THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE – Audrey Niffenegger

I ALREADY HAVE THREE COPIES OF THIS BOOK AS IT IS MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE BOOK!

It’s hard for me though, to put into words why I love this book so much, because the book contains so much.

On the surface it is the love story of Henry DeTamble and Clair Abshire who have to deal with the fact that Henry is chrono-impaired; he randomly travels through time. This fact is what makes them meet, but also something that’s a very big impact on their relationships.

Underneath that veneer, lies a whole world though. It’s a coming-of-age story, a story about the pain we inflict on our significant others, about the randomness of our world, but also its fate. The story contains side-notes on the painful and loving and beautiful relationships we have with our parents. It is an ode to books, always books and a treatise on longing and patience. A book written more eloquently than any other I have ever read. It’s a thriller and page-turner and romance and literary novel. A book that yields something new every time I read it.

It’s my solace, my book to read when I am happy, my book to read when I am sad. Reading the first lines always makes me feel better and reading the last lines make me sigh because it means the book again has ended. I never want it to end – not in the way it does. But the end is what is supposed to be the end and it is perfect in all its pain.

This book, is a book unlike anything I have read before or after and I still long for the day that I find a book like this again so that I may again have that feeling of encountering it for the first time and being left in awe of the story, the language and the skill of the author. I fear that day may never come and so I’ve read this book again and again and I will read this book again and again and again.

My favourite quote of the book is actually one the is a quote from a poem itself: “had we but world enough and time”. (I am actually considering having this as a tattoo!)

The quote written by the author I love best, is this: “There is only one page left to write on. I will fill it with words of only one syllable. I love. I have loved. I will love.”

And then finally, just because the book also contains so much love for books, my favourite poem in the book:

“The time will come

when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”

Derek Walcott

Sigh, I just love it!

 

 

 

 

ON THE CROSSROADS OF SHOULD AND MUST – Elle Luna

FOR ALL THE SEEKERS AND SEARCHERS. FOR HAPPY PEOPLE AND UNHAPPY PEOPLE. FOR THOSE TRYING TO FIND THAT PATH TO IT, AND THOSE STILL FIGURING OUT WHAT ‘IT’ IS. FOR ALL OF US WHO ARE LOOKING FOR A WAY TO LIVE AUTHENTIC LIVES – WHATEVER THAT IS – THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU.

Based on a viral essay, Elle Luna provides a low-key, deceptively easy way to answer the age old question: how can I find and follow my true calling? Of course, asking the question, and even answering it in general terms, are much, MUCH easier than actually finding and following your true calling.

Elle Luna however, makes it sound attainable. If we are willing to listen and put in the hard work – and it will be hard work – we all can follow a life that resembles us. That is filled with those things we must do – regardless of how weird it may seem to others – and not with things our surroundings or society feels we should do (although there will always be things we should do, like go groceries shopping or filing our taxes).

For me, this book was recommended when I was talking to a friend about some question I have in this regard. Call it a small quarter-life crisis (assuming I’ll live to be at leas 91) or the eternal restlessness of a travelling feminist foodie who loves books, but either way, this book brought me some peace of mind. Or more accurately, a way to focus my scattered thoughts into a way to live that authentic live!

Feeling like following that path as well? Read this book!

WANDERLUST – Rebecca Solnit

A BOOK CALLED WANDERLUST, HOW COULD I NOT READ A BOOK WITH A TITLE LIKE THAT?

Except it turns out that the book doesn’t really say all that much about the feeling the word portrays. The subtitle is the more accurate one: a history of walking.

Getting over my slight disappointment – where is that book that deals with the true wanderlust? – I started to read the book anyway.

The book beautifully describes the history of – you’ve guessed it – walking. From the ancient Greek philosophers to Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet and modern activists, she tackles it all.

I loved reading about people walking, why they walked, how walking came to be so eminent in the previous century and then started to disappear. Keeping in mind that since the book was written in 2003, a more subversive take on walking is starting to come about, with both young and old people trying to find their way back to nature and walking – just think about all the biographies of people walking the PCT, like Wild and Girl walks into the woods.

