Tuesday 31 January 2023

Coetzee, J.M. "Waiting for the Barbarians"

Coetzee, J.M. "Waiting for the Barbarians" - 1980

We read this in our international online book club in January 2023.

No names or places are mentioned in this novel. So, the story could take place in any corrupt country, in any dictatorship. Since the author is South African, I suppose that's where it takes place.

The description of the protagonist, the magistrate in a small post on the border of "the Empire" is very good. We see how he goes from thinking he is a loyal servant of a fair government to the discovery that the so-called barbarians are oppressed by the regime and those who think they are better than others for whatever reason.

As with so many novels that tell us about these situations, it is quite frightening to think how it is living in such a situation, where already your thoughts are a sin and nobody is supposed to know about it. And beware of helping others, especially if they are on the list of "enemies", "terrorists", "barbarians", whatever they are called in the respective countries.

This book might be more than fifty years old, but it's still as contemporary as ever. I can think of a few countries that are still in a similar situation, and I bet you can, as well.

Comments by other members:

I thought a lot about the namelessness of them/it all. I found it brutal, and abit difficult to read, as there was so much content in every word. I was not at all fond of the main character either, for being quite self-centered and lazy, (and a bit whiny) thinking one right corrects all wrongs and times he was the enabler.

I was left with questions such as "Why must empires expand?" "Why do empires such as this one pave the way for cruel and ambitious people into places of leadership?" "Where does suspicion come from?" I mean, attack first or else "the others" will attack us" or "cause pain to gain the real truth" or is it a calculated power-move, propaganda, guiding the narrative of the empire to keep expanding and keeping power central. "Who were really the barbarians?".

I enjoyed our discussion about the book a lot.

From the back cover:

"For decades the Magistrate has been a loyal servant of the Empire, running the affairs of a tiny frontier settlement and ignoring the impending war with the barbarians. When interrogation experts arrive, however, he witnesses the Empire's cruel and unjust treatment of prisoners of war. Jolted into sympathy for their victims, he commits a quixotic act of rebellion that brands him an enemy of the state. J. M. Coetzee's prize-winning novel is a startling allegory of the war between opressor and opressed. The Magistrate is not simply a man living through a crisis of conscience in an obscure place in remote times; his situation is that of all men living in unbearable complicity with regimes that ignore justice and decency."

J.M. Coetzee "who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider" received the Nobel Prize in 2003 and the Booker Prize for this novel in 1999.

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

Monday 30 January 2023

Gillard, Joe "The Little Book of Lost Words"

Gillard, Joe "The Little Book of Lost Words. Collywobbles, Snollygosters, and 86 Other Surprisingly Useful Terms Worth Resurrecting" - 2019

I found this book through Lisa's blog Captivated Reader (here). The title was so amusing, I just had to have a look.

And the title keeps what it promises. There are lots of forgotten words, or words you never knew. Some of my favourites are "betweenity" (being in the middle, or between two things), "namelings" (people who possess the same name), "slugabed" (a person who sleeps in later than is appropriate) and "ultracrepidarian" (a person with opinions on subjects beyond their knowledge). Arnet' they all fantastic?

I wasn't too keen on the pictures, even though they stem from some famous classic artists. But I didn't buy the book for the pictures.

A great book for any lover of words. Thank you, Lisa.

From the back cover:

"The founder of History Hustle presents a handy guide for expressing yourself with history's best words.

This collection features scores of unique words from history that deal with surprisingly modern issues like sleeping in and procrastination - proving that some things never change!
The Little Book of Lost Words presents each term that's ready to be brought back into modern-day use, complete with definition, hilarious sample sentence, and cheeky historical art. You'll learn new words for the cozy room where you like to Netflix and chill (snuggery), for a dishonest politician (snollygoster), and for a young person who sleeps through the day and doesn't work (dewdropper). If you like Lost in Translation, Shakespeare Insult Generator, Drunk History, and Roald Dahl - and you delight in the way words like blatteroon and flapdoodle roll off the tongue - then you're the word lover this book was written for. Want to know what a fizgig or groke is? Read this book!"

Friday 27 January 2023

Ulitzkaja, Ljudmila "Medea and Her Children"

Ulitzkaja, Ljudmila "Medea and Her Children" (Russian: Медея и её дети/ Medeja i eë deti) - 1996

This book was suggested to us by a book club member. It was said that Ukrainian history would be presented here through a family from Crimea. Well, after the description I had imagined something else and was glad to have read "Ukraine verstehen" [Understanding Ukraine: History, Politics and Struggle for Freedom] by Steffen Dobbert beforehand. I had heard a lot about the Ukraine, including the problems with Russia, long before they first annexed Crimea and then invaded the country, but it was good to hear more details that also helped to understand this book.

