Monday 30 April 2018

Bandi "The Accusation"

Bandi (반디) "The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea" (고발/Gobal) - 2014

Seven short stories tell us about the life in North Korea. Seven individual stories about seven people and their families. We can imagine that life in such a closed-off dictatorship cannot be easy but the author gives us a good view over people in different kind of situations. And the conditions are just horrible for everyone.

A very impressive book. A highly important book. I am not a fan of short stories usually but this is definitely worth reading. Both the author and the person who smuggled the notes out of the country risked their lives to bring it to us, we should not disappoint them.

From the back cover:

"In 1989, a North Korean dissident writer, known to us only by the pseudonym Bandi, began to write a series of stories about life under Kim Il-sung's totalitarian regime. Smuggled out of North Korea and set for publication around the world in 2017, The Accusation provides a unique and shocking window on this most secretive of countries. Bandi's profound, deeply moving, vividly characterised stories tell of ordinary men and women facing the terrible absurdity of daily life in North Korea: a factory supervisor caught between loyalty to an old friend and loyalty to the Party; a woman struggling to feed her husband through the great famine; the staunch Party man whose actor son reveals to him the absurd theatre of their reality; the mother raising her child in a world where the all-pervasive propaganda is the very stuff of childhood nightmare. The Accusation is a heartbreaking portrayal of the realities of life in North Korea. It is also a reminder that humanity can sustain hope even in the most desperate of circumstances - and that the courage of free thought has a power far beyond those seek to suppress it."

Friday 27 April 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries." A C Grayling

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." Søren Kierkegaard

"Reading is food for the brain." Maribel C. Pagan

"Library doors are a gateway to anywhere." 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 26 April 2018

Schaik, Carel van & Michel, Kai "The Good Book of Human Nature"

Schaik, Carel van & Michel, Kai "The Good Book of Human Nature: An Evolutionary Reading of the Bible" - 2016

When I started reading this book, I had a certain thought how it might be. Years ago, I read an explanation on why people had to live kosher, why certain food was "unclean" and others had to prepared differently. I thought this might be a book like that, explaining the meanings of parts of the bible.

And it is in a way. However, it turned out completely different than what I thought. It might be a great read for all those who think you can either believe in the bible or in science. The authors of this book show us that this is absolutely not the case. They draw certain lines between the stories of the Old Testament, the New Testaments and the findings since.

A lot of their explanations are so clear that you wonder why nobody else thought about it before. Probably because people just took the bible for granted the way it was written and didn't question anything or didn't want to find anything that might question something.

Anyway, one part of this book explains that the garden Eden might have been the life of the hunter-gatherers and that life changed quite enormously when the people settled down. More illnesses, fights, more rules. There was no private property before, people lived in small groups and life was ruled by "one for all and all for one". This had to change when everyone started farming their own land.

The authors also explain that we have a first, second and third nature, the first being in-born, probably comparable to an animal instinct. The second nature is given by religion and society, how we ought to behave. The third nature has to do with laws and rules, definitely a lot more than what the hunter-gatherers dealt with.

In any case, a great analysis of the history of the bible. It explains the evolution as well as the reason for religion.

A brilliant book, both fascinating and informative.

From the back cover:
"The Bible is the bestselling book of all time. It has been venerated or excoriated—as God’s word, but so far no one has read the Bible for what it is: humanity’s diary, chronicling our ancestors’ valiant attempts to cope with the trials and tribulations of life on Earth.

In The Good Book of Human Nature, evolutionary anthropologist Carel van Schaik and historian Kai Michel advance a new view of Homo sapiens’ cultural evolution. The Bible, they argue, was written to make sense of the single greatest change in history: the transition from egalitarian hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies. Religion arose as a strategy to cope with the unprecedented levels of epidemic disease, violence, inequality, and injustice that confronted us when we abandoned the bush - and which still confront us today.

Armed with the latest findings from cognitive science, evolutionary biology, archeology, and religious history, van Schaik and Michel take us on a journey through the Book of Books, from the Garden of Eden all the way to Golgotha. The Book of Genesis, they reveal, marked the emergence of private property - one can no longer take the fruit off any tree, as one could before agriculture. The Torah as a whole is the product of a surprisingly logical, even scientific, approach to society’s problems. This groundbreaking perspective allows van Schaik and Michel to coax unexpected secrets from the familiar stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, Abraham and Moses, Jesus of Nazareth and Mary. The Bible may have a dark side, but in van Schaik and Michel’s hands, it proves to be a hallmark of human indefatigability.

Provocative and deeply original, The Good Book of Human Nature offers a radically new understanding of the Bible. It shows that the Bible is more than just a pillar for religious belief: it is a pioneering attempt at scientific inquiry."

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Olson, Pamela J. "Fast Times in Palestine"

Olson, Pamela J. "Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland" - 2011

Like most of us growing up in the Western world, Pamela Olson only had heard about the Middle East and all their troubles in the news, in books, always second hand, always full of prejudices and stereotypes. In 2003, she travelled to Palestine and found out for herself what this people has been going through.

