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HTLAL Book Club 2015

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Senior Member
Virgin Islands
Speaks: Ladino
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2237 posts - 6731 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Creole (French)

 Message 9 of 69
15 December 2014 at 2:36pm | IP Logged 
Cavesa wrote:
...Surprisingly, it is a much easier reading than many modern books so I
believe a read around their B1-B2 level may already enjoy it.

Cavesa, you're welcome! As to a correction, "Surprisingly it is a much easier read (in this case "read" is used as a noun- like the site "good reads". You could also say "it is much easier to read... These options just "sound better" to my ears. What you wrote is not incorrect.) than many modern books. So I believe a reader who is around a B1-B2 level may already be able to enjoy it (this correction is more about word choice preference and clarity).

Iversen, thank you very much. I hope it becomes a success and people will discover new books and authors.
eyðimörk, I found a link to an interview that the book store, Librairie Mollat, posted with Olivier Truc discussing Le dernier lapon. I can understand quite a bit of his French, thanks to my languages. This looks to be a really good book to read. I'll have to check for translations.

By the way, TL book stores, are good to follow on twitter, youtube and other social media to get recommendations on what's new and exciting.

Edited by iguanamon on 15 December 2014 at 3:04pm

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Senior Member
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Speaks: Norwegian*, English, Spanish, French, Romansh, German, Italian
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 Message 10 of 69
15 December 2014 at 2:40pm | IP Logged 
I made the suggestion (I think) of writing in one’s TLs, so I’ll stick to my word and do that most of the time, adding a translation in English. I do not mind corrections by native speakers, but most of all I hope that people will contribute with comments or questions on the content.

sillygoose1 wrote:
Houellebecq's work was exactly as I'd expected. Saddening and depressingly realistic. Although I don't think Platform is one of his best, it's still classic Houellebecq in the sense that it depicts contemporary society and our new needs as we continue to grow technologically and begin to adapt to new customs as well as ideas.

FR :
Sillygoose1, je trouve aussi que Houellebecq est un écrivain intéressant, même s'il ne figure pas entre mes écrivains préférés. J'ai lu Les Particules élémentaires et La Possibilité d'une île, mais pas Plateforme. La Carte et le Territoire est sur ma liste, j’espère pouvoir commencer à le lire pendant les vacances de Noël.

Je dois dire que La Possibilité d'une île est un livre assez intrigant. Les thèmes sont typiquement hoellebecquiens : le pessimisme existentiel, le sexe et la relation entre homme et femme, la critique sociale…. Or, la narrative est innovante, construite autour du récit de vie de Daniel1, avec des commentaires d’autres Daniel, notamment Daniel24 et 25, qui vivent plusieurs siècles plus tard que Daniel1. Il s’agit en fait d’une série de clonages. Autre thème particulier de ce roman est la vie des sectes, exemplifiée par la secte des Élohimites. Bref, à mon avis c’est un des romans français les plus captivants des dernières années.

(I also find that Houllebecq is an interesting writer, although not one of my favourites. I have read “Atomised” and “The Possibility of an Island”, but not “Platform”. “The Map and the Territory” is on my list, and I hope to be able to start reading it during the Christmas holiday.

I must say that “The Possibility of an Island is quite intriguing. It is typically Houellebecq, dealing with questions such as existential pessimism, sex and the relation between man and woman, social criticism… The narrative is quite innovative, as it turns around the life story of Daniel1, with commentaries by other Daniels, notably Daniel24 and 25, as it turns around a series of clones. Another theme in this novel is the life of sects, through the example of the sect “the Elohimites”. In short, I think it is one of the most interesting novels written in French in the last few years.)

Este año no he leído muchos libros en español, porque he dedicado más tiempo a mejorar otras lenguas, pero quiero mencionar dos que he leído por segunda vez este año. Ya los leí hace muchos años, cuando todavía era estudiante de universidad, y los dos me impactaron mucho en aquel momento.

El primero es “Del sentimiento trágico de la vida” de Miguel de Unamuno. Es un ensayo filosófico que es todo un clásico, en el que el gran escritor salmantino explora el sentido de la vida, la religión y la relación que el ser humano entretiene con su prójimo y con su Dios. Unamuno se inspiró mucho en las obras del filósofo danés Søren Kierkegaard, y el que conoce la obra de Kierkegaard verá reflejado muchas de las mismas ideas transformadas a un contexto cultural y religioso español.

