winter reading

Spring is officially here and it's time to review the books I've read over the last few months. Not surprisingly, moving across the world limited the number of hours I could dedicate to reading, but I still managed to enjoy a few great books:

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. This is a story about two boys, best friends who grow up with their lives intertwined. As they are forced to confront the joys and sorrows of life, their friendship matures and so do their thoughts on how fate influences the direction of life. Borrowed from my friend Manja.

Wildwood by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis. A fantastical story that immerses you in Wildwood, a secret world in the forest above Portland, Oregon. The wilderness holds an army of wolves, kidnapping crows, and peaceful mystics. When young Prue crosses into this world, she finds herself amidst a scene ready for an adventure to unfold.

South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami. Another beautiful tale from Murakami. The story of Hajime, now a successful businessman in Tokyo with a wife, children, and a settled life. His former classmate Shimamoto suddenly returns to his life, mysterious and beautiful, turning it upside down.

My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss. A must-read for anyone that finds themselves identifying with more than one culture. Born in Berlin, Germany to an American father and an Italian mother, Luisa Weiss struggles to find her place in the world and ends up finding that home is created in the kitchen. Wherever in the world that kitchen may be. An honest story with a dose of romance and recipes.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. Helen Graham takes up residence at Wildfell Hall, in a small English town. Living a simple life with her son, but no husband, the townspeople imagine her past as ripe with scandal. The truth is a tale of a marriage ruined by alcohol and infidelity, and a woman who refuses to compromise her moral standards of life.

Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy. Tess Durbeyfield is the eldest daughter of a poor family in a small English village. When her father finds out that they are descendents from the noble d'Ubervilles family, her life takes a turn in a sad and darker direction.

Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach. A story of a love affair between the wife of a rich ship merchant and an artist during the height of the Golden Age in Amsterdam at the height of tulipomania. A farewell gift from sweet Mandy.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I am still in the middle of this book (to be followed up by this article), but it had to make the list. The true story of the brutal murder of four members of the Clutter family, killed in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. A gift from my younger sister.

With the big move over, I'm excited to get back in a steady reading rhythm. Any book suggestions that go well with a dose of Pacific Northwest sun?

Image by artist Marisa Swangha.

reading lists and recommendations

How do you end up reading certain books? Do you get recommendations from friends or tips on social media? Do you keep an ongoing to-read list? Or does a cover catch your eye in a bookstore? Every since I began using Moleskine agendas, I've kept a list of books to read on the last page and am constantly adding tips from Twitter, recommendations from friends, or the titles of interesting books I see in stores. I recently created a pinterest board of books I want to read and am constantly looking for new titles. Here's a list of what I read over the summer and how I came across each book.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. A story about a group of students at an English boarding school as they grow up and slowly learn that their lives are destined for another purpose. I enjoyed reading Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day and watching the film adaptation of Never Let Me Go, so I thought I would be enamored with the book. But I found the writing was a bit stiff. It's not often that I'd recommend a film over the book, but that's the case here.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I finally had my chance to read the latest from one of my favorite authors, which I gave to Marcus for Christmas and had to wait for him to finish. In the books of Murakami, I know I will always get a dose of the dark, mysterious, intriguing, and perplexing. 1Q84 is the story of a parallel world and parallel lives, with a threatening cult thrown in the mix. I know people who found parts repetitive, but I thought the pace of the book reflected the rhythm of music, one of Murakami's recurring themes. I didn't want it to end, and that's the best recommendation I can give.

The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart. A very pleasant read about a man with a deep sadness who is put in charge of the royal menagerie. Sweet, but not frivolous. This had been on my to-read list for a while after seeing a recommendation in an issue of Real Simple. Check.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. I heard an interview with the author on NPR last winter and was naturally drawn to a story that attempts to intertwine the characters from a book by one of the greatest authors. It's an engaging novel from a murder mystery point of view, but the characters were nothing like the characters of Pride and Prejudice. I spotted this book in a bookstore in Bath and thought I would see what it would bring.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. A look at the lives of two women in Kabul, Afghanistan. Mariam's life is a struggle from the start and when her father forces her to marry an older, cruel man, it only gets worse. A few houses away, in another world, Laila lives a life of happiness with her parents. When her family is killed, Laila and Mariam's lives are brought together and they become stronger as they struggle together.

