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.

Kokoro by Natsume Soseki

“The subject of ’Kokoro,’ which can be translated as ’the heart of things’ or as ’feeling,’ is the delicate matter of the contrast between the meanings the various parties of a relationship attach to it. In the course of this exploration, Soseki brilliantly describes different levels of friendship, family relationships, and the devices by which men attempt to escape from their fundamental loneliness. The novel sustains throughout its length something approaching poetry, and it is rich in understanding and insight. The translation, by Edwin McClellan, is extremely good.”

First suggested: Dec 2017

Supporter(s): Nela, Uli, Guido

"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

"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, Nela, Guido

"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

"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: July 2017

Supporter(s): Andrei, Miriam, Haaike, Guido

"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

“Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five is a work of literary fiction that combines historical, sociological, psychological, science-fiction, and biographical elements. Unlike novels based on traditional forms, Vonnegut’s novel does not fit a model that stresses plot, character conflict, and climax. There is no protagonist/antagonist conflict, nor is the novel structured by the usual sequence of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl. With Slaughterhouse-Five, the novel’s traditional form is dislodged, and Vonnegut offers us a multifaceted, many-dimensional view of fantasy and rock-hard reality.

Pitch text from:

Pitch by: Alexander

First Suggested: Feb 2018

Supporter(s): Alexander

“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:

Pitch by: Alexander

First Suggested: Feb 2018

Supporter(s): Alexander

“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


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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