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.

"Fly away, pigeon" by Melinda Nadj Abonji

From Amazon: Fly Away, Pigeon tells the heart-wrenching story of a family torn between emigration and immigration and paints evocative portraits of the former Yugoslavia and modern-day Switzerland. In this novel, Melinda Nadj Abonji interweaves two narrative strands, recounting the history of three generations of the Kocsis family and chronicling their hard-won assimilation. Originally part of Serbians Hungarian-speaking minority in the Vojvodina, the Kocsis family immigrates to Switzerland in the early 1970s when their hometown is still part of the Yugoslav republic. Parents Miklos and Rosza land in Switzerland knowing just one wordwork. And after three years of backbreaking, menial work, both legal and illegal, they are finally able to obtain visas for their two young daughters, Ildiko and Nomi, who safely join them. However, for all their efforts to adapt and assimilate they still must endure insults and prejudice from members of their new community and helplessly stand by as the friends and family members they left behind suffer the maelstrom of the Balkan War.

With tough-minded nostalgia and compassionate realism, Fly Away, Pigeon illustrates how much pain and loss even the most successful immigrant stories contain. It is a work that is intensely local, while grounded in the histories and cultures of two distinctive communities. Its emotions and struggles are as universal as the human dilemmas it portrays.

Comment: I enjoyed reading this book and thought it may make for some interesting discussion

Pitch text by: Karina

First suggested: December 2017

Supporter(s): Karina

"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

"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), Miriam, Uli, Karina

"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, Miriam, Haaike

"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, 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

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, 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

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)

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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