Friday, 29 June 2018

New books | Summer 2018

New books | Summer 2018 · Lisa Hjalt

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

In the past few weeks I have been pondering over these lines by American poet Mary Oliver (from 'The Summer Day', appeared in New and Selected Poems, Vol. One) and still have no answer. Her simple question is thought-provoking, to say the least. I feel as if I haven't quite landed in Germany. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to move back to the Continent - the culture and way of living in this part of Europe suits me better - I just thought by now I would be more settled. I have been looking for a part-time job where I get a chance to improve my spoken German before taking on something more challenging but haven't found anything. A bookshop didn't even reply to my email. How ironic is that? The good news is that our oldest has finished her studies in Scotland. We went on a road trip to pick her up, took a ferry across the Channel from Calais and got to admire the White Cliffs of Dover again.

At this point I have a few drafts lined up but I wanted to end my blog silence with a list of new books. I'm excited about Michael Ondaatje’s novel Warlight, his first in seven years. If you like his work allow me to point out Eleanor Wachtel's recent interview with him for CBC Radio. Her podcast Writers and Company is one of the finest for book lovers.

New books:
· Warlight  by Michael Ondaatje (Vintage). The last book I read by him was Anil's Ghost, and before that, The English Patient. Liked both. You may already have spotted the cover in the blog's sidebar; expect to find it on a reading list in the near future.
· The Beautiful Summer  by Cesare Pavese (Penguin). A coming-of-age story that takes place in Italy in the 1930s. Originally published in 1949.
· The Years  by Annie Ernaux (Fitzcarraldo, translated by Alison L. Strayer). This is the UK edition of her memoir, which has already been published in the US. '[A] masterpiece memoir of French life' reads the title of The Guardian review. I was intrigued and intend to read the book, even though I have never read anything by the author.
· There There  by Tommy Orange (Vintage). One of two debut novels on this list of new books, set in a Native American community in Oakland, California, where the author himself was born and raised. This one is getting a lot of good reviews. Like the cover.

· 100 Books That Changed the World  by Scott Christianson and Colin Salter (Rizzoli). 'A tour of global history by way of history’s most important scrolls, manuscripts, and printed books, from Plato and Homer to the twenty-first century—100 must reads.' A book about books that could be fun to have on the coffee table. This one was published in the spring but I wanted to include it on the list.
· The Collected Stories of Machado de Assis  (Liveright Publishing, translated by Margaret Jull Costa + Robin Patterson). I honestly don't remember having heard of Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908), the greatest Brazilian writer, until reading Parul Sehgal's review in The New York Times. Hanging my head in shame. If you like short stories you will be happy to learn that the collection is 930 pages.
· A Place for Us  by Fatima Farheen Mirza (Vintage). A debut novel about an Indian Muslim family preparing for the wedding of their daughter. Editorial director Sarah Jessica Parker chose the book for her own imprint, SJP for Hogarth. I'm often wary when celebrities endorse something but I know Parker is a keen reader and she has recommended good books in the past. This Guardian Q&A with the author, a Californian of Indian descent, might interest you.
· The Outsider  by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton). And finally, a crime novel for the King fans out there.

Café Tölke, Schnoor quarter, Bremen, Germany · Lisa Hjalt
Café Tölke in the Schnoor quarter of Bremen

In the spring I meant to share images from Bremen on the blog but things got in the way. Summer came early and on a warm Sunday I bicycled into the city centre and went for a stroll in the old Schnoor quarter. It was too sunny for photographing but I snapped this photo that captures the mood at Café Tölke, one of the first cafés I tried when we moved here. A small, charming place that specialises in cakes and pies. Once you have found a table and sit there with your coffee and Apfelstrudel you may get the feeling that as long as it stays open the world is going to be okay. That's the atmosphere of some cafés.

images by me | 1: appeared on Instagram, 05/03/2018 | 2: Instagram, 28/05/2018


  1. Good to read from you after all this time! I think only Ondaatje's book looks like something that would appeal to me. But for me the main takeaways from your entry are the opening and closing thoughts. The opening question in particular is worth asking oneself every now and then.

    1. I hope that question hasn't opened Pandora's box!

  2. So happy that you got a Brazilian author in your list!!! (I'm Brazilian)
    My suggestion is Dom Casmurro, a wonderful book also by him. He is one of the best Brazilian author of all time.

    1. Thank you for the recommendation, Sharon. I have added Dom Casmurro to my TBR.


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