Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Century of Books

I found this idea in another blog that I really like. The blogger had the goal to read a book from every year in the last century during the year 2012. Now, I'm not as adventurous as that, I know I wouldn't be able to read all those books in one year plus my book club books and any new books friends recommend. So, I started to go through my notes and see which years I already have or which are on my wishlist already and came up with the following list. I will add to the list as soon as I read new books from those years.

1900 - Jerome K. Jerome "Three Men on the Bummel" (Three Men on Wheels)
1901 - Thomas Mann "Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family" (Buddenbrooks)
1902 - Joseph Conrad "Heart of Darkness"
1903 - W.E.B. Du Bois "The Souls of Black Folk"
1904 - Henry James "The Golden Bowl"
1905 - Edith Wharton "The House of Mirth"
1906 - Maxim Gorki "The Mother" (Мать/Matj)
1907 -
1908 - Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud) "Anne of Green Gables"   
1909 - Frances Hodgson Burnett "The Secret Garden"
1910 - E.M. Forster "Howard’s End"
1911 - Edith Wharton "Ethan Frome"
1912 - Mann, Thomas "Death in Venice" (Der Tod in Venedig)
1913 - Sarah Morgan Dawson "1842-1909 A Confederate Girl's Diary"
1914 -
1915 -
1916 - James Joyce "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" 
1917 -
1918 - Willa Cather "My Ántonia"
1919 -
1920 - Sinclair Lewis "Main Street: The Story of Carol Kennicott"
or Sigrid Undset "Kristin Lavransdotter"

1921 -
1922 - Herman Hesse "Siddhartha" (Siddharta)
1923 - Khalil Gibran "The Prophet"
1924 - E.M. Forster "A Passage to India"
1925 - F. Scott Fitzgerald "The Great Gatsby"
1926 - A.A. Milne "Winnie the Pooh" 
1927 - Virginia Woolf "To the Lighthouse"
1928 -
1929 - Thomas Wolfe "Look Homeward, Angel. A Story of the Buried Life."
1930 - Pearl S. Buck "East Wind: West Wind"
1931 - Willa Cather "Shadows on the Rock"
1932 - Stella Gibbons "Cold Comfort Farm"
1933 - Pearl S. Buck "The Mother"
1934 - Mikahil Sholokhov "And Quiet flows the Don"
1935 -
1936 - Margaret Mitchell "Gone with the Wind"
1937 - Isak Dinesen= Karen Blixen "Out of Africa"
1938 - Graham Greene "Brighton Rock"
1939 - Pearl S. Buck "The Patriot"
1940 - John Steinbeck "The Grapes of Wrath"
1941 -
1942 - Albert Camus "The Stranger/The Outsider" (L’Etranger)
1943 - Betty Smith "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"
1944 - Eleanor Estes "The Hundred Dresses"
1945 - Mika Waltari "The Egyptian" (Sinuhe Egyptiläinen)
1946 - Pearl S. Buck "Pavilion of Women"
1947 - Albert Camus "The Plague" (La Peste)
1948 - Alan Paton "Cry, The Beloved Country"
1949 - George Orwell "Nineteen Eighty Four"
1950 - Nevil Shute "A Town Like Alice"
1951 - Jack Kerouac "On the Road"
1952 - Ernest Hemingway "The Old Man and the Sea"
1953 - Mary Scott "Breakfast at Six"
1954 - William Golding "Lord of the Flies"
1955 - Yaşar Kemal "The Drumming-Out" (Teneke)
1956 - Iris Murdoch "The Flight From the Enchanter"
1957 -
1958 - Elie Wiesel "Night" (La Nuit)
1959 -
1960 - Harper Lee "To Kill a Mockingbird"
1961 - V.S. Naipaul. "A House for Mr. Biswas"
1962 - Doris Lessing "The Golden Notebook"
1963 -
1964 - Hannah Green (Joanne Greenberg) "I Never Promised you a Rose Garden”
1965 -
1966 - Jean Rhys "Wide Sargasso Sea"
1967 - Gabriel Garcia Marquez "One hundred years of solitude" (Cien años de soledad)
1968 - Lew Nikolajewitsch Tolstoi "War and Peace" (Война и мир = Woina i mir)
1969 - Jurek Becker "Jacob the Liar" (Jakob der Lügner)
1970 - Dee Brown "Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee"
1971 - Alexander Solzhenitsyn "The Red Wheel" cycle
            (Узел I - «Август Четырнадцатого», Красное колесо)
1972 - Richard Adams "Watership Down"
1973 - Kurt Vonnegut "Breakfast of Champions"
1974 - Valentin Rasputin "To Live and Remember" (Zhiwi e pomni = Живи и помни)
1975 - Imre Kertész "Fateless/Fatelessness" (Sorstalanság)
1976 -
1977 - Mario Vargas Llosa "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter" (La tía Julia y el escribidor)
1978 - Rita Mae Brown "Six of One"
1979 - Italo Calvino "If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller" (Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore)
1980 - Eco, Umberto "The Name of the Rose" (Der Name der Rose/Il nome della rosa) 
1981 - Morton Rhue "The Wave"
1982 - Isabel Allende "The House of the Spirits" - Walker, Alice "The Color Purple"
1983 - Sten Nadolny "The Discovery of Slowness" (Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit)
1984 -
1985 - Margaret Atwood "The Handmaid’s Tale"
1986 - Patricia MacLachlan "Sarah, Plain & Tall"
1987 - Toni Morrison "Beloved"
1988 - Paulo Coelho "The Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dream"
1989 - Ken Follett "The Pillars of the Earth"
1990 - A.S. Byatt "Possession"
1991 - Jung Chang "Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China"
1992 - Harry Mulisch "The Discovery of Heaven" (De Ontdekking van de hemel)
1993 - Vikram Seth "A Suitable Boy"
1994 - Marianne Fredriksson "Hanna’s Daughters" (Anna, Hanna og Johanna)
1995 - Stefanie Zweig "Nowhere in Africa" (Nirgendwo in Afrika)
1996 - Joyce Carol Oates "We Were the Mulvaneys"
1997 - Charles Frazier "Cold Mountain"
1998 - Jane Smiley "The All-true Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton"
1999 - Nancy E. Turner "These is my words"