Medea is the good soul of the Sinopli family. She lives in Crimea, where her ancestors came from, and every summer the family comes to visit. Not only are they now scattered all over the Ukraine and other former Soviet Union countries, they also all have different problems and motives, as is usual in large families, which lead them to Aunt Medea. The family also has many different origins. While she would probably describe herself primarily as Greek, her ancestors come from many other places as well.

At the beginning of the book we are shown a family tree, which I think could have been a bit more detailed, especially since surnames, patronyms, nicknames, etc. are used again and again, which can lead to confusion. Also, the author mentions in the foreword that she is talking about her family, but I think this is more of a novel based on her family.

The various characters are described very well, you feel somehow in the middle of the family. In that respect it is an excellent book. I had already read "The Green Tent" by Ljudmila Ulitzkaja and found it simply remarkable. I probably also put too much expectation into this book, or was misprepared, but I didn't have the same feeling as I did with the first book. And most book club members had the same opinion. But that won't stop me from reading more books by this author.

From the back cover:

"Medea Georgievna Sinoply Mendez is an iconic figure in her Crimean village, the last remaining pure-blooded Greek in a family that has lived on that coast for centuries. Childless Medea is the touchstone of a large family, which gathers each spring and summer at her home. There are her nieces (sexy Nike and shy Masha), her nephew Georgii (who shares Medea’s devotion to the Crimea), and their friends. In this single summer, the languor of love will permeate the Crimean air, hearts will be broken, and old memories will float to consciousness, allowing us to experience not only the shifting currents of erotic attraction and competition, but also the dramatic saga of this family amid the forces of dislocation, war, and upheaval of twentieth-century Russian life."

Thursday 26 January 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. Herta Müller


In this novel, Herta Müller describes the way of a Romanian woman to an appointment with the "Securitate", the secret police. The whole book takes place in the 90 minutes she needs to get there. While driving on the tram, she reflects on her life and what has happened before.

We were lucky to be able to discuss this book with our Romanian book club member who could give us some firsthand information.

We discussed this in our international book club in December 2010.

Read my original review here.

Müller, Herta "The King Bows and Kills" (German: Der König verneigt sich und tötet) - 2003

This book is a collection of several essays and it draws a picture of a life in a dictatorship. It is probably the closest to an autobiography that the author has written.

Read my original review here.

Herta Müller grew up in the German speaking part of Romania. She left for Germany in 1987 but her books were not published in Romania at the time.

Herta Müller "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009.

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 25 January 2023

Ondaatje, Michael "The English Patient"

Ondaatje, Michael "The English Patient" - 1992

I have read "Anil's Ghost" and "Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje both of which I really liked. I had been looking forward to reading this one for ages, so when I came across the book lately, I decided it was finally time to read it.

There might have been a reason why I didn't tackle it before. I was not as happy with it as I had been with the others. Maybe I should have stayed away from it because it received the Booker Prize, I rarely like those, and I have no idea why.

It was quite confusing at times. Who is the author talking about? At what time is he talking? Before the war? During the war? After the war? Are they in Italy or in Egypt, in Canada or India? And why is that English couple in the story? I know, I know, they met the English patient before but it still is weird, somehow it doesn't fit.

I saw a review where someone said the people in the book were not speaking like people in the 1940s. That might be one of the reasons, as well.

But what really bothered me was that you didn't really get to know the people very well, they remain shallow, trivial, superficial.

I might have enjoyed this more, had I not read and loved his other books and therefore expected a brilliant novel. This is an okay novel but that's all. So, I might wait a while until I read the next book by this author.

From the back cover:

"With unsettling beauty and intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an abandoned Italian villa at the end of World War II. The nurse Hana, exhausted by death, obsessively tends to her last surviving patient. Caravaggio, the thief, tries to reimagine who he is, now that his hands are hopelessly maimed. The Indian sapper Kip searches for hidden bombs in a landscape where nothing is safe but himself. And at the center of his labyrinth lies the English patient, nameless and hideously burned, a man who is both a riddle and a provocation to his companions - and whose memories of suffering, rescue, and betrayal illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning."

Tuesday 24 January 2023

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Authors I Found Last Year


"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, our topic is a New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2022.

I found far fewer new authors that I really liked last year. I listed five in my Statistics: Sara Nisha Adams, Julia Alvarez, Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, Mariana Leky, Maren Uthaug. But there are a few others I also liked, so here we go.

