Friday 29 March 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

"The purpose of a writer is to make revolution irresistible.” Toni Cade Bambara

"Libraries are not a destination. They are the transportation. The Grand Central Station of every great city and town." N.N.

“The oldest books are still only just out to those who have not read them.” Samuel Butler

"My mother and my father were illiterate immigrants from Russia. When I was a child they were constantly amazed that I could go to a building and take a book on any subject. They couldn't believe this access to knowledge we have here in America. They couldn't believe that it was free." Kirk Douglas * Aren't we lucky???

"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." G.K. Chesterton

Find more quotes here.

Thursday 28 March 2013

O'Brian, Patrick "Master & Commander"

O'Brian, Patrick "Master & Commander" - 1969

This does not seem like my usual read but a couple of years ago (even before the film was made), I really quite liked it, it reminded me a lot of my classical favourites like Jane Austen or George Eliot, possibly because it takes place during the same era but. A lot of action going on in the story and a lot of information about the Napoleonic wars and how life was for the "heroes of the sea". I loved the characters, especially friendship between the two main men. There are twenty books in this series and I wouldn't mind reading some more.

Regarding the movie, I did watch it once even though I disagreed from the beginning with the casting of Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey, I never imagined him that way. Paul Bettany who played the surgeon would have been far better for that role.

From the back cover:

"Set sail for the read of your life …

Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin tales are widely acknowledged to be the greatest series of historical novels ever written.

Master and Commander is the first of Patrick O’Brian’s now famous Aubrey/Maturin novels, regarded by many as the greatest series of historical novels ever written. It establishes the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey RN and Stephen Maturin, who becomes his secretive ship’s surgeon and an intelligence agent. It contains all the action and excitement which could possibly be hoped for in a historical novel, but it also displays the qualities which have put O’Brian far ahead of any of his competitors: his depiction of the detail of life aboard a Nelsonic man-of-war, of weapons, food, conversation and ambience, of the landscape and of the sea. O’Brian’s portrayal of each of these is faultless and the sense of period throughout is acute. His power of characterisation is above all masterly.

This brilliant historical novel marked the début of a writer who grew into one of our greatest novelists ever, the author of what Alan Judd, writing in the Sunday Times, has described as ‘the most significant extended story since Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time’.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Iyengar, B.K.S. "Light on Life"


Iyengar, B.K.S. "Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom" - 2005

This book was lent to me by a friend who loves yoga and thought it might be helpful for me. Well, if I have learned one thing from this book, it is that yoga is definitely not for me. I have followed classes decades ago and didn't like it much and I had just as much trouble following the thoughts of the author. I think I am too much of a modern person to find any sense in what the philosophy of yoga is telling me. Maybe I will chagne one day but I doubt that.

Nevertheless, the book is quite interesting. I have learned more about the thoughts and rules of Eastern philosophy and I appreciate that. But, as I said, it is not for me. In order to be successful with something like this, to really make it part of yourself, you have to believe in it. And I just don't.

Quotes I found interesting:
"When you have known pain, you will be compassionate. Shared joys cannot teach us this." and
"The power of science is the proof of our ability to project ourselves in space. But space without time is like muscle without brain."

From the back cover:

"‘As human beings, we all seek to reconcile the paradox of how to make our way upon the earth while striving for something more permanent and profound. So many seek this greater Truth in the heavens, but it lies much closer than the clouds. It is within us and can be found by anyone on the Inward Journey.’ B.K.S. Iyengar, whose teachings on yoga are followed throughout the world, reflects upon his lifetime’s experience (he is 89) on the yoga path. The structure of the book follows the different aspects of that path (from Freedom Awaits, through The Physical Body, The Energy Body, The Mental Body, The Intellectual Body, The Divine Body to Living in Freedom) and provides a learning framework for yoga as well as an invaluable discourse on life. A ‘must have’ for anyone who practises yoga or is interested in the teachings of the East.

B.K.S. Iyengar is a living legend and is considered to be one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world. He has been practicing and teaching yoga for more than 60 years. He has written many books on yogic practice and philosophy, and is best known for his books Light on Yoga , Light on Pranayama and Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Iyengar yoga centers are located throughout the world, and millions of students practice Iyengar Yoga.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Gowda, Shilpi Somaya "Secret Daughter"

Gowda, Shilpi Somaya "Secret Daughter" - 2010

One of the book club reads that I knew from the beginning wouldn't belong to my favourites. It already had a chick lit feeling to it when I read about it when it was suggested.

However, it did bring up quite a few questions that were discussed in the club, adoption, fitting into another culture, why are boys more desired than girls in certain part of this world. A lot of people adopt children from another culture when they can't have one of their own or for different other reasons. Some manage to give these kids a feeling that they still belong to both cultures, others don't manage to do this.

The whole story is told in a very superficial way, the way this little Indian girl grows up in her American family, without anyone really caring about the other. The characters were not described very well, they remained unrealistic and two-dimensional. It almost reminded me of a Bollywood movie with people breaking out into a song every other minute.

I would have preferred to read a non-fiction book about a subject like this, or one that is not as black and white. I know I am quite alone with my opinion because I usually research our book club books for our members and I found mainly praise and delight about this novel. Maybe I am too critical.