El otro libro es muy diferente. Se titula “La Tabla de Flandes”, escrito por Arturo Pérez Reverte y publicado en 1990. Reverte es conocido como reportero de conflictos y guerras para RTVE, y como escritor destaca la saga histórica “Las aventuras del Capitán Alatriste”. Ahora, La Tabla de Flandes está situada en el presente, y el argumento es de misterio y suspense. Elementos claves son el arte, la estética y el ajedrez. No voy a desvelar el argumento, pero recomiendo este libro a todo el que sea amante de misterios y tramas.

(I have not read much in Spanish this year, as I dedicate more time to improve other languages, but I would like to mention two books that I re-read this year. I read both of them many years ago, when I was still a student, and at the time they made a big impact on me.

The first one is “The Tragic Sense of Life” by Miguel de Unamuno. It is a philosophical work which is a real classic, in which the great writer from Salamanca explores the meaning of life, religion and man’s relation with his fellow beings and with his God. Unamuno was greatly influenced by the works of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, and if you know the work of Kierkegaard you will see many of the same ideas, but transferred to a Spanish cultural and religious context.

The second book is very different. It is “The Flanders Panel” by Arturo Pérez Reverte, published in 1990. Reverte is well known as a journalist covering conflicts and wars in RTVE, and as a writer, the history novel series “The Adventures of Captain Alatriste” stands out. Well, The Flanders Panel is situated in the present, and it is a novel of mystery and intrigue. Key elements are the arts, aesthetics and chess. I will not reveal the story, but I recommend this book strongly to anyone who loves mysteries.)

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1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 Message 11 of 69
15 December 2014 at 2:51pm | IP Logged 
I switched over to essentially reading only German books two years ago. In 2013 I mostly read children/young-adult books (Harry Potter etc) and decided that for 2014 I would finally graduate to adult texts.

I've managed to read 23 books so far this year, and should finish at least one more before 2015 starts.

I started the year with 'Gammler, Zen und hohe Berge' (Dharma Bums) by Jack Kerouac, which was a surprisingly easy read. In part I think because Kerouac's poetic style just carries you along, so you don't need to understand every word to really immerse yourself in the prose.

I enjoy the straight optimistic prose style of Haruki Murakami, and read a couple of his books in 2014: Südlich der Grenze, westlich der Sonne, a mysterious love story about a man who finds himself successful in middle-age, but somehow disappointed with the course of his life; and the new book 'Die Pilgerjahre des farblosen Herrn Tazaki', about a man who tries to find out why all his friends suddenly shunned him ten years prior. As this is a typical Murakami book, the book ends with no simple answers, but I found the ending very satisfying. I was also fun to have read the German translation a good six months before the English translation became available. One word of warning: Some of the earlier German translations of Murakami were actually done from English translations (presumably because Japanese-German translators cost more) and should be avoided.

Some other books I have enjoyed:

* Betty Blue: 37,2° am Morgen by Phillipe Djian - a pretty straightforward read. Interestingly, if you are a Djian fan, you have many more opportunities to read this books in German, than in English.

* Open City by Teju Cole, detailing a Nigerian psychiatrist musings on life as he goes on long walks of exploration through New York City. It's interesting as while the story is written from the viewpoint on an immigrant/black/outsider, the protagonist is a rich hyper-intellectual. Ultimately I found the main character too unlikeable to really enjoy the book, but it was interesting. I found this a relatively difficult read.

* Nullzeit by Juli Zeh. My first German novel. Nice clear prose style. Alternating chapters tell an account of a possible murder, from two very different perspectives. I'd like to read more of Zeh's work.

* Russendisko by Wladimir Kaminer. Kaminer is a minor celebrity here in Berlin. When the Wall fell in 1989 he was able to immigrate as a young man to East Germany in the short window while it still existed after the Wall fell. The book is a collection of short newspaper stories he published in 1990s living life as a poor Russian émigré. It offers a sort of viewpoint on Berlin from that era, but is badly edited and I would recommend avoiding it. There is also a film adaptation, which might be better to watch.

* Manhattan: Drehbuch by Woody Allen. I picked up a secondhand copy of script to Manhattan for a euro and read it over a weekend. It was one of the first books I have really read extensively just for enjoyment. It was quite interesting just reading dialogue too for a change - the style of language is quite different. An easy read.

* Angst und Schrecken in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson. I found this a great easy read as Thompson explores the American dream in Las Vegas of the 1970s.

