Saturday 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas! Happy Jólabókaflóð!

"In Iceland, books are exchanged on Christmas Eve, and you spend the rest of the night reading. People generally take their books to bed along with some chocolate. How cozy and wonderful does that sound?

Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country, and new books are typically published only during the Christmas season - the frenzy is called "Jólabókaflóð" which means Christmas Book Flood."

Found on Facebook.

☆☆ Merry Christmas! Happy Jólabókaflóð! ☆☆ 

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

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.

December 6: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

Aboulela, Leila "The Kindness of Enemies" - 2015

Abulhawa, Susan "Mornings in Jenin" - 2010

Ali, Sabahattin "Madonna in a Fur Coat" (Turkish: Kürk Mantolu Madonna) - 1943

Atkinson, Kate "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" - 1995

Filipović, Zlata "Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo" (Bosnian: Zlatin dnevnik: otroštvo v obleganem Sarajevu)- 1993

Kulin, Ayşe "Rose of Sarajevo" (Turkish: Sevdalinka) - 1999

Maalouf, Amin "Samarcande" - 1988

Obama, Barack
"Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" - 1995
- "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" - 2006

Steinem, Gloria "My Life on the Road" - 2015

Ulitzkaya, Lyudmila "Imago" or "The Big Green Tent" (Russian: Zelenyi shater/Зеленый шатер) - 2010

Looking at that list, this was a great reading year. I found so many new and interesting authors. Well, some of heir names were already familiar to me but I had never read anything by them. Others were completely new to me. But all in all, I found some wonderful books and some great new authors.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Happy December

Happy December to all my friends and readers 

New Calendar picture with this beautiful watercolour painting
 by Hanka Koebsch

"Christmas Greetings from the Baltic Sea"
"Weihnachtsgrüße von der Ostsee"


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.

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Angelou, Maya "Mom & Me & Mom"

Angelou, Maya "Mom & Me & Mom" - 2013

I have read "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou quite a while ago and really liked it. So, I was happy that when one of her books was chosen as a new read for "Emma's Book Club - Our shared shelf".

And I was not disappointed. Maya Angelou's writing is still as gripping as it was in her previous novel. She writes in a way as if you sit there listening to her telling a story. A really good story.  Her mother must have been a remarkable woman, as she was remarkable herself, she can find something good in everything, even though she had a difficult life to lead.

I learnt a lot about Maya Angelou and her family but I also learnt a lot about myself and my relationship to my late mother. Everything good but still interesting.

I am certainly going to read more of her books.

From the back cover:

"The story of Maya Angelou’s extraordinary life has been chronicled in her multiple bestselling autobiographies. But now, at last, the legendary author shares the deepest personal story of her life: her relationship with her mother.

For the first time, Angelou reveals the triumphs and struggles of being the daughter of Vivian Baxter, an indomitable spirit whose petite size belied her larger-than-life presence - a presence absent during much of Angelou’s early life. When her marriage began to crumble, Vivian famously sent three-year-old Maya and her older brother away from their California home to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. The subsequent feelings of abandonment stayed with Angelou for years, but their reunion, a decade later, began a story that has never before been told. In Mom & Me & Mom, Angelou dramatizes her years reconciling with the mother she preferred to simply call 'Lady,' revealing the profound moments that shifted the balance of love and respect between them.

Delving into one of her life’s most rich, rewarding, and fraught relationships, Mom & Me & Mom explores the healing and love that evolved between the two women over the course of their lives, the love that fostered Maya Angelou’s rise from immeasurable depths to reach impossible heights."

Monday 28 November 2016

Arnold, Catharine "Globe: Life in Shakespeare's London"

Arnold, Catharine "Globe: Life in Shakespeare's London" - 2014

I have read a few books of and about William Shakespeare and so far have enjoyed most of them a lot even though I always say a play is written to be played, not to be read.

My favourite of those books is still "Shakespeare: The World as a Stage" by Bill Bryson, one of my favourite authors.

However, this is a great non-fiction book about The Globe, how it first was built in Shakespeare's time and what it meant for the world of acting back then and how it influenced our world of the theatre today.
I love reading about historical times but the Tudor times belong to my favourites. There was just so much going on, the world was about to change. The world of great rulers was always the world of great art. And no matter what people say about Elizabeth I, she did a great job in a man's world and with her encouragement, the theatre flourished.

We learn a lot about the theatre here, about Shakespeare's plays, Shakespeare's life and life in Shakespearean times in general.

Informative, interesting, excellent book about interesting, adventurous times.

Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to visit the new Globe but I am determined that I will during my next visit to London.

From the back cover:
"The life of William Shakespeare, Britain's greatest dramatist, was inextricably linked with the history of London. Together, the great writer and the great city came of age and confronted triumph and tragedy. Globe takes its readers on a tour of London through Shakespeare's life and work as, in fascinating detail, Catharine Arnold tells how acting found it's place in the city. We learn about James Burbage, founder of the original Theatre in Shoreditch, who carried timbers across the Thames to build the Globe among the bear-gardens and brothels of Bankside in 1599, and of the terrible night in 1613 when the theatre caught fire during a performance of King Henry VIII. Rebuilt, the Globe continued to stand as a monument to Shakespeare's genius until 1642 when it was destroyed on the orders of Oliver Cromwell. And finally we learn how, 300 years later, Shakespeare's Globe opened once more upon the Bankside, to great acclaim, rising like a phoenix from the flames.

Arnold creates a vivid portrait of Shakespeare and his London from the bard's own plays and contemporary sources, combining a novelist's eye for detail with a historian's grasp of his unique contribution to the development of the English theatre. This is a portrait of Shakespeare, London, the man and the myth."

