Friday, 25 May 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"When I discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas every day." Jean Fritz

"Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." Thomas Jefferson

"Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines - it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits". Robin Sloan

"I like liking things. It's just that there are more books to like than anyone can ever read. Which, granted, is an uptown problem, but a problem nonetheless." Sarah Vowell

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Feuchtwanger, Lion "Jew Süss"

Feuchtwanger, Lion "Jew Süss" (German: Jud Süß) - 1925

This book is a classic about Germany in the 17th/18th century. It is based on the life of a Jewish  banker who is an important figure behind the Duke Karl Alexander of Württemberg in Stuttgart. It tells us a lot about life at court at that time. Not all good, like life on any court. Well, this is the conclusion you get if you read all those books about history.

Anyway, I might have called this book "The rise and fall of Joseph Süß and Karl Alexander of Württemberg", but it's true, the protagonist is the former guy and his life.

The Nazis based a film on the life of the same guy to make it one of the most antisemitic pieces ever. I would not necessarily say that this book is antisemitic, it shows how antisemitism was there all along and how people used it for their own advantage. In that respect, it certainly still is worth reading today.

From the back cover:

"The novel tells the story of a Jewish businessman, Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, who, because of his exceptional talent for finance & politics, becomes the top advisor for the Duke of Württemberg. Surrounded by jealous & hateful enemies, Süß helps the Duke create a corrupt state that involves them both in immense wealth & power."

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Williams, Tennessee "A Streetcar named Desire"

Williams, Tennessee "A Streetcar named Desire" - 1947

I normally don't like reading plays. Having said that, this is a great story and it didn't even read as a play, the writing is so lively, you don't need the actors to make it come real. You can visualize the characters, the places, the action. A tragic story that makes us feel for the people, all of them.

A brilliant book.

From the back cover:

"Fading southern belle Blanche Dubois depends on the kindness of strangers and is adrift in the modern world. When she arrives to stay with her sister Stella in a crowded, boisterous corner of New Orleans, her delusions of grandeur bring her into conflict with Stella's crude, brutish husband Stanley. Eventually their violent collision course causes Blanche's fragile sense of identity to crumble, threatening to destroy her sanity and her one chance of happiness."

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Ishiguro, Kazuo "The Remains of the Day"

Ishiguro, Kazuo "The Remains of the Day" - 1989

Years ago, I read "When We Were Orphans" with my book club. I didn't like it much and thought I might not read another book by this author. But since he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017, I decided I should give him another chance.

"The Remains of the Day" was better, granted. However, not as great as some people told me it would be. I found the writing very lengthy and drawn-out, the sentences dwindling toward an end that has nothing to do with the beginning anymore. The story itself could he been told within five to ten pages at the most, the rest is a musing and meandering of a man who realizes that he is growing older and what could have been.

I might have been able to follow those thoughts and even sympathized with the butler but I found I couldn't. The protagonist doesn't appear to be an unlikeable character but the way he is described doesn't provoke any interest, the whole story just flows along like a small brook with no windings or curves. The book reads more like the minutes of a meeting than a novel.

Sorry, Mr. Ishiguro, I love reading the books by Nobel Prize winners (see below) but you don't belong to my favourites there.

Lessons learned. If I don't like the first book I read by an author, I am more than likely not going to like the other one, no matter how much my friends tell me that that is his or her worst novel or whether the author is highly regarded or not.

From the back cover:

"A contemporary classic, The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro's beautiful and haunting evocation of life between the wars in a Great English House.

In the summer of 1956, Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the countryside and into his past."

Kazuo Ishiguro "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Numeroff, Laura "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"

Numeroff, Laura "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" - 1985

This is one of the many books that you read to your children, that they then read to themselves even though it is "only" a picture book and that you thoroughly enjoy because it reminds you so much of your own life. The mouse is like the little child that wants this and that and then something else. It teaches them about consequences.

Hilarious. Beautiful illustrations.

A happy book that I'm glad I found for my kids when they were little. A timeless classic.

From the back cover:
"If a hungry little traveler shows up at your house, you might want to give him a cookie. If you give him a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk. He'll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn't have a milk mustache, and then he'll ask for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim....

The consequences of giving a cookie to this energetic mouse run the young host ragged, but young readers will come away smiling at the antics that tumble like dominoes through the pages of this delightful picture book."

Friday, 11 May 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it." Julian Barnes

"Who needs to go somewhere when you can read about it." Pseudonymous Bosch in "The name of this book is secret"

"The library is an arena of possibility, opening both a window into the soul and a door onto the world." Rita Dove

"I would never want to live anywhere but Baltimore. You can look far and wide, but you'll never discover a stranger city with such extreme style. It's as if every eccentric in the South decided to move north, ran out of gas in Baltimore, and decided to stay." John Waters, Shock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

McGowan, John and McGowan, Frankie "Actually, it’s Love"

McGowan, John; McGowan, Frankie "Actually, it’s Love" - 2004

This is a book about love. Written by all sorts of well or lesser known UK celebrities, this is a charity edition, proceeds are going to ROC (Research into Ovarian Cancer). Reading a book and adding something to a good cause, what could be better?

Some of the stories are lovely, others funny, interesting, unexpected. But they're all about love. The love to a person, to your children, your animals, a place, a hobby, or an occupation. All of them written from the heart. The funniest one, in my opinion was by Gary Lineker. For those of you who are not European, he is a very famous former professional footballer (soccer to North Americans) and now a well-known sports broadcaster. He wrote a nice poem about his love for a sport. You carry on reading believing it must be football he's writing about and then you discover it's - cricket

From the back cover:

"It comes in all forms, all shapes and sizes, from the unconditional love of a parent to a child, to the passionate, all-embracing love felt for a partner, to the unspoken love that man sometimes shows to fellow man through a thoughtful, selfless act of kindness.

The rich, the famous and the funny have joined together to create this treasury of tales about the things they have done for love. 

Whether it is writing Shakespearean sonnets, hitch-hiking down the M1, or nearly drowning on a motorbike in the rain, these hilarious and heart-warming stories of your favourite celebrities will have you laughing and crying and even cringing - but definitely dying to read the next one!

This is an uplifting and extraordinary testament to the most glorious of human emotions."