* Crime: I started reading the Harry Hole stories by the Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø 'Der Fledermausmann' (Australian race relations and murder in Australia), Kakerlaken (murdered ambassador in Bangkok), Rotkehlchen (Neo-Nazis in Norway) - I like Nesbø, but not quite enough to devour this series (there are 7-8 more Hole books to go). He's an easy read though, and I like his sort of left/punk political perspective, and his alcoholic detective Harry Hole.

* Crime: I also read 'Total Cheops' (La trilogie Fabio Montale #1) the first book in Marseilles crime trilogy by Jean-Claude Izzo. I was originally planning to read the whole trilogy, but found the writing (or at least the translation) too difficult, and will have to come back to this in a couple of years. I have heard that Izzo puts a lot of Marseillaise slang into the books, which may make them quite difficult to translate. If I was learning French this would definitely be an author I would like to tackle.

* Scifi: 'Solaris' by Stanislaw Lem - given how popular the Polish scifi-writer Lem was in the Soviet Union, it almost felt like I wasn't reading a translation when I picked up an old DDR translation of Lem's classic book of human contact with a truly alien mind. One of the great scifi novels of the 20th Century, and one the movies only partly do justice to.

* Scifi: I read the Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton, a huge sprawling space opera, that clocking in about 3000 pages over four books (Der Stern Der Pandora; Die Boten des Unheils; Der entfesselte Judas; Die dunkle Festung), is sort of the space opera length equivalent to the Harry Potter series. I enjoyed the start of the books, but definitely could have done with tighter editing. Overall OK, but not strongly recommended.

* Scifi: '2312' by Kim Stanley Robinson. A beautiful view of the solar system from two hundred years ahead, with utopian settlements on the asteroids and planets using a Basque barter system, and the Earth suffering from years of hypercapitalism. I love Robinson's prose in English, but it was just too hard for me in translation. It's a book I would like to come back to in a couple of years once my German is a bit stronger.

* Scifi: 'Zeitschiffe' by Stephen Baxter is the sequel to the Time Machine by HG Wells. It's remarkable how well Baxter has both captured the original writing style of Wells, while managing to write a totally new story of time travel using the latest theories of quantum physics, multiple world theory etc, all told from the viewpoint of a 19th C English scientist with a somewhat colonial/Victorian view on the universe. Straightforward read.

* Fantasy: I am not usually a big fan of fantasy, but enjoyed reading two of Neil Gaiman's books this year: Sternwanderer and American Gods. In American Gods Gaiman presupposes all the gods are real, and exist in America, having been brought there by different immigrant groups over the years. This could have been really cheesy, but works remarkably well. A generally light book, with some very dark chapters (e.g., depictions of slavery in the Caribbean and the US in the 18th C).

I think I won't be able to realistically keep up the same reading pace next year, but I'll try to read about 5000 pages of German next year (plus newspapers etc). I want to get more involved in environmental politics here, so I might try reading some non-fiction books too, to get a better handle on the relevant German vocabulary.

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Senior Member
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Studies: German

 Message 12 of 69
15 December 2014 at 2:58pm | IP Logged 
If anyone is looking for German reading ideas, these links might be helpful:

Love German Books, blog written by translator Katy Derbyshire in Berlin.

For reviews of contemporary German literature.

German Independent Publishers Hotlist:ücher-2014.

German Bookprize:

Deutscher Krimi Preis:
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Via Diva
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 Message 13 of 69
15 December 2014 at 3:41pm | IP Logged 
I was a bookworm, and maybe I still am one. Unfortunately, I haven't read much of my two
favourite authors (well, two among the others) - Stefan Zweig and Daphne Du Maurier, especially
the things I like the most. I want to describe them both later, now I would like to tell about
sudden discoveries, gems I did not expect to meet.
- The Compound, The Fallout (S. A. Bodeen)
I don't generally like young adult novels. I was once fascinated by Twilight, I've even winded
up thinking a massive plot of a fanfic involving yours truly (and I still think it was good even now
when I've forgotten everything, haha), Harry Potter is in a different category to me, and
other YA-novels wasn't attractive enough from page 1. However, I have come to this particular
novel (The Compound) accidentally and had no idea what to expect.
It's easily written, though not way too easy, the plot is purely fantastic to me, it's one option of
future that you just won't believe in. I won't retell the plot, it's easy to find in Wikipedia, I've
forgotten the details, what was the greatest moment for me here is how I've swallowed the
books. I read fast, and the speed of reading matters a lot to me. Well, this is one case when the
speed, not some boring plot and the language worked out good. Easy reading is always on
- Mercy aka The keeper of lost causes (Adler-Olsen Jussi)
Originally Danish book. I have bumped into it via a group (no links, but I would tell in PM,
or, even better, on itself :P), downloaded it and have forgotten about it for a while.
When I got to read it, things went slow as a turtle, step by step and all taking too much time.
Maybe it was easy for me to get tired back then (about a year ago), because the plot takes you in
from the very first pages. It's that kind of detectives that shows off details, leaves clues here and
there and yet you can't guess what's going on. It was so very fascinating, that I have finished
reading it on a physical chemistry lecture (well, these lectures were boring as hell). I've dug up
the pirate sources in a search of the second book in English to no avail, and got so upset with that
that I've neglected reading it in Russian. Yes, I like the plot, yes, I am damn interested in finding
out what follows, but no, no way I'm gonna read it in Russian. Eh...
- The Cuckoo's Calling (Robert Galbraith aka You-Know-Who)
I remember the frustration as I've realised I couldn't read The Casual Vacancy in English.
Every page was a fight which I was to lose every time. I hate losing, so I had to switch to Russian.
Maybe this should've set me against the very tries to read The Cuckoo's Calling in English...
but nothing happened, except that I was just as slow at the beginning as I was with the book,
mentioned just above. Again, I have no idea why. I adore a good detective, and if the plot isn't
boring I usually read with the speed of lightning, here I behave like a sloppy car which takes an
hour to reach its normal speed.
What can I say about the book? Not the easiest read ever, but also not the hardest one. I've
enjoyed it greatly, I think I don't even have to explain why. It's all about You-Know-Who. Yes, I
was afraid You-Know-Who won't do great here, and yet again I was mistaken with the difference
that this time I didn't have to switch to my native language to get it.
- Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, Dark Places (Gillian Flynn)
I went to a cinema to see Gone Girl. I always go set for some disappointment as I am not a
fan of dubbing, but the atmosphere always outweighs. Even though I have paid enough attention,
I didn't quite got the end. Plus I was thrilled to see the movie in English. Thinking about how to
fix it I've remembered (or seen a post about) that it's an adaptation of a book. I grasped the
English version, took Russian just in case and began reading.
I have to say that I am also a sloppy reader. If I see an unknown word I mostly skip it if things
aren't too unclear. Well, Gillian Flynn's books made my sloppiness almost invisible. I knew I don't
know every single word, but I've blocked it. I've read all her books in two-three weeks in that
exact order, and what can I say? It's the atmosphere, it pulls you in, you don't have time to bother
about words (and when I did - it still was quite often due to the volume of the books - I felt like a
language learner, hehe), you don't even want to guess what follows - you just read on and on and
on and on until you're done.

feel free
to correct (lang-8)

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Senior Member
Czech Republic
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 Message 14 of 69
15 December 2014 at 9:15pm | IP Logged 
Thanks, iguanamnon. From the next post on, I'm writing in all my languages wherever it is
relevant. I was just being lazy there.

Thanks for the tip on Le dernier lapon, it looks great.
Patrick, thanks for the tips. I loved Solaris as well. Have you tried some German
crimi/sci-fi/fantasy authors?
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Senior Member
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Speaks: German*, English
Studies: French, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin

 Message 15 of 69
15 December 2014 at 10:23pm | IP Logged 
Cavesa wrote:
However, most books
of Pratchett's, including this one, might be too difficult for an intermediate
learner. Fortunately, he is one of those authors where excitement and fandom gets you
over all the obstacles.

Pratchett is the reason why I can use English today.

The only books that gripped me this year were Tony Hillerman's Leaphorn and Chee stories, and his A fly on the wall.

Oh, and Colin Cotterill's The woman who wouldn't die.

(Yup, English, all of them. I must've read more, and in other languages, why can't I remember?)

Edited by Bao on 15 December 2014 at 10:24pm

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Senior Member
Virgin Islands
Speaks: Ladino
Joined 5104 days ago

2237 posts - 6731 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Creole (French)

 Message 16 of 69
15 December 2014 at 10:51pm | IP Logged 
eyðimörk described the book Le dernier lapon by Olivier Truc. I want to read it but I don't understand French well enough to truly enjoy it. What am I to do? Read it in Spanish! Check out this cool trailer for El último lapon.

Or I can read it in Portuguese- "Quarenta Dias sem Sombra".

For those who want to read in English, the title of the translation is "Forty Days Without Shadow: An Arctic Thriller".

Edited by iguanamon on 15 December 2014 at 11:51pm

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