BookClub

This page serves as a starting point for our English book club in Zürich, Switzerland.

We have a Meetup page!

To help pick books for future meetings, check our List of Open Books and add your opinions or propose your own. Go there, add books, and vote! It’s what makes our reading fun and diverse …

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2018-08 Book Club

What: "Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut

When: 15 Aug, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

Slaughterhouse-Five is a work of literary fiction that combines historical, sociological, psychological, science-fiction, and biographical elements. Unlike novels based on traditional forms, Vonnegut’s novel does not fit a model that stresses plot, character conflict, and climax. There is no protagonist/antagonist conflict, nor is the novel structured by the usual sequence of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl. With Slaughterhouse-Five, the novel’s traditional form is dislodged, and Vonnegut offers us a multifaceted, many-dimensional view of fantasy and rock-hard reality.

Pitch text from: cliffsnotes.com

Pitch by: Alexander

First Suggested: Feb 2018

Supporter(s): Alexander, Rene, Uli, Billy, Vera, Haaike

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2018-07 Book Club

What: "Fly away, pigeon" by Melinda Nadj Abonji

When: 18 Jul, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

From Amazon: Fly Away, Pigeon tells the heart-wrenching story of a family torn between emigration and immigration and paints evocative portraits of the former Yugoslavia and modern-day Switzerland. In this novel, Melinda Nadj Abonji interweaves two narrative strands, recounting the history of three generations of the Kocsis family and chronicling their hard-won assimilation. Originally part of Serbians Hungarian-speaking minority in the Vojvodina, the Kocsis family immigrates to Switzerland in the early 1970s when their hometown is still part of the Yugoslav republic. Parents Miklos and Rosza land in Switzerland knowing just one wordwork. And after three years of backbreaking, menial work, both legal and illegal, they are finally able to obtain visas for their two young daughters, Ildiko and Nomi, who safely join them. However, for all their efforts to adapt and assimilate they still must endure insults and prejudice from members of their new community and helplessly stand by as the friends and family members they left behind suffer the maelstrom of the Balkan War.

With tough-minded nostalgia and compassionate realism, Fly Away, Pigeon illustrates how much pain and loss even the most successful immigrant stories contain. It is a work that is intensely local, while grounded in the histories and cultures of two distinctive communities. Its emotions and struggles are as universal as the human dilemmas it portrays.

Comment: I enjoyed reading this book and thought it may make for some interesting discussion

Pitch text by: Karina

First suggested: December 2017

Supporter(s): Karina, Nela, Guido, Wendy, Lynn

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2018-06 Book Club

What: "Handmaid's Tale" by Margarete Atwood

When: 20 June, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

Welcome to the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States of America. There’s been a coup, the president has been murdered and an all-powerful, Christian fundamentalist army has imposed a terrifying new order on its citizens. The country’s borders have been shut. There is no escape. Women are the main target of the regime’s brutality. Their rights and personal freedoms have been abolished. They are no longer allowed to work, to own assets or to be in relationships not sanctioned by the state. They are now categorised according to marital status and reproductive ability. They are either Wives, married to Commanders, the founders and shapers of the new regime; Econowives, the spouses of lower ranking men; Marthas, too old to have children and now domestic slaves; Aunts, the regime’s propagandists; or Handmaids, considered fertile and forced to bear children for officials.

Pitch text from: theguardian.co.uk

Pitch by: several members at the April Meetup

First Suggested: Apr 2018

Supporter(s): Alexander, Lynn, Vera

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2018-05 Book Club

What: By a Slow River by Philippe Claudel

When: 16 May, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

Philippe Claudel is one my favourite young French authors. He wrote the screenplay for the movie “I’ve Loved You So Long”, which made me cry like a small child. “By a Slow River” is also known by the name “The Grey Souls” and is a crime story settled in France during WW1. I liked it a lot, it has a clever (tragic) ending and a general richness of feelings and images, which makes me expect you’ll like it too. This book won the renowned Prix Renaudot in France.

Pitch text by: Andrei

First suggested: July 2017

Supporter(s): Andrei, Miriam, Haaike, Guido, Wendy

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2018-04 Book Club

What: Kokoro by Natsume Soseki

When: 18 April, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

“The subject of ’Kokoro,’ which can be translated as ’the heart of things’ or as ’feeling,’ is the delicate matter of the contrast between the meanings the various parties of a relationship attach to it. In the course of this exploration, Soseki brilliantly describes different levels of friendship, family relationships, and the devices by which men attempt to escape from their fundamental loneliness. The novel sustains throughout its length something approaching poetry, and it is rich in understanding and insight. The translation, by Edwin McClellan, is extremely good.”

First suggested: Dec 2017

Supporter(s): Nela, Uli, Guido, Lynn, Wendy, Vera

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2018-03 Book Club

What: Genesis by Bernard Beckett

When: 21 March, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

The book landed on the table at our pre Christmas book swap and was spontaneously nominated for (originally) January! SciFi by genre but looked interesting and accessible – and short – enough to arouse the curiosity even of those not normally in the habit …

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2018-02 Book Club

What: A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

When: 21 February, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.

Now Tony is retired. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.

Winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction (Now a major film starring Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling)

Pitch text by: Wendy

First suggested: July 2017

Supporter(s): (Wendy), Miriam, Uli, Karina

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2018-01 Book Club

What: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

When: 24 January, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

From Goodreads: Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.

Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.

With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our future.

First suggested: December 2016

Supporter(s): Nela, Uli, Nicole, Karina

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2017-12 Book Club

What: One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina

When: 13 December, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

I came across some reviews for this by accident, and what I saw made me want to read the book – what else can I say? The author is Kenyan, with a Ugandan mother and who studied in South Africa around the end of the Apartheid regime, and as a memoir of his own experience, the book reflects the countries and times he grew up and lives in. An excerpt from the book as well as a few other texts by the author are published online at Granta.

”This is How to Write About Africa: Binyavanga Wainaina is most famous for How to write about Africa – an essay published by Granta in 2005 that formed a cynical guide to all the clichés writers generally employ when writing about the continent. A notable instruction in this piece advises:

’Broad brushstrokes throughout are good. Avoid having the African characters laugh, or struggle to educate their kids, or just make do in mundane circumstances.’

Wainaina’s new (and first) book One Day I Will Write About This Place is a comic refutation of the premise that this is how you write about Africa. As such, it reads like nothing I have read before, crackling with the energy of a writer who delights in revealing the multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-ethnic world of his middle-class Kenyan upbringing.” – Magnus Taylor, African Arguments

First suggested: December 2016

Supporter(s): Uli, Nela, Nicole, Andrei

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2017-11 Book Club

What: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

When: 22 November, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

First suggested: May 2016

Supporter(s): Tanya, Rene, Andrei, Haaike

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