Find the original list here and  here.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

My favourite books 2012 and 2011

A lot of friends keep asking me about my favourite book of last year. Tough question, I'm sure I'd give a different answer every day. And the same applies to my ten favourite books. However, I have been going through my list and have chosen a selection of books that have left an impression on me. I hope there is something there for everybody, I think there are quite a few different choices. Enjoy.

My favourite books 2012

Allende, Isabel “Island Beneath the Sea” (La isla bajo el mar) - 2010
Atwood, Margaret „The Handmaid’s Tale“ – 1985
Bryson, Bill “A Short History of Nearly Everything” - 2003
Chang, Jung “Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China” - 1991
Follett, Ken “World Without End” – 2007
Hamill, Pete “Snow in August” - 1998 
Mandela, Nelson "Long Walk to Freedom" - 1994
Oates, Joyce Carol "Mudwoman" - 2012
Sackville, Amy „The Still Point“ - 2010
Shute, Nevil “A Town Like Alice” - 1950 

My favourite books 2011

Bryson, Bill “At Home. A Short History of Private Life” – 2010
Camus, Albert “The Plague" (La Peste) – 1947
Falcones, Ildefonso “The Hand of Fatima” (La mano de Fátima) – 2009
Ilibagiza, Immaculée with Erwin, Steve “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust” – 2006
Lowenstein, Anna „The Stone City" (La Ŝtona Urbo) – 1999
Mortenson, Greg “Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan” - 2009
O’Farrell, John “An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2,000 Years of Upper Calls Idiots in Charge” – 2007
Pamuk, Orhan “Istanbul - Memories of a City” (İstanbul - Hatıralar ve Şehir) – 2003
Ruiz Zafón, Carlos „The Prince of Mist“ (El príncipe de la niebla) – 1993
Rutherfurd, Edward “The Forest” – 2000

Friday, 28 December 2012

Oates, Joyce Carol "Mudwoman"

Oates, Joyce Carol "Mudwoman" - 2012

Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favourite authors. She surprises me with every new novel. As she did with this one.

Meredith Ruth (M.R.) Neukirchen is an abandoned and then adopted child that grows into a very successful woman. When she is at the top, she starts struggling with her past.

It is amazing how ordinary events can bring up topics you have long forgotten. And it is close to a miracle how Joyce Carol Oates can bring this to life on her pages. An almost fantasy-like story, although more magic realism, a story that has it all, it's a thriller, but it's so much more than a thriller. It's a philosophical book as well as the description of a journey to find oneself.