Some comments by our members (written down by someone else as I unfortunately had to miss this meeting):

A very easy read and the author did a good job in writing, being her first novel. We all felt it was a bit refreshing! A simple story where all the pieces were put together in an obvious way but a good springboard for discussions.
About the characters: We all were in agreement that Somer was a very selfish, self-absorbed and self- indulgent person and we all detested her! Kavita was totally unselfish and willing to go through so many sacrifices for the love of a child, her husband and her son. We all agreed that Chris, as a South Asian living in the US was so enthralled with this new culture that he failed to explain his own culture to Somer. Chris’s mother was the matriarch with patience, forgiveness, understanding and love for her granddaughter and her son. The difference in social status was so obvious to us. You’re either rich or poor and the two never meet.
Does having a child make you more a women in the eyes of the world?
How important is it to follow the norm?
Does the internet make a difference? People know more about corruption, human right atrocities and a whole different way of thinking.
It is hard for the Western culture to understand why the Eastern cultures see girls as a burden to society. In the Indian culture, they have to think of feeding, dowries, education, and divorce. Being a male in these cultures is just more economically sound to them because they can work and earn money for the family. How do we, as "Westerners", try to wrap our heads around this … we just don’t think the same.

We discussed this in our international book club in March 2013.

From the back cover:

"Somer's life is everything she imagined it would be - she's newly married and has started her career as a physician in San Francisco - until she makes the devastating discovery she never will be able to have children.

The same year in India, a poor mother makes the heartbreaking choice to save her newborn daughter's life by giving her away. It is a decision that will haunt Kavita for the rest of her life, and cause a ripple effect that travels across the world and back again.

Asha, adopted out of a Mumbai orphanage, is the child that binds the destinies of these two women. We follow both families, invisibly connected until Asha's journey of self-discovery leads her back to India.

Compulsively readable and deeply touching, "
Secret Daughter" is a story of the unforeseen ways in which our choices and families affect our lives, and the indelible power of love in all its many forms."

Monday 25 March 2013

Best European Literature

I have seen quite a few lists about North American literature but not many about European ones. So, I searched the web and found this list at Goodreads. Quite a few that I've read, others that are still on my wishlist, some that I probably won't read, ever. But still, a good list to choose from if you are looking for European literature.

