Book-a-Day Challenge – Day 14

This is another book no bookworm should miss. It’s the perfect one to cuddle up with on the sofa, forget the world around you and immerse yourself into the world of books, poets, writers and literature.

Alberto Manguel who is a well known essayist moves from his first time he discovered books to the history of books and reading that goes back some 6000 years. He talks about reading as seduction, as an act of rebellion, the obsessed readers, the occasional readers and he traces the history back to the the first clay tabletts, to paper scrolls and to what was the latest in the 1990s when this book came out – the CD Rom.

This is a rich and wonderful book. A treasure chest of knowledge, reading, stories and really wonderful illustration – what a journey. It is incredibly engaging with lot’s of interesting explorations and knowledige bits about the history of the book and literature in general. It certainly makes you think about how you became a reader. Can you remember the first time somebody read to you or the first time you started reading yourself? What was your first book?

My grandfather read to me from a book every night called „365 Good night stories“ and I can still remember my frustrated begging for just ONE more story please please with sugar on top. I usually managed to get more than one story out of him at night but rarely more than 2 or 3. That was it! I had to learn mastering the little magical symbols so I could conquer the world of stories myself.

I was so proud, when I slowly and painstakingly mastered the most wonderful skills in the world when I was around 5. From that day one no paper with anything writte on it was safe from me. I devoured not just books, put anything written. Advertising flyers, billboards, closing credits on TV and of course books.

There was nothing I wanted and needed more. All the neighbors in our apartment block searched their flats for forgotten children books (most of them had grown-up kids already) and I also remember that first day I was introduced and registered at the local library in my hometown. This is a whole other story about this tiny little library that I completely fell in love with…

Ooops, I’ve gone astray, back to „A History of Reading“. Manguel shows us what happens when we read, how books form us, and how reading teaches us to live. It is a wonderful recap of why people read and will always read. It is a combination of personal stories, historical references and fitting illustrations that make the book not just informative but very enjoyable.

This is a must read and the perfect present for all you bibliophiles out there or the ones in your life. Combine this with Ella Berthoud’s book on Bibliotherapy.

So – what was your first book? Can you remember?

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Book-a-Day Challenge – Day 13

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These stories are perfect for all part time insominiacs. So instead of tossing and turning from one side to the other, grab that neat little reading light and let one of these great authors soothe you slowly into Morpheus‘ arms.

Some of the stories are only two or three pages long, some nearly 20 pages. The stories themselves are arranged into specific categories within the book: “Stories to make you glad to be alive”, “Stories to send a shiver up your spine”, “Stories to read when everything is going wrong”…

An eclectic mix of writers from Haruki Murakami to Virginia Woolf presented in a beautiful hard back edition.

This also comes with a recommendation from our Reading Weekend our Bookclub went to recently, were we read a few of these stories at night in the kitchen by the fire.

Combine this with my collection of short stories for long nights and Ted Chiang’s „Stories of your Life

Book-a-Day Challenge – Day 12

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Today I would like to show you this wonderful coffee table book with some stunning photographs of stars, comets and galaxies in the alps.

Most of you have probably enjoyed the blue sky in the alps several times and if you have stayed over night in a hut, you probably had a glimpse of what the night sky has to offer in these remote areas. The authors have spent more than 250 nights on various summits of the alps to catch these breathtaking pictures.

I stumbled across the book on one of my favorite blogs „Elementares Lesen“ – and had to get it for myself. This book is a the perfect present for all those stargazers and astronomy lovers out there.

Look at these pictures that I found on the publishers page „Knesebeck„:

 

 

To find out more about space and astrophysics I highly recommend you go to „Hirngymnastik Astrophysik“ and don’t forget to put some binoculars on your wish list.

Book-a-Day Challenge – Day 11

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Everybody knows and loves Jane Eyre, but not many people have even heart of Villette. Todays novel is Charlotte Brontë’s astonishing autobiographical novel of one woman’s search for true love.

Lucy Snow is travelling from England to find employment in the small belgish town of Villette in a girl’s boarding school. She has neither friends nor family and has a pretty hard time in the boarding school at first having never taught before and keeping her self-posession in the face of snobbish and unruly pupils is pretty difficult for her. The headmistress Madame Beck is also not exactly the ideal picture of a kind and warm person which makes it difficult for Lucy to settle in.

“Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars–a cage, so peril, loneliness, an uncertain future, are not oppressive evils, so long as the frame is healthy and the faculties are employed; so long, especially, as Liberty lends us her wings, and Hope guides us by her star.”

She also has to deal with her own complex feelings. First she is in love (or so she believes) with the school’s English doctor but then falls for the strict authoritharian professor Paul Emanuel. Charlotte Brontë draws immensely on her own deeply unhappy experiences based on her time as a governess in Brussels. This autobiographical novel is the last book published during Charlotte Brontë’s lifetime. It is a strong and very moving study of loneliness, isolation and the pain of unrequited love. The novel is narrated by a strongwilled independent spirit who is incredibly resilient in the face of her difficult circumstances.

Lucy Snow is not as easily likeable as Jane Eyre and there are quite a few occassions were I just wanted to shake her when the pining was a bit too much for me. But in general I really loved this novel, loved it in spite of the many weird contrived coincidences, the unreliable narrator and it’s sparse plot. Lucy Snow is like Jane Eyre’s dark twin sister and the study of a the complex inner world of a really interesting person.

Charlotte Brontë (1816-55), was the eldest of the Brontë sisters. She was born in Thornton, West Yorkshire and Jane Eyre was first published in 1847 under her pen-name Currer Bell. The book was followed by Shirley (1848) and Villette (1853). In 1854 Charlotte Brontë married her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls. She died during her pregnancy on 31 March 1855 in Yorkshire. Her novel The Professor was posthumously published in 1857.