The author gives a detailed account about life on the West Bank (and in Gaza) after the wall was erected. What it means for a Palestinian living in a country that is no longer their own. Pamela Olson tells us all about their daily lives and struggles.

Not since "City of Oranges" have I read such a detailed witnessing story about the people from the country that was supposed to be "without people". Same as then, I ask what's the solution? What can be done to help these people. And how can we ever get peace in the holy land? All I can say is that we need more people like Pamela Olson who report back what they see. Maybe it will open some eyes that will make a difference.

But it's not just the interesting topic that makes this story worthwhile reading, the author has a great way of describing everything. She also has her own website and continues her story in a blog called Fast Times in Palestine.

From the back cover:
"Pamela Olson, a small town girl from eastern Oklahoma, had what she always wanted: a physics degree from Stanford University. But instead of feeling excited for what came next, she felt consumed by dread and confusion. This irresistible memoir chronicles her journey from aimless ex-bartender to Ramallah-based journalist and foreign press coordinator for a Palestinian presidential candidate.

This book illuminates crucial years of Israeli-Palestinian history, from the death of Yasser Arafat to the Gaza Disengagement to the Hamas election victory. Its griping narrative focuses not only on violence, terror, and social and political upheavals but also on the daily rounds of house parties, concerts, barbecues, weddings, jokes, harvests, and romantic drama that happen in between.
Funny, gorgeous, shocking and galvanizing, Fast Times in Palestine challenges the way we think not only about the Middle East but about human nature and our place in the world."

Books she loves:
Kanaaneh, Dr. Hatim "A Doctor in Galilee"
Jundi, Sami al; Marlowe, Jen "The Hour of Sunlight"
Horowitz, Adam; Ratner, Lizzy; Weiss, Weiss (ed.) "The Goldstone Report" (United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict)
Abulhawa, Susan "Mornings in Jenin"
Pappe, Ilan "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine"
Kricorian, Nancy "Zabelle"
Sagan, Carl "Cosmos"
Johnstone, Keith "Impro"
Madson, Patricia Ryan "Improv Wisdom"
Thoreau, Henry David "Walden and Civil Disobedience"
Lee, Harper "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Bollen, Christopher "The Destroyers"

Bollen, Christopher "The Destroyers" - 2017

Our latest book club read. I had never heard of this author and I'm not totally surprised. "Mystery" and "thriller" usually doesn't come up in my books.

I only had a couple of days to read this book because it arrived very late from the library. But I think that was a good thing, this is probably not the kind of story you want to spread out.

Not a bad novel, the characters are pretty well drawn, you can imagine they actually exist. The story itself, well, I've never been rich but I can imagine it hits you harder when you don't have any money all of a sudden than when you never had it. People make different decisions in such a situation.

I don't completely agree with the title, the game the "Destroyers" the boys used to play as children, contributed nothing to the story in my opinion.

However, it was an interesting book.

From the back cover:

"Arriving on the Greek island of Patmos broke and humiliated, Ian Bledsoe is fleeing the emotional and financial fallout from his father’s death. His childhood friend Charlie - rich, exuberant, and basking in the success of his new venture on the island - could be his last hope.

At first Patmos appears to be a dream -long sun-soaked days on Charlie’s yacht and the reappearance of a girlfriend from Ian’s past - and Charlie readily offers Ian the lifeline he so desperately needs. But, like Charlie himself, this beautiful island conceals a darkness beneath, and it isn’t long before the dream begins to fragment. When Charlie suddenly vanishes, Ian finds himself caught up in deception after deception. As he grapples with the turmoil left in his friend’s wake, he is reminded of an imaginary game called Destroyers they played as children - a game, he now realizes, they may have never stopped playing.

An enthralling odyssey and a gripping, expansive drama, The Destroyers is a vivid and suspenseful story of identity, power and fate, fathers and sons, and self-invention and self-deception, from a writer at the very height of his powers."

We discussed this in our book club in April 2018.

Monday 23 April 2018

Scott, Mary; West, Joyce "No Red Herrings"

Scott, Mary; West, Joyce "No Red Herrings" - 1964 (Inspector Wright #4)

Another lovely book by my favourite New Zealand author, Mary Scott. In collaboration with Joyce West, she wrote five Inspector Wright novels. This is the fifth. There are always horses in those stories, much more obvious than in any of Mary Scott's own novels, at least their role is a lot more prominent.

Anyway, just another easy but pleasurable read.

From the back cover (translated):
"In a peaceful area in New Zealand, with peaceful people, strange things happen all of a sudden. Vida Cox, the dodgy landlady of a disreputable hotel, has been murdered. Then little Beth Sutherland has disappeared. And what about the missing hibiscus brooch?"