Best books written by European Authors
1     Orwell, George "Nineteen Eighty Four" - 1949
2     Austen, Jane "Pride & Prejudice" - 1813
3     Saint-Exupéry, Antoine "The Little Prince" (French:. Le Petit Prince)
4     Hugo, Victor "Les Misérables" (French: Les Misérables) - 1862
5     Shakespeare, William "Hamlet" - 1603
6     Brontë, Charlotte "Jane Eyre" - 1847
7     Tolkien, J.R.R. "The Lord of the Rings" - 1954
8     Shakespeare, William "Macbeth" - 1606
9     Homer "Odyssey" (Greek: Ομήρου Οδύσσεια, Odýsseia) - 800-600 BC
10   Alighieri, Dante "The Divine Comedy" (Italian: Divina Commedia) - 1321
11   Cervantes, Miguel de "Don Quixote" (Spanish: El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha) - 1605/1615
12    Orwell, George "Animal Farm" - 1945
13    Kundera, Milan "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (Czech: Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí) - 1984
14     Huxley, Aldous "Brave New World" - 1931
15     Carroll, Lewis "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" - 1865/71
16     Tolstoy, Leo "Anna Karenina" (Russian: Анна Каренина/Anna Karenina) - 1877
17     Dumas, Alexandre "The Count of Monte Cristo" (French: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo) - 1845
18     Süskind, Patrick "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" (German: Das Parfum) - 1985
19     Eco, Umberto "The Name of the Rose" (Italian: Il nome della rosa) - 1980
20     Shelley, Mary "Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus" - 1818
21     Shakespeare, William "A Midsummer Night's Dream" - 1596
22     Mann, Thomas "The Magic Mountain " (German: Der Zauberberg) - 1924
23     Dostoevsky, Fyodor "Crime and Punishment" (Russian: Преступление и наказание/ Prestupleniye i nakazaniye) - 1866
24     Kafka, Franz "The Metamorphosis" (German: Die Verwandlung) - 1912
25     Wilde, Oscar "The Picture of Dorian Gray" - 1890
26     Chaucer, Geoffrey "The Canterbury Tales" - 14th century
26     Molière "Tartuffe or the Imposter" (French: Tartuffe ou L'Imposteur) - 1682
28     Wilde, Oscar "The Importance of Being Earnest" - 1895
29     Bulgakov, Mikhail "The Master and Margarita" (Russian: Ма́стер и Маргари́та) - 1940/67
30     Remarque, Erich Maria "All Quiet on the Western Front" (German: Im Westen nichts Neues) - 1929
31     Stoker, Bram "Dracula" - 1897
32     Conrad, Joseph "Heart of Darkness" - 1902
33     Sophocles "Oedipus Rex" (Greek: Οἰδίπους Τύραννος, Oidipous Tyrannos) - 429 BC
34     Voltaire "Candide, ou l'Optimisme" (Candide, or Optimism) - 1759
35     Homer "The Iliad" (Greek: Ιλιάδα) - 8th century BC
36     Sophocles "Antigone" (Greek: Ἀντιγόνη) - 441 BC
37     Defoe, Daniel "Robinson Crusoe" - 1719
37     Austen, Jane "Emma" - 1816
39     Shakespeare, William "Othello" - 1603
40     Turgenev, Ivan "Fathers and Sons" (Russian: Отцы и дети/Otcy i Deti) - 1862
41     Swift, Jonathan "Gulliver's Travels" - 1726
42     Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Shadow of the Wind" (Spanish: La sombra del viento) - 2001
43     Woolf, Virginia "Mrs. Dalloway" - 1925
44     Dickens, Charles "David Copperfield" - 1850
45     Shakespeare, William "The Complete Works" - 1616 
46     Joyce, James "Ulysses" - 1922
47     Hugo, Victor "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" (French: Notre-Dame de Paris) - 1831
48     Camus, Albert "The Stranger" (French: L’Etranger) – 1942
49     Flaubert, Gustave "Madame Bovary" (French: Madame Bovary) - 1857
50     Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "Faust" (First Part) (German: Faust. Der Tragödie erster Teil) - 1808
51     Hardy, Thomas "Jude the Obscure" - 1895
52     Unknown "Beowulf: A New Verse Translation" - 8th to 11th century
53     Bradbury, Ray "Fahrenheit 451" - 1953
54     Proust, Marcel "Remembrance of Things: Volume I - Swann's Way & Within a Budding Grove" (French: À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs) - 1919
55     Dickens, Charles "Great Expectations" - 1861
56     Machiavelli, Niccolò "The Prince" (Italian: Il Principe) - 1532
56     Tolstoy, Lew Nikolajewitsch (Толстой, Лев Николаевич) "War and Peace" (Russian: Война и мир = Woina i mir) – 1868/69
58     Forster, E. M. (Edward Morgan) "A Room with a View" - 1908
59     Camus, Albert "The Plague" (French: La Peste) - 1947
60     Brontë, Emily "Wuthering Heights" - 1847
61     Hašek, Jaroslav "The Good Soldier Svejk: His Fortunes in the World War" (Czech: Osudy dobrého vojáka Švejka za světové války) - 1923
63     Dickens, Charles "Bleak House" - 1853
64     Eliot, T.S. "The Complete Poems and Plays" - 1965
65     White, T.H. "The Once and Future King" - 1958
66     Golding, William "Lord of the Flies" - 1954
67     Hodgson Burnett, Frances "The Secret Garden" - 1909
68     Stendhal "The Red and the Black" (French: Le Rouge et le Noir, intégral) - 1830
69     Dickens, Charles "A Tale of Two Cities" - 1859
Shakespeare, William "The Tempest" - 1611
71     Zola, Émile "Germinal (French: Les Rougon-Macquart, #13) - 1885
72     Camus, Albert "The Fall" (French: La Chute) - 1956
73     Dickens, Charles "A Christmas Carol" - 1843
74     Rostand, Edmond "Cyrano De Bergerac" (French: Cyrano de Bergerac) - 1897
75     Wiesel, Elie "Night" (French: La Nuit) – 1958
76     Dickens, Charles "Oliver Twist" - 1837
77     Ibsen, Henrik "A Doll's House" (Norwegian: Et dukkehjem) - 1897
78     Kafka, Franz "The Trial" (German: Der Prozess) - 1914
79     Levi, Primo "If This Is a Man/The Truce" (Italian: Se questo è un uomo/La Tregua) - 1947/63
Shakespeare, William "King Lear" - 1608
81     Beckett, Samuel "Waiting for Godot" - 1953
82     Dumas, Alexandre "The Three Musketeers" (French: Les Trois Mousquetaires) - 1844
83     Le Clézio, Jean-Marie Gustave "The Prospector" (French: Le Chercheur d'or) - 1985
84     Calvino, Italo "Invisible Cities" (Italian: Le città invisibili) - 1972
85     Proust, Marcel "Swann's Way" (In Search Lost Time, #1) (French: À la recherche du temps perdu) - 1913-27
86     Stoppard, Tom "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" - 1966
87     Waugh, Evelyn "Brideshead Revisited" - 1945
88     Choderlos de Laclos, Pierre "The Dangerous Liaisons" (French: Les Liaisons Dangereuses) - 1782
89     Larsson, Stieg "The Girl Who Played with Fire" (Millennium, #2) (Swedish: Flickan som lekte med elden) - 2006
90     Herodotus "The Histories" (Greek) - 440BC
91     Larsson, Stieg "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (Millennium, #1) (Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor) - 2005
92     Calvino, Italo "The Baron in the Trees" (Italian: Il Barone Rampante) - 1957
93     Larsson, Stieg "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" (Millennium, #3) (Swedish: Luftslottet som sprängde) - 2007
94     Burgess, Anthony "A Clockwork Orange" - 1962
95     Pamuk, Orhan "My Name is Red" (Turkish: Benim Adım Kırmızı) – 1998
96     Christie, Agatha "And Then There Were None" - 1939
97     Yeats, W.B. "The Collected Poems" - 1939
98     de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, Charles-Louis "The Persian Letters" (French: Lettres persanes) - 1721
99     Unknown "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" - 14th century
Shakespeare, William "Henry V" - 1599

56 so far. Still more English language novels and plays than any others - but it's a start.

Friday 22 March 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

"A half-read book is a half-finished love affair.” And "Books don't offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw." David Mitchell

"It is most likely that I will die next to a pile of books I was meaning to read." Lemony Snicket

"I cannot imagine life without books any more than I can imagine life without breathing." Terry Brooks

"Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house." Henry Ward Beecher

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”  Charles William Eliot

Find more quotes here.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

"I can't explain but I'll find a song that can." Or a book.

