Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Ackroyd, Peter “Thames. Sacred River”

Ackroyd, Peter “Thames. Sacred River” - 2007

I love history and I love England. So, what's better than reading a book about a part of my favourite country that is so important to its history, geography, really anything that defines this wonderful country. It's amazing how much you can write about "a bit of water". This book is about the story of the great river, from its source to the sea, from its early beginnings and the first settlements until the importance it still has today for the United Kingdom. How it shaped not just the landscape but also the people. How people used it but also worshipped it.

A very interesting account of how history develops, how states are founded, how much a river contributes to the art of a country, to its politics, its success. Great writing, great book.

Wilde, Oscar "A Woman of No Importance"

Wilde, Oscar "A Woman of No Importance" - 1893

Oscar Wilde has a strangely hilarious sarcastic humour, one can only admire how he handles any kind of situation in that weirdly funny way. Not my first Oscar Wilde, certainly also not my last. :-D

"A Woman of No Importance", the title itself is already so promising. We see Oscar Wilde's contemporary upper class whiling away their time. They play games, they go shooting, they dance, they gossip about other people. They have nothing to do, so they make up important issues. The characters are "as you expect them to be", their relationships the same. I have thoroughly enjoyed the sarcasm in this play.

Another great play by Oscar Wilde is "The Importance of Being Earnest" and the interesting biography about his wife "Constance".

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Al Aswany, Alaa “The Yacoubian Building”

Al Aswany, Alaa “The Yacoubian Building” (عمارة يعقوبيان , Imarat Ya'qubian) - 2002

This book is described as “an ironic depiction of modern Egyptian society”. I don't know how ironic it is but I thought it was a very interesting account of a life I know absolutely nothing about. Apparently, the building in Cairo exists but is different from the one in the book. The original owner used to be very rich but now the house has been made into lots and lots of tiny little apartments (originally storage space) and the story tells us about their lives.

Very interesting, sometimes quite challenging read.

Eggels, Elle “The House of the Seven Sisters”

Eggels, Elle “The House of the Seven Sisters" (Het Huis van de Zeven Zusters) - 1998

I read this book because it is a book about the Netherlands in the 50s, even from the area I live in. Seven orphaned sisters run a bakery. An interesting book about different kind of women who try to do their best, who try to live their life in a society that has a certain idea of how women should lead their lives.

Quite a good read.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Bjørnstad, Ketil “Villa Europa”

Bjørnstad, Ketil “Villa Europa” (Villa Europa) - 1992

An epic saga about a Norwegian family throughout the 20th century. The various members travel through Europe but always return to the villa of their grandmother, Very different kind of people, same as the rooms in the house that are all named after a certain country. This isn't just a historical read but touches so many other subjects, the way men and women lead different lives and how they get on with each other, for example.

Very interesting novel.

Rowlatt, Bee & Witwit, May "Talking About Jane Austen in Baghdad"

Rowlatt, Bee & Witwit, May "Talking About Jane Austen in Baghdad. The True Story of an Unlikely Friendship" - 2010

Two very different women form a friendship via e-mail, a young British journalist, mother of three little girls and a middle-aged Iraqi woman who is desperately trying to leave her country during the war.

Our book club thought that both title and the cover picture were misleading, we had expected something different. They didn't talk about Jane Austen much and we imagined May, the woman from Iraq, very different than the lady in the cover. Bee, the British woman, was hard to warm up to, we felt a disconnection between her and May to whom she talked like to a child. Everything seemed to be a lot about appearance, Bee wasn't realistic, it seemed a like a game to her. We felt she only got the book deal because of May who is a much better writer. The second half was definitely better when she seemed to realize a little more what this was all about. We were glad that May was able to get out.

On the other hand, you also have to admire Bee's action. Eve though there's really nothing remarkable about her, she used her connections to make a huge difference in someone's life, for their benefit. She could have just been sympathetic and gone on with all her work, charity meetings, etc. and never really given May's situation more thought. Do hungry people get fed from rhetoric?

We talked about asylum seekers, how being in an endless situation can lead to depression.

We asked ourselves whether Bee redeemed herself by writing about her personal problems. We also wondered whether May and Ali are still together as we couldn't see Ali coping with life in Britain. Another subject that came up was the war and why are we there and why not.

