Category Archives: Books & Comics

Stuff about books.

Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)

Do you remember watching a movie and having the unstoppable feeling you need to pause and grab a tissue, because you’re sure to start crying soon? I remember wanting to cry when Mufasa died in the Lion King (I was eight), or when Johnny Five got beaten to metal pulp in Short Circuit II (I was nine).

Nowadays, though, I don’t get that feeling anymore – it has been replaced by something else: chills. The end of Stay sends chills down my spine, as does the moment in LOST were Charlie has a series-defining heroic moment. Reading the last part of Harry Potter also sent chills down my spine – particularly Neville Longbottom and his killing Nagini. But, seriously, emotionally moved to the verge of tears? Not quite.

Until someone put “Tuesdays with Morrie” in my hands. It’s non-fiction, 185 pages long and written by Mitch Albom, a sports journalist. How could this possible be good? The subject: his talks with Morrie Schwarz, an old sociology professor of his, whom he had not seen for sixteen years after his graduation… and when he saw him, he was in the later stages of a terminal disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS). Albom then witnesses the last seminar by Morrie: a seminar between the two of them, without a test, with a deadline. Subject? Lessons of life.

Even if you’re not a true reader, like me, you will easily love this book. It’s sad, it’s depressing, but it’s equally hopeful. It’s hilarious at times, but most of the times it just reaches into your soul and touches you.

Some quotes:

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me you need others to survive, right?” His voice dropped to a whisper. “But here’s the secret: in between, we need others as well.”

I cannot possible describe the range of emotions you’ll go through whilst reading this. I don’t think I should try either. Just this: try this book – it’s a life lesson.

Lord of the Flies (William Golding)

Remember how Anneke left a considerable amount of books in her room when she left? Amongst them are great classics, one of which I should but never have read. Remember high school? Remember having to read the great classics for English class? Brave New World? 1984? Of mice and men? Remember not reading any of them? I think it was time for me to return something to mr. Spriet and mr. Verhelst, a bit of culture I should’ve had almost five years ago. So, with great anticipation, I read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. The story is easy enough: some youngsters strand on a deserted island, with no civilisation left whatsoever safe for their own. One thing leads to an other, and pigs die. Lots of them.

The book is written like a movie, and reads like a train (if this saying can be translated to English), from the very first to the very last page. It gets a bit predictive, but having studied the story in high school obviously has something to do with that. I remember having to read some parts aloud, and Marijn always did this hilarious “Kill the beast” chant. Good times, good times.

Since there’s only so much a review can provide (without leading to a boring plot analysis), I’ll just supply you with a quote:

Simon looked up, feeling the weight of his wet hair, and gazed at the sky. Up there, for once, were clouds, great bulging towers that sprouted away over the island, grey and cream and copper-coloured. The clouds were sitting on the land, they squeezed, produced moment by moment, this close, tormenting heat. Even the butterflies deserted the open space where the obscene thing grinned and dripped. Simon lowered his head, carefully keeping his eyes shut, then sheltered them with his hand. There were no shadows under the trees but everywhere a pearly stillness, so that what was real seemed illusive and without definition. The pile of
guts was a black blob of flies that buzzed like a saw. After a while these flies found Simon. Gorged, they alighted by his runnels of sweat and drank. They tickled under his nostrils and played leap-frog on his thighs. They were black and iridescent green and without number; and in front of Simon, the Lord of the Flies hung on his stick and grinned. At last Simon gave up and looked back; saw the white teeth and im eyes, the blood – and his gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition. In Simon’s right temple, a pulse began to beat on
the brain.

The Nanny Diaries (Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus)

Since Anneke – the person whose room I’m currently residing in – and myself agreed that she could leave her books (and apparently most of her shoes, although I didn’t recall saying that) in the blue bookshelf next to the door, I don’t see the harm in “accidently” reading one. I’m not really a big reader, but most of Anneke’s English collection is either considered an English literature classic, or reads away really easily.

The nanny diaries by Emma McLaughling and Nicola Kraus is – obviously – one of the latter. But seriously: what a pleasant surprise reading that book was! It has a diaryish, bloggish feel to it, and to top it off, it reaches a level of funny I myself can only dream of on my own little journal… which you are reading right now. Some people might consider this book pulp, and it probably is, but nonetheless I have really enjoyed every single little page, because it is indeed (thus writes the book’s own publisher on the cover in a fancy one-sentence review, how’s that for objectivity) “diabolically funny”.

A little extract to get you people going:

She stares at me expectantly, ready for me to bring it on home. “I love children! I love little hands and little shoes and peanut butter sandwiches and peanut butter in my hair and Elmo -I love Elmo – and sand in my purse and the “Hokey Pokey” – can’t get enough of it! – and soy milk and blankies and the endless barrage of questions no one knows the answers to, I mean why is the sky blue? And Disney! Disney is my second language!” We can both hear “A whole new World” slowly swelling in the background as I earnestly convey that it would be more than a privilege to take care of her child – it would be an adventure.

I love how the irony, the sarcasm just flows off it. The entire book is written in this witty way, and I absolutely adore the style. Reminds me that I should read something Discworld-related someday… if anyone in Berlin also has someone who left sixty-something books in you room, and Discworld is amongst them… let me know!

P.S.: Elmo is pretty rad.