Friday 25 November 2016

Book Quotes of the Week

"Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world." Napoleon Bonaparte

"Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read." Marilyn Jager Adams

"Many persons read and like fiction. It does not tax the intelligence and the intelligence of most of us can so ill afford taxation that we rightly welcome any reading matter which avoids this." Rose Macaulay

"I think reading is a gift. It was a gift that was given to me as a child by many people, and now as an adult and a writer, I’m trying to give a little of it back to others. It’s one of the greatest pleasures I know." Ann M. Martin

"The habit of reading is the only enjoyment I know in which there is no alloy. It lasts when all other pleasures fade. It will be there to support you when all other resources are gone. It will be present to you when the energies of your body have fallen away from you. It will last you until your death. It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live." Anthony Trollope

Find more book quotes here.

Monday 21 November 2016

Štimec, Spomenka "Croatian War Nocturnal"

Štimec, Spomenka "Croatian War Nocturnal" (Kroata Milita Noktlibro) - 1993

This is not just the diary of a girl who speaks Esperanto about her life during the Balkan wars, her life and that of her family and friends, and often about their deaths, as well. It is a view into life during wartime. Snippets of several lives that are affected that build a big picture together.

I bought this book because it was written in Esperanto but there are several translations available, i.a. in English. The title is a word play. Day-book is the Esperanto word for diary (same as in many other languages) but because she wrote this mainly during the night, she calls it her night-book. She had to type it in the bathroom because it was the only room in the house without a window where she could use light at night - whenever they had some.

I doubt that this book is available in a normal bookshop but if you can find it, it is totally worth reading. * It is a story about how from one minute to another, love can turn to hate, how you can more or less be "given" an enemy. Neighbours and friends turn against each other all of a sudden because you don't belong to the same group as they do. What a nightmare! And you know what? I see this happening all the time and I'm afraid if someone is given the chance, they will do what the politicians in former Yugoslavia have done and start a civil war or an even greater one. We all need to stick together because in the end, we are all the same. None of us is better or worse than someone else because of where we come from.

I therefore hope, that everyone will follow the words of one of the widows in the story whose speech at her husband's funeral is on the back cover:
"Friends, relatives, neighbours, colleagues - now is the time to end the hate. It does not matter who started first and how often. I do not feel anger against anyone because my husband was killed. But stop! For the mortal remains of my husband, I beg you - forgive and forget all open bills! Let us go forward. Do not let our children and grandchildren fight against each other again. Whether this happens depends on us. Let us do what is in our power. Let us be the beginning of peace, of which everyone is talking."

Books she mentions:
Krleža, Miroslav "Croatian God Mars" (Hrvatski bog Mars) - 1922
Zamenhof, Ludwig L. "Call to the Diplomats" (Alvoko al Diplomatoj) - 1915
Auld, William "The Infant Race" (La infana raso) - 1956

* The book has been published in English in the meantime, see my link to Goodreads. (as always also through the picture)

Friday 18 November 2016

Book Quotes of the Week

"God be thanked for books! they are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages." W.E. Channing

"Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens." President Clinton on International Literacy Day, September 8th 1994

"We are too civil to books. For a few golden sentences we will turn over and actually read a volume of four or five hundred pages." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"In my view, nineteen pounds of old books are at least nineteen times as delicious as one pound of fresh caviar." Anne Fadiman

"When I get hold of a book I particularly admire, I am so enthusiastic that I loan it to someone who never brings it back." Edgar Watson Howe

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Atkinson, Kate "Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Atkinson, Kate "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" - 1995

I have heard about this book at least a decade and it's been on my TBR pile for almost as long. I have no idea why it took me so long to read it. I'm glad I finally did, it's a brilliant story.

Ruby tells her story, her mother's story, her grandmother's story and the story of all the women in her family. It's really interesting and even though she jumps back and forth in their lives, there is still quite a surprise at the end.

An interesting read. Kate Atkinson has a great way of expressing herself but an even greater one of laying down a story, unfolding it page by page. Such a fascinating family story where everyone can recognize themselves but also distance yourself far enough that it doesn't affect you too much. She has a great sense of humour that brings the families through hard times. And hard times there are plenty.

However, there are four generations with a lot of characters, two world wars, a lot of different relationships, the story is not written in chronological order. It is advisable to take notes so you remember who is who.

It was a great book to read. I wish someone would write a book like that about my family.

From the back cover:
"Ruby Lennox was conceived grudgingly by Bunty and born while her father, George, was in the Dog and Hare in Doncaster telling a woman in an emerald dress and a D-cup that he wasn't married. Bunty had never wanted to marry George, but here she was, stuck in a flat above the pet shop in an ancient street beneath York Minster, with sensible and sardonic Patrica aged five, greedy cross-patch Gillian who refused to be ignored, and Ruby...

Ruby tells the story of The Family, from the day at the end of the nineteenth century when a travelling French photographer catches frail beautiful Alice and her children, like flowers in amber, to the startling, witty, and memorable events of Ruby's own life."

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Movies

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.

November 15: Movie Freebie
Top ten all time favorite movies, top ten foreign films, top ten rom-coms, top ten 90's movies, top ten action flicks, top ten tear-jerkers, top ten movies your favorite actor/actress is in, top ten movies with PoC leads, etc. etc.)

It's a tough one. We love movies, so I will just list a few that we have watched more than about five times. You will see that my movie watching is more on the chick side than my reading. Hope I can finish after ten ...