A quote to think about: "Earth-time is a way of preventing everything happening at once."

Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Hamill, Pete “Snow in August”

Hamill, Pete “Snow in August” - 1998

Brooklyn, two years after World War II. An 11 year old Irish Catholic boy whose father died in battle and who lives alone with his mother befriends a Czech Rabbi and learns about Judaism and the Holocaust. Together they face racism and violence. Together with Michael, we learn about the Yiddish language, Jewish history, Jewish literature, the Jewish folkloristic Golem and - baseball.

The story is well-told, switching between the past and the present, building anticipation. You could almost read the story in a day but you don't want to say good-bye too early to the characters as you hopefully grow to love them as much as I did.

I really loved this book and would like to read more by this author.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Liao, Yiwu "Testimonials or: For a Song and a Hundred Songs"

Liao, Yiwu "Testimonials or: For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet's Journey Through a Chinese Prison" (Chinese: Zheng-Ci) - 2000

I read the expanded German translation of a Chinese book by Yiwu Liao "Für ein Lied und hundert Lieder: Ein Zeugenbericht aus chinesischen Gefängnissen". He just received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis). The book "describes the horrific treatment of Liao Yiwu and other political prisoners in a Chongqing prison who were arrested after the June 4, 1989 crackdown".

It's terrifying to read what people in Chinese prisons have to go through. This is a good book to read but with horrible pictures of what they do to each other. It's hardly believable that human beings can be like that.
What a tragic report of so many lives lost and wasted. At times, I thought, "Do I really want to know all this?" But then I carried on because if people can endure those tortures, we should at least make an effort to know about it. How much can a person endure?

There is also a lot of poetry in this book since Yiwu Liao is a poet, and a lot of Chinese history and literature, information about Chinese life and thinking. My favourite proverb mentioned: "Distant water won't quench your immediate thirst".

Yiwu Liao received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2012.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Stowe, Harriet Beecher “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”

Stowe, Harriet Beecher “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” - 1852

This is one of the most tragic stories I have ever read, and I think I've read my fair share of tragedies. I have read books about wars, concentration camps and slavery, to name but a few. As with other classic stories, I had heard about the content, I knew what was going to happen to Uncle Tom, I knew what happened to slaves, how they were sold and tortured, how they would sell spouses and children away from their families. But it's tragic every time again, especially if you put a name to the people involved, if they are described in such a way that they come alive on the paper.

Harriet Beecher Stowe has managed to do just this, she brings alive all those poor people who had no rights at all and who had no hope that anything would ever improve in their lives, that they and their loved ones would get away from a fate worth than death.

There is Uncle Tom, a faithful servant to a good "master" who would never sell him. Or would he? Several other characters in the novel learn that when money is involved, everything is possible, whether the owner wants to sell their "possessions" or not. Then there is his family who have to say good-bye to husband and father, knowing they will never see him again. And then there are all the other poor souls, all of whom have a cross to bear, one story seems more unbearable than the next. Amazing how they still can go on and even have compassion. But they do.

I read that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is not read in school anymore because of the racial prejudices that were around at the time and that the author repeats several times. I don't think that's a reason not to read it anymore, on the contrary. That would be the same as not reading anything about concentration camps and the Nazis anymore. No, I think as long as we read these stories and are aware of the prejudices that used to exist, we can fight those that still are around. The more we see about it, the more ridiculous they seem and the earlier they will be eliminated.

I totally loved reading this story, even though I never like this way of describing a story of this content.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Buck, Pearl S. "The Exile"

Buck, Pearl S. "The Exile" - 1936

Pearl S. Buck grew up mostly in China, the daughter of American missionaries. In her many novels she describes the life of Chinese people past and present.

This book, however, is a biography about her mother, Carie Stulting Sydenstricker, a missionary and the wife of a missionary, who led most of her adult life in a foreign place, who went through hard times both politically as well as personally. She lived through several invasions, the Japanese, the Russians, through illnesses and death of her children. She lives in two worlds and cannot claim either of them as her real home in the end.

Same as her novels, I really loved this biography of the author's mother. She shows how much love can change life of the people around you and sometimes of a lot more.

From the back cover: "The biography of the mother of Pearl S. Buck, a portrait of an American woman in China."

