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! We’re all set until September but time flies ...

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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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2017-10 Book Club

What: M. Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

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

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

A while ago we read “Oscar And The Lady In Pink” by the same author. It is part of a series of books by him which try to capture the essence of each of the big religions we know these days. While Oscar was focusing the core concepts of Christianity, this book now attempts to do the same for Islam. Considering how that religion has been put under public pressure by developments in the recent years, it might be a nice change to focus on the positive attitude of that religion for once. Being a short book it might also fit in well in a time where people don’t seem to find time for reading large volumes ... ;-)

First suggested: June 2016

Supporter(s): Leon, Nicole, Uli, Haaike

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2017-09 Book Club

What: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

When: 27 September, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

First suggested: January 2017

Supporter(s): Nela, Nicole, Wendy, Haaike, Miriam

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2017-08 Book Club

What: A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

When: 23 August, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

I think, this would be a great follow-up book to “the games people play”, as it delves into the psychology and human nature. I had this book on my “to read” list for a while. I guess, I was kind of putting it off, because the whole “24hrs in a life of an ordinary man” didn’t really appeal to me, but I ended up really enjoying the book. What I especially liked about it, was the story that was built in to present these thought provoking human characteristics. It was a relatively quick read, with only about 180 pages. I was very pleasantly surprised about the descriptive writing, which I usually don’t like, but this author did a very good job at it.

Here’s the excerpt from goodreads:”When A Single Man was originally published, it shocked many by its frank, sympathetic, and moving portrayal of a gay man in midlife. George, the protagonist, is adjusting to life on his own after the sudden death of his partner, and determines to persist in the routines of his daily life: the course of A Single Man spans twenty-four hours in an ordinary day. An Englishman and a professor living in suburban Southern California, he is an outsider in every way, and his internal reflections and interactions with others reveal a man who loves being alive despite everyday injustices and loneliness. Wry, suddenly manic, constantly funny, surprisingly sad, this novel catches the texture of life itself.”

First suggested: November 2016

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

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2017-07 Book Club

What: When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head

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

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

I must confess I have a faible for authors in danger to be forgotten (and faultlessly so). One of them is Bessie Head. Her biography alone is remarkable: the daughter of a rich white lady from South Africa and a black man who was a servant or worker of some kind, born at a time when this was totally not accepted (1937). As an adult she fled to Botswana and became, as a woman, the most prominent writer of that country. All her life she has been quite poor and she died when not even 50.

I discovered her writing long time ago in a collection of short stories called “Perlen Afrikas”, where a story from her book “Tales of Tenderness and Power” was included. This one and one by Charles Mungoshi took my breath away. Sadly “Tales of Tenderness and Power” is very hard to get nowadays, so I suggest her first - and one of her best known - novels, “When Rain Clouds Gather”, which was reprinted recently, so should be easy to buy.

So vote for this and you’ll be able to impress all those who have never read anything by a Botswana author :-).

First suggested: July 2016

Supporter(s): Andrei, Nadya, Karina, Nela

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2017-06 Book Club

What: The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal

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

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

Boualem Sansal is an Algerian writer who is very famous right now in France for his books and also for being a courageous critic of religious fanatism. Because of this he seems to not be able to return to Algeria right now. This book won him the Grand prix RTL-Lire in 2008, and he won other important prizes with his newer books. I have a good feeling about this short volume which seems to be about violence, guilt and shame and I intend to read it anyway. There are tons of books about terrorism from a military point of view, and I expect this one focus on the human aspect.

First suggested: June 2016

Supporter(s): Andrei, Nadya, Karina, Wendy

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2017-05 Book Club

What: Bazaar of bad dreams by Stephen King

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

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

Even though most people think of horror stories and gore when thinking of Stephen King, this collection of short stories offers more. These are not (only) horror stories. True enough, some can be classified as typical Stephen King from the 80’s, but most of the stories in this collection focus on human behaviour given certain circumstances.

I really enjoyed this book. But then again, I am biased towards this author.

Pitch text by: Rene

First suggested: November 2016

Supporter(s): Rene, Nicole, Dominik, Wendy

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2017-04 Book Club

What: Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

When: 26 April, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

From Amazon:

Anil’s Ghost transports us to Sri Lanka, a country steeped in centuries of tradition, now forced into the late twentieth century by the ravages of a bloody civil war. Enter Anil Tissera, a young woman and forensic anthropologist born in Sri Lanka but educted in the West, sent by an international human rights group to identify the victims of the murder campaigns sweeping the island.

When Anil discovers that the bones found in an ancient burial site are in fact those of a much more recent victim, her search for the terrible truth hidden in her homeland begins. What follows is a story about love, about family, about identity - a story driven by a riventing mystery.

First suggested: April 2016

Supporter(s): Karina, Andrei, Wendy, Nela

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2017-03 Book Club

What: Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

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

Where: Restaurant Werdguet

From Goodreads.com

These brand new stories from Johnson are typically comic and tender, absurd and totally universal. In post-Katrina Louisiana, a young man and his new girlfriend search for the mother of his son. In Palo Alto, a computer programmer whose wife has a rare disease finds solace in a digital copy of the recently assassinated President. In contemporary Berlin a former Stasi agent ponders his past.

And in “Interesting Facts”, a woman with cancer rages against the idea of her family without her.

Hugely inventive and endlessly energetic, this is a heart wrenching, surprising collection of stories that show Johnson at the top of his form.

First suggested: November 2015

Supporter: Nela, Nicole, Nadya, Jennifer

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