Friday 20 April 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"Of all man’s instruments, the most wondrous, no doubt, is the book. The other instruments are extensions of his body. The microscope, the telescope, are extensions of his sight; the telephone is the extension of his voice; then we have the plough and the sword, extensions of the arm. But the book is something else altogether: the book is an extension of memory and imagination." Jorge Luis Borges

"Thinking is more powerful than talking. Reading is more enlightening than seeing." Dr T.P. Chia

"It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view." George Eliot

"So it is with children who learn to read fluently and well: They begin to take flight into whole new worlds as effortlessly as young birds take to the sky." William James

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 19 April 2018

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Labyrinth of the Spirits"

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Labyrinth of the Spirits" (Spanish: El laberinto de los espíritus) - 2016 
(El cementerio de los libros olvidados #4)

It was a lucky day in 2001 when I first stumbled upon my first book by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Finally the fourth book in the series of the Cemetery of Forgotten books has been published and was available as a paperback in translation. You can't imagine how I have waited for this.

And I was not disappointed. The fourth novel was just as exciting as the first three that had originally been called a trilogy but - luckily - the author decided to turn it into a tetralogy. Maybe he'll even write a fifth one? No matter what, if he is writing another book, I am going to read it.

We have learned a lot about the family Sempere and the authors they read, their friends and their lives, esp. the lives of the people in Catalonia during the Franco regime. It must have been horrible. But the author manages to describe all the incidents meticulously, with so much detail that you can imagine having been there yourself.

In this novel, he gets behind the scenes of a minister and his evil deeds. The Sempere family is involved again and we also hear about some of the characters from the previous episodes. Apparently, you can read the series in whatever order you want, there is always some information from the other books. I intend to re-read all the other three books soon.

These are the first books in the series:
- "The Shadow of the Wind" (La Sombra del Viento)
- "The Angel’s Game" (El Juego del Ángel)
- "The Prisoner of Heaven" (El Prisionero del Cielo)

From the back cover:

"The internationally acclaimed New York Times bestselling author returns to the magnificent universe he constructed in his bestselling novels The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven in this riveting series finale - a heart-pounding thriller and nail-biting work of suspense which introduces a sexy, seductive new heroine whose investigation shines a light on the dark history of Franco’s Spain.

In this unforgettable final volume of Ruiz Zafón’s cycle of novels set in the universe of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, beautiful and enigmatic Alicia Gris, with the help of the Sempere family, uncovers one of the most shocking conspiracies in all Spanish history.

Nine-year-old Alicia lost her parents during the Spanish Civil War when the Nacionales (the fascists) savagely bombed Barcelona in 1938. Twenty years later, she still carries the emotional and physical scars of that violent and terrifying time. Weary of her work as investigator for Spain’s secret police in Madrid, a job she has held for more than a decade, the twenty-nine-year old plans to move on. At the insistence of her boss, Leandro Montalvo, she remains to solve one last case: the mysterious disappearance of Spain’s Minister of Culture, Mauricio Valls.

With her partner, the intimidating policeman Juan Manuel Vargas, Alicia discovers a possible clue - a rare book by the author Victor Mataix hidden in Valls’ office in his Madrid mansion. Valls was the director of the notorious Montjuic Prison in Barcelona during World War II where several writers were imprisoned, including David Martín and Victor Mataix. Traveling to Barcelona on the trail of these writers, Alicia and Vargas meet with several booksellers, including Juan Sempere, who knew her parents.

As Alicia and Vargas come closer to finding Valls, they uncover a tangled web of kidnappings and murders tied to the Franco regime, whose corruption is more widespread and horrifying than anyone imagined. Alicia’s courageous and uncompromising search for the truth puts her life in peril. Only with the help of a circle of devoted friends will she emerge from the dark labyrinths of Barcelona and its history into the light of the future.

In this haunting new novel, Carlos Ruiz Zafón proves yet again that he is a masterful storyteller and pays homage to the world of books, to his ingenious creation of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and to that magical bridge between literature and our lives."

Favourite quotes:
"You drink to remember, you write to forget." David Martín
"The Semperes travelled through books, not the map."

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2022.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Roach, Mary "My Planet"

Roach, Mary "My Planet. Finding Humor in the Oddest Places" - 2013

I have read articles by Mary Roach for a long time and certainly have been one of her biggest fans. I looked for a book by her ages ago and didn't find it. So now I was happy to hear from a friend that she did indeed publish several in the meantime. I had to get one immediately.

Whether she tells every phone operator what she thinks about their message "your phone call is important to me", talks about every woman's horror about getting their husbands to ask for directions or any other nightmares we might have with our beloved, she really does find humour in the oddest places.

On three pages, she tells us all about problems we face every day, maybe more when we are married but a lot also goes for single people. In any case, I'm glad I didn't read this on the bus. Her stories are a treasure and I will certainly look out for more.

From the back cover:

"A Hilarious Collection of Essays from one of America's Most Gifted Humorists!

Mary Roach, the bestselling author of Stiff, Spook, Bonk, and Packing for Mars, is considered one of the funniest science writers of all time. Roach removed the medical gauze to reveal a different side of her comedy in the Reader's Digest column "My Planet" - which was runner-up in the humor category of the National Press Club awards. Now available as a complete collection for the first time, the quirky, brilliant author takes a magnifying glass to everyday life, exposing moments of hilarity in the mundane and revealing amusing musings about marriage to, as she puts it, "the man I call Ed." 

Learn to laugh at your spouse's obsessions, appreciate automated customer service, and find pockets of pleasure in mazelike bargain stores. You'll never look at a grocery list the same way again."