Adams, Sara Nisha "The Reading List" - 2021
Alvarez, Julia "In the Time of the Butterflies" - 1994
Boschwitz, Ulrich Alexander "The Passenger" aka "The Fugitive" (GE: Der Reisende) - 1939
Fallada, Hans "Every Man Dies Alone" (GE: Jeder stirbt für sich allein) - 1947
Greywoode, Josephine (ed.) "Why We Read. 70 Writers on Non-Fiction" - 2022
Leky, Mariana "What You Can See From Here" (GE: Was man von hier aus sehen kann) - 2017
Menasse, Robert "The Capital" (GE: Die Hauptstadt) - 2017
Schroeder, Steffen "Was alles in einem Menschen sein kann. Begegnung mit einem Mörder" [What can be in a person. Encountering a murderer] - 2017
Shaw, Karl "Royal Babylon: The Alarming History of European Royalty" - 1999
Uthaug, Maren "Before there were Birds" (DK: Hvor der er fugle/Hannahs Lied) - 2017

📚 Happy Reading! 📚

Monday 23 January 2023

Suttner, Bertha von "Lay Down Your Arms"

Suttner, Bertha von "Lay Down Your Arms" or "Down with Weapons!" (German: Die Waffen nieder!) - 1889
This is my eleventh Classic Spin and we were given #6.

A present from a dear friend who knows what I appreciate. On the German cover, the description says: "Der Roman für den Frieden" - "The Novel for Peace."

And that's what it is. Bertha von Suttner inspired Alfred Nobel to add the Nobel Peace Prize to the different categories in 1901. Four years later, she was the first woman to receive it. And well deserved.

The name of the protagonist is different from the author, yet the book is always described as an auto-biography. Bertha von Suttner grew up in a similar environment as her Martha Althaus. And at the same time. She lived during a time where war was something people not just accepted but rejoiced about, a lot of the men in her surroundings, nobility like herself, were soldiers, many of the women wives of soldiers. And it was clear in the society, that children should be raised to become soldiers and fight for their country, as well.

Bertha von Suttner lived from 1843 to 1914, so she died just a month before the outbreak of WWI. It was probably good that she didn't live to see this anymore though I am sure she knew what was coming. I have only just read a book about 1913 (illies) and most people didn't have a clue though I am sure she did.

In her book, she writes about the horrors of war, not just what the soldiers have to go through but mainly what their loved ones have to suffer. Her book was a huge success, she didn't seem to be the only one who thought this world would be better off without wars. I totally agree with her but we still haven't learned.

Bertha von Suttner was probably one of the first pacifists. Leo Tolstoy compared of her novel to that of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the same result to war than to slavery. I wish he had been right.

She also founded the German Peace Society.

From the back cover:

"Lay Down Your Arms! (novel), English title of the 1889 novel "Die Waffen Nieder!" by the Austrian pacifist activist Bertha von Suttner, who received the 1905 Nobel Peace Prize for it. 'We English-speaking people, whether in England, in the Colonies, or in the United States, being ourselves in no immediate danger of seeing our homes invaded, and our cities laid under contribution by hostile armies, are apt to forget how terribly the remembrance of such calamities, and the constant threat of their recurrence, haunt the lives of our Continental brethren.' - T. Holmes

Austrian novelist Bertha von Suttner was one of the first notable woman pacifists. She is credited with influencing Alfred Nobel in the establishment of the Nobel Prize for Peace, of which she was the recipient in 1905. Her major novel,
Die Waffen nieder! (1889; Lay Down Your Arms!), has been compared in popularity and influence with Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.

The daughter of an impoverished Austrian field marshal, she was a governess to the wealthy Suttner family from 1873. She became engaged to Baron Arthur Gundaccar von Suttner (1850-1902), an engineer and novelist, seven years her junior. The opposition of his family to this match caused her, in 1876, to answer Nobel's advertisement for a secretary-housekeeper at his Paris residence. After only a week she returned to Vienna and secretly married Suttner.

Bertha von Suttner received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 "for her audacity to oppose the horrors of war."

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

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.

Friday 20 January 2023

Sankovitch, Nina "Tolstoy and the Purple Chair"

Sankovitch, Nina "Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading" - 2010

I've had this book on my TBR pile for quite a while. I love books about books, I love lists, especially of books but somehow, this never made it to the top of my pile.

Until now.

What did I like about the book? The fact, that books are there for us, that they can help us in difficult circumstances. I knew that already and I have lived through it myself. Books have helped me a lot.

Mind you, I didn't buy the book for that, I bought it because it was about reading.

Nina Sankovitch read 365 books in one year. I wouldn't have liked to have to finish any book in a given day and not read any of my beloved chunksters but she didn't seem to mind that.

I did like that she mentioned other books, books she didn't read in that year but which meant something to her.

I would recommend reading to anyone who is in a ditch and can't get out by themselves. Those authors help you a lot. And I'm not talking those self-help books, they often make me even more depressive, I'm talking about books you enjoy, whether they are non-fiction or fiction, a romance book, science fiction, fantasy (the last ones all genres that I don't enjoy), historical novels or anything you feel like at the time. They do help, believe me.