The American President   
The Boat That Rocked   
The Boys and Girl from County Clare   
Bride & Prejudice     
Dirty Dancing  
Doctor Zhivago   

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain   
Falling in Love  
Gone With the Wind   

Just the Way You Are   
Kingdom of Heaven   
Little Women   
Love Actually  

The Mirror has Two Faces 
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation   

Out of Africa   
The Philadelphia Story   

Sense & Sensibility  
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers   
That Touch of Mink  
A Walk in the Clouds  
What's Cooking?   
When Harry Met Sally   

While You Were Sleeping
You've Got Mail  
And anything by Jane Austen.
(I added a link to the IMDb page for each of them, so just click on the title.)

Those were the first ones I could think about and I knew I wouldn't be able to stop at ten but if I continued only for five minutes, I'd probably come up with a hundred more. They are in alphabetical order, so no preference of the first over the last. 
Often I say Happy Reading when I write on this time but this time I will say Happy Watching. Hope you like my selection. 

Friday 11 November 2016

Book Quotes of the Week

"A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us." W. H. Auden

"Why can't people just sit and read BOOKS and be nice to each other?" David Baldacci

"I've read too many books to believe what I am told." Suheir Hammad

"Revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth, for the want of which whole nations fare the worse." John Milton

"If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe? The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions." 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 10 November 2016

Grass, Günter "Peeling the Onion"

Grass, Günter "Peeling the Onion" (German: Beim Häuten der Zwiebel) - 2006

Günter Grass, one of Germany's greatest authors, has written a biography, not just one but three books where he talks about his life, growing up in between the two wars that were going to destroy the Europe that was known before, becoming a German soldier in WWII, spending his years in Russia, coming back to a country that was destroyed, a different part of the country than where he came from, as well. His first steps into becoming an artist, his apprenticeship as a stonemason in order to become a sculptor. Many, many stories.

Günter Grass doesn't keep anything a secret. He mentions how and why he volunteered to go to war. He also describes many events that he was going to use in his many novels later. Even if you haven't read any of his novels, this is a great account not just of the life of a writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature but also of a simple German boy who was born at the wrong time.

If you grew up in post-war Germany with parents who had been about the author's age (like me), a lot of the stories sound familiar (apart from the volunteering part).

Brilliant, remarkable writing. I am not surprised this author received the highest prize you can get.

I read this in the original German edition and am looking forward to the two next parts of the trilogy:

"Die Box. Dunkelkammergeschichten" (The Box: Tales from the Darkroom) (Autobiographical Trilogy #2) - 2008
"Grimms Wörter. Eine Liebeserklärung" (Autobiographical Trilogy #3, no translation, yet) - 2010


"In this extraordinary memoir, Nobel Prize-winning author Günter Grass remembers his early life, from his boyhood in a cramped two-room apartment in Danzig through the late 1950s, when The Tin Drum was published.

During the Second World War, Grass volunteered for the submarine corps at the age of fifteen but was rejected; two years later, in 1944, he was instead drafted into the Waffen-SS. Taken prisoner by American forces as he was recovering from shrapnel wounds, he spent the final weeks of the war in an American POW camp. After the war, Grass resolved to become an artist and moved with his first wife to Paris, where he began to write the novel that would make him famous.

Full of the bravado of youth, the rubble of postwar Germany, the thrill of wild love affairs, and the exhilaration of Paris in the early fifties, Peeling the Onion -- which caused great controversy when it was published in Germany -- reveals Grass at his most intimate."

As any good author, he has also read a lot and mentions many of them in the book.
Beecher Stowe, Harriet "Uncle Tom's Cabin" - 1852
Coster, Charles de "The Legend of Thyl Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak" - 1867
Dahn, Felix "Ein Kampf um Rom" (A Struggle for Rome) - 1876
Dickens, Charles "David Copperfield" - 1849
Döblin, Alfred "Berlin Alexanderplatz. The Story of Franz Biberkopf" - 1929
Dos Passos, John "Manhattan Transfer" - 1925
Dostoevsky, Fyodor "Demons" - 1872
Dumas, Alexandre "The Three Musketeers" - 1844
Fallada, Hans "Little Man, What Now?" - 1932
Faulkner, William "Light in August" - 1932
Fülöp-Müller, René "Der heilige Teufel. Rasputin und die Frauen" (Rasputin: The Holy Devil) - 1927
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "Wahlverwandschaften" (Elective Affinities) - 1809
Greene, Graham "The Heart of the Matter" - 1948
Hamsun, Knut "August" - 1930
Hamsun, Knut "Hunger" - 1890
Joyce, James "Ulysses" - 1922
Jünger, Ernst "In Stahlgewittern" (Storm of Steel) - 1920
Keller, Gottfried "Ferien vom Ich" [Holidays from myself] - 1915
Keller, Gottfried "Green Henry" - 1853
Lagerlöf, Selma "Gösta Berling's Saga" - 1891
Mereschkowski, Dmitry "The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci" (Воскресшие боги. Леонардо да Винчи) - 1900
Meyer, Conrad Ferdinand "Jürg Jenatsch. Thirty Years War" (Jürg Jenatsch) - 1876
Miłosz, Czesław "The Captive Mind" (Zniewolony umysł) - 1953
Raabe, Wilhelm "Chronik der Sperlingsgasse" [Chronicles of Starling Alley] - 1856
Raabe, Wilhelm "Hungerpastor" [Hungerpastor] - 1864
Remarque, Erich Maria "All Quiet on the Western Front" - 1829
Storm, Theodor "The Rider on the White Horse" (Der Schimmelreiter) - 1888
Wilde, Oscar "The Picture of Dorian Gray" - 1890

And some authors where he didn't mention a particular book.
Aristotle - 384-322 BC
Dickens, Charles - 1812-1870
Heidegger, Martin - 1889-1976
Spinoza, Baruch - 1632-77
Sudermann, Hermann - 1857-1928
Twain, Mark - 1835-1910

Günter Grass "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Ten Books I've Added To My To-Be-Read List

"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.