I read the first part of the title on the internet. There is so much truth in that statement. But a book has so many more words and there often is a book that can explain something so much better than anybody can in a few words. Why would that be? Wouldn't I be the one to explain a situation better myself than some stranger whom I've never met?

I think a good example is this. I suffer from chronic migraines. It is difficult to explain to someone who has never had a headache let alone a migraine in their life. It is difficult to explain it to anybody who doesn't have migraines all the time (or at least fifteen days a month) but even worse if they have no idea what you are talking about. But - there are books written by people who have experienced migraines and who have put a lot of effort into describing this to another person. The first time I read a book by someone about migraines where I knew instantly that this person was suffering, as well, was "Claire's Head" by Catherine Bush. It is "just a story" but she describes a migraine so well, I am sure she has her own experience with this illness. Then there is Andrew Levy who describes his suffering in "A Brain Wider Than the Sky", subtitle: "A Migraine Diary". How he ever managed to write that book with migraines the way he experiences them is beyond me but he managed, and I am extremely grateful for that. It is also said that Lewis Carroll suffered from migraines and that the term "Alice in Wonderland syndrome" is used for hallucinations specific to migraine. I am sure this is correct.

Anyway, there are a lot of books who describe certain situations very well. If you want to know about something special in a deeper way, read one.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

LeSieg, Theo "Wacky Wednesday"

LeSieg, Theo (=Dr. Seuss) "Wacky Wednesday" - 1974

"It all began with that shoe on the wall. A shoe on a wall ...? Shouldn't be there at all!" These are the first lines of this fun book.

My children loved activity books when they were little, something to do, something to look for. And silly rhymes. Well, Dr. Seuss often gave them both. But in none of it books was it as much fun to look for the unexpected than in "Wacky Wednesday". On page one you find one thing out of order and there are more on every single page until there are twenty on the last one, e.g. a fish fishing for men, a plane driving on the street, houses on top of another rather than in a row ... Very funny for little ones to look at and for beginner readers to read for themselves.

From the back cover:

"Just how wacky can a Wednesday get? With shoes on the wall, tortoises in trees, pigs without legs and teachers on roller skates, children will have lots of fun counting all the wacky things they can find on each spread of this entertaining book.

With his unique combination of hilarious stories, zany pictures and riotous rhymes, Dr. Seuss has been delighting young children and helping them learn to read for over fifty years. Creator of the wonderfully anarchic
Cat in the Hat, and ranked among the UK’s top ten favourite children’s authors, Dr. Seuss is a global best-seller, with nearly half a billion books sold worldwide."

Theo LeSieg received the Pulitzer Prize for all his works in 1984.

Monday 18 March 2013

McCullers, Carson "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter"

McCullers, Carson "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" - 1940

I have had this book on my wishlist ever since I first heard the title. It seems entrancing. A book worth reading. "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". What is it hunting? And why? Those are the first thoughts one has when hearing that phrase.

When I started reading the book, I learned that the author was just 23 when she wrote this, her first book. When I finished reading the book, all I could think was how on earth someone that young can have such profound understanding of the world, of the human race. What a gift this must be but also probably quite a burden.

This story is far from happy, as we can imagine by the title, I guess. There is a lot of despair in the novel. But also a lot of hope. And it teaches us, that even with the racism prevalent at the time, people are the same all over the world, no matter what colour their skin, what religion they follow or what their social or financial status is.

A wonderful book that makes you think a lot about the world and whether it has changed in the last hundred years. I don't think it has.

From the back cover:

"Carson McCullers was all of twenty-three when she published her first novel, 'The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter'. She became an overnight literary sensation, and soon such authors as Tennessee Williams were calling her 'the greatest prose writer that the South [has] produced.' ...

'The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter' tells an unforgettable tale of moral isolation in a small southern mill town in the 1930s.

Richard Wright was astonished by McCullers's ability 'to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness.' Hers is a humanity that touches all who come to her work, whether for the first time or, as so many do, time and time again.

 'The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter' is Carson McCullers at her most compassionate, most enduring best."

Friday 15 March 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

"My home is where my books are." Ellen Thompson

"The true alchemists do not change lead into gold. They change the world into words." William H. Gass

"Sometimes you read a book so special you want to carry it around with you for months after you've finished ... just to stay near it." Markus Zusak

"Picking five favourite books is like picking the five body parts you'd most like not to lose." Neil Gaiman

"If a book is well written, I always find it too short." Jane Austen

Find more quotes here.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Oscar Winning Books

Over the years, I have read quite a few books that were made into films and some of them received an Oscar award or a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay or for Best Picture or for Best Foreign Language Film. Maybe some of you have read them, too, and it would be nice ot talk about it and see whether we prefer the book or the film (although we probably all know the result of THAT discussion).

