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.


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


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


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


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, Uli, Nicole


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, Dominik


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)


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 daughter 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 totally 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


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


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


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


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


Past & current reading:

Some months missing for 2005 … sorry …

… The beginning of this branch of our book club!

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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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