November 8: Ten Books I've Added To My To-Be-Read List

I keep adding new books to my TBR list all the time, so this is an easy one. ;)

Angelou, Maya "Mom & Me & Mom" - 2013
Arnold, Catharine "Globe: Life in Shakespeare's London" - 2014
Backman, Fredrik "A Man Called Ove" (Swedish: En Man som heter Ove) - 2012
Bohjalian, Chris "Midwives" - 1997
Ephron, Nora "The Most of Nora Ephron" - 2014
Dylan, Bob "Chronicles. Volume One" - 2004
Konar, Affinity "Mischling" - 2016
Plath, Sylvia "The Bell Jar" - 1963
Witzel, Frank "
The Invention of the Red Army Faction by a Manic Depressive Teenager in the Summer of 1969" (German: Die Erfindung der Roten Armee Fraktion durch einen manisch-depressiven Teenager im Sommer 1969) - 2015
Zeh, Juli "Unterleuten" [Place name, only in German so far] - 2016

I will report about all of them once I'm done. In the meantime:

Happy Reading.

Monday 7 November 2016

Scott, Mary "Haven't We Met Before?"

Scott, Mary "Haven't We Met Before?" - 1970

Mary Scott's books are always funny and I love them all. This one is just as hilarious as many of the others. The young painter Tessa paints an abstract picture - as a joke. But she wins a prize and now has to hide from everyone because they all want to celebrate her.

As always, Mary Scott writes about what she knows best, the New Zealand countryside. And her characters are as lovely as always.

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 (translated):
"A Reluctant Star
What happens if a freelance painter suddenly gets the crazy idea to create a completely abstract, completely unintelligible painting and on top of that submits this concoction to a great art exhibit?
It happens what Tessa Nelson - that's the name of the jester - hadn't even expected in her wildest dreams: her 'work' is enthusiastically celebrated and - awarded a prize.
Tessa is a reluctant star. To escape the prying reporters, photographers and fans, she flees to the countryside to her brother. But there it seems she's come from bad to worse..."

Friday 4 November 2016

Book Quotes of the Week

"Of all the diversions of life, there is none so proper to fill up its empty spaces as the reading of useful and entertaining authors." Joseph Addison

"The best advice I ever got was that knowledge is power and to keep reading." David Bailey

"It’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read." Judy Blume

"A large, still book is a piece of quietness, succulent and nourishing in a noisy world, which I approach and imbibe with 'a sort of greedy enjoyment', as Marcel Proust said of those rooms of his old home whose air was 'saturated with the bouquet of silence'." Holbrook Jackson

"A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you." Joyce Meyer

Find more book quotes here.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Happy November!

I wish everyone a good November

New Calendar picture with this beautiful watercolour painting.

Hanka Koebsch "Winteräpfel" - "Winter Apples" 

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.

Monday 31 October 2016

Pye, Michael "The Edge of the World"

Pye, Michael "The Edge of the World: How the North Sea Made Us Who We Are" - 2014

An exciting book. A look at how we became what we are. What has the North Sea done, how has it contributed to our history?

It looks like it has done a lot, it sent out fishermen and pirates, businessmen and adventurers. We didn't just find the American Continent by those first people who wanted to find new waterways, a lot of our system and how we live today started there. Our way of living, doing business, organizing, politics, law, science, insurance, money, art, everything comes from those explorations and how people first started to settle and find their way in this world.

Frisians, Vikings, Angles, Irish, Dutch, they all added their bits. And being from the Northern part of Germany myself, I have often found a connection to all those other inhabitants of the North Sea shores, we don't just share that history, we share a lot of culture, we tell the same jokes, have the same folk music.

I especially loved the part of the Hanseatic League, a 13th to 17th century alliance of European trading cities reaching from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland. If you read "Buddenbrooks" by Thomas Mann, one of my favourite books, you should be familiar with the influence the Hanse had on the people at the time. But it is often seen as a predecessor of the European Union. While I don't think that is exactly true, it was the first union that found that you are stronger in a league, that your chances were bigger and your gain larger.

Hugely interesting, not just for Europeans. There are so many threads, so many details in this book. Granted, it doesn't give the answer to everything but it surely is a great way to start if you only want to try to understand part of where we are today.

From the back cover:
"When the Romans retreated from northern Europe, they left behind lands of barbarians at the very edge of the known world. Yet a thousand years later the countries surrounding the North Sea were at the heart of scientific, mercantile and artistic enlightenments and controlled the first truly global empires.
In The Edge of the World, Michael Pye explains how a small but treacherous body of water inspired the saints, spies, fisherman, pirates, traders and marauders who lived beside and journeyed across the North Sea to give birth to our modern world."

