read any good books lately? Life changing, or just a ultimate escape form the Covid-19 reality? Please share them here. Send your tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tip 5 – Stella’s choice
Note: When it comes to fictional books, I deeply enjoy tragedies. Some of the books might touch upon topics, which are disturbing for some people.
- Needs your help: I read this book in 2016/17, and I liked it very much. I found it on a public bookshelf on the streets, and I probably lost it after reading it (I have moved four times since then). I would love to reread it, but I just cannot recall neither the author’s name nor the title for years now. It is about a young Native American (around the age of 11 or 12) that very innocently describes her situation, including a constantly pot-smoking, overwhelmed, and unavailable lone mother and sexual abuse through people she had trusts.
If anyone recalls this storyline, please reach out to me; I would say this is my favorite book.
- The Balad oft he Sad Café – Carson McCullers
An extremely bizarre but sensitively transmitted story. I read this book in 2017, and it has been stuck in my head since then. It puts you into the shoes of three main characters, and it describes the relationship between these in a deeply poetic but at the same time almost analytic way.
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
My pre-Covid read. It is an extremely inspirational and interesting piece that enhances your perspective-taking history- and character-wise. I would describe the essence of the book as: The childhood effects of the different character’s unique life trajectories during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. For few parts, I find the book a little ‘filthy’ in the writing style, making it a little less but nonetheless almost wholesome book.
- Veronika Decides to Die – Paulo Coelho
It might be a suggestion because it was my first Paulo Coelho book in 2014, and I find his books very much ‘alike.’ But for anyone who has not read him yet or would like to read more of his books – I would definitely read this one. It has some unexpected plot twists and definitely takes you to the insides of the psychiatry, where most of the plot is located.
- Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F. – Christiane F.
A very famous German book that takes you to Berlin’s heroin and prostitution scene. It is a very touching autobiography. (Fun fact: I think one of my parents encouraged me to read it at the age of 12/13 (?) because they had supposed it makes you stay away from hard drugs).
- The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
This book made me physically feel the loneliness and numbness the character experiences. It lets you participate in the main character’s desperation when he is strolling around and has no place to go and no one to speak to, while you (probably) deeply sympathize with him.
(Fun fact: I read this book when I went to school in Canada, and it was heavily debated whether the school should teach books that include the word “Fuck”.)
Tip 4 – Christof’s top 5
I like to read novels when I have time and when I am not tired – which is not always easy when you have three small children who love to wake up in the night, or decide at 4 o’clock in the morning that the time has come to rise. Which means that today I consider myself a rather irregular reader – some periods (when they sleep better) I am reading every night again, but these periods get interchanged with periods of several weeks or months that I cannot even think about reading – despite the pile of novels to read that I have on the ground next to my bed. Nevertheless, I realized that over the past year, within this irregularity I did find time to read 17 novels. Below, I list my five top readings of last year, just in case you are looking for some distraction, or when you really have the need to inhabit a parallel space for some time. The top five is in no particular order, these are just five books that I really enjoyed reading last year, and that I would think about reading again within a couple of years.
Richard Powers – The Overstory (Dutch translation: Tot in de hemel). This book is about trees. Trees? Yes, trees. It takes a while before you really get into the story – as the novel is built around the story of nine persons across the world who learn to value trees. With a while I mean about 100-150 pages, but that is no problem, as the book is about 650 pages. Once you really get into it, it is difficult to put the book aside, it screams for sleepless nights where you just continue reading until you reach the end.
Stefan Brijs – De Engelenmaker. I don’t know whether this book is also available in English, but this novel is just a beautiful story about science, illusion and imagination, power and powerlessness, whereby everyone is looking for truth, and eventually only finds and believes his/her/their own truth. Sounds like the corona-crisis when I read what I write about this book – but that is not what this book is about. It is about a doctor who returns to his birth place after almost twenty years, but he returns with three young children of only a couple of weeks out, which the villagers don’t get to see.
Paolo Cognetti – Le otto montagne (English translation: the eight mountains). Beautiful book about two friends who are searching their whole life for happiness. It is about the Italian alps, about nature and destiny, life, love and death. A pageturner from the beginning to the end, and utterly beautiful.
Karina Sainz Borgo – La hija de la española (English translation: night in Caracas). Extremely disturbing social novel. Well written, easy to follow, but also very unsettling, as it provides insight (through the eyes of the main character) into the challenges of getting ahead in contemporary Venezuela – a context I am not very familiar with, but in this book you really get the sense to be in Caracas and to live it. Despite its unsettling character, I could not put this book aside before reading it entirely – giving me another sleepless night in a period where my children finally did sleep somewhat regularly!
Colson Whitehead – The Nickel Boys. I already read ‘De Ondergrondse Spoorweg’ of Colson Whitehead, which was a very good novel, but this novel is really a must read. It is about discrimination of black people in the United States during the beginning years of the civil rights movement, about shattered dreams. I will not go into detail here as that would ruin the whole story and feeling you get when you read the book, but also the end of the book is very surprising, turning things upside down.
Christof Van Mol, Department of Sociology
Tip 3: Rodham: a novel’ by Curtis Sittenfeld
You may have come across them on your daily walk: mini libraries. Small cabinets in people’s gardens or attached to the walls of their homes, where second-hand books can be borrowed or are simply given away. Tip: you can find an overview of (a number of) mini libraries in the Netherlands here: https://minibieb.nl/zoek-minibieb/
In my neighbour’s mini library, I found the book ‘Rodham: a novel’ by Curtis Sittenfeld. The author describes how Hillary Rodham’s life would have been if she had NOT married Bill Clinton. The book makes you think about gender stereotypes, changing societies, and election campaigns. Highly recommended!
Inge Sieben, Department of Sociology
PS Are you, like me, a fan of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? Then the novel ‘Eligible’ by Curtis Sittenfeld is a must-read!
Tip 2: ‘The seven sisters’ – Lucinda Riley
After the sudden death of their father, Maia and her sisters gather in their childhood home, a beautiful mansion on Lake Geneva. The sisters were adopted as babies by Pa Salt and, after his death, each receives a letter with a mysterious reference to their origins. Maia’s past takes her to Rio de Janeiro. Once there, she tries to unravel her background with the few clues she has. It takes her eighty years back in time, to the construction of the world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue and the glamour of the 1920s in Paris. Will she succeed in discovering her true identity?
This international bestseller is the first part of a – seven-part series about love, loss and the search for who you really are.
Tip 1: The Boy,the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.’ – Charlie Mackesy
This is just a small glimpse of the wonderful book, ‘The Boy,the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.’ Written by Charlie Mackesy.
‘The world I want to live in is the world that Charly mackesy invented. A world of infinite kindness, wisdom, tenderness and true love between friends.’
– Elizabeth Gilbert-
‘Such a sweet and comforting book.’
– Arthur Japin-