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".

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Brijs, Stefan "The Angel Maker"

Brijs, Stefan "The Angel Maker" (De engelenmaker) - 2005

A story about a doctor who clones lives a very private life with his children in a remote village in the German speaking part of Belgium. As the story unfolds, we get to know his secret.

We had chosen the book because there are only a few Dutch books translated into English. We had different feelings about the story. It was gripping, a thriller, thought-provoking.

We learned about Asperger syndrome, autism and how inmates of asylums used to be treated. And about cloning.

It was interesting to see the contrast between modern science and narrow-mindedness. The book was easy to read but had so many layers. There was a lot of symbolism, the trinity appeared again and again.

The author did a great research, a lot of information and facts seemed correct.

Some really enjoyed the book, others found it disturbing and depressing, even horrific, disgusting, took some of us way past our comfort zone. It is very gothic-like.

The small town mentality was disturbing. We found that they are the same everywhere.

There was nobody in the whole novel we could relate to, even the children were portrayed so inhuman, we could only feel empathy for the school teacher.

We like to say that "science is value free", that there can be no limits, it's discovery for the sake of discovery. What do we do with the discoveries, someone will use it who doesn't have the inhibitions. The quote "Medicine has allowed us to die more slowly." was mentioned.

You know from the first sentence, this is not going to end well. He leaves a lot of questions open.

I didn't care much for the title, in German, an angel maker is someone who performs an unsafe illegal abortion, However, as a subject, this was just as bad. I hadn't looked forward to the book and didn't care for it much. I also didn't like the (original) cover picture or the one of the artist. The former reminded me of a fried egg gone bad, the latter made me think the author was writing about himself.

Still, we had a very interesting discussion about a sensitive subject.

We discussed this in our book club in November 2012.

Friday, 7 December 2012

The 100 Greatest Fiction Books as Chosen by The Guardian

I love lists. Lists that have been put together by people smarter than me, who have read more than I have and who know so much more about them. It's always a great way to find "new" and interesting literature.

I already have a list of the 100 Books by the BBC, and lately, I came across one by the Guardian "The 100 Greatest Fiction Books". Not at all the same novels as on the other one, therefore it is so interesting to add this to my ever increasing "wishlist".

1. Don Quixote - Miguel De Cervantes
2. Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan
3. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe 
4. Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift
5. Tom Jones - Henry Fielding
6. Clarissa - Samuel Richardson
7. Tristram Shandy - Laurence Sterne 
8. Dangerous Liaisons - Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
9. Emma- Jane Austen
10. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
11. Nightmare Abbey - Thomas Love Peacock
12. The Black Sheep - Honoré De Balzac
13. The Charterhouse of Parma - Stendhal
14. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
15. Sybil - Benjamin Disraeli
16. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
17. Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
18. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
19. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray 
20. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
21. Moby-Dick - Herman Melville
22. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
23. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
24. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
25. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
26. The Way We Live Now - Anthony Trollope
27. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy 

28. Daniel Deronda - George Eliot 
29. The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoevsky
30. The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
31. Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
32. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
33. Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome
34. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
35. The Diary of a Nobody - George Grossmith
36. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
37. The Riddle of the Sands - Erskine Childers
38. The Call of the Wild - Jack London
39. Nostromo - Joseph Conrad
40. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
41. In Search of Lost Time - Marcel Proust
42. The Rainbow - D. H. Lawrence
43. The Good Soldier - Ford Madox Ford
44. The Thirty-Nine Steps - John Buchan
45. Ulysses - James Joyce
46. Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
47. A Passage to India - E. M. Forster
48. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
49. The Trial - Franz Kafka
50. Men Without Women - Ernest Hemingway
51. Journey to the End of the Night - Louis-Ferdinand Celine
52. As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
53. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
54. Scoop - Evelyn Waugh
55. USA - John Dos Passos
56. The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
57. The Pursuit Of Love - Nancy Mitford
58. The Plague - Albert Camus
59. Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
60. Malone Dies - Samuel Beckett
61. Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
62. Wise Blood - Flannery O'Connor
63. Charlotte's Web - E. B. White
64. The Lord Of The Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien
65. Lucky Jim - Kingsley Amis
66. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
67. The Quiet American - Graham Greene
68. On the Road - Jack Kerouac 
69. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
70. The Tin Drum - Günter Grass
71. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
72. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
73. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
74. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller  
75. Herzog - Saul Bellow
76. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez 
77. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont - Elizabeth Taylor
78. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - John Le Carré
79. Song of Solomon - Toni Morrison
80. The Bottle Factory Outing - Beryl Bainbridge
81. The Executioner's Song - Norman Mailer
82. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller - Italo Calvino
83. A Bend in the River - V. S. Naipaul
84. Waiting for the Barbarians - J.M. Coetzee
85. Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson
86. Lanark - Alasdair Gray
87. The New York Trilogy - Paul Auster
88. The BFG - Roald Dahl
89. The Periodic Table - Primo Levi
90. Money - Martin Amis
91. An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro
92. Oscar And Lucinda - Peter Carey
93. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting - Milan Kundera
94. Haroun and the Sea af Stories - Salman Rushdie
95. LA Confidential - James Ellroy
96. Wise Children - Angela Carter
97. Atonement - Ian McEwan
98. Northern Lights - Philip Pullman
99. American Pastoral - Philip Roth
100. Austerlitz - W. G. Sebald