Some books mentioned:
The Gospel according to Heliand (Saviour)
Lorris, Guillaume de "Le Roman de la Rose"
Huges, Thomas "Tom Brown's Schooldays"

Friday 21 October 2016

Book Quotes of the Week


"Everyone should read, we say, but we act as if only those with special talent should write." Roy Peter Clark

"He loved a book because it was a book; he loved its odour, its form, its title. What he loved in a manuscript was its old illegible date, the bizarre and strange Gothic characters, the heavy gilding which loaded its drawings. It was its pages covered with dust - dust of which he breathed the sweet and tender perfume with delight." Gustave Flaubert

"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper." Robert Frost

"The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts." Oliver Wendell Holmes

"Truth and understanding are not such wares as to be monopolized and traded in by tickets and statutes and standards. We must not think to make a staple commodity of all the knowledge in the land, to mark and license it like our broadcloth and our woolpacks." John Milton

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Obama, Barack "The Audacity of Hope"

Obama, Barack "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" - 2006

I think definitely since I reviewed "Dreams from My Father" (or Hillary Clinton's "Living History"). everybody knows what party I would support if I lived in the USA. I loved that book and wanted to know more about Barack Obama, so I read his next one

I am often shocked when I hear some people talk about this president as if he was evil and only wanted the worst for his country when he has done so much for them and tries to help everyone. I also don't understand how people who have to work hard for their money don't support him and his party in their effort to cut tax reliefs for the rich people and make the life of the "little man" a little easier. Who does not want health insurance??? I live in a country where it has been the norm to have health insurance and help when you get unemployed. We believe in nobody gets left behind. Maybe that's why Barack Obama has so many supporters over here, he has the same goals as we do.

Anyway, back to the book. Whilst in "Dreams from My Father", the author talks about his childhood and first steps into adulthood, he now gives an account of his first steps as a politician. I found it very interesting to look behind the scenes with someone who has been a Senator, who knows all the ins and outs and the pros and cons of politics. Very interesting, I think everyone should read this book.

He quotes Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." I think we all should take that to heart.

From the back cover:

"The Audacity of Hope is Barack Obama's call for a new kind of politics - a politics that builds upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans. Lucid in his vision of America's place in the world, refreshingly candid about his family life and his time in the Senate, Obama here sets out his political convictions and inspires us to trust in the dogged optimism that has long defined us and that is our best hope going forward."

Barack Obama received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009 "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.".

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Monday 17 October 2016

Nobel Prize for Literature 2016

Every year I am looking forward to the day where the newest winner of the Prize for Literature is announced. As most of my book friends know, I mostly root for Joyce Carol Oates who is one of the greatest contemporary writers in my humble opinion.

Anyway, I was flabbergasted when I saw the announcement. Totally unexpected but well deserved. The 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Bob Dylan. The 75-year-old rock legend received the prize "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

He's been the hero of my youth, there is hardly a singer-songwriter whose lyrics I know better. He has always been honest in his music. And I think it is great that he has won now. His lyrics are as important today as they were sixty years ago. The times were ready to be a-changing back then and it is time they are a-changing again. Robert Zimmerman had a message back then and we better listen to it now. Otherwise there might be more things blowing in the wind than just the answer.

Congratulations, Mr. Dylan! Guess what I've been listening to for the last couple of days?

In the meantime, I have read his biography, "Chronicles".

Friday 14 October 2016

Book Quotes of the Week

"Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labelled 'This could change your life.'" Helen Exley

"The first time I read an excellent book, it is to me just as if I had gained a new friend. When I read over a book I have perused before, it resembles the meeting with an old one." Oliver Goldsmith

"When separated, flour, salt, yeast and water do not possess the unique properties of bread." Lyndon W. Seaross and John E. Readence

"Books - the best antidote against the marsh-gas of boredom and vacuity." George Steiner

"What holy cities are to nomadic tribes - a symbol of race and a bond of union - great books are to the wandering souls of men: they are the Meccas of the mind." G.E. Woodberry

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Maalouf, Amin "Samarcande"

Maalouf, Amin "Samarkand" (French: Samarcande) - 1988

I think a lot of words just sound like paradise, dream words that take me to a magic place like from 1001 Nights: Samarkand is one of them. Doesn't it just make you think of mosques and minarets, oriental markets and blue tiled places?

Samarkand is written by Lebanese-born French author Amin Maalouf whose works are written in French. But a lot of it has been translated into English.

This novel takes us from the life of poet, mathematician and astronomer Omar Khayyám and his poetry collection Rubaiyat in Samarkand of the 11th century to the voyage of the fictional character Benjamin O. Lesage on the Titanic in 1912. I had never heard of Omar Khayyám and was happy to learn not just about his poetry but especially about his life and that of his contemporaries in an area that is as unknown to me and most people in Europe in that time as it is today. I have learned quite a few things about Persian and Muslim history.

Very well written account of a highly interesting topic. I loved this book.

I also really appreciated the map they had in the back showing the reader all the names of those far away places.

From the back cover:

"Accused of mocking the inviolate codes of Islam, the Persian poet and sage Omar Khayyam fortuitously finds sympathy with the very man who is to judge his alleged crimes. Recognising genius, the judge decides to spare him and gives him instead a small, blank book, encouraging him to confine his thoughts to it alone. Thus begins the seamless blend of fact and fiction that is Samarkand. Vividly re-creating the history of the manuscript of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Amin Maalouf spans continents and centuries with breathtaking vision: the dusky exoticism of 11th-century Persia, with its poetesses and assassins; the same country's struggles nine hundred years later, seen through the eyes of an American academic obsessed with finding the original manuscript; and the fated maiden voyage of the Titanic, whose tragedy led to the Rubaiyat's final resting place - all are brought to life with keen assurance by this gifted and award-winning writer."

Friday 7 October 2016

Book Quotes of the Week

"It was a joy! Words weren’t dull, words were things that could make your mind hum. If you read them and let yourself feel the magic, you could live without pain, with hope, no matter what happened to you." Charles Bukowski

"No person who can read is ever successful at cleaning out an attic." Ann Landers

"Reading feeds the soul, writing nourishes it!" J.C. McClean

"Where there is much desire to learn, here of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making." John Milton

"A book is good company. It is full of conversation without loquacity. It comes to your longing with full instruction, but pursues you never." Henry Ward Beecher

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 6 October 2016

Adams, Douglas "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

Adams, Douglas "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" - 1979

As everybody knows, I am not a huge fan of science fiction, neither on paper nor on the screen. But I thought that "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" belongs to the classics and should be read by anyone who is interested in literature.

