List of Open Books

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> * January 2016: /Travels with Charley - In search of America / by /John Steinbeck/, see [[2016-01 Book Club]]


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:


The Festival of Insignificance: Milan Kundera

I remember reading “life is elsewhere” by the same author. Although I didn’t like the story, the writing was appealing. So when I stumbled upon this book, I simply bought it.

From Amazon: From the internationally acclaimed, bestselling author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, an unexpected and enchanting novel—the culmination of his life’s work.

Casting light on the most serious of problems and at the same time saying not one serious sentence; being fascinated by the reality of the contemporary world and at the same time completely avoiding realism—that’s The Festival of Insignificance. Readers who know Milan Kundera’s earlier books know that the wish to incorporate an element of the “unserious” in a novel is not at all unexpected of him. In Immortality, Goethe and Hemingway stroll through several chapters together talking and laughing. And in Slowness, Vera, the author’s wife, says to her husband: “you’ve often told me you meant to write a book one day that would have not a single serious word in it…I warn you: watch out. Your enemies are lying in wait.”

Now, far from watching out, Kundera is finally and fully realizing his old aesthetic dream in this novel that we could easily view as a summation of his whole work. A strange sort of summation. Strange sort of epilogue. Strange sort of laughter, inspired by our time, which is comical because it has lost all sense of humor. What more can we say? Nothing. Just read.

First suggested: April 2015

Supporter(s): Rene


In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history. A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition. Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming - yet wholly sinister - Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

First suggested: August 2014

Supporter(s): Adl, Dylan, Rene


The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

From Amazon:

A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single setting, The Sense of an Ending has the psychological and emotional depth and sophistication of Henry James at his best, and is a stunning new chapter in Julian Barnes’s œuvre.

This intense novel follows Tony Webster, a middle-aged man, as he contends with a past he never thought much about—until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance: one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony thought he left this all behind as he built a life for himself, and his career has provided him with a secure retirement and an amicable relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, who now has a family of her own. But when he is presented with a mysterious legacy, he is forced to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.

First suggested: April 2015

Supporter(s): Isabel, Nela


Canone Inverso by Paolo Maurensig

From Amazon:

In present day London, a rare, 17th-century violin is offered at auction. Two bidders in particular covet it, one of whom claims to know its “terrible story”. So begins Canone Inverso, Paolo Maurensig’s elliptical tale of two young men whose passion for music, and this fiddle in particular, converges in a crescendo of obsession, envy, and betrayal. Friends who meet at music school in prewar Austria, Jeno and Kuno come from very different worlds: one the illegitimate son of a sausage maker, and the other the heir to a baronetcy. But together they share an obsessive devotion to music. Alas, what begins as a dance of soul mates - “We were like brothers, not in flesh or blood, but in that part of the spirit where order, rhythm, and harmony are found” - ends badly, the brutal disintegration of their relationship eerily paralleling Germany’s decent into Nazi madness. Maurensig offers up a mesmerizing allegory (good against evil, brother against brother), peeling away layer after layer, only to reveal yet another bizarre reality: “Behind the refined music we hear, performed with levity and perfection by and orchestra or a string quartet, there is the straining of nerves, the gushing of blood, the breaking of hearts.”

First suggested: June 2015

Supporter(s): Nicole, Dylan


Mend the living by Maylis de Kerangal

Just stumbled upon a promising review of this book. Originally published in French, the German translation is now out - but the English one is apparently still pending, scheduled to be released beginning of next year … So, for later, or for those who are comfortable reading in German (or French) …

The book describes the 24 hours between a young man’s fatal accident and the moment when he finally dies - by the machines keeping him alive being turned off. In between, all the decisions in regard to donating his organs are illustrated, together with what it means for all the involved people: doctors, his parents, recipients …

It seems, the author has managed to find the right mix of touching language and good research to let the reader take part in something which hopefully none of us will ever have to experience in real life.

First suggested: July 2015

Supporter: Leon


The last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Why should anyone care about solving the mysteries surrounding a suicide turned murder case in the face of an asteroid about to extinguish all life on earth? The “last policeman” finds himself asking questions that go beyond the actual case … about what makes us do what we do, even when it seems that there is no point to it.

First suggested: July 2015

Supporter: Leon, Uli


Past & current reading:

Some months missing for 2005 … sorry …

… The beginning of this branch of our book club!

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