Same as with the BBC list, I don't think I'm ever going to read all of them because there are a few I really wouldn't want to read but I have marked those in bold that I have read (only 34 so far) and added the links to those books I have already reviewed.

There are also other lists on Art, Biography, Environment, History, Journalism, Literature, Mathematics, Memoir, Mind, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science, Society, and Travel  that you can find HERE.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Fitzgerald, F. Scott "Tender Is the Night"

Fitzgerald, F. Scott "Tender Is the Night" - 1934

An American in Paris, well, no, several Americans in the South of France, to be exact. Some rich expatriates live the perfect life, only, one of them is schizophrenic and marries her psychiatrist.

You can detect in the story and the way it is told that this is also the writer of "The Great Gatsby".

Apparently, the authors wife was also schizophrenic, and he based this story on his own life. He describes the whole situation very well, very lively, absolutely believable. It seems so true, and, yet, immensely sad.

I have read this book years ago but it still resonates with me. I also really liked the title.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Lindgren, Astrid "The Six Bullerby Children"

Lindgren, Astrid "The Six Bullerby Children" (Swedish: Barnen i Bullerbyn) - 1947

Next to "Seacrow Island" (Swedish: Tjorven Vi på Saltkråkan), my favourite story by Astrid Lindgren. This is a trilogy about six children who live in the little village of Bullerby, Lisa, Britta, Anna, Lasse, Bosse and Olle. They talk about their life in the little village, their little adventures and pranks. They live in the first half of the last century, no technology, a life most of us don't remember.

These are lovely little stories about an innocent childhood that doesn't exist anymore. Still, a lovely account, also a very nice read to for younger children.

From the back cover: "Welcome to Noisy Village! Go crayfishing in the summer at Nocken, "dipping in the pot" at Christmastime with Lisa and Karl, and join Britta and Anna who know the best way to go about "nutting" for the New Year. In this gently humorous tale, master storyteller Astrid Lindgren takes us through a year in the lives and customs of six Swedish children living on a group of three farms in the countryside.
Ten-year-old Lisa tells about her brothers and playmates and the happy times they spend at work and at play in their Swedish village."

Astrid Lindgren received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 1978.  

Robinson, Barbara "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"

Robinson, Barbara "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" (aka "The Worst Kids in the World") - 1972

I first learned about this book when my son played Charlie Bradley in a school play. Since we are quite the book family, we went and bought the book to read. It was just as fantastic. I think every child should read this story.

You can learn in this play what Christmas is all about, what it really means. Not about who has the tallest tree and the most presents, who has the best grades and the largest house. But about a little child being born more than 2,000 years ago and people are still talking about it.

The story is both unusual, even unconventional and hilarious. A lovely plot with a happy end. A good Christmas story.

From the back cover: "Comedy / All Groups / 4m, 6f, plus 8 boys and 9 girls In this hilarious Christmas tale, a couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids - probably the most inventively awful kids in history. You won't believe the mayhem - and the fun - when the Herdmans collide with the Christmas story head on! This delightful comedy is adapted from the best selling book and the only story ever to run twice in McCall's Magazine. "An American classic." -McCall's Magazine "One of the best Christmas stories ever - and certainly one of the funniest." - Seattle Times"