I read them in German, later in French, some also in English. They are great in any language.

This is the first of his many adventures where we see how he manages to fight the mighty Julius Cesar.

I have put together a list of all his adventures (so far) in this post. Enjoy.

From the back cover: "The year is 50BC, and all Gaul is occupied. Only one small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders. But how much longer can Asterix, Obelix and their friends resist the mighty Roman legions of Julius Caesar? Anything is possible, with a little cunning plus the druid Getafix's magic potions! Their effects can be truly hair-raising..."

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Aboulela, Leila "The Kindness of Enemies"


Aboulela, Leila "The Kindness of Enemies" - 2015

Such an interesting book. A lot about history and also a lot about current politics. A woman with a Russian mother and Sudanese father who lives in Scotland and researches the life of a 19th century Muslim leader. What's not to like?

The story of the Imam mirrors the story of the protagonist which could probably be the story of the author. There is a huge struggle for all the characters involved - fictional or real - and we can follow Natasha, the protagonist, in the 20th century with her struggle to see where she really belongs, Europe or Africa, or Russia? The same goes for the Imam who fights for his country, his son who is kidnapped as a young boy and then raised in Russia, Anna, the Georgian princess whose husband feels more Russian, her son who is also right in the middle of it. And then there are the modern day Muslims living in Scotland, Malak and her son Oz, who struggle for their identity and get into trouble just be being themselves.

A lot of people here who have a problem with who they really are, with knowing who they really are. I think if you are in a situation like that, you probably need as many characters to put it all in. And maybe that's why they all ring so true, they all seem to come from the author's heart. I am sure Leila Aboulela goes through the same questions and worries as Natasha Wilson in her story.

Great book. I will read more by this author. But I think everyone should read this book, I believe it makes us understand our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters better and the struggles they have to face every day in a world where they are marked as terrorists even before they open their mouths.

From the back cover: "It’s 2010 and Natasha, a half Russian, half Sudanese professor of history, is researching the life of Imam Shamil, the 19th century Muslim leader who led the anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War. When shy, single Natasha discovers that her star student, Oz, is not only descended from the warrior but also possesses Shamil’s priceless sword, the Imam’s story comes vividly to life. As Natasha’s relationship with Oz and his alluring actress mother intensifies, Natasha is forced to confront issues she had long tried to avoid - that of her Muslim heritage. When Oz is suddenly arrested at his home one morning, Natasha realizes that everything she values stands in jeopardy.

Told with Aboulela’s inimitable elegance and narrated from the point of view of both Natasha and the historical characters she is researching, The Kindness of Enemies is both an engrossing story of a provocative period in history and an important examination of what it is to be a Muslim in a post 9/11 world."

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Oates, Joyce Carol "The Man Without a Shadow"


Oates, Joyce Carol "The Man Without a Shadow" - 2016

I am one of the biggest Joyce Carol Oates fans. I have not read all of her books, yet, but whenever I come across a new one, I just have to read it. So, I was glad to find this on the "new" bookshelf in my library and had to borrow it right away.

Like all her other stories, this is a highly interesting, fascinating one, one that captivates you from the first page and doesn't release you until the last page has been turned. We get to learn the characters all so well, their thoughts, their hopes, their ambitions, their wishes for the future. Only, that for one of them in this novel there is no real future, it always ends after seven minutes. One of the two main characters suffers from amnesia, the other one is a scientist who studies his brain in particular and thereby hopes to find more insight into the human brain in general.

All of JCO's novels have a definitive distinction, she never repeats her subject, every book can stand on its own and gives so much insight into the topic. The words in her stories flow together in a natural way, even her scientific parts make sense to someone who is not scientific at all, like me. Her characters are complex, not easy, not flawless at all, just interesting to watch. While following the stories of Margot and Elihu, we can try to understand what memory means, why we remember certain parts of our lives and not others and what it would mean if all that was taken from us.

After reading this book, I only have one question, the same I ask myself every time I read one of JCO's novels: When is she finally going to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature?