I loved reading about this, because I feel I should walk more. In my urban environment – that I love – I sometimes feel I should be out and about more. Not to shop and be bombarded by flashy commercials triggering all kinds of feelings that just make me want to get the quick fix consuming brings, but to be out in nature and work my body. To feel more like I did on top of Mt. Rinjani.

I thought this would be the perfect book to get me through the Dutch winter – let’s face it, not really walking weather.

Sadly, the book disappointed me. The amazing and great parts notwithstanding, the book was too academic for what I needed it to be. The reviews and back cover made it sound like a more subversive and life-affirming book, but what I got was a book with many great parts and many tedious ones. The subversive nature of it hidden in the background stories of people who took to walking, when walking was not considered an enterprise worth undertaking, of people who walk to write, to question, to challenge.

All in all, if you are prepared for an academic book with plenty of amazing great engaging parts, this is the book for you! If not, read another book first, before you find the peace an quiet for a book like this. Perhaps after a long walk.

My favourite quote (and let me state, there were many!):

I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour.

 

 

 

MILK AND HONEY – Rupi Kaur

I FINALLY READ A BOOK OF POEMS – AND LIKED IT! A LOT!

Like many boys and girls that go through puberty and have an inkling for writing, I used to love writing “poems”. Believing my thoughts and feelings to be of deep importance, I’d keep a journal-like notebook filled with poems. Cringeworthy ones if you’d ask me now. And as a result, I didn’t like reading poems as they only reminded me of my own inabilities.

However, milk and honey seemed to call out to me. For a while I’d see the book everywhere, take it off its shelf and then decide not to buy it. I started following Rupi Kaur on Instagram and little by little, she drew me in. Perhaps like any good poem draws you in.

I became curious. Curious enough to read a few poems. Read the words so perfectly balanced. And then I just went ahead and bought the damn book!

Not having really learned how to read poetry, I struggled a bit at first. I googled how to read poetry and the best advice I found was this: you do not necessarily have to understand the poem at the first reading. Find what speaks to you and engage with the poem. It is a conversation that was started by the poet and you get to continue it.

Now, as a talkative person, I understand conversations. As such, I was able to decide which poems/conversations to engage with. And there were many! About love, about hurt and heartache, but also about strength, feminism and sisterhoods. To me, that blend makes Rupi Kaur an amazing poet. It feels neither to militant nor to soppy. It feels real. And beautiful and complex. As women are. As life is.

So, for anyone who is willing to try their hand at poetry or for anyone who wants to read a new kind of beautiful poetry: READ THIS BOOK! It’s truly wonderful!

My favourite poem:

what am i to you he asks
i put my hand in his lap
and whisper you
are every hope
i’ve ever had
in human form

Especially that final line “you are every hope i’ve ever had in human form” gives me chills and butterflies at the same time! Love it.

 

 

 

TALKING AS FAST AS I CAN – Lauren Graham

LORELAI GILMORE WROTE A BOOK!… SORRY, I MEAN LAUREN GRAHAM WROTE A BOOK!

Either way, it’s not a coincidence that this book came out exactly when the revival of the noughties hit-series of “Gilmore Girls” came to Netflix. And being the huge Gilmore Girls fan that I am – I mean, Ooy whith the poodles already! – I of course had to read this book!

I’d asked for it as a holiday present and my sister – not a fan of the series – immediately recognized that I had to have this book. Even the fact that its release was postponed till after our celebration of Sinterklaas – with soot Pete, not Black Pete – she kindly got it for me.

Now of course, the book was never going to be a literary highpoint or even the memoir we can all relate to and learn to be a better humanity from. I knew that. Still, I had to get into Lauren Grahams way of writing, which is very reminiscent of the way Lorelai was portrayed on screen. I am not sure if this is because Lauren Graham was a perfect fit for the role, or if she meant to channel her inner Amy Sherman-Paladino – don’t know who that is? Shame on you! – but after getting used to it, I enjoyed this read.

Obviously I loved reading about the original series and what it was like to return to the revival and I even enjoyed the parts in between. But let’s be honest, this was always going to be a book written for fans. As such, I greatly enjoyed it and would recommend it to fellow enthusiasts. If, however, you are like, Gilmore who, I’d say, leave this book be and read something else.