There are quite a few passages that made me think. The author tells us about a ghost in a Dickens story that will take away your memory and the answer "Memory is my curse, and if I could forget my sorrow and my wrong, I would." I doubt I would take that offer because with all the bad memories, also many of the good ones will be gone. Like in Nina's case, the loss of her sister is terrible but the memories she shares with her are wonderful, and would she want to lose them, as well? Probably not.

And this one, an old Arab proverb: "He who lends a book is an idiot. He who returns the book is more of an idiot." Okay, call me an idiot, I have lent books to others all my life, I think we should share our richness. I agree more with Henry Miller's advice (also mentioned in the book): "Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation, Lend and borrow to the maximum - of both books and money! But especially books, for books represent infinitely more than money. A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold". Definitely.

From Cornelia Funke's "Inkheart" (GE: Tintenherz): "Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn't ask anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly. Love, truth, beauty, wisdom and consolation against death. Who had said that? Someone else who loved books." Yes, books always love us, they will send us on a new path, they will entertain us, they will teach us something, they are there for us.

Elizabeth Maguire asks, "Have you ever been heartbroken to finish a book? Has a writer kept whispering in your ear long after the last page has turned?" How can anyone say no to those questions?

Something that has nothing to do with reading but needs to be said again and again, a quote from Kurt Vonnegut: "War is Murder". There is nothing that anyone can say against that.

"Read a book to find out why we go to war, to experience what it is that drives us to violence", is a good answer, that the author only thought about after a discussion, as happens so often to all of us, I guess. But it's the best way to learn about it and to try to convince others that it is stupid to kill someone, no matter for what reason.

"Books are the weapon against someone's lament that 'everything is forgotten in the end'." Yes, books, make us remember, books teach us everything,w e don't have to experience it first ourselves, we can truly feel for someone through a book.

And finally, a quote by one of the greates authors that ever lived, Leonid Tolstoy: "The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity." There is nothing to be added.

Nina Sankovitch has a website.
And here she has some recommendations on how to read all day.

I will not repeat all the books she read in this review, you can find that list here.

I will, however, list all the books I read from her list so you can go and check out what I have to say to them.

The same with the books she mentions, there is a list at the end of the books I read.

From the back cover:

"Caught up in grief after the death of her sister, Nina Sankovitch decided to stop running and start reading. For once in her life she would put all other obligations on hold and devote herself to reading a book a day: one year of magical reading in which she found joy, healing, and wisdom.

With grace and deep insight, Sankovitch weaves together poignant family memories with the unforgettable lives of the characters she reads about. She finds a lesson in each book, ultimately realizing the ability of a good story to console, inspire, and open our lives to new places and experiences. A moving story of recovery,
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is also a resonant reminder of the all-encompassing power and delight of reading."

Books read:
Achebe, Chinua "Things Fall Apart" (The African Trilogy #1) - 1958
Adams, Richard "Watership Down" - 1972
Adiga, Aravind "The White Tiger" - 2008
Barbery, Muriel "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" (F: L’Elégance du hérisson) - 2006
Berry, Wendell "Hannah Coulter" - 2004
Butler, Octavia E. "Kindred" - 1979
Chevalier, Tracy "Falling Angels" - 2001
Cleave, Chris "The Other Hand" (US: Little Bee) - 2008
Coetzee, J.M. "The Master of Petersburg" - 1994
Danticat, Edwidge "Breath, Eyes, Memory" - 1994
Douglass, Frederick "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" - 1845
Ephron, Nora "I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman" - 2006
Funke, Cornelia "Inkheart" - (GE: Tintenherz) - 2003
Morrison, Toni "A Mercy" - 2008
Shaffer, Mary Ann & Barrows, Annie "The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society" - 2008
Tóibín, Colm "Brooklyn" - 2009
Walls, Jeannette "The Glass Castle" - 2005

Not many from the 365 books she read but then again, she hasn't mentioned many of my books, either. ;)

Books mentioned:
Christie, Agatha "And then there were none"  - 1939 (called "Ten Little Indians" in this book)
Dickens, Charles "A Christmas Carol" - 1843
- "A Tale of Two Cities" - 1859
Fitzgerald, F. Scott "The Great Gatsby" - 1925
Gilbreth, Frank + Gilbreth Carey, Elizabeth "Cheaper by the Dozen" - 1948
Gordimer, Nadine "Burger's Daughter" - 1979
Greene, Graham "The End of the Affair" - 1951
Kingsolver, Barbara
McEwan, Ian "Atonement" - 2001
Schlink, Bernhard "The Reader" (GE: Der Vorleser) - 1994
Trollope, Anthony "Barchester Chronicles" - 1855-67

Thursday 19 January 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. Five Quarters of the Orange

Harris, Joanne "Five Quarters of the Orange" - 2001

I loved this book. It book has a lot of issues, history, recipes, family tragedy, mother-daughter relationship, description of small village life, even though in France, I think this applies to anywhere in the world.

We discussed this in our international book club in February 2003.

