Modern day hillbillies

Strong ‘rags to riches’ story, very funny at times, but above all a cultural critique of white, working-class America. The author, J.D. Vance, a hillbilly himself, describes their increasingly marginalized social position through the unlikely, mostly miserable, lives of his own family. An important book to better understand modern America. Also read this great interviewContinue reading “Modern day hillbillies”

Vriendschap is liefde

Zelden hebben ik een intensere leeservaring gehad. Ik las staand, liggend, ‘s nachts en overdag. Wat ik las was uiterst wreed, pijnlijk en emotioneel. Maar uiteindelijk vooral erg mooi. Een Klein Leven is een uitzonderlijk verhaal over liefde en vriendschap, dat me heeft  geraakt. Hoofdpersonen Jude en Willem zullen me niet snel verlaten. Hanya Yanagihara, Een klein leven, 752 p, Nieuw Amsterdam

Begrensde opvang is de oplossing

    Grenzen zijn filters, geen muren. Het lijkt slechts semantiek, maar in deze constatering ligt naar mijn mening een goed startpunt voor een oplossing voor het ingewikkelde debat over vluchteling en de grenzen van Europa. Landgrenzen hebben niet twee standen – dicht of open – maar geven een samenleving de kans om controle uitContinue reading “Begrensde opvang is de oplossing”

Auschwitz verdwijnt nooit

“Survivre vous rend insuportables les larmes des autres. On pourrait s’y noyer.” Marceline Loridan-Ivens heeft Auschwitz overleefd. En schrijft nu een lange, zeer aangrijpende, brief aan haar vader met wie ze samen werd gedeporteerd. Hij kwam echter niet terug. Ze zijn gescheiden op het moment dat de vader-dochter relatie diepte zou krijgen. Ze weet niet watContinue reading “Auschwitz verdwijnt nooit”

Baltische Zielen – Jan Brokken (2010)

Beautiful, often emotional, stories describing the fascinating and cruel history of the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, wedged between Europe and Russia. Brokken makes us witnesses of the lives of both normal and famous people dealing with fear, humiliation and murder as their countries are constant object of foreign occupation: be it Polish, German of Russian.

Soumission – Michel Houellebecq (2015)

One of the most intriguing notions Houellebecq puts forward in his latest novel is not that the populist right is a stable force in the political landscape, nor that in 2022 a Muslim party wins a large share of votes. No, it’s the reaction to this outcome that surprises. When it becomes clear that theContinue reading “Soumission – Michel Houellebecq (2015)”

HhhH – Laurent Binet (2009)

Sublime historical thriller about the murder of ‘the blonde Nazi Beast’ Reinhard Heydrich,  or, as Hitler liked to call him, ‘The man with the Iron Heart’. Remembered me of Slaugtherhouse 5, with a zest of the painful humor of La Vita e Bella, that I couldn’t put down (really!). The structure of ultra short chapters,Continue reading “HhhH – Laurent Binet (2009)”

Whoops! – John Lanchester (2010)

With great wit Lanchester describes what went wrong during the prelude to the financial crisis and who is to blame (answer: the risk takers, i.e.bankers, but also you and me). In plain language CDO’s, securitization and the difference between debt and deficit are explained, helping to better grasp the painful reality: Why everyone owes everyoneContinue reading “Whoops! – John Lanchester (2010)”

The Years of Lyndon Johnson, the Passage of Power – Robert Caro (2012)

Hands down the best political biography I’ve read. The book gives great insights in the man and the President Lyndon Baines Johnson was, telling the story of a turbulent era in US history through a new lens – ranging from the Cuba Crisis to the Civil Rights Act. In essence it’s a lesson on howContinue reading “The Years of Lyndon Johnson, the Passage of Power – Robert Caro (2012)”

Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse 5 (1972)

A shock. Has all the ingredients to be an awful boy-goes-time-traveling-ferrytale , but it is nothing short of a fantastic book. Having read quite some war novels, this one took me off-guard with its beautiful and intense description of a tormented and harsh life after the US bombings of Dresden. Will never forget the refrainContinue reading “Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse 5 (1972)”

Why Nations Fail – James A. Robinson & Daron Acemoğlu (2012)

It’s subtitle reads The Origins of Power, Prosperity an Poverty. And that’s exactly what I took from the book. Help is needless if a society doesn’t have working institutions, rule of law and respect for private ownership. I read the book while in Mali, a country which proves the book’s thesis to be right.

Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman (2011)

Brilliant. If I had to choose one book to take with me to a deserted island, this is the one. It’s insightful, erudite, innovative (at least to me). It took me a while to read, because every single page is interesting and makes one think. For example; we all suffer from focusing illusion: nothing inContinue reading “Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman (2011)”

Antifragile – Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2012)

An eye-opener on how systems should work to be able to confront the future (not robust, but anti-fragile), from a man I regard as a kind of a hero. Completely independent, extremely smart, but also horrible a presenter and storyteller, as I learned first-hand during a workshop on this book. Anti-fragilty is now part ofContinue reading “Antifragile – Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2012)”