 

 

 

INTO THIN AIR -Jon Krakauer

KNOWING HOW A BOOK WILL END AND STILL FINDING YOURSELF AT THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT… I’d call that a very successful book indeed.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the phenomenon of Jon Krakauer: he is the writer of a bestseller in the early nineties that was turned into the hugely successful movie: Into the Wild. When I learned that he had written the book upon which the movie Everest (2015) was based, I contemplated buying the book. However, usually when I find out that a movie was based on a book, I am hesitant to read it. The book is always better, but the view of the movie – really someone else’s view of the story – can hugely interfere with my experience of the book.

Finally, I saw the book on sale at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris – my favourite shop in all the world so far – I decided to just go for it and buy it. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.

Even knowing how the tragedy on Everest in may 1996 would play out, this was still an exciting read. I found myself biting my lip whilst reading, looking forward to reading the book every spare minute I had and unable to wait to know how it would turn out; all the signs of a seriously addictive book.

Although the writer himself doesn’t always appear to be the most likeable character I have ever read about, he manages to portray the events and his own faults and tribulations with such honesty, that he is easily forgiven for simply being a human being. By me that is. I can’t be sure about the everyone else of course.

So, if, in these dark winter times (or any other time you are reading this) you are in need of a seriously exciting and scary adventurous escape but unable to actually go on any adventure – you know, real life getting in the way – read this book! It will carry you through it for a little while – and may deter you from any too dangerous adventures!

 

 

 

GIRL IN THE WOODS – Aspen Matis

I FEEL VERY AMBIVALENT ABOUT THIS BOOK.

On the one hand it tells a very courageous tale of a girl who got raped – in a country where despite being the supposed leader of the free world, victim-blaming still runs rampant – and found her way back to herself by solo walking the 2650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

On the other hand, this turned out to be the story of a girl who constantly relates to herself as others relate to her. Yes, she rescues herself from her trauma, but that salvation is not measured by her own feelings regarding herself, but by how the world reacts to her newfound confidence. It is, like too many books with female protagonist, a story of finding the right guy instead of the wrong.

So what to make of this book? I loved the parts of the story where the beautiful scenery is described, where the girl we meet in the beginning of the book has solo adventures and manages to rescue herself. I loved reading about the trail magic and the very different lives one meets on the PCT. I love, LOVED, how the writer found a way to herself where she breaks free from anger and frustration and her somewhat overbearing parents, at the same time realising the love they have given her and finding a way to reconcile both sides.

However, all of this was described in the margins of the book; the few pages I would try to get to as I was reading the other parts of the book. About a girl meeting a boy, about a girl meeting the wrong boy, about a girl obsessing about having found the wrong boy, about a girl ready to find love again, about a girl longing for love, about a girl wanting to be seen – by a man. It is the story of a princess, finding herself ruined – which she is not! Rape is not the victims fault, ever – and travelling through dark woods, finding a false prince and being rescued by dashing handsome prince Dash. A story I have read and been told in countless ways, far to many times.

Yes, I want love in my life, but not at all cost and not as obsessively.

To me, it seems more important – and therefore more interesting – how to love yourself, just for yourself. How to come to peace with a horrific trauma on your own power and your own terms.

This book however, is not that book. The downsides sadly outweighing the potential beauty of it.

However, there were several quotes I loved:

“Walking in solitude fixes nothing, but it leads you to the place where you can identify the malady – see the wound’s true nature – and then discern the proper medicine.”

“Then I let go of him.”

“Writing is a way to make a living dreaming wild dreams.”

Although my favourite is a quote by Maya Angelou, used in the book:
“A word after a word after a word is power”

Truth found in the margins of the book.

 

 

 

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS – M.L. Stedman

IT IS NOT OFTEN THAT I HAVE NO WAY OF FIGURING OUT HOW A STORY IS POSSIBLY GOING TO HAVE AN HAPPY ENDING FOR ALL THE CHARACTERS I LOVE, but this book was a very happy exception to that.