Persuasion by Jane Austen. My favorite Austen book about the story of a second chance. I've read it a dozen times and will a dozen more.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. This book begins at a university with three students exploring the limits of sanity, which was written so spot on that it made me nostalgic for my undergraduate days. The students leave the comfort of higher education and the real character development begins. I can't remember when this book landed on my to-read list, but I finally got my hands on it thanks to the lovely Ellen.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. A story set in New York at the end of the 19th century. The beautiful Lily Bart belongs to a society bent on pleasure and centered around money. This book is almost as good as The Age of Innocence. My younger sister and I have been reading American classics together over the past year and this was a gift from her.

If you're interested in more reading tips, here are some previous posts about books I've read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. I'd love to hear recommendations from you!

read lately

It has been a while since I wrote about books. In the last few months, I haven't read as much as usual, rather focusing on the wedding, visiting family, and work events. Summer is slowly arriving and I have a pile of books waiting for me. What will you be reading this summer?

Books and audiobooks from January - May Elizabeth I by Margaret George. An epic work of historical fiction that centers around the life of the Virgin Queen of England. I listened to this audiobook over the span of many weeks and was enthralled with the conniving courtiers, the battles against the Spanish Armada, and the struggles and joys of reigning a kingdom.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. An inspiring story of four English women who decide, in defiance of social propriety, to escape the rain and drear of England for a springtime in Italy. I listened to this audiobook while riding my bike through rainy Amsterdam with the promise of a honeymoon in Italy ahead of me.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. While I wasn't a huge fan of The Corrections (gasp!), I really enjoyed Freedom. Even in their absurdity, I could identify with the characters who must face 'the temptations and burdens of liberty'.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. This classic follows the life of Billy Pilgrim and, most poignantly, when he witnesses the bombing of Dresden during World War II.

Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. Cognitive scientist and dog lover Alexandra Horowitz investigates the ways dogs experience and understand the world.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. I listened to the audiobook while traveling the Amalfi Coast. A short, sweet autobiography about the comedy writer and her reflections on her childhood, youth, and coming into her profession.

Yeah. No. Totally. by Lisa Wells. Written from the heart of Portland, Oregon. A tale of a floundering generation set against a backdrop of music and booze, the expanse of nature and the harshest realities.

The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel García Márquez. A story of the last travels of General Simon Bolivar as he takes a journey down the Magdalena River, revisiting cities and memories.

The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland. A cookbook that has been a new source of inspiration in the kitchen since 7 April. The photography by Sara Remington is fantastic and the recipes are divine.

You Look at Me Like An Emergency by Cig Harvey. An autobiography in photographs and words.

the nose of a dog

"A dog can detect a teaspoon sugar diluted in a million gallons of water: two Olympic-sized pools full."

Currently reading Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. A bit tortuous when the family pup is half a world away, but nonetheless enlightening about dogs and their awe-inspiring talents.

Photo via Jdenredden

autumn and early winter reading

A year of reading, with 27 books enjoyed in 2011. Here are lists of what I read from January - May and from June - September. And now, the last batch of the year: the books I read in October, November, and December.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Stout. A portrait of a woman in a small coastal town in New England told through a series of shorts stories from her perspective and through the voices of those in her community.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brönte. This classic never gets old.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. A biographer records the never-before-told personal history of a famous author at the edge of her life.

The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto. A look at the history of Manhattan Island in the hands of its first occupants: the Dutch in New Amsterdam.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. A humorous tale of the consequences when one couple decides to forgo Christmas for one year.

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. A story of a family who moves to a mysterious house on the coast of Spain. The children discover the dark secrets of its past inhabitants.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The first book of The Hunger Games trilogy tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, living a totalitarian society in which two children from each of the 12 districts are sent annually to compete in a game for their lives.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. The horror of the first book is on repeat when a second game is announced to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the games. Katniss finds herself back in the arena competing for her life.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. The final installment in which the capital government becomes the final opponent. I listened to trilogy as audio books and was immediately swept up in the action and lives of the characters. It was a perfect way to enjoy the dark, winter months.

I already have a small collection of books for the next month or two, but would love some recommendations. Which books did you enjoy lately?

Photo by azrasta

summer reading


A slower pace at work and a long holiday in Turkey allowed for more reading than the first part of the year. Here, a recap of the books I read this summer:

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. A work of historical fiction about the Dutch East Indies Company's outpost in Japan through the eyes of the young clerk Jacob de Zoet.