From the back cover: "In 1965, a young research scientist named Margot Sharpe is introduced to Elihu Hoopes, an attractive, charismatic amnesiac whose short-term memory has been devastated by a brief illness.
Charming, mysterious, and deeply lonely, Eli is tortured by his condition. Trapped eternally in the present moment, he is also haunted by a fragmented memory from his childhood: the disturbing image of an unknown girl’s body, floating under the surface of a lake.
Inspired and moved by her exceptional patient, Margot dedicates her professional life to him and, in so doing, establishes for herself an exceptional career in the rapidly expanding field of neuroscience.
But where is the line between scientific endeavor and personal obsession? And how to interpret the wishes of a person who is trapped outside time?
Atmospheric and unsettling, The Man Without a Shadow is a poignant exploration of loneliness, ethics, passion, aging, and memory - intricately, ambitiously structured and made both vivid and unnerving by Oates’s eye for detail and her searing insight into the human psyche."

Two books are mentioned in the novel that talk about the same subject:
Luria, Alexander R. "The Man with a Shattered World. The History of a Brain Wound" (Goodreads)
Luria, Alexander "The Mind of a Mnenomist. A Little Book About a Vast Memory" (Goodreads)

Friday, 13 May 2016

Book Quotes of the Week


"From every book invisible threads reach out to other books; and as the mind comes to use and control those threads the whole panorama of the world’s life, past and present, becomes constantly more varied and interesting, while at the same time the mind’s own powers of reflection and judgment are exercised and strengthened." Helen E. Haines

"There is yet behind of what I purposed to lay open, the incredible loss and detriment that this plot of licensing puts us to; more than if some enemy at sea should stop up all our havens and ports and creeks, it hinders and retards the importation of our richest merchandise, truth." John Milton

"What you don’t know would make a great book." Sydney Smith

"A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counsellor, a multitude of counsellors." Henry Ward Beecher 


"You mean to tell me librarians don't live at the library?" N.N.
[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]


Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Scott, Mary "Yes, Darling"



Scott, Mary "Yes, Darling" - 1967

Another Mary Scott story. If you have followed my blog for the last two years, you might have met her before, otherwise I can only recommend to go to my post with her books here.

Well, the stories were written in the fifties/sixties and times have changed. Or at least I hope so. Because Margaret, the heroine of our story, lets herself being bullied all her life. First by her father, then her husband and in the end by her husband's daughter and nieces. I think this might actually be a good book to discuss feminism and how it shouldn't be.

But it wouldn't be a Mary Scott story if that would last forever. With the help of some friends, Margaret gains enough self-confidence to finally start her own life.

Unfortunately, Mary Scott's books are out of print and only available second hand. I have heard in the meantime, that you can buy some of them as eBooks.

From the back cover: "For every demand that her stepnieces and beloved stepdaughter made of her, Margaret Nevill had one answer: "Yes, darling." Since her exacting husband died, leaving her a legacy of the three girls, Margaret had threatened to become what they called a door mat.

However, when Margaret suddenly decides to leave her dreary city house and return to the country she had loved as a girl, her life changes completely - and for the better."

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Moran, Caitlin "How to be a Woman"


Moran, Caitlin "How to be a Woman" - 2011

I have come to the conclusion that I do not like these kind of women's self-help liberation books, especially if they try to be funny and "cool".

Same as the book  "All About Love: New Visions" by Bell Hooks this was one of the books suggested in the Goodreads group created by Emma Watson "Our Shared Shelf". So far, two good ones out of four. Will see what next month brings.

Well, Caitlin Moran is a totally different author, she tries humour, writes a little chick lit-ty, like a column in a women's magazine. Maybe nice to read when you sit at the doctor waiting for your appointment to start and have nothing else to read. Which never happens to me because I never go to an appointment without one of my books. Again, not my cup of tea.

From the back cover: "Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven't been burned as witches since 1727, life isn't exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them?
Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother. With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth - whether it's about the workplace, strip clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children - to jump-start a new conversation about feminism. With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be a Woman lays bare the reasons why female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself."

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Ten Websites I Love




"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish". Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here

May 10: Ten Websites I Love
... that Aren't About Books (you could go specific and do like top ten favorite food/travel/craft/fitness blogs I follow, 10 websites I visit daily, 10 fun websites I waste a lot of time on etc.)


