So, 9/11 is now one of these exceptional historic events that serve as the background and frame for literature… Feels strange because we can all still remember where we were and what we were thinking when we first saw the footage of these planes hitting the buildings. We are the people in the book.

Strangely, even though it is called “extremely loud…” this story focusses on the very quiet silence after the storm, one little boy left alone, looking for clues about his father, who was one of the victims, a boy obsessed with an impossible task that will take an indefinite amount of time, to be able to keep on searching instead of having to face the terrible truth. I liked this book because it is sad but not graphically so and it has a strong storyline that goes beyond the one historic event, stretching all the way back into World War 2. Apart from the good story and specific way of telling it, it also charmed me with a lot of half random photos spread through the book.

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One of the saddest books I have read in a while. A Korean girl who lives as a runaway kid in New York, meanders in and out of drug abuse, meets and abandons friends, never gets to terms with her crazy sad mother and her crazy vanishing father. While reading it you feel right there, in the middle of it, see her make one bad choice after another and can’t help but follow her into the corners of darkness.

I smiled a number of times or even chuckled. This is not your typical “What to expect in the first year” kind of child care book. But just what one father experienced being a cooking stay-at-home dad, who refuses to feed his daughter bland baby food. Some of his stories go far beyond what I would feed my baby, but that’s not the point. What I really enjoyed is the frankness and readiness to laugh about himself. And I understood some practical things that will come in handy as soon as my baby gets there: There is a point in their life when most young kids start refusing specific food groups. The author suspects that has something to do with being able to think in categories and loving to sort things. So a typical two-to-three year old might say “I don’t eat vegetables” or “I don’t eat meat” and – apart from being a picky eater – learn sorting foods into the vegetable – non-vegetable categories. The other thought I found interesting: What you eat as a kid does not predetermine what you eat as an adult. Which takes a lot of pressure off parents. A good example for this is Sushi. Where I grew up, that didn’t even exist. So most of my friends who love it today cannot have grown up with it. Well, read for yourself, maybe even cook some of the recipes – if you have a lot of time at hand…

The title says it all and if it rings a bell, swallow your pride (“I’m not the type who reads self help books”) and read it. Because I think that this is one of these books that can change a life by re-framing something that is often seen as a weakness into a possible strength and instead of judging (“you have to learn to stick to something” “Jack of all trades and master of none” etc.) Lobenstine helps the reader to explore how to stay focused by developing focal points, considering umbrella careers or moving from one interest to the next sequentially without necessarily always having to start back at square one. While reading it I thought of 10 friends and relatives who I would like to give this too. One of the few library books that I want to buy after reading.

This book about two girls growing up as daughters of Hippie parents makes me glad that I was born just a tad bit too late (or to parents just a tad bit too conventional…) to have experienced some of this egocentric, drug experimenting, free loving parenting that can now entertain and slightly scare me in novels… While not too original this novel is also not too cliche to be worth reading. And sometimes it’s just like reading a crime novel – the “coming of age with useless parents” novel is a certain art form within which some authors excel more than others. And it feels nice and safe to read a book that I know – not this specific book but its kind…

“Since my arrival in Rio Roto I’d almost always understood, in a literal sense, everything people said to me. I never had to ask anyone to repeat or rephrase what they’d said. But I often had the impression, as I had in the Malvinas, that I’d nevertheless failed to grasp the meaning behind their words. I can only describe it as a kind of unaccountable incompleteness, as though every time someone spoke to me a few of the words fell away before they reached me. Everything I heard seemed to have pieces missing.”

The reader follows Nitido Aman deep into this confusion in a book that is original in its storyline and characters. Driven by the urge to find out more about his parents’ home country and their life in Guatemala before they emigrated to the US, the protagonist rather naively slides into the depths of a community still scarred and divided by the brutal history of guerrilla warfare.

A nice and entertaining read. If you’re into cooking. I was surprised that – even though I’m vegetarian – I found a book interesting that goes on and on to describe different ways of stuffing meat with meat and then maybe wrapping it in some more meat. What’s wrong with the French? And why is everyone so crazy about their food? But that’s a different story…

I will not read soccer-mom novels for at least a few months. I’m just tired of them. They scare me of being a mom in the US and annoy me in their predictable targeting of people very similar to me (aaaaah, I don’t want to be one of them!). So I closed this one at page 37 with a sigh of relief. Yes, I am allowed to not finish books.

If I had only one book of poetry, it would be this one. It’s my “take to the lonely island” choice of book. Mainly contemporary poems, some straightforward, others weird but not so straightforwards as to be banal and boring or so weird as to be inaccessible. I’ve been reading it for years and still find new and touching stuff when I open it, it’s as if someone assembled my favorite poems before I even knew them. Today’s find:

Poem for a Daughter

“I think I’m going to have it,”
I said, joking between pains.
The midwife rolled competent
sleeves over corpulent milky arms.
“Dear, you never have it,
we deliver it.”
A judgment years prove true.
Certainly I’ve never had you

as you still have me, Caroline.
Why does a mother need a daughter?
Heart’s needle, hostage to fortune,
freedom’s end. Yet nothing’s more perfect
than that bleating, razor-shaped cry
that delivers a mother to her baby.
The bloodcord snaps that held
their spheres together. The child,
tiny and alone, creates the mother.

A woman’s life is her own
until it is taken away
by a first particular cry.
Then she is not alone
but part of the premises
of everything there is:
a time, a tribe, a war.
When we belong to the world
we become what we are.

Anne Stevenson

It’s been a while since I read a book that I wanted to stay up at night for and just read, read, read. This is one. The story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautiful and precious Jewish book, unfolds as we follow the traces of the past that the rare book expert Hannah finds in the binding. The historical snapshots are all set at times and places where rich multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies are threatened by a backslash of intolerance and, often, terror against everything that does not fit into the smaller and smaller definition of truth. While I’m normally not so much into historical novels, this one managed to keep me entranced with believable, engaging characters.