List of Open Books

This page lists books suggested for our BookClub. Click on Edit this page or Diese Seite bearbeiten at the bottom of the page to edit it, whether to add your vote to the list of supporters for a book or to suggest one.

Most Wikipedia links are given for the English pages, even if the German equivalent has more info. Note the “In other languages” sidebar.

Help to rejuvenate this list! If you add new book suggestions (and please do), mention the date so we can weed out from time to time those hoary entries that never got picked.

History Hour: This page started to feel a little bottom-heavy with the ever increasing back list at the end. So there is now a whole new page dedicated to Past and Current Reading where you will find title and a link for each book that we’ve read, or selected for reading. Head over there and have a look, but don’t forget to come back here for voting and new suggestions.

Next up:

Minimum of four votes are needed for a book to be chosen. If a book is not chosen within a year it was first suggested, it will be removed from the list.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital is a 2013 non-fiction book by the American journalist Sheri Fink. The book details the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in August 2005, and is an expansion of a Pulitzer Prize-winning article written by Fink and published in The New York Times Magazine in 2009. It describes the events that took place at Memorial Medical Center over five days as thousands of people were trapped in the hospital without power. The triage system put into effect deprioritized critically ill patients for evacuation, and it was later alleged that a number of these patients were euthanized by medical and nursing staff shortly before the entire hospital was evacuated on the fifth day of the crisis. Fink examines the legal and political consequences of the decision to euthanize patients and the ethical issues surrounding euthanasia and health care in disaster scenarios.”

Page count: 576

Pitch text from: Wikipedia

Pitch by: Bozena

First Suggested: August 2019

Supporter(s): Bozena, Nicole M,

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko is the second novel by Korean-American author Min Jin Lee. Published in 2017, Pachinko is an epic historical novel following a Korean family who eventually migrates to Japan, it is the first novel written for an adult, English-speaking audience about Japanese–Korean culture. (...) Pachinko takes place between the years of 1910 and 1989, a period that included the Japanese occupation of Korea and World War II. As an historical novel, these events play a central role (...) influencing the characters’ decisions. (...) The character-driven tale features a large ensemble of characters who become subjected to issues of racism and stereotypes, among other events with historical origins in the 20th-century Korean experiences with Japan.”

Page count: 450

Pitch text from: Wikipedia

Pitch by: Bozena

First Suggested: August 2019

Supporter(s): Bozena, Nicole M.

Madame by Antoni Libera

Madame is an unexpected gem: a novel about Poland during the grim years of Soviet-controlled mediocrity, which nonetheless sparkles with light and warmth. (...) Our young narrator-hero is suffering through the regulated boredom of high school when he is transfixed by a new teacher - an elegant “older woman” (she is thirty-two) who bewitches him with her glacial beauty and her strict intelligence. He resolves to learn everything he can about her and to win her heart. In a sequence of marvelously funny but sobering maneuvers, he learns much more than he expected to - about politics, Poland, the Spanish Civil War, and his own passion for theater and art - all while his loved one continues to elude him.”

Pitch text from:

Pitch by: Bozena

First Suggested: August 2019

Supporter(s): Bozena

”Freedom or Death” by Nikos Kazantzakis

(Original greek title: Captain Michaelis)

Freedom or Death by Nikos Kazantzakis is a novel on the heroic or epic scale about the rebellion of the Greek Christians against the Turks on the island of Crete, where Kazantzakis was from. The story follows the exploits of a Greek: Captain Michalis and his blood brother, Nurey Bey, a Turk, through war, love , friendship, hatred and a backdrop of the island of Crete with all its beauty, drama, joy and sadness. This book was unanimously praised by critics worldwide as the work of a master with characters that come to life and destined to live forever.

Pitch text:

Pitched by: Alexander

First suggested: March 2019

Supporter(s): Alexander, Martin, Bozena

”Hawswater” by Sarah Hall

The prizewinning debut from Britain’s most exciting contemporary novelist. In a remote dale in a northern English county, a centuries-old rural community has survived into the mid-1930s almost unchanged. But then Jack Liggett drives in from the city, the spokesman for a Manchester waterworks company with designs on the landscape for a vast new reservoir. The dale must be evacuated, flooded, devastated; its water pumped to the Midlands and its community left in ruins. Liggett further compounds the village’s problems when he begins a troubled affair with Janet Lightburn, a local woman of force and character who is driven to desperate measures in an attempt to save the valley. Told in luminous prose, with an intuitive sense for period and place, Haweswater remembers a rural England that has been lost for many decades.

Review by The Guardian – “Go forth and buy; prepare to weep!!”

Pitched by: Wendy

First suggested: February 2019

Supporter(s): Wendy, Martin, Bozena

”The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter…

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by an elite valuation firm. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his relationship with Erica shifting. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

Pitch text by:

Pitched by: Nicole M

First suggested: February 2019

Supporter(s): Nicole M, Nora

”Boy” by James Hanley

Acclaimed by luminaries such as William Faulkner and suppressed for more than 50 years by a prosecution for obscenity, James Hanley’s 1930s classic charts the short and brutish life of a boy forced out of school and into the unforgiving world of work. Escape—in the form of stowing away on a ship—only deepens his exposure to the squalor and brutality that men are capable of, and when he arrives in Alexandria he learns there are some things that one can’t run away from. Narrated in unflinching language that is both visceral and acute in its observational power, Boy is a shocking book that stays in the mind long after it is read. Unfairly neglected during his lifetime, only recently has this original, uncompromising novelist started to be reappraised as among the finest novelists writing in English in the 20th century.