Yes, a nice little story about the "Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything", certainly a brilliant story if you like this genre but not enough to tempt me to read the four other parts of this "trilogy". Mind you, I love Martin Freeman, so I might even watch the movie.

From the back cover:

"One Thursday lunchtime, the Earth gets unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. It's the final straw for Arthur Dent, who has already had his house bulldozed that morning. But for Arthur, that is only the beginning .In the seconds before global obliteration, Arthur is plucked from the planet by his friend Ford Prefect - and together the pair venture out across the galaxy on the craziest, strangest road trip of all time. book."

Monday 3 October 2016

Happy October!

New Calendar picture with this beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch "The Table is Laid"

Frank Koebsch "The Table is Laid" - "Der Tisch ist gedeckt"

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.

Monday 26 September 2016

Mantel, Hilary "Bring up the Bodies"

Mantel, Hilary "Bring up the Bodies" - 2012

After reading "Wolf Hall", I knew I'd have to read any sequel to this. I am looking forward to the next one, "The Mirror and the Light" because the story of Thomas Cromwell and/or Henry VIII has not ended, yet.

In this novel, the author focuses on the king's wish to divorce Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell's role in this. Same as the first, Booker Prize-winning novel, we can see a lot what is going on behind the scenes, what the history books don't tell us. Hilary Mantel has a great talent to make the characters come alive again on the pages, to describe them so you really get to know them.

Apparently, Hilary Mantel has written twelve books so far, I am sure I will read more of them.

Hilary Mantel won the Booker Prize for "Bring up the Bodies" in 2012.

From the back cover:

"By 1535 Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son, is far from his humble origins. Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife. But Anne has failed to bear a son to secure the Tudor line. At Wolf Hall, Cromwell watches Henry fall in love with plain Jane Seymour. The minister sees what is at stake: not just the king’s pleasure, but the safety of the nation. As he eases a way through the sexual politics of the court, he must negotiate a ‘truth’ that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.

In Bring up the Bodies, sequel to the Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel explores one of the most mystifying and frightening episodes in English history: the destruction of Anne Boleyn."

Friday 23 September 2016

García Márquez, Gabriel "The General in His Labyrinth"

García Márquez, Gabriel "The General in His Labyrinth" (Spanish: El general en su laberinto) - 1989

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios, better known to the world as Simón Bolívar lived from 24 July 1783 to 17 December 1830. He is largely considered as THE politician who brought about South America's independence from Spain in the early 19th century. I must admit, I knew his name, I knew he had something to do with south America, the state Bolivia was named after him, as well as the Bolivian and Venezuelan currencies. But that was about all I knew about this man who has been so important to a whole continent.

This book was written by one of the greatest South American authors ever. Even though it concentrates on Bolívar's last journey, the novel is full of details about his whole life and about South America at the time. We can learn about the history of this great continent and how it became what it is now. How it became liberated from being Spanish colonies, the obstacles they had to deal with. Bolívar also had a dream. A dream of a united South America. That this wasn't fulfilled was not his mistake but he certainly died a disappointed man.

Anything written by Gabriel García Márquez is worth reading, whether it is just fiction or, as in this case, historical fiction. Even if you are not interested in history at all, the writing is so beautiful. I wish I could read it in its original language.

From the back cover:

"Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez's most political novel is the tragic story of General Simon Bolivar, the man who tried to unite a continent. 

Bolivar, known in six Latin American countries as the Liberator, is one of the most revered heroes of the western hemisphere; in Garcìa Màrquez's brilliant reimagining, he is magnificently flawed as well. The novel follows Bolivar as he takes his final journey in 1830 down the Magdalena River toward the sea, revisiting the scenes of his former glory and lamenting his lost dream of an alliance of American nations. Forced from power, dogged by assassins, and prematurely aged and wasted by a fatal illness, the General is still a remarkably vital and mercurial man. He seems to remain alive by the sheer force of will that led him to so many victories in the battlefields and love affairs of his past. As he wanders in the labyrinth of his failing powers and still-powerful memories, he defies his impending death until the last.
The General in His Labyrinth is an unforgettable portrait of a visionary from one of the greatest writers of our time."

Gabriel García Márquez received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 "for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts".

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

I have also read by this author:
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Love in the Time of Cholera   

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Rushdie, Salman "Midnight's Children"

Rushdie, Salman "Midnight's Children" - 1981

I love to read books that challenge my brain. However, I found this one extremely hard to follow. Apparently, this book has been nominated the "Booker of Bookers", it's supposed to be the best Booker prize winner of the first 25 years.

What I really liked about it was that the life of our protagonist mirrored that of the Indian nation since its independence. Even though I have read several books about India and its history, there was still a lot of information in there that I hadn't heard about. The book certainly is a very peculiar mixture of historical fiction and magic realism in a way I haven't seen this before.

It is certainly worth reading but you have to take your time to take it all in. Maybe then you will be able to fully understand this quote: "Who what am I? My answer: I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I've gone which would not have happened if I had not come. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each 'I', everyone of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you'll have to swallow a world."

I also think you have to be ready for this book. It is very intense and touches so many subjects, so many parts about yourself, you can't read it in between anything else. I usually read about four or five books at a time, I couldn't with this one and even after that, I wasn't able to read for a while.

A difficult book - but very gripping, it's totally worth picking up.

From the back cover: 
"Born at the stroke of midnight at the exact moment of India's independence, Saleem Sinai is a special child. However, this coincidence of birth has consequences he is not prepared for: telepathic powers connect him with 1,000 other 'midnight's children' all of whom are endowed with unusual gifts. Inextricably linked to his nation, Saleem's story is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirrors the course of modern India at its most impossible and glorious."

