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.