We also talked about democracy and whether you can really bring it to a country. I found a few good links with democracy quotes, if you'd like to check them out, there are hundreds on each one of them: The Quote Garden and Better World Quotes.

My favourite: "You cannot bring democracy to a country by attacking it." ~ Akbar Ganji. Although, I also really love the one my son told me when he saw me looking for them: "Fighting for peace is like screaming for silence!" (N.N.)

We discussed this in our book club in September 2011.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Dickens, Charles "A Christmas Carol"

Dickens, Charles "A Christmas Carol" - 1843

If you haven't read "A Christmas Carol", you probably have seen one of its many many television and movie adaptations ranging from real people to Disney and the Muppets, the plot has also been used in many many series or as a basis to new stories. I love this story. It teaches you how you can change to become a better person even if you have a bad start. It teaches you that it is okay to enjoy something from time to time even if you need to work hard for the rest of the year. And that you should always have compassion for the less fortunate. Certainly, this book totally deserves its place among the greatest ever written. So many positive messages in it.

My favourite book by Charles Dickens so far: "Great Expectations. I also read "A Tale of Two Cities" and a few more, see here.

Fielding, Helen "Bridget Jones" series

Fielding, Helen "Bridget Jones' Diary" - 1996
Fielding, Helen "The Edge of Reason" - 1999

A friend of mine once said "What is the matter with young women today? You'd think the 70s never happened!" I know exactly what she means. And in a way they didn't, at least not for the young women nowadays. Some of the things we fought for are so normal nowadays that people begin to give it up again. Sad, really. But somehow understandable.

Needless to say, these books don't belong to my favourites. It was alright to read them at the time to see what all the hype was about but I don't think they will become classics.

Frank, Anne "The Diary of a Young Girl" (Het Achterhuis)

Frank, Anne "The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition" (Het Achterhuis) - 1942-44

What is there to say about a book that everybody has read? It is amazing how a young girl can write so explicitly. Her thoughts are way beyond her age but that is probably to be expected in her circumstances. If you haven't read this book, you should. My sons read it in school and I think every student ought to. What a lesson to be learned, what an account of a time hopefully never to return.

Gibbons, Stella "Cold Comfort Farm"

Gibbons, Stella "Cold Comfort Farm" - 1932

Apparently, this story is supposed to be funny although I couldn't find the humorous side of it. A poor but educated young girl at the beginning of the last century goes to live with relatives on a farm. Nothing really interesting happens and the writing is more than boring.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

García Márquez, Gabriel “One Hundred Years of Solitude”

García Márquez, Gabriel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (Cien años de soledad) - 1967

My first book by Gabriel García Márquez. Not my last. A saga of a family, one of those fantastic South American magic realism novels.

Seven generations are described in this tale, starting when the first member immigrates to Colombia, spanning almost a century of South American history during the colonial years. A lot of symbolism is used which makes this book even more interesting.

I have re-read this in the meantime. It was just as fantastic as the first time around. This author amazes me every time.

I also read "Love in the Time of Cholera” (with my book club) and loved it.

Gabriel García Márquez received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 "for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts".

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Levy, Andrew “A Brain Wider Than The Sky"

Levy, Andrew “A Brain Wider Than The Sky: A Migraine Diary” - 2009

As a heavy migraine sufferer, I am always curious as to what others have to say about their problems with this disease. Fellow sufferers usually recognize each other instantly. This is a big one. Andrew Levy certainly has enough on his plate, it's amazing how he can describe his disability so precisely. I could say “Yes, exactly” to almost every sentence this guy wrote. He starts his book with a warning, “my experiences are not meant to compete with professional diagnosis.” Certainly not, however, often it's the little things that help you more than all the medication and treatments your doctors come up with. Not that they cure it, but neither do the doctor's efforts, at least not in my case and that of many others I know.

Having a constant migraine means your life is only worth half. You can hardly make plans, and if you do, don't get too excited, that might lead to another migraine and/or you will be sorely disappointed if, no when you can't go. It means you have to put a lot of your life on hold, your work, your family, your hobbies, anything that has been worth so much for you before. If you can keep your work and your family, you belong to the lucky ones.

Anyway, Andrew Levy gives a wonderful account of his own sufferings and what others have found. He mentions not only health specialists in this field but also a lot of famous names we know but didn't know they were fellow sufferers. Again, very interesting.

