Friday 30 July 2021

Clarke, Stephen "Merde actually"

Clarke, Stephen "Merde actually" (aka In the Merde for Love) - 2005

After reading "A Year in the Merde", I was sure I'd want to read more of his books (as mentioned in my review).

So, this one made it onto my TBR pile and since it sas "Paris in July" month, I had to read it now.

Paul West, the author's alter ego, I suppose, is still in Paris and has opened a British tea room. He struggles with the French authorities who don't accept anything not precisely written in French and with French girls, their families and the French in general. He picks on everyone, though, his English compatriots as well as any kind of tourists he comes across in his tearoom. Still quite funny, not as hilarious as the first one but a good sequel.

Again, a nice book to read as an expat but also for those who love to travel or France. The Times said he is "edgier than Bryson, hits harder than Mayle". While I agree with the latter, nobody can beat Bill Bryson, he is the best travel writer there is.

From the back cover:

"A year after arriving in France, Englishman Paul West is still struggling with some fundamental questions:

What is the best way to scare a gendarme? Why do French job applicants put sexually transmitted diseases on their CVs? Why are there no public health warnings on French nudist beaches? And how do you cope with a plague of courgettes?

Paul also mutates (temporarily) into a Parisian waiter, samples the pleasures of typically French hotel-room afternoons, and on a return visit to the United Kingdom, sees the full horror of a British office party through Parisian eyes. Meanwhile, he continues his search for the perfect French mademoiselle. But will Paul find l'amour eternel, or will it all end in merde?

Stephen Clarke has written more sequels to this story in the meantime (in addition to the ones I mentioned in my other review):

"The Merde Factor" - 2012
"Merde in Europe" - 2016

And some non-fiction:
"Dirtily Bertie: An English King Made in France" - 2014
"How the French Won Waterloo (or think they did) - 2016
"The French Revolution and What Went Wrong"- 2018

I think I will have to get at least one of them for next year's "Paris in July".

Book Quotes of the Week

"What makes a good book? Simply put, a good book is one that you enjoy reading." Carmela Dutra

Totally right! I can recommend you my most beloved classic, for example, but if you're not into classics, you will think it's trash.

"Don’t buy books for your shelf, buy them for yourself." Saji Ijiyemi

That's one of the reasons why I buy paperbacks. They might not look as great on a shelf as a hardback but they are kinder to my hands, to my handbags (and hence my shoulder) and to my bank account. I once had a colleague who went to the bookshop and asked for the books with the best reputation. Not because she wanted to read them but because she wanted to look good when people came to visit. Bleurgh!

"The problem with books is that they end." Caroline Kepnes

And most of the times, that's the saddest part of them all.

Find more book quotes here

Thursday 29 July 2021

McLain, Paula "The Paris Wife"

McLain, Paula "The Paris Wife" - 2012

A couple of years ago, everybody seemed to be reading "The Paris Wife". But I had read "The Time Traveler’s Wife" which I hated and I neither was too happy with "The Railwayman's Wife". So, I thought maybe I should keep away from "wife" books, as well. But at some point, I bought a copy. It still stayed on my TBR pile for a couple of years.

Then, one of my blogger friends introduced me to "Paris in July" and I thought it was time to read it. First of all, it has the word "Paris" in its title and it takes place in Paris. Also, I have read a few books by Ernest Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls) and have a few more on my wishlist. So, why not give it a go?

I was positively surprised about the book. Written from the perspective of the first of his four wives, we learn a lot about Hadley as well as Ernest and his second wife, Pauline.

The author remarks: "Although Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway and other people who actually lived appear in this book as fictional characters, it was important for me to render the particulars of their lives as accurately as possible, and to follow the very well documented historical record."

I was aware throughout the whole book that this is a novel written in the form of a memoir, not a biography. That didn't change the fact that it was highly interesting to read about the lives of some extraordinary people. Hemingway was in an interesting circle of authors and artists and they all appear in the book.

I have lived in four different countries and I came from a small village into a big foreign town in my early twenties but life was different in our time. We didn't have the internet but there were books, there was the television and people had moved around, not many and often not far but nothing compared to the difference between Hadley's sheltered, very remote life before she met Ernest Hemingway and life in Paris. It must have been really, really hard for her.

There are also some small parts where Ernest tells us his side of the story. Of course, he has already been through and survived one war which always changes a man. But you also can tell there that they were two completely different personalities not just with different ideas but also with different goals. It's probably a miracle the marriage survived as long as it did.

The book is not just interesting concerning the life of the Hemingways but also the other characters are interesting as is the life in Paris in the twenties. We hear so much about it. This book helps us understanding it a little better. Definitely brilliantly written.

I'd love to read more of Paula McLain's books but definitely her memoir: "Like Family. Growing Up In Other People's Houses".

One quote by Ernest Hemingway: "I want to write one true sentence", he said. "If I can write one sentence, simple and true every day, I'll be satisfied". I think his writing shows that this was his goal and he achieved it.