1929-30N Remarque, Erich Maria "All Quiet on the Western Front" (Best Film
1932-33A May Alcott, Louisa "Little Women"
1935F Dickens, Charles "David Copperfield"
1935F Hugo, Victor "Les Misérables
1936F Dickens, Charles "A Tale of Two Cities"
1936F Shakespeare, William "Romeo and Juliet"
1937F Buck, Pearl S. "The Good Earth"
1939N Brontë, Emily "Wuthering Heights"
1939A Mitchell, Margaret "Gone with the Wind" (Best Picture)
1939F Steinbeck, John "Of Mice and Men"
1940N Steinbeck, John "The Grapes of Wrath"
1943F Hemingway, Ernest "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
1946N Smith, Betty "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"
1947N Dickens, Charles "Great Expectations"
1948F Shakespeare, William "Hamlet" (Best Film)
1951F Sienkiewicz, Henryk "Quo Vadis"  
1951A Williams, Tennessee "A Streetcar named Desire"
1955N Steinbeck, John "East of Eden"
1959F Frank, Anne "Diary of a Young Girl" (Film Title: The Diary of Anne Frank)
1962A Lee, Harper "To Kill a Mockingbird"
1962N Nabokov, Vladimir "Lolita" 
1963A Fielding, Henry "The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling" (Film: Tom Jones) (Best Picture)
1965A Pasternak, Boris "Doctor Zhivago"
1967N Joyce, James "Ulysses"
1968A Dickens, Charles "Oliver" (Best Picture)
968F Shakespeare, William "Romeo and Juliet"

1968F Tolstoy, Lew Nikolajewitsch "War and Peace" [Война и мир = Woina i mir)]
1969L Dostoevsky, Fyodor M. "The Brothers Karamazov" [Братья Карамазовы = Bratya Karamazovy)
1970N Segal, Erich "Love Story"
1971F Aleichem, Sholem "Tevye and His Daughters" (Fiddler on the Roof)
1971N Burgess, Anthony "A Clockwork Orange"    
1974N Christie, Agatha "Murder on the Orient Express"
1974N Shelley, Mary "Frankenstein"

1976A Bernstein, Carl;  Woodward, Bob "All the President’s Men"
1976L Becker, Jurek "Jakob der Lügner" [Jacob the Liar]
1977N Green, Hannah "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden"
1979N Conrad, Joseph "Heart of Darkness" (Film: Apocalypse Now)
1979L Grass, Günter "Die Blechtrommel" (The Tin Drum)
1980F Hardy, Thomas "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" (Film Title: Tess)
1981N Fowles, John "The French Lieutenant's Woman"
1984N Forster, E.M. "A Passage to India"
1985A Dinesen, Isak "Out of Africa" (Best Picture)
1985N Walker, Alice "The Color Purple"
1986A Forster, E.M. "A Room With a View"
1992A Forster, E.M. "Howards End"
1993A Keneally, Thomas "Schindler's Ark" (Schindler's List) (Best Film) 
1993F Ishiguro, Kazuo "The Remains of the Day"
1995A Austen, Jane "Sense and Sensibility"
1996N Ondaatje, Michael "The English Patient" (Best Film)
1996N Shakespeare, William "Hamlet"

2000N Harris, Joanne "Chocolat"
2000N Homer "Odyssey"
20001N Hornby, Nick "About a Boy"
2002L Zweig, Stefanie "Nirgendwo in Afrika" (Nowhere in Africa)
2003L de Loo, Tessa "De tweeling" (Twin Sisters)
2006N James, P.D. "The Children of Men"
2007N McEwan, Ian "Atonement"
2008N Schlink, Bernhard "The Reader"
2008A Swarup, Vikas "Q & A" (Slumdog Millionaire) (Best Picture)
2010FA Logue, Mark & Conradi, Peter "The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy" (Film Title: The King's Speech) (Best Picture)
2011F Stockett, Kathryn "The Help"
2012F Hugo, Victor "Les Misérables"
2013FA Northup, Solomon "12 Years a Slave"
2015N Tóibín, Colm "Brooklyn"
2015N Weir, Andy "The Martian"

A - Award for Best Novel
N - Nomination for Best Novel
F - Nomination/Award for Best Picture
L - Nomination/Award for Best Foreign Language Picture

Monday 11 March 2013

Dostoevsky, Fyodor "Crime and Punishment"

Dostoevsky, Fyodor "Crime and Punishment" (Russian: Преступление и наказание = Prestupleniye i nakazaniye) - 1866

I can't mention it often enough. I love classic novels and I love Russian authors. The way they describe every situation, every little detail, it's priceless and unique.

In "Crime and Punishment", Dostoevsky manages to bring in so many different topics, It is a classic crime novel but it is also a historical novel, and it is also a psychological and philosophical work. No wonder he needs around 800 pages to describe a crime and its redemption.

You always feel like you are the protagonist or any of the other characters in the novel, you can think the way they think. The author is just that great. This story brings up a lot of questions about the meaning of life, about society and how we all relate to each other. There have been many answers over the centuries, I am sure, but everyone needs to find their own solutions, their own answers.

From the back cover:

"Crime and Punishment is one of the greatest and most readable novels ever written. From the beginning we are locked into the frenzied consciousness of Raskolnikov who, against his better instincts, is inexorably drawn to commit a brutal double murder.

From that moment on, we share his conflicting feelings of self-loathing and pride, of contempt for and need of others, and of terrible despair and hope of redemption: and, in a remarkable transformation of the detective novel, we follow his agonised efforts to probe and confront both his own motives for, and the consequences of, his crime.

The result is a tragic novel built out of a series of supremely dramatic scenes that illuminate the eternal conflicts at the heart of human existence: most especially our desire for self-expression and self-fulfilment, as against the constraints of morality and human laws; and our agonised awareness of the world's harsh injustices and of our own mortality, as against the mysteries of divine justice and immortality.

I also read "The Adolescent" and “The Gambler” and will certainly read more in the future.

