Books

– This page had been terminated due to an opening of a Goodreads.com account. If you wish to know what I’m reading, you should go there. You’ll have to know my real name to find me though. In the event of an extraordinarily good book, this page will be continued. –

Ian McEwan – Atonement. Oh my God where do I start. This book was simply amazing. And I book2don’t say that often, although I read very often. I had found it in a sales box outside my local dealer for reading material, just browsing through. The cover was that of the movie (with Keira Nightly…), which had been promoted as a total sappy chick-flick, definitely not my kind. But I didn’t remember what the story was exactly about, so I turned it around and read the back. It sounded interesting, and was cheap. So why not, it’ll spruce up my English. Then I almost left it at the bank – had laid it down there and only remembered when they were closing. They reopened the doors just for me and then we had to look for it because someone had stored it away… Destiny! If I were to believe in such things… But now to the story: the first part (187 pages) is about one day. One day, and yet it was the most suspenseful thing I had ever read. At the end of each chapter is a cliffhanger worse than in any series. And the perspective keeps changing from one character to another, so that each time you learn a little more but never the whole story. Brilliant! Part two (another 80 pages) suddenly takes place in World War II, this time being told from one single (male) perspective. The mind boggles in trying to piece it all together, and yet the characters are described so vividly that you can see the whole thing in your head. At least I could, until I saw the movie and those pictures were replaced by pre-fabricated ones. But the movie isn’t all that bad, either. Sure, it’s cut up, but a friend of mine who watches many many movies thought it was great – especially this one Normandy beach scene with millions of extras in the background, doing a full 180° in one shot. The third part is in that same time, only here we read what the main character is doing, back in London. Where the movie and book really start to drift apart is the fourth and final part. Here there is, again, a huge time jump. The first part took place in 1935, the last in 1999. But this is where it all comes together, in one big surprising finale (at least I didn’t expect it and it turned everything around again). In sum, it is a love story, but a beautifully told one.

book “Lose weight! Get laid! Find God!” caught my eye right away. It was sitting in a sales-box of my local book store, and one of the few in English. Plus, with a title like that, who wouldn’t want to look inside. Especially since you could see from the side that all the pages were in different, bright, rainbow colors. This book is from the same authors that wrote “This diary will change your life” and the website “thiswebsitewillchangeyourlife.com”. LWGLFG is described as the all-in-one life planner from 0 to 100. It starts with a page for personal details, followed by the instructions for use and then: age 0 (“make your birth unforgettable”). Each double-page describes what you should accomplish that year. For example, since I just turned 24, the planner tells me that this year is meant to be wasted. So today, day 1, will be spent sharpening my pencils. Tomorrow, according to the book, is reserved for tidying my room. It goes on like this through the year until it is time, with 25, to have a quarter-life crisis. By 25, Joan of Arc had helped save the France from the English, received direct divine guidance and been burnt at the stake. In what country are you a national hero? After age 100 (“undergo cryogenic freezing”) there is a page for your life summary (15 minutes of fame, meal of your life, best year, etc.), one for the photo album of your life (one for each decade, plus when your looks peaked) and finally, life mood and life diet charts. This book is hilarious. Too bad you have to wait a while before it’s worth reading again.

The first book by A.J. Jacobs is called “The Know-it-all” and is a documentary of his first project – to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica from A to Z. He did this because when he was younger he thought he was the smartest boy in the world (seriously) and has since lost his wisdom. Sure, most of us don’t know as much as we did in school and I’m personally a fan of knowing stuff, so I thought this was a good idea. Sadly, it was poorly executed. It seems Jacobs didn’t really want to know more, he just wanted to show off at cocktail parties with annoying facts, thrown in inappropriately into the conversation (social skills = 0). Apparently, you can have a huge ego (he compares himself to Shakespeare) and a romping need for approval at the same time. Needles to say, after hearing too many “facts” the line of Descartes liked cross-eyed women (like there’s nothing more important to know about him), it was hard to schlep through the rest. I did finish it though, and it taught me two things: 1, you’re better off reading the encyclopedia yourself than the renderings of a guy who is proud of himself for not giggling at the name Johann Fux, 2: it’s like I’ve been trying to tell my co-students – knowing by heart is not knowing. At least Jacobs does know that there’s a difference between knowledge and intelligence, only – alas – he seems to lack both.

This is a book from Esquire-writer A.J. Jacobs, who tried for one whole year to live by the bible. Many say they do, almost no-one literally does it. So he took several versions of the bible, interpretation guides and a counsel of rabbis, priests and whatnot and then wrote out all the rules he could find. This alone would be enough a catch phrase to get me interested. But to top it, I know surprisingly little of the bible, especially considering that I’m baptised catholic and grew up in the states. So this was my way of learning more about it, all while being entertained. It starts out really funny, Jacobs has a good writing style. But towards the end I thought it was missing something. I had the impression Jacobs was more trying out the wacky rules (i.e. “do not wear mixed fibres”), than really thinking about what he was doing. He had a surprisingly hard time keeping up with things like not lying or gossiping. Plus, while I could make sense of the old testament and the Jewish faith, he lost me at the new testament and Christianity. Maybe that came from the fact that he is Jewish himself and had more pressing personal stuff to attend to – like his newborn twins (check “be fruitful and multiply” from the list). All in all it was an interesting experience and got me thinking. Somehow I always felt humbled after a good reading period – maybe that resting time-out was simply my form of sabbath. “With the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).

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