Now, I am not saying that every book has to have a happy ending, certainly some books fail to provide an unhappy ending when really the story calls for it. Waving a magic wand to make a white rabbit appear who makes everything all right is not my idea of a good story.

However, with this book, I so desperately wanted a happy ending for all characters involved, but I just couldn’t see how!

The story tells the tale of Tom and Isabel Sherbourne who live on a remote island between to converging oceans to keep up the lighthouse. Tom is a man who has managed to survive WO I because he had strict rules about what is good and bad. At some point though, he has to compromise his rules to provide Isabel with the child she so longs for. However, as things start to unravel, he is torn between the immense love he has for his wife and his life’s mission of doing what is right.

As you may guess, this book deals with the ramification of the actions of each person that are all completely understandable – the reason why there doesn’t appear to be a way to have a happy ending for all characters. The beauty of the book lies in the fact that you genuinely start to care for all the main characters and wish for them to find a way. Whether or not they do, you’ll just have to find out by reading this beautiful, eloquent, amazing book – or watch the movie, although since I haven’t seen it yet, I have no idea if it follows the same route and of course, SHAME ON YOU for wanting watch the movie but not read the book!

My favourite quote: “The law’s the law, but people are people”.  As a socially engaged lawyer, how could I not love this rendition of a difficult truth!

 

 

 

THE WILD TRUTH – Carine McCandless

I’D BOUGHT THIS BOOK FOR ERIK AS INTO THE WILD IS ONE OF HIS FAVOURITE MOVIES, BUT WAS SECRETLY LOOKING FORWARD TO READING IT MYSELF. So, during our illness in Malysia I started to escape into the world of the sister of a man who inspired many vagabonds.

For anyone who is not that into independent movies turned into huge box office hits: into the wild tells the story of Alexander Supertramp a.k.a. Christopher McCandless; a young man who cuts all ties with his family to travel vagabond-style through the U.S. and challenges himself to become self-sufficient in the wilderness of Alaska, wishing to shed the false self. The challenge proves fatal, but in his death, Christopher McCandless inspires scores of people.

This book is the one where Carine McCandless aims to uncover the wild truth behind the reasons why her brother decided to cut himself loose completely. Sadly, the book disappoints. For anyone who has read the book “into the wild” by Jon Krakauer and seen the movie, the book contains little to no surprises. I never felt the parents of the McCandless children were portrayed very kindly or that is was a surprise that a young, ambitious and strong-willed man should want to be free from them. The only surprise: how long his parents felt a victim of the actions of Christopher.

Not bringing any surprises and really, detailing way more about the turbulent life of Carine herself, I felt the book was falsely marketed as being about the aftermath of Christopher’s death. Furthermore, Carine herself doesn’t appear to me to be a very likeable woman (as she portrays herself in the book that is). She appears to be a strange mix of being stubborn, pushing others to be like her and feeling victimised by other people’s action that sometimes have nothing specific to do with her.

Again, no favourite quote as I couldn’t remember any from the book and… I wouldn’t recommend this book to begin with.

 

 

 

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

A GREAT HOLIDAY READ.

So, I am the type of person who will bring three books on a backpacking holiday (the Wild Truth; One step at the time; and Guantánamo Diary – of which I only finished the first) and then decides she needs that one book standing in a shop window that suddenly speaks to her. So, logging around four books would be the price I paid for reading this thriller. A price well worth it.

During the first 12-hour flight to Bangkok, I read about half the book and although the starting was slow, I was completely hooked by the time we landed. The story centres around three women who in some way, are all connected to the case of a missing woman. Neither of these women are very likeable or even reliable in the telling of their tales, but I still felt like they were more real than many women I’ve read about in so-called “chicklits”. They are women with faults and struggles and the consequences of their actions are not sugar-coated.

Combine this with a thrilling whodunit and you have the perfect holiday read. Because I could spot who’d commited the crime about halfway through the book, it wasn’t as exciting to finish as it was to start, but still good enough to read whilst enjoying the sunshine on the paradise of Koh Tao.

All in all, not a book for quotes (the writing itself was not that amazing), but an enjoyable read during your holidays!