It's really tough for me to find some that are not about books but there are a few blogs I follow, so here we go, in alphabetical order because I couldn't possibly put them in order of importance: 

Duoblilo 
Allows me to type texts with Esperanto signs without having to use ASCII codes all the time.

Duolingo 

A pretty new site where you can study any language from the beginning or somewhere in the middle at your own pace. And it's free!

Facebook

I have a love-hate relationship with this site. I love that I can be in touch with friends but I would like to be able to control a little more what I see. And I definitely would like to see fewer political posts.

Google

Maps A lot better than many navigation systems. I love to check out a new route on here before I drive it for the first time.

IMDb

The Internet Movie Data Base - a Must for all film fans.

Pinterest

I love this site, I can easily store links that I like and pictures that are beautiful etc. etc. Of course, quite a few of my albums have to do with books but not all of them.

Wikipedia

A huge encyclopaedia that informs you about anything and everything. What's not to love?

And, last but not least, some blogs by friends:


Ardith's Art Journal
Ardith is a great artist whom I met on FB


Meine Sucht, die Socken 
A German site by a good friend who likes to knit.

Sunderwarp 

A blog by a journalist FB friend who writes about this and that from time to time. 

Of course, I could go on and on with this. There are so many hobby pages I love and so many of my friends have fabulous blogs but I had to stop at some point, right?

Monday, 9 May 2016

Schwarzer, Alice "Lebenslauf" [My life] - 2011


Schwarzer, Alice "Lebenslauf" [My life] - 2011

After reading "My Life on the Road" by Gloria Steinem, THE American feminist, I really had to read the memoir by THE German feminist, Alice Schwarzer. Her "Lebenslauf" with which we describe our "curriculum vitae" in German has the quite appropriate English title "My life".

Alice Schwarzer tells us about her life, from her early years as the daughter of a single mother living with her grandparents to her first working years in Germany and Paris, her studies, her start in the feminist movement. She is the founder of the most important German feminist magazine "Emma". I discovered many similarities between the two women. Quite interesting.

She is known for tireless campaigns and her name is always mentioned as soon as the word feminism comes up in Germany. As a fighter for women's rights, she has a lot of enemies. She has never come across as an easy person but I always admired her for how she stood up for what she believed in and how she often took the blame for something she tried to achieve for all women.

However, she has received many prizes and honours for her work, including the German Cross of Merit and the knighthood in the French Legion of Honour. So, I guess, I'm not the only one admiring her.

In her book, she writes about all the subjects she has fought for and thereby also gives us a good overview over the feminist movement in Germany during the decades - but she also tells us about her personal life. I especially liked her account of meeting Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir with whom she became very good friends.

A good biography by a great journalist. I should probably read her most famous book "The little difference and its huge consequences".

While looking for the back cover in English, (which I didn't find), I found this very interesting article: Who is Alice Schwarzer, and Why Should You Care? It looks like we should care a lot.

This books gives us a good insight. Even if you're against feminism (and I don't understand who still would be), it's an interesting book about Germany after the Second World War.

From the back cover:

"How did Alice Schwarzer become who she is? And above all: who is she anyway?"

From the Goethe Institut:
"'I don’t think much of ‘feminizing society’' – An Interview with Alice Schwarzer

Alice Schwarzer has been the face of feminism in Germany for decades. In 2011 she brought out her autobiography to a surprisingly benevolent reception by critics.
Goethe.de interviewed her.

Ms. Schwarzer, in 1949 Simone de Beauvoir noted that the struggle had been won. Twenty years later, you thought women had still achieved almost nothing. Surely that has changed since the 1970s. Do you look upon the struggle of the women’s movement as won or lost today? There’s a difference of course between feminism, the women’s movement, and the de facto social development, that is, the active participation of women in working life, in public life and in politics. What role does feminism play today?