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Craig, Charmaine "Miss Burma"

Craig, Charmaine "Miss Burma" - 2017

A recommendation by my blog friend Judy from Keep the Wisdom, (check out her post here) and I though it sounded totally interested. I had read a book about Burma/Myanmar before, so I didn't necessarily need to read it for my challenge "Travel the World Through Books" but that's not the main reason I do that list.

This story is based on the author's mother and grandparents, so I suppose a lot of the events are exactly as they happened. What a tragic story. If you are expecting a book about how a beauty queen is chosen, I wouldn't recommend it. If you want a book about Myanmar and its history, what they did to the people and why we didn't hear more about it, I highly recommend it. This novel reads a little more like a non-fiction book - which I like. There is so much the author covers about the history and culture of her country here, the different peoples that were thrown together. And we see what this does not only to her family but to all those members who don't belong to the ruling class. Her grandfather was a Jew from India, her grandmother a member of the Karen minority in Burma.

In any case, this is a great book if you want to learn more about that part of our world. And I think we all should know more about it.

From the back cover:
"Based on the remarkable lives of the author's mother and grandparents, Miss Burma is a beautiful and poignant story of how ordinary people come to be swept up in the fight for freedom.

A beautiful and poignant story of one family during the most violent and turbulent years of world history, Miss Burma is a powerful novel of love and war, colonialism and ethnicity, and the ties of blood.

It is 1939, and Benny, a young Jewish officer, is working for the British Customs Service in Burma. One day during his shift at the docks, he catches sight of a young woman with hair down to her ankles, standing at the end of a jetty. This is Khin, who belongs to Burma’s Karen ethnic minority group, which for centuries has been persecuted by the Burman majority. She and Benny soon marry, but when World War II comes to Asia, and Rangoon finds itself under threat of the Japanese occupation, the young couple and their baby daughter Louisa are forced to take shelter among Khin’s Karen countrymen in the eastern part of Burma. After the war, the British Empire strikes an independence deal with the Burman Nationalists, led by Aung San, leaving the Karen and other ethnic minority groups in a precarious position. Soon Benny will become an architect of the Karen revolution, which sparks the longest running civil war in recorded history.

Nearly a decade into the civil war. Louisa captures the country’s imagination, becoming Burma’s first national beauty queen. As she navigates her soaring fame and increasingly dire political reality, Louisa will be forced to reckon with her family’s past, the West’s ongoing covert dealings in Burma, and her own loyalty to the cause of the Karen people.

A captivating story of one family during the most violent and turbulent years of world history, Miss Burma is a masterful novel of love, war, and the struggle to lead a meaningful life."

Monday 16 April 2018

Mbue, Imbolo "Behold the Dreamers"

Mbue, Imbolo "Behold the Dreamers" - 2016

Not as much a book about Cameroon but about immigrants in the States. There is some part that tells about Cameroon but the majority of the "action" takes place in New York City.

It is interesting to see the comparison with an immigrant family who had nothing back home and a US American who has everything and then everything falls to pieces as he loses his job, i.e. his company goes bankrupt. How they deal with the problems they are faced with.

This would be a great book club book. Does really everyone want to come to America? Are women treated that much differently in the two cultures? What about the children? Yes, great topics to discuss.

The characters were described very well, you got to like some of them a lot, others not so much. I don't think anyone is surprised to find that I preferred the Africans but I wonder how any of them would behave had they been born into the other culture …

This was a debut novel but I hope Imbole Mbue will write more.

From the back cover:
"Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty - and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job - even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice."

Wednesday 11 April 2018

The "Piggybank" Challenge 2018

This is my sixth year of taking part in this challenge and decided to carry on. Why? You will discover once you read this text:

This is a challenge idea by a German blogger. I have translated her text and you can find the original site here at "Willkommen im Bücherkaffee". They seem to have discontinued the challenge but I will carry on.

How long does this challenge last?
1 March 2018 to 1 March 2019

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 finished book, the amount chosen is inserted into the piggy bank/ money box.
• This money is then off limits until the end of the challenge, i.e. the piggybank stays closed.
• On 1 March 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. (Personally, I put the books I read right next to the money box  until I drop the money in, otherwise it gets forgotten very quickly. Only after that do i put the book back on the shelf.)
• A list of books read would be very nice because you can perfectly observe the savings success.
• In addition, it would be great if you post a challenge post on your blog. This way, everyone can follow the progress of the other challenge participants so much easier. If you don't have a blog, then just leave a comment here in the comments from time to time about your opinion or your progress.

Would you like to join us?
Go ahead! It is worthwhile in any care and you will certainly not regret it.

Just write in the comments or by email to and send your link to the post. You may use the challenge logo with a link to the challenge in the Bücherkaffee.