Friday 8 March 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb

"Literature is the immortality of speech." August Wilhelm Schlegel

"Most of what makes a book 'good' is that we are reading it at the right moment for us." Alain de Botton

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." Jorge Louis Borges

"When you read a great book, you don't escape from life, you plunge deeper into it." Julian Barnes

Find more quotes here.

Thursday 7 March 2013

Peet, Bill "The Whingdingdilly"

Peet, Bill "The Whingdingdilly" - 1982

My kids were avid readers, they loved any children's book from the first board books until they started reading adult books. And there are quite a few that were so wonderful that I loved them just as much as they did.

One of them is "The Whingdingdilly". Scamp is a farm dog who is bored with who he is. Every other animal seems to have a better and more exciting live than he does. He asks a witch to change him into another animal. He only doesn't tell her which one ...

The books is full of wonderful illustrations. It's a lovely story to read to little children and to be read by older ones alike. It teaches us to be content with who we are because the grass might look greener on the other side but it might not always be the fact. Wonderful message along with a fantasy-like adventure.

From the back cover:

"Scamp learns to be content with his dog's life when Zildy the kooky witch turns him into a whing-dingdilly. "

When researching when this book was written, I learnt that the author was not just an illustrator who wrote children's books but also a Disney writer who worked on quite a few big Disney films.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

The "Piggybank" Challenge 2013

This is Challenge an idea by a German blogger. I have translated her text and you can find the original site here at "Willkommen im Bücherkaffee".

How long does this challenge last?
1 March 2013 to 1 March 2014

What goes into the piggybank?
For every book I've read - €2.00 into the piggybank
(Amount can be individually altered, of course)

  • For every book read, the money is inserted into the piggybank.
  • This money is off limit until the end of the challenge, i.e. the piggybank stays closed.
  • A list of the books read would be nice because that way we can perfectly observe the saving success.
  • On 1 March 2013, the piggybank can be opened and you can go shopping extensively - or carry on reading and saving.
  • Be consistent and put the money into the bank immediately, otherwise you will lose track easily.
  • I will always make a tick behind the book as soon as I dropped in the money.
  • It would be great if you start a page or an overview in your blog for the challenge. That way it is much easier to control the comments and the progress of your challenge. If you don't have a blog, you can leave a comment here on the challenge page (or on the original challenge page in German) about your opinion or your progress.
Would you like to join?
Go on. It is worthwhile in any care and you will certainly not regret it.