If you feel that reading about migraine gives you a migraine, this book is not for you. But if you like to read about it because you have the hope that one day you might find a solution, read this book. If you have a loved one who suffers from this and you don't understand what they are going through, this is also the book for you. You might understand your partner better and be able to help more.

See also my list of "Migraine Books

Migraine Books and Links

Word cloud made with WordItOut
Migraine Books and Links

As a migraine sufferer, I am always interested in finding a solution or at least talk about what might and might not help. A friend of mine put together a list of good books about the subject. I have only read a few of them until now but will add descriptions as soon as I read a new one.

Migraine Quotes:
Diagnosing a migraine involves analyzing the symptoms, conducting medical tests, and eliminating other possible causes of the headache. (Chronic Pain Info)
Migraine is difficult to treat because symptoms are hard to evaluate and can change from one attack to the next. (Migraine Research Foundation)

Migraine related conditions:
1. Prodrome Phase (hours or days before the headache). Irritability. Depression. Euphoria. Fatigue and/or sleepiness. Yawning. Cravings. Stiffness and/or pain in neck. Dizziness. Changes in elimination
2. Aura Phase (minutes to an hour before the headache). Blurred vision. Clouded vision. Tunnel vision. Flashing lights. Dazzling zigzag lights. Eye pain. Numbness and/or tingling (esp. in arms and face). Ringing or roaring in ears. Decreased hearing. Vertigo (imbalance or spinning sensation). Olfactory (smelling) hallucinations. Difficulty finding the right word or words to say. Oversensitivity to being touched
3. Headache Phase. Pulsing, throbbing, or pounding headache. Often on one side only or worse on one side. Can start as a dull ache and get worse. Lasts from a few hours to a few days. Nausea with or without vomiting. Sensitivity to light or sound or both. Pale skin. Prominent blood vessels in temple. Neck stiffness. Vertigo. Tinnitus. Chills and/or Sweating. Difficulty thinking or concentrating
4. Postdrome (lasting up to several days) Impaired thinking. Difficulty concentrating. Less severe head pain. Muscle weakness. Neck stiffness. Fatigue and/or sleepiness. Euphoria. Depression or malaise.
(Heache and Migraine News)

Books about Migraine:
Bernhard, Toni "How to be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers"
Bernstein, Carolyn & McArdle, Elaine “The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health” (highly recommended)
Brink, Martin "The Migraine Revolution" Scientifi Guide to Effective Treatment and Permanent Headache Relife. What the current regime does not want your brain to know.
Buchholz, David “Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain”
Chino, Allan F., M.D.; Dille Davis, Corinne,  Ph.D. "Validate Your Pain!: Exposing the Chronic Pain Cover-Up"
Cowan, Robert “Keeler Migraine Method: A Groundbreaking, Individualized Treatment Program from the Renowned Headache Clinic”
Fontebasso, Dr. Manuela "Migraine and Other Headaches. Answers at your fingertips"
Greenberg, Lynne "The Body Broken: A Memoir"
Hatak, Kristine “A Guided Tour of Hell - Migraine”
Kamen, Paula “All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache”
McCleary, Larry "The Brain Trust Program: A Scientifically Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Memory, Elevate Mood, Enhance Attention, Alleviate Migraine and Menopausal Symptoms, and Boost Mental Energy"
Nicholas, Michael; Molloy, Allan; Beeston, Lee; Tonkin, Lois "Manage Your Pain: Practical and Positive Ways of Adapting to Chronic Pain"
Sacks, Oliver “Migraine”
Thomas, Pat “Under the Weather - How Weather and Climate Affect Our Health
Turk, Dennis C. & Winter, Frist “The Pain Survival Guide: How to Reclaim Your Life”

Suggestions for more books about this topic are always welcome.

There are so many websites and blogs about migraines, I try to list a few and will add more over time:
 "The Spoon Theory" - someone with a chronic disease explains how it feels to someone who is always healthy.
How to understand someone with Chronic Pain.