The hashtag for the Twitter exchange: # Sparstrumpf

Last year, I read 136 books in that timeframe which resulted in €272 to spend on something nice. :-D

My progress (I add the German title, if available, for my German friends):

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "Das Labyrinth der Lichter" (El laberinto de los espíritus - El cementerio de los libros olvidados #4/The Labyrinth of the Spirits) - 2016 

Scott, Mary; West, Joyce "No Red Herrings" (Das Rätsel der Hibiskus-Brosche) - 1964 (Inspector Wright #4)
Bollen, Christopher "The Destroyers" - 2017
Olson, Pamela J. "Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland" - 2011 

Schaik, Carel van & Michel, Kai "The Good Book of Human Nature: An Evolutionary Reading of the Bible" (Das Tagebuch der Menschheit. Was die Bibel über unsere Evolution verrät) - 2016
Bandi (반디) "The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea" (고발/Gobal/Denunziation) - 2014 

Smith, Betty "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (Ein Baum wächst in Brooklyn) - 1943
Böttcher, Jan "Am Anfang war der Krieg zu Ende" (Y) - 2016 

Ackroyd, Peter "The History of England, Vol. 2 Tudors" - 2012
McGowan, John and McGowan, Frankie "Actually, it’s Love" - 2004 

Ishiguro, Kazuo "The Remains of the Day" (Was vom Tage übrigblieb) - 1989
Williams, Tennessee "A Streetcar named Desire" (Endstation Sehnsucht) - 1947
Feuchtwanger, Lion "Jud Süß" (Jew Suss) - 1925 

Walser, Martin "Ein fliehendes Pferd" (Runaway Horse) - 1978
McCall Smith, Alexander "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party" (12) - 2011
Boom, Corrie Ten "The Hiding Place. The Triumphant Story of Corrie Ten Boom" (De Schuilplaats/Die Zuflucht) - 1972
Kross, Jaan "Professor Martens' Departure" (Professor Martensi ärasõit/Professor Martens Abreise) - 1984 

Hunt, Ken "Xenophobe's Guide to the Aussies" (Die Australier pauschal) - 1995
Schami, Rafik "Die dunkle Seite der Liebe" (The Dark Side of Love) - 2004 

Hertmans, Stefan "Oorlog en terpentijn" (War and Turpentine/Der Himmel meines Großvaters) - 2013
Precht, Richard David "Anna, die Schule und der liebe Gott. Der Verrat des Bildungssystems an unsere Kinder" [Anna, the School and the Good God] - 2013 

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "Gaudí in Manhattan. Eine phantastische Erzählung" (La Mujer de Vapor) [Gaudí in Manhattan] - 2009
Scott, Mary; West, Joyce "Who Put It There?" (Der Tote im Kofferraum) - 1965 (Inspector Wright #5)
Frazier, Charles "Varina" - 2018
Steghöfer, Marie-Helene "Ein Jahr in Schweden" [A Year in Sweden] - 2017 

Kohl, Walter "Das leere Land" [The Empty Land] - 2011
Lennox, Judith "Before the Storm" (Das Haus in den Wolken) - 2008 

Benali, Abdelkader "Wedding by the Sea" (Bruiloft aan zee/Hochzeit am Meer) - 1996 
Dickens, Charles "David Copperfield" (David Copperfield) - 1850
Zeh, Juli "Die Stille ist ein Geräusch. Eine Fahrt durch Bosnien" [The Silence is a Sound] - 2002
McCall Smith, Alexander "The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection" - 2012
Greer, Andrew Sean "Less" (Mister Weniger) - 2017
Crwys-Williams, Jennifer (ed.) "In the Words of Nelson Mandela: A Little Pocketbook" - 1998

Remarque, Erich Maria "Im Westen nichts Neues" (All Quiet on the Western Front) - 1928
Czerski, Helen "Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life" - 2016
Rávic Strubel, Antje "Gebrauchsanweisung für Schweden" [User's Guide for Sweden] - 2008 

Lopez-Schroder, Maite "Romping through Ulysses" - 2013
Carey, Peter "A Long Way From Home" - 2017
Jason, David "Only Fools and Stories: From Del Boy to Granville, Pop Larkin to Frost" - 2017

Rutherfurd, Edward "Russka. The Novel of Russia" (Russka) - 1991
Domínguez, Carlos María "The House of Paper" (La Casa del Papel/Das Papierhaus) - 2007

Mukherjee, Neel "A State of Freedom" - 2017
Berlin, Peter "So sind sie, die Schweden: Die Fremdenversteher von Reise-Know-How" [This is how the Swedes are] - 2017 

Bánk, Zsuzsa "Schlafen werden wir später" [We will sleep later] - 2017
Oates, Joyce Carol "Jack of Spades. A Tale of Suspense" (Pik-Bube) - 2015 
Lamb, Wally "Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story" - 2009 
Heidenreich, Elke "Also… - Kolumnen aus Brigitte 4" [So … Columns from the newspaper Brigitte 4] - 1988
Pradas i Andreu, Núria "Die Kleidermacherin" (Somnis a mida) [Tailor Made Dreams] - 2016