Friday 9 September 2016

Book Quotes of the Week

"Americans like fat books and thin women." Russell Baker

"From my point of view, a book is a literary prescription put up for the benefit of someone who needs it." S.M. Crothers

"To teach is to learn twice." Joseph Joubert

"Seasoned life of man preserved and stored up in books." John Milton

"Books had instant replay long before televised sports." Bern Williams

Find more book quotes here.

Monday 5 September 2016

Happy September!

I know I'm late this month but I have a good excuse. My youngest son is going to Australia for a year and I enjoy spending his last days in Europe with him. I wish you all a happy September picture with this beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch

"Blossoms in the autumn sun" - "Blüten in der Herbstsonne" 

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.

Friday 12 August 2016

Alexievich, Svetlana "Second Hand Time. The Last of the Sovjets"

Alexievich, Svetlana "Second Hand Time. The Last of the Sovjets" (Russian: Время секонд хэнд = Vremja sekond khend) - 2013

"Born in the USSR - that's a diagnosis." This is what one of the people interviewed by the author said and it would have been a great title for this book, as well.

I discovered Svetlana Alexievich three years ago when she received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) and then decided to read "Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster". After she received the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, I found many more of her books and "Second Hand Time" sounded like a great read. The author wrote down her interviews with former citizens of the Soviet Union, people who liked the new system, people who disliked it, people who loved it, people who hated it. She wrote down their life stories and you can understand every single one of them. This is what makes politics so hard, trying to please everyone is not possible, there is always someone who disagrees with a certain decision.

I love how understanding she is with everyone, how she manages to report their feelings, their stories as if we are there with the storytellers. I also could relate to many of the stories. Having grown up during a different time, we probably went through a lot that the former Soviets had to go through after their state broke apart. Not exactly the same but our lives were still closer to that than to our children's nowadays. Maybe that is one of the reasons why I always loved Russian literature.

And then there are the stories she tells that get you closer to her interviewees. I liked how they said "For us, the kitchen is not just where we cook, it's a dining room, a guest room, an office, a soapbox." and "We like to have a chat in the kitchen, read a book. 'Reader' is our primary occupation." Or the way they joke about politics, the best jokes always are from oppressed people. "How do you tell a communist? It's someone who reads Marx. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands him." But one of my favourites is: "In five years, everything can change in Russia, but in two hundred - nothing."

With her work, the author has put together a vivid history of the USSR, of its failures and its positive sides. Yes, there were a lot of people who saw something positive in their oppression and partly, I even understand them. The above joke aside, communism is a good idea, if only it was invented for other species than men. Because men are greedy, they will never want to share and Karl Marx had a dream that this might be possible. He shared that dream with so many people, same as many people still believe in the American Dream and that they might be millionaires one day.

Svetlana Alexievich gets us to think like a Russian, to follow their tragic lives and imagine it might have been us. I read somewhere that her subject is the "history of the Russian-Soviet soul". Not a bad description. I have never read such a good and concise description of other people's lives. She asked her fellow citizens what they thought "freedom" meant and got different answers from those who remembered the USSR and those who didn't. They did grow up in different countries. I can relate to that in that way that our country was divided into East and West probably the same way the USSR/Russians are divided into Before and After. We speak the same language but have many different memories.

The author does what Tolstoy and Dostoevsky did one and a half centuries ago, she puts Russia on the literature map again.

This book makes quite an impression. The tragedies these people went through and are still going through should be known to the whole world. Reading this book is the first step.

And if I hadn't known it already, the Russians are a people of readers. The amount of authors and books mentioned is enormous. Here are just some of them:

Belov, Vasily Ivanovich (Васи́лий Ива́нович Бело́в)
Berdyaev, Nikolai Alexandrovich (Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Бердя́ев
Chernyshevsky, Nikolay Gavrilovich (Никола́й Гаври́лович Черныше́вский)
Dobrolyubov, Nikolay Alexandrovich (Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Добролю́бов)
Dovlatov-Mechik, Sergei Donatovich (Серге́й Дона́тович Довла́тов)
Fyodorov, Nikolai Fyodorovich (икола́й Фёдорович Фёдоров)
Galaktionovich, Vladimir (Влади́мир Галактио́нович Короле́нк)
Grinevsky, Aleksandr Stepanovich (better known by his pen name, Aleksandr Grin, Александр Грин)
Grossman, Vasily Semyonovich (Васи́лий Семёнович Гро́ссман)
Herzen, Aleksandr Ivanovich (Алекса́ндр Ива́нович Ге́рцен)
Iskander, Fazil Abdulovich (Фази́ль Абду́лович Исканде́р)
Kollontai, Alexandra Mikhailovna (Алекса́ндра Миха́йловна Коллонта́й - née Korolenko, Domontovich, Домонто́вич)
Lermontov, Mikhail Yuryevich (Михаи́л Ю́рьевич Ле́рмонтов)
Nekrassow, Nikolai Alexejewitsch (Николай Алексеевич Некрасов)
Ogarev, Nikolay Platonovich (Никола́й Плато́нович Огарёв)
Okudzhava, Bulat Shalvovich (Була́т Ша́лвович Окуджа́ва)
Platonov, Andrei (Андре́й Плато́нов)
Pushkin, Alexander Sergeyevich (Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Пу́шкин)
Rasputin, Grigori Jefimowitsch (Григорий Ефимович Распутин)
Saltykov-Shchedrin, Mikhail Yevgrafovich (Михаи́л Евгра́фович Салтыко́в-Щедри́н)
Shalamov, Varlam Tikhonovich (Варла́м Ти́хонович Шала́мов)
Uspensky, Gleb Ivanovich (Глеб Ива́нович Успе́нский)

