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.

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: I’ve started a section ‘past & current reading’ at the bottom of this page, where you’ll find title and a link for each book that we’ve read, or selected for reading. Have a look.


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.


Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish

From Goodreads.com

Zou Lei, orphan of the desert, migrates to work in America and finds herself slaving in New York’s kitchens. She falls in love with a young man whose heart has been broken in another desert. A new life may be possible if together they can survive homelessness, lockup, and the young man’s nightmares, which may be more prophecy than madness.

First suggested: November 2015

Supporter: Nela, Karina, Andrei, Jennifer


Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich, Keith Gessen (translator)

From Goodreads.com

On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quarters of Europe. Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present personal accounts of the tragedy. Journalist Svetlana Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the meltdown—from innocent citizens to firefighters to those called in to clean up the disaster—and their stories reveal the fear, anger, and uncertainty with which they still live. Comprised of interviews in monologue form, Voices from Chernobyl is a crucially important work, unforgettable in its emotional power and honesty.

First suggested: November 2015

Supporter: Nela, Karina


Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

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


Radical Honesty: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth by Brad Blanton

The first edition of Radical Honesty became a nationwide best seller in 1995 because it was not a kinder, gentler self-help book. It was a shocker! In it, Dr. Brad Blanton, a psychotherapist and expert on stress management, explored the myths, superstitions and lies by which we all live. And this newly revised edition is even worse! Blanton shows us how stress comes not from the environment, but from the self-built jail of the mind. What keeps us in our self-built jails is lying.

“We all lie like hell,” Dr. Blanton says. “It wears us out…it is the major source of all human stress. It kills us.” Not telling our friends, lovers, spouses, or bosses about what we do, feel, or think keeps us locked in that mind jail. The way out is to get good at telling the truth, and Dr. Blanton provides the tools we can use to escape from that jail of the mind. This book is the cake with the file in it.

In Radical Honesty, Dr. Blanton coaches us on how to have lives that work, how to have relationships that are alive and passionate, and how to create intimacy where none exists. As we have been taught by the philosophical and spiritual sources of our culture for thousands of years, from Plato to Nietzsche, from the Bible to Emerson, the truth shall set you free.

First suggested: March 2016

Supporter(s): Bart, Nela, Nicole, Nadya


A fine balance by Rohinton Mistry

From Amazon:

Set in mid-1970s India, A Fine Balance is a subtle and compelling narrative about four unlikely characters who come together in circumstances no one could have foreseen soon after the government declares a ‘State of Internal Emergency’. It is a breathtaking achievement: panoramic yet humane, intensely political yet rich with local delight; and, above all, compulsively readable.

This is quite a big book - so we will need to allow enough reading time!

First suggested: April 2016

Supporter(s): Karina, Rene, Nela


Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

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


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


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


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


The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal

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


When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head

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 daugter 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 totaly 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


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


Bazaar of bad dreams by Stephen King

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


A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

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


All the Light We cannot See by Anthony Doerr

From the back of the book: Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

First suggested: November 2016

Supporter(s): Rene



Past & current reading:

Some months missing for 2005 … sorry …

… The beginning of this branch of our book club!

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