Read my original review here.

Tuesday 17 January 2023

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi "We Should All Be Feminists"

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi "We Should All Be Feminists" - 2014

A small book, a short book. But a very meaningful book. If you only read one non-fiction book this year, let it be this one.

The author has written a few very important books already, "Half of a Yellow Sun" probably being the most important one.

This booklet is short, yet very powerful, very important. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells us about her life as a woman, a story that can probably be told by many women all over the world. We have fewer chances to get anywhere in the world, we earn less money, our voices are not heard as well.

Therefore, we should all listen to this and try to be more assertive when it comes to our battle for more recognition.

From the back cover:

"A personal and powerful essay from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the bestselling author of 'Americanah' and 'Half of a Yellow Sun', based on her 2013 TEDx Talk of the same name.

What does 'feminism' mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay - adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name - by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of '
Americanah' and 'Half of a Yellow Sun'. With humour and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century  one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviours that marginalise women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics.

Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences - in the U.S., in her native Nigeria - offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a best-selling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today - and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Monday 16 January 2023

Hislop, Victoria "Maria's Island"

Hislop, Victoria "Maria's Island" - 2021

If you've read "The Island" and its follow-up, "One August Night", you might want to consider this. Or, if you have children who like to read.

This is Maria's story, the girl growing up in the village near the Spinalonga, the Greek island where they would send people with leprosy before they found a cure.

Not only had Victoria Hislop retold the story in such a lovely way that it will be perfectly understood by children, she also found a wonderful illustrator, Gill Smith, who brings the people and the island to life. I have been to Spinalonga a long time before the books were written, and reading her books takes me back to this beautiful little place. It is just as described by this brilliant author.

From the back cover:

"A dramatic and moving story set in the same world as the international bestseller The Island from the celebrated novelist Victoria Hislop.

The absorbing story of the Cretan village of Plaka and the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece's former leper colony - is told to us by Maria Petrakis, one of the children in the original version of The Island. She tells us of the ancient and misunderstood disease of leprosy, exploring the themes of stigma, shame and the treatment of those who are different, which are as relevant for children as adults.

Gill Smith's rich, full-colour illustrations will transport the reader to the timeless and beautiful Greek landscape and Mediterranean seascape.

Saturday 14 January 2023

Spell the Month in Books ~ January 2023


Reviews from the Stacks

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.

January is the start of a new year and often used for beginnings of any kind. So, our official topic is:
January: TBR or books to read while snowed/iced in

But since I have never in my life been snowed in and don't expect it to happen now with climate change hitting us severely, I have opted for the latter. My TBR pile is sky high, so no problems there.


Le Faye, Deirdre "Jane Austen’s Letters" - 1995 - Goodreads

Abulhawa, Susan "Against the Loveless World" - 2020

Walker, Alice "Now is the Time to Open your Heart" - 2004 - Goodreads

Sykes, Eric "UFOs Are Coming Wednesday" - 1995 - Goodreads

Dallek, Robert "An Unfinished Life - John F. Kennedy 1917-1963" - 2003 - Goodreads

Theroux, Paul "Riding the Iron Rooster" - 1988

Ian Buruma "Year Zero. A History of 1945" - 2013 - Goodreads

I cannot promise to get to them this year but ... eventually.

Happy Reading!
📚 📚 📚

Friday 13 January 2023

Reading Challenge - Chunky Books 2023


I have taken part in this reading challenge since 2013. The moment I saw that post, I know this was the most interesting challenge for me. I signed up for the highest of the four levels "Mor-book-ly Obese" which meant eight or more chunksters (books over 450 pages) of which three must be 750 pages or more.

I have carried on with that challenge without setting goals, I love big books and I will always read some. And I am more than willing to tell my friends about them.

If you are interested in the challenge, check out this link. They discontinued their challenge in 2015.
You can still find suggestions by page number, in case you can't find any chunksters yourself. 😉

Or you can check out my lists from the previous years (below), maybe you are interested in a couple of them.

I read in
2013: 38 chunky books, 13 of them chunksters
2014: 37 chunky books, 15 of them chunksters
2015: 26 chunky books, 8 of which chunksters
2016: 28 chunky books, 3 of which chunksters
2017: 35 chunky books, 6 of which chunksters

2018: 29 chunky books, 6 of which chunksters
2019: 20 chunky books, 7 of which chunksters
18 chunky books, 7 of which chunksters
24 chunky books, 10 of which chunksters
11 chunky books, 3 of which chunksters

I will be posting the books I have read here:
(I add the German title, if available, for my German friends)
[I add my own translation of a foreign book title if it's not available in English.]