At the end of the book, Paula McLain adds a list of her sources, all of them would be interesting to read if you like the subjects:

About the Hemingways:
Alice Hunt Sokoloff, Alice " Hadley: The First Mrs. Hemingway"
Diliberto, Gioia "Hadley"
Kert, Bernice "The Hemingway Women"
Baker, Carlos "Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story and Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917-1961"
Reynolds, Michael "Hemingway: The Paris Years and Hemingway: The American Homecoming"
Brian, Denis "The True Gen"

About Paris in the twenties
Wiser, Willam "The Crazy Years"
Flanner, Janet "Paris Was Yesterday"
Tomkins, Calvin "Living Well Is the Best Revenge"
Milford, Nancy "Zelda"
Fussell, Paul "The Great War and Modern Memory"

Other books by Ernest Hemingway:
"A Moveable Feast"
"In Our Time"
"The Sun Also Rises"
"The Garden of Eden"
"Death in the Afternoon"
"The Complete Short Stories"

From the back cover:

"Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a shy twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness when she meets Ernest Hemingway and is captivated by his energy, intensity and burning ambition to write. After a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for France. But glamorous Jazz Age Paris, full of artists and writers, fuelled by alcohol and gossip, is no place for family life and fidelity. Ernest and Hadley's marriage begins to founder and the birth of a beloved son serves only to drive them further apart. Then, at last, Ernest's ferocious literary endeavours begin to bring him recognition - not least from a woman intent on making him her own."

Ernest Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 "for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in 'The Old Man and the Sea' and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style" and the Pulitzer Prize for "The Old Man and the Sea" in 1953.

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

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Masood, Ehsan "Science & Islam"

Masood, Ehsan "Science & Islam: a history" - 2009

I had never heard of the BBC TV series "Science & Islam" but I thought the book sounded interesting. And it was. Very much so. We always hear about the Greek scholars, the Italians, the other Europeans who came afterwards but we are never told that a lot of their discoveries were started by scientists in another part of the world had found long before them, that they were not just encouraged but also supported by the Islamic world.

As a non-scientist, I often find it hard to understand books about science. Not that I'm not that interested, my mind just goes another way. This one was different, it was written for people like me who might want to hear about the topic but usually blend out after the first paragraph because it goes over our heads.

And if you're interested, you can also learn a little about the history of Islam, the geography of that area since the author included it if necessary for the chapter.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I had it on my TBR pile for a while and brought it out for my Xanadu read in July with the topic "Science".

"Knowledge has no borders, wisdom has no race or nationality. To block out ideas is to block out the kingdom of God." Aristotle
Something, we all should keep in mind.

From the back cover:

"Long before the European Enlightenment, scholars and researchers working from Samarkand in modern-day Uzbekistan to Cordoba in Spain advanced our knowledge of astronomy, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, medicine and philosophy.

From Musa al-Khwarizmi, who developed algebra in ninth-century Baghdad, to al-Jazari, a 13th-century Turkish engineer whose achievements include the crank, the camshaft and the reciprocating piston, Ehsan Masood tells the amazing story of one of history’s most misunderstood yet rich and fertile periods in science, via the scholars, research, and science of the Islamic empires of the Middle Ages: the extraordinary Islamic scientific revolution between 700 and 1400CE.

"Today it is little acknowledged that the medieval Islamic world paved the foundations for modern science and the scientific institutions that now form part of our everyday world. The author provides an enlightening and in-depth exploration into an empire's golden age, its downfall and the numerous debates that now surround it."

"History's least-known yet most fertile period in science was the extraordinary Islamic scientific revolution between 700 and 1400. The story of the scientists and inventors is woven into a journey through the Islamic empires of the middle ages that enabled this revolution, and its contribution to science in Western culture."

Tuesday 27 July 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Twelve Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island


"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".

It is now hosted by Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl.

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.

This week's topic is: Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island

That's a very good question. Do I want long books so I have a lot to read? Do I want to take "beach reads", so I have something to divert myself, do I want to carry non-fiction books so I can learn something while all on my own?

I never enjoy short reads or easy reads as much as large, chunky books, especially if they give me a lot to think. So I came up with my favourite books by my favourite authors plus some. Of course, some of them are trilogies or even tetralogies, I just treat them as one but would definitely take the first book of the series if I wasn't allowed all.

Austen, Jane "Persuasion" - 1817

Camus, Albert "The Plague" (French: La Peste) - 1947

Frazier, Charles "Cold Mountain" - 1997

Hislop, Victoria "The Thread" - 2011

Kingsolver, Barbara "The Poisonwood Bible" - 1988

Lawson, Mary "Crow Lake" - 2002

Mann, Thomas "Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family" (German: Buddenbrooks) - 1901

Pamuk, Orhan "My Name is Red" (Turkish: Benim Adım Kırmızı) 1998

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Shadow of the Wind" (Spanish: La sombra del viento) - 2001
(The Cemetary of Forgotten Books/
El cementerio de los libros olvidados #1)
- "The Angel's Game" (Spanish: El juego del ángel) - 2008
(The Cemetary of Forgotten Books/El cementerio de los libros olvidados #2)
- "The Prisoner of Heaven" (Spanish: El Prisionero del Cielo) - 2011
(The Cemetary of Forgotten Books/El cementerio de los libros olvidados #3)
- "The Labyrinth of the Spirits" (Spanish: El laberinto de los espíritus) - 2016
(The Cemetary of Forgotten Books/El cementerio de los libros olvidados #4)

Seth, Vikram "A Suitable Boy" - 1993

Stroyar, J.N. "The Children's War" - 2001
- "A Change of Regime" (The Children's War 2) - 2004
- "Becoming Them" (The Children's War 3) - 2017

Turner, Nancy E. "These is my Words, The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901" - 1999
Sarah Agnes Prine Trilogie #1)
- "Sarah's
Quilt. A Novel of Sarah Agnes Prine and the Arizona Territories, 1906"
Sarah Agnes Prine Trilogie #2) - 2006
- "The Star Garden: A Novel of Sarah Agnes Prine" - 2007
(Sarah Agnes Prine Trilogie #3)