Belyaev, Alexander Romanovich (Беляев, Александр Романович) "Человек-амфибия=Chelovek-Amfibiya" (Amphibian Man/Der Amphibienmensch) - 1927
Brezhnev, Leonid Ilyich (Бре́жнев, Леони́д Ильи́) "Малая земля=Malaja semlja" (Little Land/Das kleine Land) - 1978
Brezhnev, Leonid Ilyich (Бре́жнев, Леони́д Ильи́) "Возрождение=Vozrozhdenie" (Rebirth/Wiedergeburt) - 1978
Brezhnev, Leonid Ilyich (Бре́жнев, Леони́д Ильи́) "Целина=Celina" (The Virgin Lands/Neuland) - 1979
Bulgakov, Mikhail (Булгаков, Михаил Афанасьевич) "Ма́стер и Маргари́та=Master i Margarita"  (The Master and Margarita/Der Meister und Margarita) - 1967
Bunin, Ivan Alekseyevich (Бунин, Иван Алексеевич) "Okajannyje dni=Окаянные дни" (Cursed Days/Verfluchte Tage) (Nobel) - 1926
Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich (Чехов, Антон Павлович) "Сапожник и нечистая сила= Sapozhnik i nechistaja sila" (The Cobbler and the Devil aka The Shoemaker and the Devil/Der Schuster und das Böse) - 1888
Chernyshevsky, Nikolay Gavrilovich (Чернышевский, Николай Гаврилович) "Что делать?=Chto delat?" (What is to be done?/Was tun?) - 1863
Dostoevsky, Fyodor Mikhailovich (Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский) "Братья Карамазовы/Brat'ya Karamazovy" (The Brothers Karamazov/Die Brüder Karamasow) - 1879-80
Fadejew, Alexander Alexandrowitsch (Александр Александрович Фадеев) "Molodaia gvardia=Молодая гвардия" (The Young Guard/Die junge Garde) - 1946
Gogol, Nikolai Vasilievich (Никола́й Васи́льевич Го́голь) "Шинель=Shinel" (The Overcoat/Der Mantel) - 1842
Marx, Karl "Das Kapital" (Capital: Critique of Political Economy) - 1867
Ostrovsky, Nikolai Alexeevich (Николай Алексеевич Островский) "Как закалялась сталь=Kak zakalyalas' sta" (How the Steel Was Temperered/Wie der Stahl gehärtet wurde) - 1832-34
Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich (Пастернак, Борис Леонидович) "Доктор Живаго=Doktor Živago" (Doctor Zhivago/ Doktor Schiwago) - 1957
Polevoy, Boris Nikolaewich (Борис Николаевич Полевой) "Повесть о настоящем человеке= Povest' o nastojashhem cheloveke" (The Story of a Real Man/Der wahre Mensch) - 1947
Rybakov, Anatoly Naumovich (Рыбаков, Анатолий Наумович) "Дети Арбата=Deti Arbata" (Children of the Arbat/Kinder des Arbat) - 1987
Sholokhov, Mikhail Aleksandrovich (Шолохов, Михаил Александрович) "Они сражались за Родину=Oni srazhalis' za Rodinu" (They Fought for Their Country/Sie kämpften für ihre Heimat) - 1959 Nobel Prize
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Aleksandr Isayevich (Солженицын, Александр Исаевич) "Архипелаг ГУЛАГ=Archipelag GULAG" (The Gulag Archipelago/Der Archipel Gulag) - 1973
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isayevich (Солженицын, Александр Исаевич) дин день Ивана Денисовича=Odin den' Ivana Denisovicha" (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich/Ein Tag im Leben des Iwan Denissowitsch) - 1962
Tolstoy, Lew Nikolajewitsch (Толстой, Лев Николаевич) "Война и мир=Woina I Mir" (War and Peace/Krieg und Frieden) - 1868/69
Turgenev, Ivan Sergeyevich (Тургенев, Иван Сергеевич) "Zapiski Okhotnika=Записки охотника" (A Sportsman's Sketches aka The Hunting Sketches/Aufzeichnungen eines Jägers) - 1852

From the back cover:

"From the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Svetlana Alexievich, comes the first English translation of her latest work, an oral history of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a new Russia.

Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive documentary style, Secondhand Time is a monument to the collapse of the USSR, charting the decline of Soviet culture and speculating on what will rise from the ashes of Communism.

As in all her books, Alexievich gives voice to women and men whose stories are lost in the official narratives of nation-states, creating a powerful alternative history from the personal and private stories of individuals.

Svetlana Alexievich was born in the Ukraine in 1948 and grew up in Belarus. As a newspaper journalist, she spent her early career in Minsk compiling first-hand accounts of World War II, the Soviet-Afghan War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Chernobyl meltdown. Her unflinching work - 'the whole of our history…is a huge common grave and a bloodbath' - earned her persecution from the Lukashenko regime and she was forced to emigrate. She lived in Paris, Gothenburg and Berlin before returning to Minsk in 2011. She has won a number of prizes, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Prix Médicis, and the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award. In 2015, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Russians/USSR/former USSR states had quite a few winners for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Svetlana Alexievich is the latest.

Nobel Prize Winners for Literature:
Ivan Bunin - 1933
Boris Pasternak - 1958
Michail Sholokhov - 1965
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - 1970
Joseph Brodsky - 1987
Alexievich, Svetlana - 2015 (Belarus but born in the USSR)

Svetlana Alexievich received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015 "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time" and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2013.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.