My progress (I add the German title, if available, for my German friends):
Anam, Tahmima "The Good Muslim" (Mein fremder Bruder)
Palma, Félix J. "The Map of Time" (El mapa del tiempo/Die Landkarte der Zeit)
Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "Marina" (Marina/Marina)
Ung, Loung "First they killed my father. A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers" (Der weite Weg der Hoffnung)
Mitchell, Margaret "Gone with the Wind"" (Vom Winde verweht)
Becker, Artur "Die Zeit der Stinte" [not translated: time of the smelt(fish)]
Kingsolver, Barbara "Flight Behaviour"
Boccaccio, Giovanni "The Decameron" (Il Decameron, cognominato Prencipe Galeotto/Das Decameron)
Belinga Belinga, Jean-Félix "Ngono Mefane, das Mädchen der Wälder: Ein Märchen aus dem Regenwald" [not translated: Ngono Mefane, the Forest Girl]
Hanff, Helene "84, Charing Cross Road" (84, Charing Cross Road. Eine Freundschaft in Briefen) and "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street"
Shriver, Lionel "We need to talk about Kevin"
Erkelius, Per Agne "Das Bild, das ich dir schrieb" (Rembrandt till sin dotter)
More, Thomas "Utopia" (Utopia)
Hannah, Kristin "Winter Garden" (Ein Garten im Winter)  
Zweig, Stefanie "Das Haus in der Rothschildallee"
Bacon, Francis "New Atlantis" (Nova Atlantis/Das neue Atlantis)
Neville, Henry "The Isle of Pines" (Die Insel der Fruchtbarkeit)
Cervantes, Miguel de "Don Quixote, vols. 1 and 2" (Spanish: El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha/Don Quijote von der Mancha)
Arana, Marie "American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood"
Golding, William "Lord of the Flies" (Herr der Fliegen) 
Pamuk, Orhan "Das Museum der Unschuld"“ (Masumiyet Müzesi/The Museum of Innocence)
MacLaverty, Bernard "Cal"
Aaronovitch, Ben "Rivers of London" (Die Flüsse von London) 
Giordano, Ralph "Deutschlandreise. Aufzeichnungen aus einer schwierigen Heimat" [not translated: Germany trip. Notes from a difficult homeland]
Navarre, Marguerite de "Heptameron" (Heptameron, French: Heptaméron)
Ghosh, Amitav "Sea of Poppies" (Ibis Trilogy #1, Das mohnrote Meer)
Mahfouz, Naguib "Children of the Gebelawi/Children of our Alley" (Die Kinder unseres Viertels; اولاد حارتنا)  
Fröhlich, Alexandra "Meine russische Schwiegermutter und andere Katastrophen" [not translated: My Russian Mother-In-Law and Other Catastrophies]
Geti, Monica "The Year of Sunshine"
Ghosh, Amitav "River of Smoke" (Ibis Trilogy #2, Der rauchblaue Fluss)
Abdolah, Kader (Hossein Sadjadi Ghaemmaghami Farahani) "My Father's Notebook" (Spijkerschrift/Die geheime Schrift: Die Notizen des Agha Akbar)
Ortheil, Hanns-Josef "Im Licht der Lagune" [not translated: In the Light of the Lagoon)]
Saramago, José "Cain" (Caim/Kain) 
Chevalier, Tracy "Falling Angels" (Wenn Engel fallen)
Urquhart, Jane "The Underpainter"
Rosendorfer, Herbert "Briefe in die chinesische Vergangenheit" (Letters Back to Ancient China)
Hosseini, Khaled "And the Mountains Echoed" (Traumsammler)
Marschner, Rosemarie "Das Mädchen am Klavier" [not translated: The Girl on the Piano]
Buck, Pearl S. "The Mother" (Die Mutter)
Grossman, David "To the End of the Land" (אשה בורחת מבשורה/Isha Nimletet Mi'Bshora/Eine Frau flieht vor einer Nachricht)
Bánk, Zsuzsa "Die hellen Tage" [The Light Days]
Oates, Joyce Carol "A Widow's Story. A Memoir" (Die Geschichte einer Witwe)
Kerouac, Jack "On the Road" (Unterwegs)
Rutherfurd, Edward "Paris" (Paris)
Sendker, Jan-Philipp "Das Flüstern der Schatten" (Whispering Shadows)
Cabré, Jaume "I confess" (Jo Confesso/Das Schweigen des Sammlers)
Bryson, Bill "Icons of England" [Englische Ikonen]
Steinbeck, John "The Pearl" (Die Perle)
Hislop, Victoria "The Thread" (Eine Geschichte von Liebe und Feuer)
Alexijewitsch, Swetlana (Alexievich, Svetlana) "Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster" (Чернобыльская молитва/Černobylskaja molitva/Tschernobyl: Eine Chronik der Zukunft)
Defoe, Daniel "Robinson Crusoe" (Robinson Crusoe)
Gillham, David R. "City of Women"
Aleichem, Sholem (שלום עליכם) "Tevye, the Dairyman" (Tevye der milkhiker, Yiddish: טבֿיה דער מילכיקער, Hebrew: טוביה החולב) Alejchem, Scholem "Tewje, der Milchmann"
Barbal i Farré, Maria "Ein Brief aus der Ferne" (Katal. Càmfora/Campher)
Moyes, Jojo "Me Before You" (Ein ganzes halbes Jahr)
Korschunow, Irina "Das Spiegelbild"  [The Mirror Image]
Clarke, Susanna "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell)
Palacio, R.J. "Wonder" (Wunder)
Jacobsen, Roy "The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles" (Hoggerne/Das Dorf der Wunder)
Cottrell Boyce, Frank "Millions" (Millionen)
Basti, Abel & van Helsing, Jan "Hitler überlebte in Argentinien" (Hitler in Argentina) [Hitler survived in Argentina]
Collins, Wilkie "Armadale" (Der rote Schal) 
Pamuk, Orhan "The Silent House" (Sessiz Ev/Das stille Haus) 
Guterson, David "Ed King" (dto.) 
Binet, Laurent "HHhH" (HHhH: Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich)" 
Biskupek, Matthias "Der Quotensachse. Vom unaufhaltsamen Aufstieg eines Staatsbürgers sächsischer Nationalität" [The Quota Saxon]
Johnson, Adam "The Orphan Master's Son" (Das geraubte Leben des Waisen Jun Do)
Gabaldon, Diana "Outlander" (UK: Cross Stich/Feuer und Stein, Highland Saga)
Bernières, Louis de "Birds without Wings" (Traum aus Stein und Federn) 
Dai, Sijie "Once on a Moonless Night" (Par une nuit où la lune ne s’est pas levée/Wie ein Wanderer in einer mondlosen Nacht)
Mann, Thomas "Der Zauberberg" (The Magic Mountain)
Allende, Isabel "Maya's Notebook" (El Cuaderno de Maya/Mayas Tagebuch)
Keneally, Thomas "Schindler's Ark" (Schindlers Liste)
Broerken, Hella "Paris-Spaziergänge: Die schönsten Streifzüge durch die französische Metropole" [Walks through Paris]
Hessel, Stéphane "Indignez-vous!" (Time for Outrage!/Empört Euch!)
Regener, Sven "Herr Lehmann" (Berlin Blues)
Fforde, Jasper "Lost in a Good Book" (Thursday Next 2) (In einem anderen Buch)
Berg-Ehlers, Luise "Mit Miss Marple aufs Land: Englische Krimischriftstellerinnen zwischen Tearoom und Tatort" [Visiting the Countryside with Miss Marple]
Modick, Klaus "Die Schatten der Ideen" [The Shadows of the Ideas]
Anderson, Leith "Jesus. An intimate portrait of the man, his land, and his people"
Sterne, Laurence "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" (Leben und Ansichten von Tristram Shandy, Gentleman)
Pool, Daniel "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist - the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England" (Was Jane Austen aß und Charles Dickens wusste)
Garfield, Simon "On the Map. Why the World Looks the Way it Does" (aka: "On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks") (Auf der Landkarte)
Roth, Philip "The Ghost Writer" (Der Ghostwriter)
Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Prisoner of Heaven" (El Prisionero del Cielo/Der Gefangene des Himmels)
May, Karl "Durch die Wüste" (aka Durch Wüste und Harem) [Through the desert] - 1892
George, Margaret "Elizabeth I" - 2011
Roth, Philip "Zuckerman Unbound" (Zuckermans Befreiung) - 1981
Austen, Jane "Pride & Prejudice" (Stolz & Vorurteil) - 1813
Grjasnowa, Olga "Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt" (All Russians Love Birch Trees) - 2012
Münk, Katharina "Die Eisläuferin" [The Ice Skater] - 2011
Scott, Mary "Breakfast at Six" (Frühstück um Sechs. Ich und Paul und Tausend Schafe) - 1953
Woodhouse, C.M. "Modern Greece. A Short History" - 2000
Borrmann, Mechtild "Der Geiger" - 2012
Mathis, Ayana "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" (Zwölf Leben) - 2013
Austen, Jane "Mansfield Park" (Mansfield Park) - 1814
Pamuk, Orhan "Die weiße Festung" (The White Castle/Beyaz Kale) - 1985
Mankell, Henning "Die rote Antilope" (Vindens son - Daniel) - 2000
Collins, Suzanne "The Hunger Games" (Die Tribute von Panem: Tödliche Spiele) - 2008
Eggers, Dave "The Circle" - 2013
Joyce, James "Ulysses" (dto.) - 1922
Scott, Mary "Dinner Doesn’t Matter" (Mittagessen Nebensache) - 1975
Frisch, Max "Homo Faber" (Homo Faber) - 1957
Bryson, Bill "Shakespeare: The World as a Stage" (Shakespeare - wie ich ihn sehe) - 2007
Fo, Dario "My first seven years (plus a few more)" (Il Paese dei Mezaràt: I miei primi sette anni (e qualcuno in più) - 2004