Zweig, Stefanie "Nowhere in Africa" (Re-Read) (German: Nirgendwo in Afrika) - 1995
and "Somewhere in Germany" (Re-Read) (German: Irgendwo in Deutschland) - 1996
plus "Home was Nowhere. My Life on Two Continents" (German: Nirgendwo war Heimat. Mein Leben auf zwei Kontinenten) - 2012

Monday 26 July 2021

Simenon, Georges "Maigret Sets a Trap"

Simenon, Georges "Maigret Sets a Trap" (French: Maigret tend un piège) (Maigret #48) - 1958

Even though I am not a reader of crime novels, I bought this book last year after I had watched the new adaptation with Rowan Atkinson. If you like to watch crime stories, I can hartily recommend the Maigret series. Unfortunately, he only did four but I hope there will be more. And now it fits in the challenge Paris in July.

Anyway, this was the first book I read by Georges Simenon and I really liked it. The way he builds suspense, the way he presents his characters, he has an interesting way of presenting his story. He tries to make Maigret (and thereby us) understand the thoughts and reasons of the murderer. Totally interesting.

From the back cover:

"With a serial killer on the loose in Paris, Maigret must outsmart the killer before he can strike again. The inspiration for ITV's feature-length adaptation starring Rowan Atkinson and the forty-eighth book in the new Penguin Maigret series.

Detective Chief Inspector Maigret is known for his infallible instinct, for getting at the truth no matter how complex the case. But when someone starts killing women on the streets of Montmartre, leaving nary a clue and the city’s police force at a loss, he finds himself confounded. In the sweltering Paris summer heat, with the terrified city in a state of siege, Maigret hatches a plan to lure the murderer out.

Friday 23 July 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

"The classics are the books that come down to us bearing the traces of readings previous to ours, and bringing in their wake the traces they themselves have left on the culture or cultures they have passed through (or, more simply, on language and customs)." Italo Calvino

I always say, many people before us have read and liked the classics and there is a reason they are still around!

"Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read!" Mitch Hedberg

Definitely. My son read "Lord of the Rings" when he was eleven and many people were surprised he even started such a long book. He loved it.

"Friendship ... is born at the moment when one man says to another 'What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .'" C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

It almost seems like a miracle every time that happens.

Find more book quotes here

Thursday 22 July 2021

Paris in July - Maps

Since we are virtually visiting Paris this month, I've been trying to think about where I would go first. Of course, the Eiffel Tower is one of the first places I could think about (even though it is also closed at the moment due to Corona). But to make better plans where to go on certain days and to see what is in the area, we all need maps. And, for my next visit to this wonderful city, I have put together a list of sites where you can download them for free:

Introducing Paris
Paris City Vision

So, happy travelling, at least in your mind.

More ideas, watch this space and Paris in July.

P.S. The card was made by me, that's one of my other hobbies.

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Books I Read In One Sitting


"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".

It is now hosted by Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl.

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.

This week's topic is: Books I Read In One Sitting (or would have if I had the time)

To come up with a list for this, I went through my novellas and chose the ones I really liked a lot, so everyone could read them in one sitting. There are a lot of large books I'd love to read in one go but when it comes to about five hundred pages, it gets tough. I do need my sleep. Also, I like to linger over a story.

Anyway, these are the books that are short that made it to my Top Twelve.

Aleichem, Sholem (שלום עליכם) "Tevye the Dairyman" (Hebrew: טוביה החולב, Yiddish: Tevye der milkhiker, טבֿיה דער מילכיקער)  - 1894-1916

Bâ, Mariama "So Long a Letter" (French: Une si longue lettre) - 1979

Coelho, Paulo "The Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dream" (Portuguese: O Alquimista) - 1988

Dostoevsky, Fyodor "The Gambler" (Russian: Igrok - Игрок) - 1866

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

Guo, Xiaolu (郭小橹) "Language" - 2017

James, Henry
"Daisy Miller" - 1879

Mann, Thomas "A Man and his Dog" (aka Bashan and I) (German: Herr und Hund. Ein Idyll) - 1918

Morrison, Toni "Home" - 2012

Schmitt, Éric-Emmanuel "Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran" (French: Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran) - 1999

Storm, Theodor "Paul the Puppeteer" (German: Pole Poppenspäler) - 1874

Wells, H. G. "The Time Machine" - 1895

Monday 19 July 2021

Krug, Nora "Belonging"

Krug, Nora "Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home" (German: Heimat. Ein deutsches Familienalbum) - 2018

This is a tough book to review. Not because it's so bad but because it is so personal. I was asked about the book by a good old friend from my international book club. She wanted to know whether I knew the book at all and, if yes, what I thought about it.

I am twenty years older than Nora, so the questions she asks about her ancestors and World War II mean even more to me. My parents were five years old when A.H. was elected, my father had to serve in the army when he was just sixteen. Thankfully, he became a POW more or less right away and the war was over within a couple of months and he was released. I doubt I would be here otherwise.

Maybe my parents told me more about the war because they were directly affected, maybe they were willing to talk more about their youth because their families had been anti-nazis. I don't know. But I heard a lot. About my grandparents and their political views, how they had raised their kids without any affiliation to the party etc.