The women’s movement of the 1970s is undoubtedly the most momentous social movement of the second half of the twentieth century. In the past forty years we feminists have stirred up a real cultural revolution! Today the world is open to women, at least theoretically. Women have access to all sectors of society, and the first women are penetrating male-dominated domains; Germany even has a woman chancellor. And more and more fathers know or at least suspect that it’s no longer enough to take their son to the football field on Sunday or to buy their daughter an ice-cream once in a while. We women have made progress by leaps and bounds.

At the same time, this progress isn’t guaranteed; it has to be defended anew every day. As, for example, the right to abortion. There are still some of the old problems, plus new ones. Women have conquered the professional world, but men still don’t shoulder their half of the housework. And above all there still exists the problem of familial and sexual violence. This humiliates both children and women and makes their lives unsafe. Today such sexual violence is openly played down or even propagated – by the approving of prostitution and the ubiquity of pornography. By pornography I mean the linking of sexual desire with the lust for humiliation and violence. That destroys not only women and children; it also destroys men’s desire, in short, their pleasure. So there still remains much to do for feminists and their sympathizers.
'My life story is both typical and untypical.'
"

Read more here.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Grimm, Jacob und Wilhelm "Jorinda and Joringel"


Grimm, Jacob und Wilhelm "Jorinde und Joringel. Acht Märchen der Brüder Grimm" [Jorinda and Joringel. Eight Fairy Tales] - 1812

I used to love fairy tales when I was a child. We didn't have many books in the house, especially not children's books but we did have some fairy tale books.

A while ago, I found this little gem of a book with a few fairy tales in there, eight altogether. The title story "Jorinda and Joringel" used to be one of my favourite ones, a girl - Jorinda - is turned into a bird by a wicked witch and her lover - Jorindel - has to find a way to get her back. You can find the whole story here.

The other fairy tales included in this booklet are:

The Tailor in Heaven (Der Schneider im Himmel)

The Pack of Scoundrels (Das Lumpengesindel)

The Six Swans (Die sechs Schwäne)

The Goose-Girl (Die Gänsemagd)

The Story of a Clever Tailor (Vom klugen Schneiderlein)

The Star Talers (Die Sterntaler)

The Gifts of the Little People (Die Geschenke des kleinen Volkes)

I especially like "The Six Swans" and "The Goose-Girl" from this selection.

Find more translations of Grimm's Fairty Tales here.

Funnily, my love for fairy tales in my early years has not translated into a love for fantasy novels. Don't know why but that's just what it is.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Lafayette, Madame de "The Princess of Cleves"


Lafayette, Madame de (Marie-Madeleine) "The Princess of Cleves" (La Princesse de Clèves) - 1678

This is another classic novel from Jane Smiley's book "13 Ways of Looking at the Novel". I couldn't find this in French, so had to get it in English from the library. But it was quite interesting nevertheless. I think Madame de Lafayette had a good knowledge of life at the French court at the time, in the sixteenth century, and therefore the story about the Princess of Cleves seems very realistic.

If you like classic novels and want to learn more than just about nineteenth century England, this will be one for you.

From the back cover: "One of the great glories of French literature is this colorful and poignant love story, often described as the first of all 'modern' novels. First published in 1678 and written by Marie Madeleine Roche de la Vergne, Countess de Lafayette, a Parisian lady of wit and fashion, who probably received help with it from her friend the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, author of the famous 'Maxims', it recreates with matchless vitality the lives and loves of the courtiers of King Henry II who reigned in the middle of the Sixteenth Century. 'The Princess of Cleves' is like an exquisite French tapestry whose brilliant colors and romantic figures have lost nothing of their first freshness. For the consuming passion of the young Duc de Nemours for the beautiful wife of his friend the Prince of Cleves will always be one of the classic love stories of all literature."

Monday, 2 May 2016

Happy May!


I wish you all a happy May. * This month is always supposed to be sunny and cheerful. Wishing us all that this is the case. Surely this beautiful calendar image of a watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch "Boots in the Harbour of Groß Zicker" will help.



 

Same as last year, I'd like to share the wonderful watercolour paintings from Hanka and Frank Koebsch with you every month. I have bought their calendar every year for five years now and have loved every single one of their pictures. I hope you enjoy them just as much as I do.

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their blog here.