At the end of this reading "year" I have saved €202 which will be spent on something nice, probably something to do with books.

I have also decided to take part in the challenge again next year and here is the link for 2014.

Monday 4 March 2013

Can a movie ever be better than the book?

I have seen this quite often on the internet "Never judge a book by its movie". And I couldn't agree more. The trouble is, you cannot compare the two.

A book is a conversation between you and the author. The author tells you a story, you listen. Unless you read a translation, then there is a third person in the round, the translator. One of the main reasons I like to read books in the original ... but that's another topic.

With a movie, there are a lot of other points to consider. First of all, an author can write anything, his imagination is the limit. The director and/or producer has a lot of limitations, money is just one of them. For example, even if the author describes a character to the tiniest detail, that doesn't mean an actor like that exists. So, the better the description of the author, the more displeased will the reader be with the choice of cast. And that's just the beginning. The whole setting, we usually imagine a house differently, a park, a town, ... anything.

In any case, we all have a different kind of imagination and expect something different from a movie. It's like someone giving us a colouring book and then colours the pictures in with different colours than we would have done.

So, there are hardly ever any movies that we would prefer to the book, especially if we read the book first. The only exception might be if we didn't like the book that much in the first place. This happened to me with the book "Chocolat". Everybody was raving about it, there was such a hype. I expected it to be more than it was, a nice book with a nice story but that was it. I wasn't too impressed. Then I watched the movie and just loved it. Granted, some parts were changed but I quite agreed with the changes, maybe that's why I liked the movie better than the book? Another example where I liked the movie even though I loved the book: "The Help". I read the book before it became so popular and really liked it. As usual with films made from books I like, I was a little reluctant to watch the movie but I did it anyway. And loved it just as much. Why? Because they didn't leave out any important parts, they didn't change anything that I liked in the book, they made the movie in a similar way I made have made it. A very bad example would be "The Neverending Story" (Die unendliche Geschichte). The film was so horrible that the author retracted his name from that project and I don't blame him one bit.

And that's the secret of it all. The more the director manages to capture the sense of the book the way the reader imagined it, the more successful the movie will be for those who have read it. However, since more people are watching the movie, I guess a lot of the film producers don't make that priority number one.

Coming back to the question "Can a movie be better than a book?" In general, I doubt it. Never judge a book by its movie.

What are your thoughts about this?

Sunday 3 March 2013

Hislop, Victoria "The Return"

Hislop, Victoria "The Return" - 2008

I loved "The Island" so much that I had to read Victoria Hislop's next book. After this one, I completely fell in love with this writer. She has a way of drawing you into her stories, it's amazing. And she didn't disappoint with this one. "The Return" leads us to another place and another time in history but one that is just as exciting. A young woman discovers not only the terrible history of the Spanish Civil War but also her own. Along with her, the reader is forced to learn more about this awful part of history through this gripping account.

The characters are just as vivid and alive as the whole story, you feel yourself compelled back into that time when brothers fought each other over an ideology. The author also manages to describe Granada so well that you believe you are there with the protagonist of the story. I certainly would love to visit it after having read this book. I am still thinking about it days after having finished it and I am sure I will still think about it for a long, long time. And I definitely want to read Victoria Hislop's next books.

An excellent novel.

From the back cover:

"Beneath the majestic towers of the Alhambra, Granada's cobbled streets resonate with music and secrets. Sonia Cameron knows nothing of the city's shocking past; she is here to dance. But in a quiet café, a chance conversation and an intriguing collection of old photographs draw her into the extraordinary tale of Spain's devastating civil war.

Seventy years earlier, the café is home to the close-knit Ramírez family. In 1936, an army coup led by Franco shatters the country's fragile peace, and in the heart of Granada the family witnesses the worst atrocities of conflict. Divided by politics and tragedy, everyone must take a side, fighting a personal battle as Spain rips itself apart.

Find the other Victoria Hislop books I read here