Virginia Woolfe is being quoted as having said that „Vilette is Emily Brontë’s finest novel“ and another high brow fan of the novel is George Eliot who said „I am only just returned to a sense of real wonder about me, for I have been reading Villette“

So follow the advise of these brilliant ladies and immerse yourself into this novel. You might want to accompany your reading with Wilkie Collins „The Woman in White“ for something else equally quintessentially british.

Book-a-Day Challenge – Day 10

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Today I would like to introduce an audiobook to you that I was listening to and that got my hooked from pretty much the first few minutes of it. The Sleeping Giant is the first part of the Themis trilogy by the Canadian author Sylvain Neuvel.

Neuvel’s debut is a real page turner a combination of SciFi, political thriller and mystery. Neuvel weaves a complex net where some ancient machinery buried deep in the Earth meet shadow governments and geopolitical conflicts.

I can’t summarize it any better than this blurp:

„A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?“

The story is told in a series of interviews – reports submitted by an anonymous interviewer who is pulling most of the strings behind the project. This narrative structure is very easy to follow and the book is a real page turner.

The second book is called „Waking Gods“ and the last book „Only Human“. A trilogy with a satisfying end in my opinion.

This trilogy is a great gift for all SciFi and mystery lovers. Combine this article with Cixin Liu’s „The Three-Body Problem“ and Madeleine Ashby’s „Company Town“

Book-a-Day Challenge – Day 9

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I had never heart of Will Durant before somebody recommended this really excellent „The Story of Philosophy“ to me. When I looked him up I was astonished to see that this guy has basically written the entire History of the World in 11 volumes in collaboration with his wife Ariel. They had planned it into the 20th century, but due to their old the 11th volume The Age of Napoleon ended in 1975. They left behind notes for a 12th volume, The Age of Darwin, and an outline for a 13th, The Age of Einstein, which would have taken The Story of Civilization to 1945.

Their idea was to unify and humanize the great body of historical knowledge, which had become fragmented into esoteric specialties and too complex, and to vitalize it for contemporary application.

The couple shared a very intense love for each another. After Will entered the hospital, Ariel stopped eating, and died on October 25, 1981. Though their daughter, Ethel, and grandchildren strove to keep Ariel’s death from Will, he learned of it on the evening news, and died two weeks later, at the age of 96, on November 7, 1981.

Back to „The Story of Philosophy“ in which Durant profiles several important Western philosophers and their ideas from Socrates and Plato to Nietzsche. Durant was aiming to show the interconnectedness of their ideas and how each philosopher build on the ideas of the ones before him.

There are nine chapters each focused on one philosopher, and two more chapters each containing briefer profiles of three early 20th century philosophers namely Henri Bergson, Benedetto Croce (of whom I had never heart before) and Bertrand Russell who published his „History of Western Philosophy“ in 1945 and is an equally astonishing read

In a later edition Durant accepted the criticism for not including philosophers from Asia.

The book was published in 1926 but also due to its subject the book has aged well. Will Durant is a good writer and the book is very accessible. I think it makes a really good Christmas present for anybody who’s interested in testing the waters of Philosophy.

Are you interested in Philosophy and which philosopher interests you the most?

#Women in SciFi (47) meets Book-a-Day Challenge Day 8: Mary Shelley’s The Last Man

Luckily Mary Shelley continued to write after her first novel „Frankenstein“ was such a huge success. Today I would like to introduce to you one of her less known works „The Last Man“. The novel starts at the end of the 21st century and ends in the year 2100.

This futuristic story talks about the gradual extermination of the human race by a mysterious plague and a tragic love story. Mary Shelley is not just the Grandmother of Science Fiction, I’m sure she also was the first person to write a post apocalyptic novel. She basically invented the dystopian genre. Compared to this book, Frankenstein is a happy comedy.

“What is there in our nature that is for ever urging us on towards pain and misery?” 

This novel is a slow burn. Like many Victorian authors, Shelly took her time, she did not rush her plot along and she backed it up with ideas and feelings. The book is intriguing, especially for people with an interest in the ideals and philosophies of Victorian times.

“It is a strange fact, but incontestable, that the philanthropist, who ardent in his desire to do good, who patient, reasonable and gentle, yet disdains to use other argument than truth, has less influence over men’s minds than he who, grasping and selfish, refuses not to adopt any means, nor awaken any passion, nor diffuse any falsehood, for the advancement of his cause.”

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The book is partly a „roman a clef“ with the main protagonists modelled after her husband Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. I’m sure Mary Shelley felt pretty lonely after the deaths of so many people that played such a big role in her own life. She created a story about the deconstruction of the Romanticism movement, showing how the world view and optimism of an aesthete never really survives contact with the real world.

“I spread the whole earth out as a map before me. On no one spot of its surface could I put my finger and say, here is safety.” 

This is a pretty sad story and it clearly reflected Mary Shelley’s own life. She also outlived all of her friends and her husband, four of her five children had died and was actually „The Last Relict“.

If you are a little brave and can tolerate the hopelessness and dispair of this novel, you will rewarded with beautiful language, interesting ideas and vivid melancholy pictures of a world that gets lonelier and emptier every day.

Mary Shelley is not just the Ur-Mother of Science Fiction with her novel „Frankenstein“ she is also the Ur-Mother of the apocalyptic novel. I bow my head in respect to Mary Shelley…

Here is a really interesting short BBC documentary on Mary Shelley’s „The Last Man“: