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Proust at the Majestic
Richard Davenport-Hines
Reizen zonder John - Op zoek naar Amerika
Geert Mak

Tokyo Travel Pack (Globetrotter Travel Packs)

Tokyo Travel Pack - Sue Thompson The use of stars is quite useful, but the content is rather outdated.

Trees, maps and theorems

Trees, maps, and theorems - Jean-luc Doumont The three rules for effective (scientific) communication: adapt to your audience, improve the signal-to-noise ratio, and use effective redundancy. These rules apply to every form of communication: articles, abstracts, e-mails, posters, oral presentations, websites, graphs, reports, manuals,...I was lucky enough to attend a series of Jean-Luc's lectures at the very start of my PhD, and it has improved my scientific output tremendously. I can only imagine how I would have struggled to get my articles, posters and presentations right without his advice, and I have received many positive comments about them ever since.Simply a must-read for every scientist (student, professor, researcher, manager) who ever needs to write or present (in other words, everyone). Don't wait, read it now!

Duet met valse noten

Duet met valse noten - Bart Moeyaert I do prefer the author's newer books. This one was written when he was still a teenager and well... it's noticable. The two main characters are cute, though, and it's quite easy to relate to them, but I was never really touched by the book in any way...

Comingout / druk 1: verhalen over vertellen wie je echt bent

Coming out: Verhalen over vertellen wie je echt bent - Nine Cornelissen, Miriam Van Damme My main problem with this little book: the stories are too short.Usually, I am very emotionally touched by this kind of stories, since I can connect quite well with many of them. It is then difficult for me to read them and I always have the urge to get up and go hug or comfort these poor guys and girls. The same is true for all those coming-out stories out there on youtube or television.However, not in this book. The stories are simply too short, too flat, to be very touching. Most (all but one?) stories have a happy ending, where we are sucked - in only a few pages time - from early crush to depression to coming-out to happiness and oh-my-god-life-is-so-good-now. It just doesn't work that way. By leaving out so many details, the stories lose a lot of their body and soul.It could have been so much better if only this book was larger, bigger, and more intense. On the plus side, the storytellers are very divers: male, female, old, young, famous, foreigners, transgender,...

De alchemist / druk 70

De Alchemist - Harrie Lemmens, Paulo Coelho This is more a fairytale than a story, but a very beautiful one. Every sentence, every paragraph is crafted into a piece of jewelry that can be admired for hours on end. The story could be called rather 'flat' (although this gets better near the end), but it is never boring or even predictable. The admirable protagonist is the person everyone wants to be: a young man chasing his dreams, looking for happiness, and following his own legend.I'm doubting whether to give this four or five stars, but since it has been so long since my maximum rating, let's go for the five stars. In any case, a must read before you die.He who loves, can become anything.

Hersenschimmen / druk 52

Hersenschimmen - J. Bernlef A novel on dementia. Maarten Klein suddenly notices that part of his memories are disappearing. He cannot remember if it is morning or afternoon, he wants to go to work while he has been retired for years, and he doesn't remember who he is seeing on his own wedding pictures.Several books on this subject exist, but the viewpoint is original and very believable. The story is told in first person, as if you were Maarten himself and constantly wondering where you have left your stuff, or who that unknown woman is, cooking in the kitchen. The story becomes more and more fragmented as his dementia gets worse and worse. Near the end, these fragments become more abstract and difficult to grasp, as Maarten is completely losing his grip on reality.Very touching and unnerving.

Extreem luid & ongelooflijk dichtbij / druk 28

Extreem Luid & Ongelooflijk Dichtbij - Jonathan Safran Foer, Gerda Baardman, Tjadine Stheeman The nine-year-old Oskar Schell finds a key that belonged to his father, Thomas Schell, who died in the attacks of nine/eleven. He starts an adventure to find the lock this key opens, hoping to come closer to his father's memory.I don't know whether to like this book or not. There are two things to like. Firstly, the constant play with words and styles, which makes every chapter of the book feel refreshing. The use of pictures, of space, of emptiness, going beyond borders. Secondly, the story itself is unraveled in an intriguing way. It unfolds through flashbacks and flashforwards, through old memories, through forgotten letters, and only in the final tens of pages everything adds up.It is, however, the combination of these two things that bothers me. The constant play with styles diverts the attention away from the story. But on the other hand, the constant use of flashbacks and the raising of questions requires a lot of attention. Maybe I am not smart enough for this book, or I started reading it too lightly, without knowing what was expected from me. In any case, I want to read it again, not because I liked it that much, but because I feel I missed several crucial parts of the story...

Ben X - niets was alles wat hij zei

Ben X - niets was alles wat hij zei - Nic Balthazar Ben X is a success story - a book, a film, a musical. The story is, though short, quite touching. Ben, a teenager with a (not too extreme) form of autism, sick of being bullied, plans to end his life. But not everything went according to plan.Even though this book is intended for young readers, the language feels a little bit too superficial, a bit too artificial. As if it was difficult to find the right metaphores, to find the exact words to describe the main character's feelings. Only at the end, the final twenty pages, the story gets going and the emotions start coming. And then it's over. Personally I preferred the film.

Denkwaar / druk 1: spelen met getallen, woorden en vormen

Denkwaar: Spelen met getallen, woorden en vormen - Jaap Klouwen An amusing collection of mathematical and linguistic problems with (most of the time) an adequate answer in the back of the book. However, it would take a huge amount of time to really think about all of these problems, and to come up with an answer yourself. I must admit that I ended up simply reading the problem and immediately looking up the solution :(

Tonio / druk 2: een requiemroman

Tonio : een requiemroman - A.F.Th. van der Heijden van der Heijden has written an intensely touching and intimate requiem for his 22-year old son, who died in a car accident in the spring of 2010. He describes memories of long lost times, reconstructs the events of that fatal night, and wonders what life would have had in store for Tonio if the entire world had shifted for a mere second to avoid the crash.The book is very long which makes it feel a bit 'too much' at times, especially near the end. And from time to time I can't get rid of the feeling that van der Heijden pays quite some attention to the flaws and 'small sides' of the people around him, and rarely to his own.The story has little structure, but this helps in depicting the period of despair his wife and him went through after the accident and while writing the book. It is impossible to not wipe away a tear when several pages of happy memories are violently ended by a dark sentence about the unavoidable reality, cutting through your flesh and through your heart. Tonio is not here anymore. But van der Heijden has done everything he can to remember his son in the best way possible.

Het leven van Pi / druk 35

Het Leven van Pi - Yann Martel, Gerda Baardman, Tjadine Stheeman A very entertaining novel about an Indian boy lost at sea after his ship sank, with only a zebra, a hyena, and a vicious tiger in his lifeboat. But most of all a story of faith, and believing in what feels best, rather than what sounds more logical.Lots of love for the way Martel manages to describe the immensely long, lonely, empty period in the lifeboat without ever becoming slightly boring. The short chapters make it the perfect book to take with you and read on the bus, train, or in bed. Already looking forward to the film version!

Het symmetrie-monster / druk 1: een wiskundige op zoek naar het geheim van een van de belangrijkste natuurverschijnselen

Het symmetrie-monster - Marcus du Sautoy As with all popular scientific books on mathematics, the sometimes incredible stories about famous mathematicians in history are the most amusing part of the text. However, Du Sautoy often tries to take a different approach and talk more in depth about his own research or the great breakthroughs in the field of group theory and symmetry. Unfortunately, he does this by avoiding any mathematical notations as much as possible, and he never goes into detail on the finer points of the theory, while still trying to explain everything. As a result, large part of the text become completely impossible to understand, even for people with a scientific background (chapter 8 is the worst example). A brave but unsuccessful try to stand out against the other popular books on mathematics. Now it's just... regular.

Alsof het voorbij is / druk 16

Alsof het voorbij is - Julian Barnes, Ronald Vlek A very enjoyable book that I'll definitely read again someday, not too long and not too overly complicated. The first part about the author's memories concerning his youth and first relationship are funny and uncomplicated. In the second part, his contemplations about memory, growing older, and how his life has unwinded evoke a certain seriousness and melancholy. And finally, how the story unfolds and turns upside down in only the last few pages is not surprisingly original, but still unexpected and a great page-turner. Not an overly captivating story or very high-class literature, but still I think it deserves to have won a prestigious reward like the Booker Prize. I like it.

Heldere hemel

Heldere hemel - Tom Lanoye An interesting idea, but too short, too many loose ends, and too little character depth.

De opwindvogelkronieken / druk 9

De opwindvogelkronieken - Haruki Murakami, Jacques Westerhoven It took me quite some time to get through this book, and I almost gave up somewhere in the first half of the third part. At that point, the story seemed to have lost all its focus, mixing up too many storylines, too many characters, and too many loose ends. But I am glad that I persevered and made it to the end. In the final - captivating - chapters, the story wraps itself together again like a piece of paper that's being folded up. Some loose ends remain (like the Kano sisters), but it becomes clear that all characters have their own meaning and played their own vital role in the story.As Murakami himself explains in the postface, much more time was spent on the first two parts of the story, and their feel is much more 'finished' than the third part, which is at times much too long. It might have been better if a little more effort had gone into this third part, it might have made the book a bit more compact and manageable.All in all, a nice book, requiring some time but rewarding in the end. However, not Murakami's best story...

Alles wat je eigenlijk zou moeten weten over film / druk 1: volgens Jan Verheyen

Alles wat je eigenlijk zou moeten weten over film - Jan Verheyen A short and agreeable overview of the highlights in film, both Flemish and international. Of course, you should not expect a complete encyclopedia of movie knowledge, or a summary of every important film ever made. But if you want a quick recap on who this or that director was, or if you are looking for 'older' movies worth watching to extend your movie knowledge, this book is a nice place to start. The major downside is that the list of movies I want to see suddenly became about 100 titles longer...