Marbe, Nausicaa "Mândraga" (Mandraga/Mandraga) - 1998 
Kästner, Erich "Als ich ein kleiner Junge war" (When I was a little boy) - 1957 
Weir, Alison "Six Tudor Queens. Anne Boleyn. A King's Obsession" - 2017
Sansom, C.J. "Dominion" - 2011
Chekhov/Anton/Tschechow, Anton/Чехов, Антон Павлович (Anton Pavlovič Čechov) "In der Sommerfrische: Meistererzählungen" [Summer Holidays] - 1880/87
Briley, John "Cry Freedom: The Legendary True Story of Steve Biko and the Friendship that Defied Apartheid" (Schrei nach Freiheit) - 1987
Erpenbeck, Jenny "Aller Tage Abend" (The End of Days) - 2012
Fry, Stephen "Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold" (Was uns die Götter heute sagen) - 2017 

Abulhawa, Susan "The Blue Between Sky and Water" (Als die Sonne im Meer verschwand) - 2015
Kaminer, Wladimir "Ausgerechnet Deutschland. Geschichten unserer neuen Nachbarn" [Germany of all. Stories of our new neighbours] - 2018

Henderson, Kristin "Driving by Moonlight: A Journey Through Love, War, and Infertility" - 2003
Bauer, Thomas "Die Vereindeutigung der Welt. Über den Verlust an Mehrdeutigkeit und Vielfalt" [The Unification of the World. About the loss of ambiguity and diversity] - 2018
Backman, Fredrik "A Man Called Ove" (En Man som heter Ove/Ein Mann namens Ove) - 2012
Armstrong, Alexander; Osman, Richard "The 100 Most Pointless Things In The World" - 2012
Wolf, Christa "Der geteilte Himmel" (They Divided the Sky aka Divided Heaven) - 1963 

Kerkeling, Hape "Frisch hapeziert. Die Kolumnen" [Freshly "hallpapered"] - 2018 
Montasser, Thomas "Das Glück der kleinen Augenblicke" [The happiness of the small moments] - 2017 
Grass, Günter "Die Blechtrommel. Danziger Trilogie 1" (The Tin Drum) - 1959
Weidermann, Volker "Ostende - 1936, Sommer der Freundschaft" (Summer before The Dark, Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, Ostend 1936) - 2014 

Zeh, Juli "Corpus Delicti. Ein Prozess" (The Method) - 2009
Mak, Geert "De eeuw van mijn vader" (Das Jahrhundert meines Vaters) [My Father's Century] - 1999
Drinkwater, Carol "The Olive Harvest" (3. Teil von "Der Olivenhain") - 2006 

Nadal, Rafel "Das Vermächtnis der Familie Palmisano" (La maldición de los Palmisano/The Last Son's Secret) - 2015
Smiley, Jane "Golden Age" (Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga #3) - 2015 - 704 pages
Indriðason, Arnaldur "Menschensöhne" (Synir Duftsins) [Sons of Dust)] (Inspector Erlendur #1) - 1997

Sendker, Jan-Philipp "Am anderen Ende der Nacht" (The Far Side of the Night) - 2016
Kermani, Navid "Zwischen Koran und Kafka. West-östliche Erkundungen" (Between Quran and Kafka: West-Eastern Affinities) - 2014
Wright, Richard B. "Clara Callan" - 2001
McKinley, Tamara "Lands Beyond the Sea" (Träume jenseits des Meeres) - 2007
Scott, Mary "Yours to oblige" (Na endlich, Liebling) - 1954 - R 

Harari, Yuval Noah "Sapiens. A Brief History of Mankind" (Ḳizur Toldot Ha-Enoshut/קיצור תולדות האנושות/Eine kurze Geschichte der Menschheit) - 2014
Taschler, Judith W. "Roman one U" [Novel without U] - 2014 

Indriðason, Arnaldur "Menschensöhne" (Synir Duftsins) [Sons of Dust] (Inspector Erlendur #1) - 1997
Coetzee, J.M. "The Childhood of Jesus" (Die Kindheit Jesu) - 2013
Nietzsche, Friedrich "Jenseits von Gut und Böse. Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft/Zur Geneologie der Moral" (Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future/On the Genealogy of Morality) - 1886
McCall Smith, Alexander "The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon" (14) - 2013
NDiaye, Marie "Three Strong Women" (Drei starke Frauen/Trois femmes puissantes) - 2001

Ackroyd, Peter "The History of England, Vol. 3 Civil War" - 2014
Vargas, Jose Antonio "Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen" - 2018
Spufford, Francis "Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York" (Neu-York) - 2016
Atkinson, Kate "Transcription" (Deckname Flamingo) - 2018
Kingsolver, Barbara "Unsheltered" - 2018
Mistry, Rohinton "Such a Long Journey" (So eine lange Reise) - 1991
Sadler, Michael "An Englishman in Paris: L’éducation continentale" - 2000
Palma, Felix J. "Die Landkarte des Chaos" (The Map of Chaos/El mapa del caos) - 2014 

Obama, Michelle "Becoming" (Becoming - Meine Geschichte) - 2018
Scott, Mary "Breakfast at Six" (Frühstück um Sechs. Ich und Paul und Tausend Schafe) - 1953
Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl "All the President's Men" (Die Watergate-Affäre) - 1974
Dostoevsky, Fyodor "The Brothers Karamazov" (Братья Карамазовы/Brat'ya Karamazovy/ Die Brüder Karamasow) - 1879-80
Morton, Kate "The Clockmaker's Daughter" (Die Tochter des Uhrmachers) - 2018 