I read somewhere that "most Germans were guilty". If you could hear my grandparents' story and could see that many of them were like them, you wouldn't say that. Of course, many were guilty and many said afterwards they "didn't know anything about the cruelties or what happened". My parents always said, everyone saw that they picked up all the Jews and none of them returned. What did they think happened to them? Even if you had no contact to any of them, they must have noticed that shops were shut down (or changed ownership), doctors disappeared, farms were abandoned …

My grandfather on my father's side was considered a communist in his village, even though I don't believe he was in the party. He had read "My Struggle" (Mein Kampf) and warned people not to vote for that party because "all he wants is war". That and him helping an old Jewish couple whose kids had left to America with their farm got him on the watchlist and he had to hide in the bogland where they lived.

All my grandparents had to send their oldest sons into war. If the boys didn't go, the whole family would be picked up and transported, so it was either the boys getting killed in the war or the whole family. What would you choose? My father had four older brothers and two younger ones (only one of the eight children was a girl), the five oldest ones were drafted, including my father, as I mentioned above. The oldest two were killed in Russia (the siblings heard about the death of the second brother in 1999), the two next ones were heavily wounded and suffered from it for the rest of their lives. Only my father remained uninjured, mainly for the reason that he didn't take part for very long, though he had to fight his memories, of course. He never wanted to go back to the East, even after the wall came down.

My other grandfather worked as a farm labourer or landless cottager. His house and land belonged to the Freiherr, German aristocratic title between a knight and an earl. He owned most of the village and the people on his land had to work on his estate, even the small children. My mother was the fourth of six siblings, only one of the older ones a boy. He fell in Italy. None of my uncles who died was older than twenty.

My father used to say, as soon as the nazis took power, the greatest idiots in the village were in the party and shouted out loud what needed to be done. If I look at the right-wing party members today who tell us that the foreigners take our jobs and are dangerous etc., I can very well believe that, the louder they shout, the smaller their IQ.

Anyway, my grandfather had to work with Russian POWs. When they were liberated, they burned down half the village but left out my grandparents' house. I guess that shows something about how he treated them. My mother told us how they would listen to BBC radio and that they were not allowed to mention it to anybody because it was forbidden.

Even though it was "encouraged", well, more or less obligatory, none of my parents or their siblings were in the Hitler Youth or League of Girls. That was quite brave, I think. Many people just sent their kids there so they wouldn't get on the blacklist of the nazis.

Even decades later, my mother could still tell whether someone's family had been "brown" or not. As a child, I always wondered, how she could do that but now I think I know, if you grow up with that, you get a feeling for it.

Why do I still feel bad writing this? Do I have to defend myself? Even the descendants of people who were party members think it is bad if someone says my grandparents weren't. I have heard a lot of times that most of them lied, that we would only say that so we won't feel guilty, etc. Nobody believes there were people who didn't like the nazis from the beginning. Maybe I'm also a tad more sensitive about the subject because I lived abroad a lot and have been subject to anti-German feelings, especially during the twenty years I spent in the Netherlands.

In the description, they say that the Second World War cast a long shadow throughout the author's childhood. Indeed, it still does. When we lived in the Netherlands, kids in our street called my sons "nazis". They were born almost half a century after the war had ended, even their grandparents were too little to have voted for that regime. Who knows what the grandparents of those Dutch kids had been up to? There were plenty of nazis in the Netherlands. But no matter what your grandparents have been up to or not, if you're German, you're guilty forever, if you're not German, you're not.

The thing is, most countries have a skeleton in their closet. Our history is what it is, there is nothing we can do about it. But we can try to learn from it, we can work toward a better future, all together. If we just wallow in self pity, if we just keep blaming ourselves, no one will be helped. Especially if we only judge others by their story. I was in Israel many years ago. The people there wanted to talk to us, they wanted to get to know the new generation of Germans. That is the right attitude.

I could carry on writing a whole book about this, I guess. Maybe I will come up with more here after I talked to my friend who recommended the book.

From the back cover:

"Nora Krug's story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family’s wartime past in nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history.

Nora Krug was born decades after the fall of the nazi regime, but the Second World War cast a long shadow throughout her childhood and youth in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. For Nora, the simple fact of her German citizenship bound her to the Holocaust and its unspeakable atrocities and left her without a sense of cultural belonging. Yet Nora knew little about her own family’s involvement in the war: though all four grandparents lived through the war, they never spoke of it.

In her late thirties, after twelve years in the US, Krug realizes that living abroad has only intensified her need to ask the questions she didn’t dare to as a child and young adult. Returning to Germany, she visits archives, conducts research, and interviews family members, uncovering in the process the stories of her maternal grandfather, a driving teacher in Karlsruhe during the war, and her father’s brother Franz-Karl, who died as a teenage SS soldier in Italy. Her quest, spanning continents and generations, pieces together her family’s troubling story and reflects on what it means to be a German of her generation.

P.S. I know that the "nazis" are usually spelled with a capital N but I believe they don't deserve that recognition.

Friday 16 July 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

"A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you." Elbert Hubbard

Even though I didn't care for his book, I totally agree with this. We all have our flaws, nobody is perfect. Having a friend who still likes you is the best!

"Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write." Annie Proulx

I totally agree. Even spelling gets better if you read a lot.

"A novel worth reading is an education of the heart. It enlarges your sense of human possibility, of what human nature is, of what happens in the world. It's creator of inwardness." Susan Sontag

You get to understand other people, other situations a lot better if you reflect on them and reading a book makes you do just that.