Suttner, Bertha von "Die Waffen nieder!" (Lay Down Your Arms! or Down with Weapons!) - 1889 - 495 pages
Keefe, Patrick Radden "
Say Nothing. A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland" - 2018 - 542 pages
Rutherfurd, Edward "New York" (New York. Im Rausch der Freiheit) - 2009 - 1057 pages
Kazantzakis, Nikos "Die letzte Versuchung" (Ο τελευταίος πειρασμός, O telefteos pirasmos/The Last Temptation of Christ) - 1951 - 512 pages
Mann, Heinrich "Der Untertan" (Man of Straw, The Patrioteer, or The Loyal Subject) - 1914 - 684 pages
Brooks, Geraldine "People of the Book" (Die Hochzeitsgabe) - 2008 - 465 pages
Theroux, Paul "Riding the Iron Rooster" (Das chinesische Abenteuer. Reise durch das Reich der Mitte) - 1988 - 496 pages
Voland, Maxim (Markus Heitz) "Die Republik" [The Republic] - 2020 - 528 pages

Canetti, Elias "Die Blendung" (Auto-da-Fé) - 1935 - 835 pages
Mercier, Pascal "Das Gewicht der Worte" [The Weight of the Words] - 2020 - 576 pages
Wells, Benedict "Vom Ende der Einsamkeit" (The End of Loneliness) - 2016 - 464 pages
Dickens, Charles "Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty" (Barnaby Rudge) - 1841 - 752 pages

I read 12 chunky books in 2023
of which 3 are considered a chunkster. Mor-book-ly Obese again.

If you want to do this challenge or just check at the end of the year what category you are, here is the list:

    The Chubby Chunkster - this option is for the readers who want to dabble in large tomes, but really doesn't want to commit to much more than that. FOUR Chunksters is all you need to finish this challenge.
    The Plump Primer - this option is for the slightly heavier reader who wants to commit to SIX Chunksters over the next twelve months.
    Do These Books Make my Butt Look Big? - this option is for the reader who can't resist bigger and bigger books and wants to commit to SIX Chunksters from the following categories: 2 books which are between 450 - 550 pages in length; 2 books which are 551 - 750 pages in length; 2 books which are GREATER than 750 pages in length (for ideas, please refer to the book suggestions page for some books which fit into these categories).
    Mor-book-ly Obese - This is for the truly out of control chunkster. For this level of challenge you must commit to EIGHT or more Chunksters of which three tomes MUST be 750 pages or more. You know you want to.....go on and give in to your cravings. 

Looks like I've always been "more book-ly obese". 😂

Thursday 12 January 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. The Collector of Worlds


Trojanow, Ilija "The Collector of Worlds" (German: Der Weltensammler) - 2006

A wonderful description of life in different worlds at a different time, India, Arabia, Africa. The author has lived in those cultures himself and knows a lot about it.

We discussed this in our international book club in April 2010.

Read my original review here.

There is also a wonderful non-fiction book with a lot of illustrations and pictures, available in German only, unfortunately:

Trojanow, Ilija "Nomade auf vier Kontinenten. Auf den Spuren von Sir Richard Francis Burton" [Nomad on Four Continents. In the Footsteps of Sir Richard Francis Burton] - 2006 

Wednesday 11 January 2023

Buck, Pearl S. "A Bridge for Passing"

Buck, Pearl S. "A Bridge for Passing" - 1961

This is arguably one of the author's most personal books. She talks not only about her stay in Japan to witness the shooting of "The Big Wave", but above all about the death of her husband and how she is trying to come to terms with it.

Ultimately, she finds solace in Japan, the people and country are very helpful.

But the story of the film adaptation of her book is also very interesting and probably offered the author some distraction in these difficult times.

From the back cover:

"While in Japan to observe the filming of one of her novels, Pearl Buck was informed that her husband had died. This book is the deeply affecting story of the period that immediately followed - the grief, fears, doubts, and readjustments that a woman must make before crossing the bridge that spans marriage and widowhood."

Find other books by Pearl S. Book that I read here.

Pearl S. Buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces".

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

Tuesday 10 January 2023

Illies, Florian "1913: The Year before the Storm"

Illies, Florian "1913: The Year before the Storm" (German: 1913: Der Sommer des Jahrhunderts) - 2012

How did the First World War come about? This question is asked frequently and attempts are made to answer it just as frequently. But that is not the purpose of this book. The author brings a contemporary testimony here. How was life the year before? When people still lived peacefully and thought of no evil. We hear about writers like Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Marcel Proust and others, painters like Ernst Macke, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Marcel Duchamp, musicians like Igor Stravinsky, psychologists Sigmund Freud and C.G. Young, that Stalin and Hitler were in Vienna at the same time (if only they had met and smashed each other's heads!), how the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I and his heir to the throne Franz-Ferdinand were doing.

Many, many people are portrayed here, month after month we follow their lives and society in general and know that everyone's lives will be completely different in the next, never quite the same.

A good history book.