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss. Described as a 'biography-in-collage', this work looks at the lives of scientists Marie and Pierre Curie as they fall in love and discover new elements of the periodic table together.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. The crazy world in which the bombardier Yossarian tries to survive when the number of missions he has to make before he can complete his service keeps being raised and the ominous rule of Catch 22 hangs above.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The story of fireman Guy Montag who lives in a dystopic world in which books are burned and independent thoughts questioned.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. A portrait of an African-American girl raised in the South and her childhood moments of triumph and tragedy.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. A view on 1870s upper class New Yorkers in which recently engaged Newland Archer faces off with the demands of society as his relationship with the scandalized cousin of his fiancée deepens.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. A collection of short stories portraying the reporters, editors, and related characters of an English-language newspaper based in Rome.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Catherine Morland visits Bath and then the mysterious abbey and learns how tricky it is to navigate through 18th-century society.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. A novel written through an exchange of letters between novelist Juliet Ashton and members of a unique society on Guernsey Island. They share their experiences during the German Occupation of World War II and friendships form through the post.

Also two audio books!

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. The story of an unforgettable protagonist, Oskar Blum, a young boy who lives in post-9/11 New York. He heads out into the city on a quest to understand his father's death at the World Trade Center as the tale interweaves with his family's past.

Bossypants by Tina Fey. The autobiography of comedian and producer Tina Fey, describing the forays of her youth and the experiences that led to her career success.

a soft breath of anonymity

To San Franciscans 'the City That Knows How' was the Bay, the fog, Sir Francis Drake Hotel, Top o' the Mark, Chinatown, the Sunset District and so on and so forth and so white. To me, a thirteen-year-old Black girl, stalled by the South and Southern Black life style, the city was a state of beauty and a state of freedom. The fog wasn't simply the steamy vapors off the bay caught and penned in by hills, but a soft breath of anonymity that shrouded and cushioned the bashful traveler.

Currently reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, as part of my summer of exploring modern American literature with my little sister.

Weekend Links #34

Weekend Links is a collection of the interesting bits and pieces that I’ve come across on the streets and online. The weekly post is my chance to share with you a few things from the week, in a list compiled during the weekend. I hope you enjoy them as well.

A few things I enjoyed over the last week: 1. Receiving tickets to see The Avett Brothers at Paradiso thanks to a dear colleague (pictured above via) 2. Watching Jack Goes Boating at the open air film festival Pluk de Nacht 3. Reading an interesting interpretation of a book I recently re-read,  Seeing Catch-22 Twice 4. Contemplating the dangers of fast fashion again while reading The Tyranny of Trends (via @tout_moi) 5. Enjoying Rachel's stories of short fiction on Elephantine 6. Viewing Don McCullin's lost negatives of the Berlin Wall

thou art mortal

The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They're Caesar's praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, 'Remember Caesar, thou art mortal.' Most of us can't rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven't time, money or that many friends. The things you're looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

a chaos of slippages and blunders

Currently reading and loving The Thousand Autums of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell.

If only, Shiroyama dreams, human beings were not masks behind masks behind masks. If only this world was a clean board of lines and intersections. If only time was a sequence of considered moves and not a chaos of slippages and blunders.

A Fresh Air interview with author David Mitchell.

books from winter and spring

The months since January have been filled with work projects, making the moments I could escape into a book even more of a pleasure. Here, an overview of the books I have read over the past five months, with the addition of two from my recent holiday:

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. An escaped convict flees Australia for India to start a new life. Adventure ensues as he enters a life of crime and philanthropy in Bombay, while providing insight into the penal system he fled.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. Actually a book for young adults, a quick read about 15-year-old Daisy who departs from New York to visit her cousins in England. War breaks out, the adults disappear and the children must learn to survive on their own.

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. A non-fiction account weaving together the stories of past travelers to Siberia and Frazier’s own experience exploring the vast region and its history.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. A young girl from a poor family and her stories of growing up in Brooklyn. Just beautiful.

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. A psychologist explores the secrets that keep a patient, renowned artist Robert Oliver, in a vow of silence. His search leads him into an exploration of the lives behind French Impressionism. An interesting read, but not as captivating as Kostova's The Historian.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. Journalist Julie Jarmond's investigation into Vel d'Hivs, a round up of Jews in Paris, unveils unexpected links to her own life. I fail to see how this could be a New York Times bestseller.