Find more book quotes here

Thursday 15 July 2021

Obama, Barack "A Promised Land"

Obama, Barack "A Promised Land" - 2020

There are books that are easy to describe. I liked the book, I didn't like the book. It was easy to read, it was difficult to read … Sometimes you need to inform your readers about your view on a certain subject.

I doubt that I have to do that. Whoever knows me, has heard that according to a test on facebook I am "very liberal, as far left as can be before heading into Stalin's backyard". That was at least ten years ago but nothing has changed.

Even though many people call President Obama a socialist, those people have no idea what a socialist ist. However, he has the well-being of his people in mind, I knew that much before I read the book. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do or say to convince people that he is a good guy. What I probably love most about him is that he admits where he was wrong and that he is not faultless (as opposed to another one who shall not be named).

I loved this book so much, I really didn't want to finish it. Barack Obama has such a great way of talking to the reader, it really is as if we were sitting opposite a friend. We could learn not just about his life but about presidents in general, what their tasks are and how difficult some of them are to be fulfilled. It was so interesting to hear about so many events from behind the scenes.

I have enjoyed everything I read by Barack Obama, he is such a smart, decent and nice guy, and am looking forward to part two of his memoirs.

The quote I love most:

"The truth is, I've never been a big believer in destiny. I worry that it encourages resignation in the down-and-out and complacency among the powerful. I suspect that God’s plan, whatever it is, works on a scale too large to admit our mortal tribulations; that in a single lifetime, accidents and happenstance determine more than we care to admit; and that the best we can do is to try to align ourselves with what we feel is right and construct some meaning out of our confusion, and with grace and nerve play at each moment the hand that we’re dealt."

From the back cover:

"A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making - from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency - a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective - the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of 'hope and change,' and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.

I have seen quite a few reviews of the book and they were all positive. I suppose, those who dislike the guy will not read his biography anyway. One of my blogger friends wrote this "non-review" with many further quotes. Have a look, you won't regret it.

Her main point:

"Was President Obama perfect? No.
Do I believe he had the best interest of our nation at heart in his eight years in office and served admirably? Undoubtedly, yes.

I couldn't agree more.

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.

Wednesday 14 July 2021

The Classics Club: The Classics Spin #27

"Words and Peace" is a blog I've been following for a couple of years and I have always found some interesting new (or olde) books there, especially French ones.

For a while, she published posts by "The Classics Club" asking us to create a post, before next Sunday 18th July 2021, and list our choice of any twenty books that remain "to be read" on our Classics Club list. They'll then post a number from 1 through 20 and we have time until Sunday 22nd of August 2021 to read it.

In the meantime, I read five more books from my old list (Classics Spin #27) which I replaced by some new ones. They are all in chronological order.

1.    Eichendorff, Joseph von "Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts und andere Novellen" (Life of a Good-For-Nothing) - 1826
2.    Douglass, Frederick "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" - 1845
3.    Keller, Gottfried "Novellen" (Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe u.a.) "Novellas" (A Village Romeo and Juliet and others) - 1855/56
4.    Twain, Mark "A Tramp Abroad" - 1880
5.    Van Dyke, Henry "The Story of the Other Wise Man" - 1896
6.    Frost, Robert "A Boy’s Will" and "North of Boston" - 1913+1914 
7.    Martin, Catherine "The Incredible Journey" - 1923
8.    Mandelstam, Ossip "The Din of Time" (Шум времени/Shum vremeni) - 1925
9.    Cather, Willa "Shadows on the Rock" - 1931
10.    Christie, Agatha "Murder on the Orient Express" (Hercule Poirot #10) - 1934
11.    Elbogen, Ismar; Sterling, Eleonore "Die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland" [The History of the Jews in Germany] - 1935/66
12.    Némirovsky, Irène "La Proie" [The Prey] - 1938
13.    Fallada, Hans "Every Man Dies Alone" (Jeder stirbt für sich allein) - 1947
14.    Böll, Heinrich "The Silent Angel" (Der Engel schwieg) - 1949/50
15.    Kazantzakis, Nikos "The Last Temptation of Christ" (Ο τελευταίος πειρασμός/O telefteos pirasmos) - 1951
16.    Highsmith, Patricia "The Talented Mr. Ripley" - 1955
17.    Simenon, Georges "Maigret Sets a Trap" (Maigret tend un piège) (Maigret #48) - 1958
18.    Eichendorff, Joseph von "Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts und andere Novellen" und andere Novellen" (Life of a Good-For-Nothing) - 1826
19.    Douglass, Frederick "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" - 1845
20.    Keller, Gottfried "Novellen" (Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe u.a.) "Novellas" (A Village Romeo and Juliet and others) - 1855/56

Since I want to finish my oldest classic novels first (as published in my Classics Club list) before buying new ones, I simply added the first ones to the end of the list.

If you want to take up the challenge, here is the post: The Classics Spin #28

Here are all the books on my original Classics Club list.
And here is a list of all the books I read with the Classics Spin.

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Top Ten Tuesady ~ Book Titles That are Questions


"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".

It is now hosted by Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl.

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.

This week's topic is: Book Titles That are Questions


I always think it interesting how many different books fall under one category. But this one was a really funny one. I have non-fiction books as well as science fiction, children's books and novels, classics and new publications, serious and funny ones. So, I'm sure there is a book here for everyone.