About Chronic Migraine. Living half the month with debilitating headaches.
ACHE - American Council for Headache Education
Advanced Migraine Relief 
Advanced Migraine Relief and Treatment Center. Transformational Migraine Pain Management.
American Headache & Migraine Association
American Headache Society
American Pain Foundation
Chronic Daily Headaches (Mayo Clinic)
Chronic Migraine Awareness on Tumblr
Chronic Migraine Suide Prevention
Headache Network Canada
International Association for the Study of Pain
International Headache Society
Migraine (Mayo Clinic)
Migraine.com. "Real voices. Expert opinions". A very professional blog, e.g. "Top 10 Myths About Migraine."
Migraine Action. A UK based charity.
Migraine Investigator
Migraine Research Foundation. Dedicated to ending debilitating pain.
Migraine Research Foundation. (on Facebook)
Migraines and Menopause Symptoms
Migraines & Headaches Health Center 
National Pain Report 
Migraine Survival
Migraine Symptoms
Migrainetalk. A forum for those who suffer from migraine. Their Useful links to other Migraine Sites.
My Chronic Migraine
National Headache Foundation. The world's largest voluntary organization for the support of individuals with headaches.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: What is Migraine
National Migraine Centre UK
Robbins Headache Clinic 
Surviving Chronic Pain
The Migraine Revolution  
The Migraine Trust UK. The health and medical research charity for migraine in the United Kingdom.
Treatment and Drugs (Mayo Clinic)
World Health Organization on Headache Disorders.
You Know You Have a Chronic Illness When ...  

Brainless Blogger. Written by a chronic migraine sufferer.
Chronic Migraine Warrior. The personal journey of a chronic migraineur.
Elizabeth Swenson's Migraine Support Blog
Fighting Headache Disorders. Not just a good blog. Lots of other links, too.
Letters to Educate Others w. Family Migraine Letter in PDF Format
Living With Chronic Migraines. A list of migraine groups on facebook.
Migraine Monologues  
Mind Splitters and other Migraine Fun. A great blog by a lady who knows a lot about this subject.
Migraine: Living in Pain. Another sufferer reports.
Spreading Awareness about Chronic Migraines. Blog by a fellow sufferer.
That M Word: A Migraine Blog
The Daily Headache
The Migraineur's Companion. Thoughts on living with chronic migraine.

3 Big Questions on Migraine Preventive Medications 
5 Reasons a Migraine is not "Just a Headache" 
5 Types of Headaches
10 Things I Want to Share About Migraines
12 things you should never, ever say to a Chronic Migraineur
18 Signs You're Having a Migraine
22 Things About Migraines You May Not Know
35 Things you should never tell a Chronic Migraine Sufferer
43 surprising headache triggers (they also trigger migraines)
A Letter to my Migraines 
American Headache & Migraine Association - Much More Than a Website
An Open Letter to People Without Migraine 
Are All Migraines a Genetic Mutation?
A Sleep Gene Has  Surprising Role in Migraines
Brainless Blogger: Comparaitve Pain Scale Chart
Can Weather Trigger a Migraine?
Cefaly | Treatment prevention - migraines and headaches
Changes in weather mean migraine attacks for many
Diagnosing Migraine
Diet Tips for Migraine Prevention
Do You Know Your Migraine Triggers?
Epilepsy and migraine 'could have shared genentic link'
Gene search throws up four inherited clues to migraines
Genetic mutation associated with migraines
Goodbye to Migraines
Grandma's Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes
Headache from WiFi? Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity
Headache Types
Head Agony
Help Make Migraines Visible (ACHE)
How I Manage Living With Migraines
How to Avoid Hurtful Comments to Someone With a Headache or Migraine Disorder
How to Live With a Migraine Sufferer
How to Understand Someone With Chronic Pain
Hypoglycemia and Headaches
I Smell a Migraine
It’s not a migraine unless it is a migraine
Living With Chronic Pain - Explaining Chronic Pain
Living with Migraine Pain: 6 Things to Keep in Mind
Manage Your Food Triggers
MAPPing Migraines: Migraine Attack Plan and Pack
Massage for Migraine
Migraine and Stigma: High Impact 
Migraine Can Be Life-Threatening
Migraine in Children and Young People
Migraine Headaches Pictures Slideshow: 14 Non-Drug Treatments for Migraines
Migraine Linked to Menstruation
Migraine Management: The 7 Essentials  
Migraines: An Ounce of Prevention…  
Migraines Linked To Genetic Regions 
Migraines, not really "headaches" 
Migraine study 'opens door' to research into a cure
Migraine sufferers many times deal with social stigma as well as pain
Migraines With Neck Pain
Migraine with Aura
More Than Just a Headache: Battling Migraine Stigma 
Mother of Two Launches Chronic Migraine Awareness Support Site
New Device Helps Migraine Sufferers MSN News
New Migraine Treatment in a Patch
New theory on cause of migraine 
Potential Migraine Phases and Symptoms
Relaxation Techniques for Migraines and Headaches 
Robbins Headache Clinic Treating Anxiety
Sharing a Marvellous Blog on the Word Migraine
Sick Building Syndrome May Be Linked To Migraines
Silent Triggers
Suicide and Chronic Migraine
Symptoms and Triggers
Talking to someone with a chronic illness
The Everything Guide to Migraines
Theraspecs - Glasses that block unwanted light to provide immediate and lasting relief
The Impact of Migraine
The Magical Mythical Migraine Pill
There's nothing funny about getting a migraine
The Top Migraine Triggers
Top 10 Brain-Damagine Habits
Understanding & Explaining Chronic Pain Part 1 - The Spoon Theory
Understanding & Explaining Chronic Pain Part 2 - The Flip Flop Theory
Warning of migraine sufferers hooked by addictive painkillers 
What Does a Migraine Feel Like?  
What Not To Say To Someone In Chronic Pain    
When Dizziness is Serious 
When food is a headache: Know common triggers for migraine 
When memory loss is a sign of 'painless' migraines - and high fliers are most at risk 
Word of Mouth — Can dentists cure migraines?
You've got a headache, but what kind and how should you treat it?

Other Pain Articles:
Book raises alarms about alternative medicine 
Down but Not Out: Depression and Migraine 
Eating More Alkaline Die for Bone Health   
Fibro TV - about chronical illness
Depression can be migraine's tipping point
Depression is a common occurrence in a chronic pain condition, and insomnia is quite common in depression. Do you take an antidepressant to help you sleep?
Depression and Migraine   
Good Posture Helps Reduce Back Pain
Higher Rates of Migraine Headaches in People With Celiac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
How depression feels for some people.
If You Know Someone Who's Depressed - What Depression Is Not
MedicineNet - Depression Center
New Medical Explanations for Major Depression
The effects of psychotherapy for adult depression on suicidality and hopelessness: A systematic review and meta-analysis

How to Treat Chonic Migraine Headaches
Migraine with Aura   
Podcast - Migraine Step by Step  

Migraine Relief Wrap
MigraLens - Helps effectively manae & soothe light sensitive migraine
These products have been recommended by some sufferers, I have not tried them.

Migraine and Art:
Help for Headache and Migraine Poetry Contest 2012 

German Sites:
Deutsche Migräne- und Kopfschmerzgesellschaft e.V.  
Migräne-Infoseite eines Medikamentenherstellers
Ratgeber Migräne. Informationen für Betroffene und Interessierte


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Friday, 2 September 2011

Logue, Mark & Conradi, Peter “The King's Speech”

Logue, Mark & Conradi, Peter “The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy” - 2010

After having watched and admired “The King's Speech” in the cinema, I was very interested in finding out more about this unusual story. Lionel Logue, King George VI speech therapist, was an outstanding person and his grandson Mark wrote a wonderful account about his life. There is so much more in this book than you can ever put on screen.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Betancourt, Íngrid “Even Silence has an End: My Six Years in the Jungle"

Betancourt, Íngrid “Even Silence has an End: My Six Years in the Jungle” (Même le silence a une fin) - 2010

This book is an account of French-Colombian politician  Íngrid Betancourt, who was abducted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2002 and rescued by Colombian security forces in 2008. She spent six and a half years in the jungle as a prisoner of the FARC.

I think most of us really appreciated learning about this but we would have liked a little more information about the background, Colombia, the FARC … On the other hand, the book could have been more condensed, there was a lot of repetitiveness. One of our members teaches writing and she said her first task for the students would usually be to write a personal narrative about a personal experience this looks like a first draft. We all believed her. We do believe that writing can be a kind of therapy and wondered whether it was it therapeutic for her.

We were amazed how she could get into so much details, how she could remember them after all that time.

It was discouraging that the captives fought so much between themselves, we're sure it's a survival mechanism but we would have thought they stick together rather than fight each other. However, Íngrid Betancourt admitted she was difficult. She is a strong personality.

The whole FARC culture was interesting, it was another world, however, their members were in a kind of prison, too. It's amazing how people change when they have the power.

So, all in all, a very interesting book, even though we didn't agree with the whole style.

We discussed this in our book club in August 2011.