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson. A novel inspired by Lucy M Montgomery's tales of Anne Shirley, which imagines the years of childhood that formed the girl who first appeared in Anne of Green Gables. Lovely, full of imagination, and exactly the Anne I expected.

make happiness

Sunshine and reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I never want it to end.

"People always think that happiness is a faraway thing," thought Francie, "something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains - a cup of strong hot coffee when you're blue; for man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you're alone - just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness."

(photo via)

Weekend Links #21

Well, it's Thursday, not quite the weekend anymore, but I wanted to send out the weekend links I put together for my faithful readers. New and exciting projects at work have scrambled my familiar schedule and I'm still figuring out how to stay on top of my personal projects. Hope those of you in the northern hemisphere are also enjoying the first signs of spring!

Weekend Links is a collection of the interesting bits and pieces that I’ve come across on the streets and online. The weekly post is my chance to share with you a few things from the week, in a list compiled during the weekend. I hope you enjoy them as well.

A few things I enjoyed last week: 1. Listening to an evening of The Decemberists at Paradiso. Just the bit of Pacific NW that I needed (pictured above via) 2. Stretching my writing muscles in a weekend workshop 3. Watching La Flâneur, a time-lapse video by Luke Shepard made up of 2000 photos of Paris 4. Reading the article The power of lonely (via something changed) 5. Reading The Elements of Content Strategy from A Book Apart. Nerdy work stuff that I can't wait to dive into 6. Receiving a note from a friend that reminded me of the importance of public broadcasting. To support NPR and PBS, sign this petition 7. Viewing amazing productions during a new multimedia contest (Blanco by Stefano De Luigi pictured below)

another read through Jane Eyre

An image leftover from a never-written holiday post was the inspiration for me to finally buy my own copy of the classic book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. The film adaptation is now out in the States, although it doesn't look like it will make it over to Europe until the fall. Has anyone seen it? What did you think? I will bide my time waiting for the film with another read of this great novel (image via plush palate).

Weekend Links #19

Weekend Links is a collection of the interesting bits and pieces that I’ve come across on the streets and online. The weekly post is my chance to share with you a few things from the week, in a list compiled during the weekend. I hope you enjoy them as well.

A few things I enjoyed this week: 1. Browsing through the book Wild Animals (Wilde Dieren) by Dutch illustrator Rop van Mierlo (image and video below, via anothersomething) 2. Discovering The Makers, a photo project by Jennifer Causey with beautiful stories about people in Brooklyn who make things happen (Morris Kitchen pictured above, via frolic) 3. Browsing the Monkey See list of the all the films based on books coming out in 2011 4. Revisiting an old NYTimes article Why We Read 5. Although well into the year of the rabbit, enjoying this cute animation 6. Scouting out cinema notes at Smart Project Space 7. Walking through a sunny city and playing taste tester to Chef Marcus

[vimeo w=500&h=400]

a girl who reads

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

Read the full text here, attributed to Rosemary Urquico (image via).

travels in siberia

In Russian, the word–Sibir'–is pure onomatopoeia. A shiver begins with the first letter and concludes with the palatalized r at the end, which, combined with the bi preceding it, amounts to brrr. Only a cosmic Dickens of place-naming would have chosen a name with such a chilly and mysterious sound. And yet Sibir', so resonant in Russian, is not of Russian provenance, but whispers of deepest Asia.

Currently reading Ian Frazier's Travels in Siberia, the stories of travelers past and Frazier's own experience exploring the vast region (image via).

"We can't really know what a pleasure it is to run in our own language until we're forced to stumble in someone else's."

- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

A quote that rang true for me, with my collection of foreign language books and an ever-evasive fluency of German. I have lived in three countries, but somehow I have never had that privilege of (passionately) studying the language of a country in which I was living. Here in the Netherlands, I have a comfortable level of Dutch, but my real aim has been fluency in German, the language of Marcus. While living in Seoul, I picked up Korean quickly and still scribble away bored nothings in Hangul, but my heart was busy improving my French. Growing up in the States, I studied Spanish, Latin and French. A foundation for each is there, but now is the time to focus on just one. Stumbling on.