Some of the questions are not as important as others. I don't really care what androids dream about or even where Waldo is though I always had a lot of fun looking for him with my boys. Other questions don't sound important, like do I want to know who moved my cheese or simply find it again. Well, for me the answer would be neither since I'm lactose intolerant. But the book is very philosopical, same as "Who am I and if so, how many?" and "If not now, when?" And any reader might like the answer to "Why read the classics?" Another important question is asked by the young generation, "Who, if not us?" And a very personal story is told in "Whatever happened to Ishtar?" The books "Haven't we met before?" and "Quo vadis?" are more for entertainment, though the latter is a nice historical novel.


Calvino, Italo "Why Read the Classics?" (Italian: Perché leggere i classici?) 1991


Dick, Philip K. "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" - 1968


Frandi-Coory, Anne "Whatever Happened to Ishtar?: A Passionate Quest To Find Answers For Generations Of Defeated Mothers" A Journey Through Your Mind" - 2010


Handford, Martin "Where’s Wally?" (aka Where's Waldo?) - 1987


Johnson, Dr. Spencer "Who moved my cheese?" - 1998


Levi, Primo "If Not Now, When?" (Italian: Se non ora, quando?) - 1982


Precht, Richard David "Who Am I and If So, How Many?: A Journey Through Your Mind" (German: Wer bin ich und wenn ja, wie viele? Eine philosophische Reise) - 2007


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


Sienkiewicz, Henryk "Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero" (Polish: Quo Vadis. Powieść z czasów Nerona) - 1895


Young European Collective "Who, if not us?" - 2017
Young European Collective (Vincent-Immanuel Herr, Martin Speer, Katharina Moser, Krzysztof Ignaciuk, Liza Noteris, Zlatin Georgiev, Thomas Goujat-Gouttequillet, Stylia Kampani, Zara Kitson, Nini Tsiklauri, Giulia Zeni, Phelan Chatterjee) "Who, if not us?" (Wer, wenn nicht wir?: Vier Dinge, die wir jetzt für Europa tun können) - 2017


Monday 12 July 2021

de Brunhoff, Jean "The Story of Babar"

de Brunhoff, Jean "The Story of Babar" (French: Histoire de Babar le petit éléphant) - 1934

I remember my little brother watching Babar the Elephant on TV. And since he's over 50 by now, that is a long, long time ago. My sons also loved Barbar, Céleste and their family both on TV and in their books.

I noticed that I never wrote about Babar even though my most favourite animal is an elephant. But since we do "Paris in July", this is the perfect opportunity to introduce him to those who haven't heard of him, though I doubt there are that many.

Well, Babar is an elephant. His mother is killed in the jungle and this is how he ends up in town. Jean de Brunhoff's wife Cécile had told their children these stories about an elephant in a city.

As happens with so many other books (especially children's books), the cover has changed a lot over the time (see the collage at the top) but the drawings have always changed the same.

Unfortunately, the author died of tuberculosis when he was only 37 years old. So, he didn't get to write all the many books about "his" elephant. Here is the list:

The Story of Babar (Histoire de Babar) - 1934
The Travels of Babar (Le Voyage de Babar) - 1934
Babar the King (Babar the King) - 1935
A.B.C. of Babar (L'ABC de Babar) -1936
Zephir's Holidays and Babar's Friend Zephir (Les vacances de Zéphir) - 1937
Babar and His Children (Babar en famille) - 1938
Babar and Father Christmas (Babar et le père Noël) - 1940

However, his son Laurent carried on the stories, he learned to draw the elephant just the same way his father had and so Babar and his family could experience many more adventures. That way, one can hardly tell which one is by the father and which by the son:

Babar's Cousin: That Rascal Arthur (Babar et ce coquin d'Arthur) - 1946
Babar's Picnic (Pique-nique chez Babar) - 1949
Babar's Visit to Bird Island (Babar dans l'île aux oiseaux) - 1952
Babar and the Circus (Babar au cirque)
Babar's Fair (La fête de Célesteville) - 1954
Babar and the Professor (Babar et le professeur Grifaton) - 1956
Babar's Castle (Le Château de Babar) - 1961
Babar's English Lessons (Je parle anglais avec Babar) - 1963
Babar Comes to America (Babar en Amérique) - 1965
Bonhomme (Babar à New York) - 1966
Babar's German Lessons (Je parle allemand avec Babar) - 1966
Babar's Spanish Lessons (Je parle espagnole avec Babar) - 1966
Babar's Birthday Surprise (L'anniversaire de Babar) - 1972
Babar visits a planet (Babar sur la planète mole) - 1974
Babar and the Wully-Wully (Babar et le Wouly-Wouly) - 1977
Babar's Mystery (Babar et les quatre voleurs) - 1979
Babar and the Ghost (Babar et le fantôme) - 1981
Babar and his Little Girl (Babar et sa fille Isabelle) - 1988
Babar's Battle (La victoire de Babar) - 1992
Babar's Rescue (Babar et la cité perdue) - 1995
Babar and the Succotash Bird (Babar et l'oiseau magicien) - 2000
Babar's Yoga for Elephants (Babar: le yoga des éléphants) - 2002
Babar's Museum of Art (Le musée de Babar) - 2003
Babar's World Tour (Le tour du monde de Babar) - 2005
Babar's Celesteville Games (Coup de foudre aux Jeux de Célesteville) - 2011
Babar's Guide to Paris (Babar à Paris) - 2017

I have found some other English titles that I could not relate to any French originals. I would assume they exist but the pages are not always great with different kind of translations and even Goodreads doesn't have them all.
A tue-tete - 1957
Serafina the Giraffe - 1961
Serafina's Lucky Find - 1962
Captain Serafina - 1963
Anatole and His Donkey -1963
Babar's French Lessons -1963
Babar Learns to Cook -1967
Babar Loses His Crown -1967
Babar Learns to Cook - 1967
Babar's Games -1968
Babar Goes Skiing -
Babar's Moon Trip -1969
Babar's Trunk -1969
Gregory and the Lady Turtle in the Valley of the Music Trees- 1971
Babar's Other Trunk -1971
Babar Visits Another Planet - 1972
Meet Babar and His Family -1973
Babar's Bookmobile -1974
Bonhomme and the Huge Beast- 1974
Babar Saves the Day -1976
The One Pig with Horns- 1979
Babar the Magician -1980
Babar's Little Library -1980
Babar's Anniversary Album -1981
Babar's A.B.C -1983
Babar's Book of Colour -1984
Babar's Counting Book -1986
Christmas with Babar & Baby Isabelle. 1987
Babar's Adventures, Calendar for 1988- 1988
Babar's Little Circus Star -1988
Babar in Hollywood, Calendar for 1990- 1989
Babar's Busy Year -1989
Babar in History, Calendar for 1991- 1990
Isabelle's New Friend -1990
Babar Goes to School - 2003
Babar's USA- 2008
Babar and His Family (An adaptation of Meet Babar and His Family. 1973) - 2012
B Is for Babar: An Alphabet Book (An adaptation of Babar's A.B.C.. 1983) - 2012
Babar and the New Baby (An adaptation of Babar's Little Girl. 1987) - 2013
L'île du Paradis -2014

Have fun with the elephant family.

From the back cover:

"The first of the tales starring the most famous elephant in the literary world.

In this classic that has delighted three generations of readers,
Babar escapes from the hunter who killed his mother and comes to town. Here, with the help of an old friend, he will learn a lot of new things and one day, once returned to the great forest, he will be acclaimed King of the elephants!

A story beautifully told accompanied by fascinating and hilarious illustrations!
A must read for kids of any age!

Friday 9 July 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." Ernest Hemingway 

All I have to do? I think that might be the hardest task of all. But then again, my name isn't Hemingway.

"This backpack has a capacity of ten books." Mayersche Buchhandlung

I think that is a great way of describing how large any bag might be.

"If I'm going to bother to read a book I don't want it to end quickly. I don't binge. I like to sip." Jerry Seinfeld

Same here. That's why I usually read between four and six books at the same time. That way, I can read a lot but not finish a book in a day.

Find more book quotes here

Thursday 8 July 2021

Sidewise Awards

I have never heard of this award before but since my favourite book ever received it in 2001, I think I should mention it. And read a few more of those books that are on this list. I do love musing about what if … what if something in history hadn't happened that way. Always a great way to start a thought. Or a book. I absolutely love dystopian novels.

Of course, there are a few websites where you can look up the latest news:
SFE - Science Fiction Encyclopedia
and, of course, Wikipedia 

And these are the past winners:

    1995: Paul J McAuley, Pasquale's Angel (1994)
    1996: Stephen Baxter, Voyage (1996)
    1997: Harry Turtledove, How Few Remain (1997)
    1998: Stephen Fry, Making History (1996)
    1999: Brendan DuBois, Resurrection Day (1999)
    2000: Mary Gentle, Ash: A Secret History (2000)
    2001: J N Stroyar, The Children's War (2001)
    2002: (tie) Martin J Gidron, The Severed Wing (2002); Harry Turtledove, Ruled Britannia (2002)
    2003: Murray Davies, Collaborator (2003)
    2004: Philip Roth, The Plot Against America (2004)
    2005: Ian R MacLeod, The Summer Isles (October/November 1998 Asimov's; exp 2005)
    2006: Charles Stross, Merchant Princes volumes 1-3: The Family Trade (2004), The Hidden Family (2005) and The Clan Corporate (2006)
    2007: Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen's Union (2007)
    2008: Chris Roberson, The Dragon's Nine Sons (2008)
    2009: Robert Conroy, 1942 (2009)
    2010: Eric G Swedin, When Angels Wept: A What-If History of the Cuban Missile Crisis (2010)
    2011: Ian R MacLeod, Wake Up and Dream (2011)
    2012: C J Sansom, Dominion (2012)
    2013: (tie) D J Taylor, The Windsor Faction (2013); Bryce Zabel, Surrounded by Enemies: What If Kennedy Survived Dallas? (2013)
    2014: Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Enemy Within (as "G-Men" in Sideways in Crime, anth 2008, ed Lou Anders; exp 2014)
    2015: Julie Mayhew, The Big Lie (2015)
    2016: Ben H Winters, Underground Airlines (2016)
    2017: Bryce Zabel, Once There Was a Way (2017)
    2018: Mary Robinette Kowal, The Calculating Stars (2018)
    2019: Annalee Newitz, The Future of Another Timeline
    2020: Adrian Tchaikovsky, The Doors of Eden
    2021: Laurent Binet, Civilizations
    2022: B.L. Blanchard, The Peacekeeper

"Due to the COVID-19 crisis, announcement of the Sidewise Awards winners for alternate history published in 2019 has been delayed a year. The 2019 short list and winners will be announced at the same time as are the 2020 short list and winners, which will occur in summer 2021."

Tuesday 6 July 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Twelve Travel Books


"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".

It is now hosted by Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl.

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.

