List of Open Books

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> First suggested: November 2015


> First suggested: November 2015


> First suggested: December 2015

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

Please note: This book is coming out in February 2016 in paperback format, I may pick it for April or May as it has enough votes. - Nela

Supporter: Leon, Richie, Jennifer, Nela

Travels with Charley - In search of America by John Steinbeck

First suggested: July 2015

Supporters: Giampiero, Uli

In America: Travels with Steinbeck by Geert Mak

I just noticed the above classic travelogue on the list, and browsing around it for a bit came across this book here. A Dutch journalist following Steinbeck’s journey fifty years later, and noting his impression of the America he finds – I thought it might make a nice companion book! Here’s a Guardian review to give you some idea about it.

First suggested: November 2015

Supporters: Uli

Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row by Jarvis Jay Masters

Finding Freedom is a collection of prison stories - sometimes shocking, sometimes sad, often funny, always immediate-told against a background of extreme violence and aggression, written by a prisoner on death row who has become a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism.

quote from

Jarvis Jay Masters has been a Death Row inmate at the infamous San Quentin Prison since 1990. Masters had already been in prison for nine years prior to that for robbery, when he was convicted of being one of three inmates involved in murdering a prison guard. To this day Masters insists he’s innocent and the wealth of material which supports his claim is overwhelming. Finding Freedom is a book of stories and essays from Masters written from inside the walls of San Quentin. At times I found myself laughing, at others with tears in my eyes and yet others, completely mortified. From murder to making a mala with Tylenol & fabric ripped from jeans, Finding Freedom shows a side of Buddhism in action you’ve most likely never read before.

First suggested: July 2015

Supporter: Richie

The Self-Aware Universe by Amit Goswami

quote from

“Consciousness, not matter, is the ground of all existence.” ~ Amit Goswami. For those like myself who grew up believing that what you see is what you get, well, reading something like that quote from Goswami can be a total mind ..for sure. The Self-Aware Universe was first published in 1995 during the initial introduction of the new physics movement. While many wonderful books have been written since then, with updated information even more mind bending concepts, this book is still very applicable today. It offers the reader an amazing introduction into an alternative way of looking at reality as it’s traditionally understood and experienced. Through the practice of meditation I’ve experience on a number of occasions what Goswami asserts when saying, “Consciousness, not matter, is the ground of all existence.” It’s just pretty cool to have some science behind it as well.

First suggested: July 2015

Supporter: Richie, Rene

To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee

From The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior—to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

From One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father-a crusading local lawyer-risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

First suggested: August 2015

Supporter: Rene, Jennifer, Uli

Go set a watchman by Harper Lee

From From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch"Scout"returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past--a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision--a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

First suggested: August 2015

Supporter: Rene, Nela

Guter Mann im Mittelfeld by Andrei Mihailescu

Well, the book is only available in German - yet. But the fact that it was written by one of our members might already be reason enough. Aside from that, it appears to circle around topics which are of a timeless nature and, more importantly, have relevance in all our lives: the question whom to trust and how to behave under difficult circumstances …

First suggested: September 2015

Supporter: Leon, Rene

Invisible by Paul Auster

From Amazon: Sinuously constructed in four interlocking parts, Paul Auster’s fifteenth novel opens in New York City in the spring of 1967, when twenty-year-old Adam Walker, an aspiring poet and student at Columbia University, meets the enigmatic Frenchman Rudolf Born and his silent and seductive girfriend, Margot. Before long, Walker finds himself caught in a perverse triangle that leads to a sudden, shocking act of violence that will alter the course of his life.

Three different narrators tell the story of Invisible, a novel that travels in time from 1967 to 2007 and moves from Morningside Heights to the Left Bank of Paris to a remote island in the Caribbean. It is a book of youthful rage, unbridled sexual hunger, and a relentless quest for justice. With uncompromising insight, Auster takes us into the shadowy borderland between truth and memory, between authorship and identity, to produce a work of unforgettable power that confirms his reputation as “one of America’s most spectacularly inventive writers.”

First suggested: November 2015

Supporter: Rene, Uli

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore by Robin Sloan

From Amazon: The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything―instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.

First suggested: November 2015

Supporter: Rene

I let you go by Clare Mackintosh

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She could’t have prevented it. Could she? In a split-second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows, to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna movesto a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life for ever. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating…

First suggested: November 2015

Supporter: Jennifer

The Snow Angel by LULU TAYLOR

Cressida Fellbridge is living the high life as a debutante in 1960s London society when she is courted by a friend of her brother’s and is set to marry. To amrk the occasion, her father decrees thet she must have her portrait painted. But as soon as Cressie meets the painter Ralph Few, she knows her life will never be the same again. She falls deeply in love with Ralph, but he is still married to Catherine. As Cressie is drawn into a strange, triangular relationship, Catherine’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, so Ralph and Cressie escape to Cressie’s family home in Cumbria. But Catherine will not give up Ralph that easily…

In the present day, Emily Conway has everything she could wish for: a huge house, two beautiful children and a successful husband, Will. But as they drive to a party one night, Will reveals that he has been betrayed by his business partner. And then, in one shocking move, their perfect life together ends. When Emily wakes from her injuries, she is told of a mysterious legacy: a house in Cumbria, left to her by a woman she has never met. Could this be the chance to start new? Or does this house have more secrets than answers?

First suggested: November 2015

Supporter: Jennifer

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

From Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

First suggested: November 2015

Supporter: Nela

Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher

So apparently there was a “Small is Beautiful” movement that started in the U.S. in the 1950s, and this book, though published only in 1973, seems to have come to embody it. It questioned the mantra of economic growth above everything, of happiness through material wealth, centralisation of political decision making as well as economic power, and the sustainability of it all. Instead of me rambling on further – here’s a Guardian article about the book and the ideas behind it. I’ll admit that I’d never heard of the book or the movement before but when I did come across it, I thought here’s something we could use now as much as ever. I suspect the book will read a bit dated, but would love to give it a try.

Amazon synopsis: Small is Beautiful is E. F. Schumacher’s stimulating and controversial study of economics and its purpose. This remarkable book examines our modern economic system - its use of resources and impact on how we live - questioning whether they reflect what we truly care about. The revolutionary ideas are as pertinent, inspirational and thought-provoking today as when they were first published in 1973.

If you don’t mind reading on screen – the book is available in full here: (though it seems to have been scanned from paper, and I’m not entirely sure about the license there :-)

First suggested: November 2015

Supporters: Uli, Nela

Preparation for the Next Life by Svetlana Alexievich, Keith Gessen (translator)


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

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Atticus Lish


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

Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson


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.

Supporter: Nela

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg


Non-fiction suggestion :)

A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world. (less)

First suggested: December 2015

Supporter: Nela, Nicole

Past & current reading:

Some months missing for 2005 … sorry …

… The beginning of this branch of our book club!

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