Pitch text by:

Pitched by: Rene

First suggested: November 2018

Supporter(s): Rene

”The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Returning to Russia from a sanitarium in Switzerland, the Christ-like epileptic Prince Myshkin finds himself enmeshed in a tangle of love, torn between two women—the notorious kept woman Nastasya and the pure Aglaia—both involved, in turn, with the corrupt, money-hungry Ganya. In the end, Myshkin’s honesty, goodness, and integrity are shown to be unequal to the moral emptiness of those around him.

Pitch text by:

Caution: long

Pitched by: Alexander

First suggested: October 2018

Supporter(s): Alexander, Daniel Schmidt

”Die Dunkle Seite des Mondes” by Martin Suter

Star business lawyer Urs Blank, forty-five years old, specialist for merger negotiations, has his feelings under control. He has learned not to leave himself wide open, but to make use of the openness of others. But then his life runs off the rails. A trip with hallucinogenic mushrooms leads to a dangerous change of personality, from which no-one succeeds in saving him. Blank flees into the forest. Until he finally comes to understand: there is only one way to free himself from this nightmare.

Pitch text by:

There is an english translation: “The Dark Side of the Moon”. Not Sci-Fi, despite title and person who pitched it.

Pitched by: Alexander

First suggested: October 2018

Supporter(s): Alexander, Daniel Schmidt

”The Portrait of a Lady” by Henry James

When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy Aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. She then finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond, who, beneath his veneer of charm and cultivation, is cruelty itself. A story of intense poignancy, Isabel’s tale of love and betrayal still resonates with modern audiences.

Pitch text by:

First suggested: May 2018

Supporter(s): Haaike, Nora, Bozena

”Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche” by Haruki Murakami

“Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche is a book by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami about the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. The book is made up of a series of interviews with individuals who were affected by the attacks, and the English translation also includes interviews with members of Aum, the religious cult responsible for the attacks. Murakami hoped that through these interviews, he could capture a side of the attacks which the sensationalist Japanese media had ignored—the way it had affected average citizens....

The interviews highlight many intriguing aspects of the Japanese psyche.”

Pitch text from: Lynn via Wikipedia EN

The April meetup involved a wider discussion of Japanese society, and several attendees expressed an interest in it.

First Suggested: Apr 2018

Supporter(s): Lynn, Vera, Zhou, Martin, Elisabetta, Nicole M.

”The Road to Character” by David Brooks

excellent study on the human character and in the deeper part, what makes a person a better person with some historical examples

Suggested March 2018

supported: Alisa, Vera

”I Saw Ramallah” by Mourid Barghouti

(Hi, I am Radwa from Cairo. I’m staying in Zurich for the next 6 months and would love to share my love for reading with you guys 🙂 )

From Amazon: Barred from his homeland after 1967’s Six-Day War, the poet Mourid Barghouti spent thirty years in exile—shuttling among the world’s cities, yet secure in none of them; separated from his family for years at a time; never certain whether he was a visitor, a refugee, a citizen, or a guest. As he returns home for the first time since the Israeli occupation, Barghouti crosses a wooden bridge over the Jordan River into Ramallah and is unable to recognize the city of his youth. Sifting through memories of the old Palestine as they come up against what he now encounters in this mere “idea of Palestine,” he discovers what it means to be deprived not only of a homeland but of “the habitual place and status of a person.” A tour de force of memory and reflection, lamentation and resilience, I Saw Ramallah is a deeply humane book, essential to any balanced understanding of today’s Middle East.

My comment: I am currently reading the Arabic text. Mourid el-Barghouti is a poet and his prose strikes me as deeply poetic. He, nonetheless, never sugarcoats. All we get is his raw emotions and his personal struggle to come to terms with the reality of what his homeland has become. I think this book is especially relevant in times like now because Palestine is an something that most people think of as a news headline or as an “idea”. This book makes Palestine about people; families torn apart and reunited, memories of old houses, stories of members of the diaspora who were never allowed to return. I think this is why literature matters. A lot can be said about occupation and colonialism in theory, but a book like this opens up a window for us to look at how this has affected real human beings on emotional and physical and logistical levels. This kind of empathy is why literature is so beautiful and so essential.

Pop culture bonus: Barghouti is a bit of a celebrity in the Arab World. He hung out with all the cool Arab writers and artists of his time (mentions some of them in the book). He was married to the late Egyptian writer Radwa Ashour and their love story is idolized on the Arabic internet. Their son Tamim is also a popular poet and he’s huge on the internet. Of course he writes about both of them in the book.

Pitch text by: Radwa

First suggested: March 2018

Supporter(s): Radwa, Uli, Martin

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi

A modern take on the classic tale by Mary Shelley (which we read last year). The story takes place in US-occupied Baghdad, where Hadi collects body parts and stitches them together to form a corpse with the goal of getting the government to recognize the part as people and give them a proper burial. Things get out of hand when the corpse goes missing and a series of murders sweeps the streets of Baghdad.

I haven’t read the book, but it sounds interesting. I wonder how the classic tale is transformed to this modern setting...

Pitch text by: Rene

First suggested: March 2018

Supporter(s): Rene, Nela(?), Nora

”Permutation City” by Greg Egan

The story of a man with a vision - immortality : for those who can afford it is found in cyberspace. Permutation city is the tale of a man with a vision - how to create immortality - and how that vision becomes something way beyond his control. Encompassing the lives and struggles of an artificial life junkie desperate to save her dying mother, a billionaire banker scarred by a terrible crime, the lovers for whom, in their timeless virtual world, love is not enough - and much more - Permutation city is filled with the sense of wonder.

Pitch text from:

Pitch by: Alexander

First Suggested: Feb 2018

Supporter(s): Alexander, Bozena


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