This week's topic is: Reasons Why I Love Reading

Good question. Do we really need a reason?

As happens so often, I have done several lists before:

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Ten Signs You’re a Book Lover
Top Ten Tuesday ~ Ten Reasons I Love Classic Literature
And last, but not least:
Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Reasons I Love Being A Blogger/Reader

The main reason I still love reading new books all the time is "I can travel the world". I got to know so many countries that I will never be able to visit due to various reasons. And I sometimes have the feeling that we can get to know them better than many real travellers, especially those who only travel to the hotels that give them the same comfort as at home.

I will try to list some of my favourite books from every continent, books that were written by travellers or (if I didn't find one about that) by someone who knows the country well.

Coelho, Paulo "The Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dream" (Portuguese: O Alquimista) - 1988

Probably one of the greatest philosophical novels, ot really a travel guide but still, a great book about a tip to yourself but you also get to know some places.

Elliot, Jason "An Unexpected Light. Travels in Afghanistan" - 1999

Get to know Afghanistan through the eyes of  this British travel writer who gets together with all kind of people in this fascinating country.

Roberts, Gregory David "Shantaram" - 2003

An Australian in India, not in an ashram or one of those fancy hotels for foreigners, no, in a slum where the poorest of the poor live.

Fatland, Erika "The Border: A Journey Around Russia Through North Korea, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, and the Northeast Passage" (Norwegian: Grensen: En reise rundt Russland gjennom Nord-Korea, Kina, Mongolia, Kasakhstan, Aserbajdsjan, Georgia, Ukraina, Hviterussland, Litauen, Polen, Latvia, Estland, Finland og Norge samt Nordøstpassasjen) - 2017

A Norwegian journalist travels all around the Russian border and visits so many countries, definitely a good start to see what other countries of that region one might want to visit.

Orth, Stephan "Couchsurfing in Russia: Friendships and Misadventures Behind Putin’s Curtain" (German: Couchsurfing in Russland. Wie ich fast zum Putin-Versteher wurde) - 2017

An unusual trip by a German journalist through the largest country in the world, visiting ordinary people and getting to know their circumstances.

Pamuk, Orhan "Istanbul - Memories of a City" (Turkish: İstanbul: Hatıralar ve Şehir) - 2003

I put this here because many People say that Turkey doesn't belong to Europe. And they are partly correct. But a part of it does and Istanbul is half in Europe and half in Asia. Nobel Prize winning author Orhan Pamuk knows his city like the proverbial back of his hand. He is a great writer and therefore probably best in describing this city that is so unique in many ways.

Hunt, Ken; Taylor, Mike "Xenophobe's Guide to the Aussies" - 1995

A funny book by an Australian and some foreigners who lived there. Makes you want to go and meet these lovely people right away.

Mak, Geert "In Europe. Travels through the twentieth century" (Dutch: In Europa: Reizen door de twintigste eeuw) - 2004

A travel through time and space that gives a good information about the whole continent. The other is a renowned Dutch journalist.

United Kingdom
Bryson, Bill "The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island" - 2015

Bill Bryson is one of my favourite authors, he can describe a chair and make everyone laugh but he is at his best when he describes people.

North America
United States of America
Bryson, Bill "Notes from a Big Country" (US: I'm a Stranger Here Myself) - 1999

Who better to tell us about the United States than someone who has lived somewhere else and sees his country with different eyes, notices all the little differences someone who grew up there and never left would never see? Bill Bryson is ideal for this task.

Fry, Stephen "Stephen Fry in America" - 2009

And then there is this, the view of a British guy who travels through the States, just as good, just as hilarious. Stephen Fry is one of the best British comedians, writers, broadcasters, actors and directors.

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

I haven't read that many books about South America but this one is about Simón Bolívar and his last journey, written by Colombian Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez.

I'm sure there are better ones for this list, I'm open to suggestions.

You can also see my visits to other parts of our world here: The World Reading Challenge

Monday 5 July 2021

Spell the Month in Books ~ July

I found this on one of the blogs I follow, Books are the New Black who found it at One Book More. It was originally created by Reviews from the Stacks, and the idea is to spell the month using the first letter of book titles.

It sounds like a fun challenge and since I love lists, I will jump right in. July has only four letters but they are not the most common ones. Still, here we go.

I thought I could use all one-word titles but, unfortunately, couldn't find one for Y. Maybe next time. January will need another Y.

Aitmatov, Chinghiz "Jamila" (Russian: Джамиля - Jamilia) - 1958

This is a very interesting story by a writer from a country we don't know that well, he is from Kyrgyzstan.
The novel describes village life in Central Asia and the disappearance of Central Asian cultural traditions in the USSR.
One of the best love stories I ever read.

Joyce, James "Ulysses" - 1922

A modern retelling of the "Odyssey". As in Odyssey we have three parts: The Telemachiad, The Odyssey and The Nostos (Coming Home). An extremely most difficult book the longer I distance myself from this novel, the more it makes sense and the bigger an impact does it have on me. I am glad I read it.

Guo, Xiaolu (郭小橹) "Language" - 2017

This is only an extract from another book, "A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers" (Goodreads). I have learned more about the Chinese customs in this book than about the English language and that is exactly what I like. 

Schrobsdorff, Angelika "You Are Not Like Other Mothers" (German: Du bist nicht so wie andre Mütter) - 1992

The life of a Jewish mother at the beginning of the last century. This book is about the author's mother. A highly interesting story about a time that brought us so many books that it is often hard to choose which one to read.