Weir, Andy "The Martian" (Der Marsianer) - 2011
Bythell, Shaun "The Diary of a Bookseller" - 2017
Nast, Michael "#EGOLAND" [egoland] - 2018 

Fielding, Henry "The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling" (Tom Jones: Die Geschichte eines Findelkindes) - 1749
Murdoch, Iris "The Philosopher's Pupil" - 1983 

Finkbeiner, Bernhard, Brekle, Hans-Jörg "Frag Mutti" [Ask Mum] - 2006 
Nicoletti, Cara "Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books" (Yummy Books!: In 50 Rezepten durch die Weltliteratur) - 2015
Fredriksson, Marianne "Eva" (Evas bok/The Book of Eve) (Paradisets barn/The Children of Paradise #1) - 1980
McCall Smith, Alexander "The Handsome Man's De Luxe Café" (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #15) - 2014
Sparks, Nicholas "The Notebook" (Wie ein einziger Tag) - 2004
Biden, Joe "Promise Me, Dad. A year of hope, hardship, and purpose" - 2017

My lists of 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Piercy, Joseph "The Story of English"

Piercy, Joseph "The Story of English: How an Obscure Dialect became the World's Most-Spoken Language" - 2012

I love languages. I love to know everything about them, so I can't really pass over a book that says "The Story of English: How an Obscure Dialect became the World's Most-Spoken Language". Obscure dialect. That sounds interesting.

I have read a lot about how the English language developed, I know about the Celts and the Romans, the Angles and the Saxons, the Vikings and the Normans and you can tell which words come from which language and why English has such a weird spelling. We know about Chaucer, Shakespeare and many other important writers and what they have done to shape the language.

This book reads like a novel about some people who inhabited a small island, were invaded and then started to invade otters, as well. Totally interesting. There is a lot of history in this book but you can't understand the English language without getting into their history.

It's a quick story about the evolution of the language (less than 200 pages), not as funny as those by Bill Bryson ("Mother Tongue", "Troublesome Words" and "Made in America") but still not a bad read.

My favourite quotes:

"To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up."
George Orwell, English Novelist (1903-59)


"If you describe things as better than they are, you are thought a romantic; if you describe things as worse than they are, you are thought a realist; if you describe things exactly as they are, you will be thought a satirist."
Quentin Crisp, English Writer and Raconteur (1908-99)

From the back cover:
"This is the compelling account of how the obscure dialects spoken by tribes from what are now Denmark, the Low Countries, and northern Germany became the most widely spoken language in the world.

English may have originated with just one country, but it is actually built upon influences from many different languages. From the Anglo-Saxons in the fifth century to the Normans in the eleventh, and on to present-day America, The Story of English shows how our language has evolved during the last two millenia.

Divided chronologically into sections ranging from pre-Roman and Latin influences to today's global language, this fascinating book also explores, among much else, the history of the printing press, the works of Chaucer, the evolution of The American Dictionary of the English Language - better known as Webster's - and the magisterial Oxford English Dictionary, to the use of slang in today's speech and the coming of electronic messaging: language for a postmodern world. 

The Story of English is the perfect gift for any lover not just of English, but of the history and development of language."

Thursday 5 April 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"If you cannot judge a book by its cover, surely we should not judge an author by one book alone?" E.A. Bucchianeri

"You’re the same today as you’ll be in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read." Charlie "Tremendous" Jones

"Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking." Christopher Morley

"Friend: What’s that book about? Me: *handing my friend the book* Here, read it." 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.

Oates, Joyce Carol "A Book of American Martyrs"

Oates, Joyce Carol "A Book of American Martyrs" - 2017

I have yet to find a book written by Joyce Carol Oates that I don't like. This is no exception. I was quite mad at times, not at the author but at her characters. They were so alive, so real, incredible.

Of course, I don't understand people who condone one sort of killing and then go on to do another one. Who gives someone the right to kill someone else because he has killed. That goes for those "assassins" who kill abortion doctors as much as it goes for people who kill murderers "legally". I think, that is the main thought where JCO wants us to go.

A fascinating book about a subject that should be discussed much more than "I'm against abortion". If you really want to have fewer abortions, you have to make sure fewer teenagers get pregnant. And no, "don't do it" is not a good idea. Children should be told at an early age what they should do in order to prevent a pregnancy. Then, there should be more support for parents, single mothers, anyone who raises kids. And better (preferably free) education possibilities. That all leads to a lot fewer abortions already. Just making it illegal leads to more illegal abortions and even more dead women.

You surely can tell from these few sentences which side I am on. And I am sure one of my favourite authors agrees with me. I admire her as much for her wonderful writing as well as for her courage to stand up for what she believes in. I can't wait to read her next book.

From the back cover:
"A powerfully resonant and provocative novel from American master and New York Times bestselling author Joyce Carol Oates

In this striking, enormously affecting novel, Joyce Carol Oates tells the story of two very different and yet intimately linked American families. Luther Dunphy is an ardent Evangelical who envisions himself as acting out God's will when he assassinates an abortion provider in his small Ohio town while Augustus Voorhees, the idealistic doctor who is killed, leaves behind a wife and children scarred and embittered by grief.