From the back cover:

"The year 1913 heralds a new age of unlimited possibility. Louis Armstrong learns to play the trumpet. Kafka is in love and writes endlessly long, endlessly beautiful letters to Felice Bauer. Charlie Chaplin signs his first movie contract.

Yet everywhere there is the premonition of ruin - the number thirteen is omnipresent, and in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin and Trieste, artists begin to act as if there were no tomorrow. In a hotel lobby, Rilke and Freud discuss beauty and transience; Proust sets out in search of lost time; and while Stravinsky celebrates The Rite of Spring with industrial cacophony, in Munich an Austrian postcard painter by the name of Adolf Hitler sells his conventional cityscapes.

Monday 9 January 2023

Clinton, Hillary Rodham & Chelsea "The Book of Gutsy Women"

Clinton, Hillary Rodham & Chelsea "The Book of Gutsy Women: Favourite Stories of Courage and Resilience" - 2019

From Early Inspirations, Education Pioneers to Earth Defenders and Explorers and Inventors, from Healers, Athletes, Advocates and Activists to Storytellers, Elected Leaders and Groundbreakers and finishing with Women's Rights Champions, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton describe a lot of women who changed the world. You can find the name of all the women they describe in their book at the end of the book description. There are many, many whose names are so familiar with us and yet, quite a few that we might have never heard of but have to thank so much. The come from Nigeria, the UK, Pakistan, the USA, Russia, the Netherlands, Austria, Guatemala, Mexico, Italy, Canada, Kenya, Sweden, France, Poland, China, Somalia, Senegal, Japan, South Africa, Colombia, Liberia, Chile, India, Saudi-Arabia, Iraq, so from all over the world where they did their bit so that we could all have an easier life, a more just life.

A quote from the Girl Scouts handbook "How Girls Can Help Their Country" from 1913. "Wherever you go you will have the choice of good or bad reading, and as reading has such a lasting effect on the mind, you should try to read only good things" is an advice that is as valid today as it was a hundred years ago.

And another great one: "I don't study to know more, but to ignore less" Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz who lived in Mexico in the mid-seventeenth century.

Such a fantastic quote. When I was young, my parents didn't have enough money to send me to university, so I did an apprenticeship instead. But I remember at the end of that, I thought, and what now? Am I finished learning? Is there nothing else I can do from now on than what I learned so far? But I soon noticed there were courses I could visit and books I could read and there was a big world out there that would teach me a lot of things. Nowadays, that is even easier because there is so much you can do on the internet and so much you can find there if you really want to know.

In my life, I have experienced a lot of events where I was put down because I was a woman. My education might have been different had I been a boy, I was told that companies hired boys for jobs I applied for (in the office), guys were hired instead of giving me a promotion, not because I was not good enough but because I was a woman who "would get married and have children anyway". So, I am certainly grateful for these women trying to change things for the better, not always just for women but a lot of them have made this world a better one.

I know there could be lots of other women who are just as important as the ones in the book. They missed at least two from their list: Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. They are just as great heroes as the women they described.

From the back cover:

"Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, share the stories of the gutsy women who have inspired them - women with the courage to stand up to the status quo, ask hard questions, and get the job done.

She couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old. 'Go ahead, ask your question,' her father urged, nudging her forward. She smiled shyly and said, 'You’re my hero. Who’s yours?'

Many people - especially girls - have asked us that same question over the years. It’s one of our favorite topics.

HILLARY: Growing up, I knew hardly any women who worked outside the home. So I looked to my mother, my teachers, and the pages of Life magazine for inspiration. After learning that Amelia Earhart kept a scrapbook with newspaper articles about successful women in male-dominated jobs, I started a scrapbook of my own. Long after I stopped clipping articles, I continued to seek out stories of women who seemed to be redefining what was possible.

CHELSEA: This book is the continuation of a conversation the two of us have been having since I was little. For me, too, my mom was a hero; so were my grandmothers. My early teachers were also women. But I grew up in a world very different from theirs. My pediatrician was a woman, and so was the first mayor of Little Rock who I remember from my childhood. Most of my close friends’ moms worked outside the home as nurses, doctors, teachers, professors, and in business. And women were going into space and breaking records here on Earth.

Ensuring the rights and opportunities of women and girls remains a big piece of the unfinished business of the twenty-first century. While there’s a lot of work to do, we know that throughout history and around the globe women have overcome the toughest resistance imaginable to win victories that have made progress possible for all of us. That is the achievement of each of the women in this book.

So how did they do it? The answers are as unique as the women themselves. Civil rights activist Dorothy Height, LGBTQ trailblazer Edie Windsor, and swimmer Diana Nyad kept pushing forward, no matter what. Writers like Rachel Carson and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie named something no one had dared talk about before. Historian Mary Beard used wit to open doors that were once closed, and Wangari Maathai, who sparked a movement to plant trees, understood the power of role modeling. Harriet Tubman and Malala Yousafzai looked fear in the face and persevered. Nearly every single one of these women was fiercely optimistic - they had faith that their actions could make a difference. And they were right.

