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.


"Candide" by Voltaire

Brought up in the household of a powerful Baron, Candide is an open-minded young man, whose tutor, Pangloss, has instilled in him the belief that ’all is for the best’. But when his love for the Baron’s rosy-cheeked daughter is discovered, Candide is cast out to make his own way in the world.

And so he and his various companions begin a breathless tour of Europe, South America and Asia, as an outrageous series of disasters befall them - earthquakes, syphilis, a brush with the Inquisition, murder - sorely testing the young hero’s optimism.

Pitch text by: Goodreads.com

First suggested: May 2018

Supporter(s): Haaike, Uli


"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: Goodreads.com

First suggested: May 2018

Supporter(s): Haaike


"Melnitz" by Charles Lewinsky

1871 - Cattle-dealer Solomon Meijer has made a reputation for himself as one of the few honest Jews in Endingen, a rare Swiss town in which Jews are allowed to reside. He leads a largely untroubled life, rewarded by his work and comforted at home by his wife and two daughters. But all of this is set to end when he answers a knock at the door in the middle of the night. On the doorstep stands his young distant cousin, Janki, half-dead and begging for refuge. The pitiful figure is invited in and given a coveted place in the bosom of the family, but when Janki recovers and regains his ambition and his fine-looks, he will change the Meijer family’s lives for generations to come...

In the tradition of the great family romances of the nineteenth century, Melnitz is the saga of the Swiss-Jewish Meijer family, spanning five generations from the Franco-Prussian War to World War II. It is a novel of fate, fortune and great falls; a homage to the sunken world of yiddish culture and a celebration of the enduring spirit of biting Jewish humour.

Pitch text by: Goodreads.com

First suggested: May 2018

Supporter(s): Haaike


March 16 suggested by Alisa

"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


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(?)


"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" by Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman (1918-1988), winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, thrived on outrageous adventures. Here he recounts in his inimitable voice his experience trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and Bohr and ideas on gambling with Nick the Greek; cracking the uncrackable safes guarding the most deeply held nuclear secrets; painting a naked female toreador - and much else of an eyebrow-raising nature.

Pitch text from: goodreads.com

Pitch by: Alexander

First Suggested: Feb 2018

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


"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: goodreads.com

Pitch by: Alexander

First Suggested: Feb 2018

Supporter(s): Alexander


"Magdas Apokalypse" by Chloe Vollmer-Lo, Carole Maurel

From Amazon: “Was, wenn morgen die Welt untergeht? Gut, dann kann man ein Apfelbäumchen pflanzen und ansonsten froh sein, dass einem nicht mehr allzu viel Zeit bleibt, sich darüber Gedanken zu machen. Was aber, wenn die Apokalypse noch ein Jahr auf sich warten lässt und man wie Magda gerade erst seinen 13. Geburtstag feiert? Sie fühlt sich um ihre Zukunft betrogen und beschließt, sich das Leben, das ihr vorenthalten bleiben soll, mit aller Macht selber anzueignen. In einer Welt um sie herum, die zunehmend aus den Fugen gerät, ist zum Zaudern, Zögern, Warten keine Zeit mehr. Umso mehr ist nun Magda verstört – kann es sein, dass sie mit 14 ihr Leben schon hinter sich hat? Eine mitreißende, aufwühlende Erzählung über das Heranwachsen, mit all seinen Risiken und Nebenwirkungen – und einem fatalen Fluchtpunkt.”

First of all: sorry, this graphic novel book appears to be available only in its original publishing language French and the German translation. I haven’t found an English version. But. With a stage set very similarly to our past reading of “The last Policeman”, I found it very intriguing to head for a story from an entirely different perspective while facing the same fate. Also, the form of a graphic novel might be a nice change for our group - just to try something new. So, maybe, despite the lack of an English version, enough of us find the outset interesting enough to deal with the German translation anyway and enjoy a good discussion afterwards.

Pitch text by: Leon

First suggested: February 2018

Supporter(s): Leon, Nela, Guido, Billy


"Anna Goeldin - The Last Witch" by Eveline Hasler

From Amazon: The last witchcraft trial in German-speaking countries was held in 1782 in Eveline Hasler’s home canton of Glarus in Switzerland. A servant woman, Anna Goeldin, was accused of having bewitched a child of the physician household in which she worked, making it crippled and spit pins. The accused confessed under torture, was sentenced by the city council and executed. Sources show that the trial provoked great controversy in Europe even at the time. The courts in Glarus were ridiculed and criticized by more enlightened cities in Switzerland and Germany. In her novel with its beautiful simple language, Hasler tells Anna Goeldin’s story and trial. With the means of fiction, Hasler attempts to explain how a witchcraft trial could come to take place in the heart of Europe during the heyday of the Enlightenment. The novel was first published in 1982 and also draws parallels to women’s fight for equal rights two hundred years later. This novel is a bestseller in German-speaking countries, has been translated into several languages, and made into a feature film by Gertrud Pinkus. The translation by Mary Bryant has won an Arts and Humanities Initiative Award at the University of Iowa. Eveline Hasler (born in 1933) was trained as a teacher of History and turned to writing children’s books, fiction, and historical fiction. She is the recipient of many awards, among them the Switzerland Award for Juvenile Fiction (1978), Honors by the City of Zurich (1988), Schubart Award (1989), Droste Award (1994), and Justinus Kerner Award (1999).

Comment: I wanted to suggest a different book by Eveline Hasler that I wanted to read (”Die Wachsflügelfrau”), but could not find a translation. This one sounds interesting too. I was at a reading of her recently and found her very fascinating as a person. Also, I liked the combination of an interesting writing style and her being a historian.

Pitch text by: Karina

First suggested: December 2017

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


"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: July 2017

Supporter(s): Andrei, Karina


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, Alisa, Vera

"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

Comments

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: https://vernonpress.com/title?id=233#.WHz0H1yD6w4

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

Regards

Sadia Gill 2017-01-16 16:26 UTC


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