In her moving, insightful portrait, Joyce Carol Oates fully inhabits the perspectives of two interwoven families whose destinies are defined by their warring convictions and squarely-but with great empathy-confronts an intractable, abiding rift in American society.

A Book of American Martyrs is a stunning, timely depiction of an issue hotly debated on a national stage but which makes itself felt most lastingly in communities torn apart by violence and hatred."

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Ephron, Nora "When Harry Met Sally ..."

Ephron, Nora "When Harry Met Sally ..." - 1990

Norah Ephron is one of my favourite writers and Rob Reiner is one of my favourite film directors. No wonder "When Harry Met Sally" is one of my favourite movies.

So, when I found the book with the script to the film, I had to put it on my list. It is almost like watching the movie, especially if you have seen it about a hundred times before and more or less know it by heart.

Of course, it also made me want to see the film again. In any case, I am happy to have the script and I can always go back to the scene I love the most, no it's not the one you think about that ends with "I'll have what she's having" but this one:

Waitress: "Hi, what can I get ya?"
Harry: "I'll have a number three."
Sally: "I'd like the chef salad please with the oil and vinegar on the side and the apple pie a la mode."
Waitress: "Chef and apple a la mode."
Sally: "But I'd like the pie heated and I don't want the ice cream on top I want it on the side and I'd like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it if not then no ice cream just whipped cream but only if it's real if it's out of a can then nothing."
Waitress: "Not even the pie?"
Sally: "No, just the pie, but then not heated."
Waitress: "Ah"

I once saw an interview with Norah Ephron where she talked about being on a plane and changing an order the way she wanted it. The flight attendant asked her "Did you ever watch 'When Harry Met Sally'?" Anyway, it reminds me a little of me, maybe that's the reason I like this story so much.

From the back cover:
"Rob Reiner's enormously funny and moving When Harry Met Sally ... -- a romantic comedy about the difficult, frustrating, awful, funny search for happiness in an American city, where the primary emotion is unrequited love -- is delighting audiences everywhere. Now, the complete screenplay is published. Written by Nora Ephron -- author of screenplays for Silkwood and Heartburn (from her own best-selling novel) -- When Harry Met as hilarious on the page as it is on the screen. The book includes an introduction by the author."

Tuesday 3 April 2018

MacGregor, Neil "Germany. Memories of a Nation"

MacGregor, Neil "Germany. Memories of a Nation" - 2014

I used to hate history at school. It was all "Where did this battle take place?" and "When was this war?" etc. without many details. So, I am grateful for all the wonderful books I can read nowadays that give me so much information and make everything so much more interesting.

Over the years, I have read a lot of books about world history, European history, British history, the two World Wars, bits and pieces of German history, but there are hardly any books about German history because the Germany as it exists nowadays has not been the same for that long. And I'm not just talking about the reunification that took place almost thirty years ago.

Now, I happened to come upon a book by Neil MacGregor, a British historian who wrote down everything that put together our nation of today.

If you don't know much about Germany (except that there were Nazis ... everyone knows that), this is the ideal book. I never knew that much about my own country and I am incredibly indebted to the author for putting it all together. Made me quite proud, probably about the first time in my life.

He points out what happened in Germany before that dark part in the history and where it went after that. The struggles and the accomplishments, culture and art, science and industry, the past and the future, that it seems to be the only country according to him who remembers the bad part of their history and not just the wins in certain wars.

And one of the best parts, he doesn't point fingers. He tries to understand how everything happened and he is also aware that not every German was a fan of the Nazis and that it was especially hard for them.

Certainly one of the best books I have read in ages. It was worth any minute. I'd love to read one of his other books.

From the back cover:

"A major new series from the makers of 'A History of the World in 100 Objects,' exploring the fascinating and complex history of Germany from the origins of the Holy Roman Empire right up to the present day. Written and presented by Neil MacGregor, it is produced by BBC Radio 4, in partnership with the British Museum.

Whilst Germany s past is too often seen through the prism of the two World Wars, this series investigates a wider six hundred-year-old history of the nation through its objects. It examines the key moments that have defined Germany's past, its great, world-changing achievements and its devastating tragedies and it explores the profound influence that Germany's history, culture, and inventiveness have had across Europe.

The objects featured in the radio series range from large sculptures to small individual artifacts and items that are prosaic, iconic, and symbolic. Each has a story to tell and a memory to invoke.

Sunday 1 April 2018

Happy April!

Happy April to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch
"Blühende Gärten in Groß Zicker"
"Flowering Gardens in Groß Zicker" 

April used to be the second month according to the Roman calendar. There are various ideas how it got its name, one being the from the word "aperire" for open because that's what the flowers start doing but there are also rumours that it might come from the goddess Aphrilis or Aphrodite. The birthstone of this month is the diamond, one of the hardest and most appreciated gemstones.

Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch with a view of a beautiful village in Northern Germany.

You can find many more wonderful pictures on their website here.