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.

"A Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes

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)

"By a Slow River" by Philippe Claudel

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: Jul 2017

Supporter(s): Andrei

"The Children Act" by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is one of the few bestseller authors which in my opinion deserve their fame. I read “The Cement Garden” a couple of years ago (15?) and was amazed by his narative skills. His recent novel “Nutshell” seemes to have received mixed reviews, so I want to suggest his book from 2014 instead, “The Children Act”. A successful lawyer has to represent a young man who is in need of an urgent transplant. Unfortunately his family are against the OP, being members of a sect whose ideology prohibits blood transfusions. So the lawyer has to use every trick in order to save the young man. I understand it’s a page turner, and I’d be glad to meet again this author’s art.

Pitch text by: Andrei

First suggested: Jul 2017

Supporter(s): Andrei

Love Life by Zeruya Shalev

Ya’arah, the female protagonist of this book, finds herself entering a strange love affair with an old friend of her father. Being married to a caring and loving (while maybe somewhat boring) husband and looking forward to a promising career at a university, she gradually loses control over her actions and observes her life falling to pieces, unable to prevent it.

Well, contrary to what the title might suggest, the book didn’t leave me with a warm and cozy feeling, not at all. But it provides a number of wise insights into why people behave as can sometimes be observed, while not trying to explain things in a simplifying way.

Aside from the content, the book provided a new reading experience, both formally and language-wise. This alone could be convincing enough for some, I could imagine. Not at all an easy read, but I highly recommend it. Not so sure about it being suitable for discussion though ... but anyway.

Side note: I read the German translation (”Liebesleben”), but I assume that the English version is comparably well done, considering the international praise the book appears to have received.

Pitch text by: Leon

First suggested: Feb 2017

Supporter(s): Leon

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

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

One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina

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

A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

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

Zero K by Don De Lillo

Well, the attentive observer might see a pattern in the kind of books I recommend here ... ;-)

The book is about people who try to escape mortality by getting their bodies frozen, in order to be revived in some (more or less distant) future, where technology and medicine will have reached a point to guarantee a substantially prolonged if not even unlimited life time.

Given the fact that things like these are being done in our present day reality, the book can’t simply be put off as some science fiction absurdity. Rather it describes what such possibilities (or rather the ideas about those) do to individual human behavior and to societies as a whole.

Anyhow, reading about that book from an author with a reputation of being very capable of describing human behavior and interactions in an accessible way, I thought that might be material for yet another fruitful discussion in our group. - And no, this is not cyber-crap ... ;-)

Pitch text by: Leon

First suggested: Oct 2016

Supporter(s): (Leon), Karina, Rene

Addendum after reading: Well, it doesn’t deliver. Over-ambitious prose, largely not related to the subject. Hence I withdraw my support although I suggested it ... (Leon)

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

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

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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

The Peculiar / The Whatnot by Stefan Bachmann

Don’t get yourself noticed and you won’t get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings - Peculiars - and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley – Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he’s noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish … and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

Part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part steampunk adventure, The Peculiar is Stefan Bachmann’s riveting, inventive, and unforgettable debut novel.

I believe, this is a book most of the regular member would not pick up by themselves. That is one reason for suggesting this book. Another is: the author lives in Zürich, and maybe we can get him to join us for the discussion.

First suggested: May 2016

Supporter(s): Rene, Uli, Nadya


Hi Nela,

I am an author and communication consultant. I have signed a book deal with an American publisher. The making of my book is another story altogether. Anyhow if you like, here is the link:

If you like, you may include it. I believe one needs to encourage young minds in writing.


Sadia Gill 2017-01-16 16:26 UTC

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