To us, they are all gutsy women - leaders with the courage to stand up to the status quo, ask hard questions, and get the job done. So in the moments when the long haul seems awfully long, we hope you will draw strength from these stories. We do. Because if history shows one thing, it’s that the world needs gutsy women.

Harriet Tubman, Anna Pavlova, Isadora Duncan, Maria Tallchief, and Virginia Johnson, Helen Keller, Margaret Chase Smith, Margaret Bourke-White, Maria von Trapp, Anne Frank, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Florence Griffith Joyner, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Margaret Bancroft, Juliette Gordon Low, Maria Montessori and Joan Ganz Cooney, Mary McLeod Bethune, Esther Martinez, Daisy Bates, Patsy Mink, Bernice Sandler, and Edith Green, Ruby Bridges Hall,
Malala Yousafzai, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs and Peggy Shepard, Jane Goodall and "The Trimates", Wangari Maathai, Alice Min Soo Chun, Greta Thunberg, Caroline Herschel and Vera Rubin, Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, Margaret Knight and Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie and Irène Joliot-Curie, Hedy Lamarr, Sylvia Earle, Sally Ride, Mae Jemison, Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, Elizabeth Blackwell, Rebecca Lee Crumpler, and Mary Edwards Walker, Betty Ford, Mathilde Krim, Dr. Gao Yaojie, Dr. Hawa Abdi, Flossie Wong-Staal, Molly Melching, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Vaccinators, Alice Coachman and Wilma Rudolph, Junko Tabei, Billie Jean King, Diana Nyad, Abby Wambach, Michelle Kwan, Venus and Serena Williams, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Tatyana McFaddenn, Caster Semenya, Aly Raisman, Dorothy Height and Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Peratrovich, Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin, Coretta Scott King, Dolores Huerta, The Peacemakers, Victoria Mxenge, Ai-jen Poo, Sarah Brady, Gabby Giffords, Nelba Màrquez-Green, Shannon Watts, and Lucy McBath, Nza-Ari Khepra, Emma Gonzàlez, Naomi Wadler, Edna Chavez, Jazmine Wildcat, and Julia Spoor, Becca Heller, Maya Angelou, Mary Beard, Jineth Bedoya Lima, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, America Ferrera, Ali Stroker, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, Ann Richards, Geraldine Ferraro, Barbara Jordan, Barbara Mikulski, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Wilma Mankiller, Michelle Bachelet, Danica Roem, Frances Perkins, Katharine Graham, Constance Baker Motley, Edie Windsor, Ela Bhatt, Temple Grandin, Ellen DeGeneres, Maya Lin, Sally Yates, Kimberly Bryant and Reshma Saujani, Rosa May Billinghurst, The Suffragists, Sophia Duleep Singh, Fraidy Reiss, Manal al-Sharif, Nadia Murad"

Saturday 7 January 2023

Six Degrees of Separation ~ From Beach Read to Things Fall Apart

#6Degrees of Separation:
from Beach Read to Things Fall Apart

#6Degrees is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. I love the idea. Thank you, Kate. See more about this challenge, its history, further books and how I found this here.

This month's prompt starts with Beach Read by Emily Henry (Goodreads)

Beach Reads are not for me, so I have never heard of the author or that book. I don't have any books that contain the name beach so I had to go with another secquence.

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

Of course, I have books with "read" in the title. This one is great for anyone who (like me) loves classic books. This is a great way of getting a list of worthwhile books to read and maybe getting a glimpse of what it might be.

Angelou, Maya "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" - 1969

Why is a good link to the next degree. The author has led a very difficult life and she tells us all about it in this book.

Owens, Delia "Where the Crawdads Sing" - 2018

Singing should always be fun but both these books are not necessarily cheerful. Here we have a great story about Kya, a girl that is left all alone by her family, one after the other leaves and she has to fend for herself at the age of nine. The villagers don't look favourable at her, either.

Shakib, Siba "Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep" (GE: Nach Afghanistan kommt Gott nur noch zum Weinen) - 2002

Although where also is a question word, it is more a location information in both these titles. This book gives us a good insight into the lives of people in that part of the world where you usually just get political or military news.

O'Farrel, John "Things can only get better: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter, 1979-1997" - 1998

Both an interesting as well as a humorous story about the ups and downs of a politician.

Achebe, Chinua "Things Fall Apart" (The African Trilogy #1) - 1958

While the things could get better in the former book, they fall apart in this one. A story about Nigeria just after the arrival of the first European colonists in the late nineteenth century.


I guess these books are the opposite of beach trees but those who know me will understand, that I appreciate these type of books a lot more.

Look for further monthly separation posts here