Friday, 23 March 2018

№ 14 reading list | Non-fiction in spring

№ 14 reading list | Non-fiction in spring · Lisa Hjalt

A fool's errand to the University Library is the reason for my sharing the № 14 reading list later than intended. I went there to borrow the books by Martin Amis and Joan Didion - I wanted to photograph the entire stack of books - but I forgot a paper one needs to collect the library card. I still haven't had time to go back but thought it best to share the list before I finish reading the other books on it, all non-fiction. Every now and then I leaf through the notebook containing the books I want to read (I'm constantly adding more titles) and try to prioritise; Amis's The War Against Cliché is one of those books and I wanted to reread Didion's The White Album. Some may ask why waste time rereading books when there are so many unread. Well, I believe some books demand rereading. I haven't read everything by Didion, but let's say it's on my list. The publishing house Diogenes provided the German book on the list and for that I would like to thank them. It's a delightful read, with stories related to bookshops (see further below).

№ 14 reading list:
· The Prime of Life  by Simone de Beauvoir
· Letters to Friends, Family & Editors  by Franz Kafka
· The White Album  by Joan Didion
· The War Against Cliché  by Martin Amis
· Der schönste Ort der Welt: Von Menschen in Buchhandlungen  (German)
· Þúsund kossar  by Jón Gnarr (Icelandic, 'Thousand Kisses')
· Orðið á götunni  by Margrét Bjarnadóttir (Icelandic, 'The Word on the Street')

To embrace my inner bibliophile, and to improve my German, I was grateful to receive a book from the Diogenes Verlag to add to the list: Der schönste Ort der Welt: Von Menschen in Buchhandlungen. In English the title reads: 'The Most Beautiful Place in the World: From People in Bookshops'. It contains twenty bookshop stories collected by Martha Schoknecht, narrated by authors Mark Twain, Penelope Fitzgerald, Gustave Flaubert, Patricia Highsmith, and Ingrid Noll, to name a few. For those of you who have read, and hopefully loved, Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road (for more, see my blog entry), I was delighted to find in the book some of the letters she wrote to and received from the Marks & Co. booksellers in London. She is just as wonderful and funny in German.

As someone who admits to often judging a book by its cover, I have to comment on the book design. Whenever I enter a bookshop here in Germany I cannot help but swoon over the white paperbacks published by Diogenes. The cover of this book is especially beautiful: a vibrant and colourful painting, Union Square Bookstore, by artist Patti Mollica.

Bookshop stories, Der schönste Ort der Welt: Von Menschen in Buchhandlungen, published by Diogenes · Lisa Hjalt
Bookshop stories, Der schönste Ort der Welt, published by Diogenes

A note on the Icelandic books: The first is Jóga's memoir, who is a well-known massager in Iceland and, among other things, ran a popular and unique clothing boutique in Reykjavik. As a young woman she was seriously injured in a car accident in the US, followed by a legal battle, which drastically changed her life. The book is written by her husband Jón Gnarr, a famous actor and comedian; from 2010-14 he was the Mayor of Reykjavik. The second book is quite an interesting piece of work by Margrét Bjarnadóttir (who happens to be the sister of a dear friend, who gave me the two books). During the period of May 2009 to December 2013 she collected phrases that she overheard on the street, at cafés, etc. Each page has one entry. Usually it's just a short sentence or a question, and this makes such a fun read and philosophical.


  1. Simone de Beauvoir is since long on my wish list.
    Thank you for this list of wonderfull books
    Have a nice weekend, Manon

    1. I had only read Beauvoir's 'The Second Sex' before embarking on her autobiography; I have never read any of her novels. I enjoyed reading the first two volumes but the 2nd one definitely appealed more to me. In one of my Reading journal posts I said that I found the tone of voice in the 1st a bit too serious for her childhood years. But as she grew older, the tone became more fitting. In the 2nd one there were parts that I found a bit long-winded, but as the story drew closer to the war I was unable to put the book down.

      A lovely weekend to you, Manon!

  2. "Der schönste Ort der Welt" hört sich nach einem wunderbaren Buch an -- das habe ich gleich einmal auf meine Wunschliste gesetzt.

    Danke für den Tipp!


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