Book review : Steal like an artist – and – Show your work!
written by Austin Kleon, published by Lannoo
genre nonfiction / self-help, 140 and 215 pages
written by Martje Haverkamp & Emilie Sobers, published by Uitgeverij Unieboek | Het Spectrum bv
genre life-lessons, 188 pages
written by Rainbow Rowell, published by Orion Books
genre young adult / novel, 329 pages
I’d never heard of Rainbow Rowell (yes, her real name) before, but immediately knew I would love this novel just by seeing its cover. It turns out to be one of my all time favourite love stories!
I won’t spoil the fun of reading this book, by giving away too many details. All that’s there to say is that I absolutely loved this beautiful and bittersweet lovestory and got completely wrapped up in it.
The story is set in Omaha, Nebraska in 1986. Over the course of one school year we get to know Eleanor and Park, both sixteen years old, with each their own set of issues, insecurities and feelings of not fitting in. But despite all the tragic events going on around them, they’re brought together by their shared love for comic books and music.
As mentioned before I absolutely adored this book and guess that the ending might be part of this appreciation. The postcard with “three words on it” leaves so many options open for an ending or sequel. It’s up to us, our interpretation and imagination, to decide what those last three words are and how the story continues.
This might make some readers feel disappointed or even frustrated, but to me it was the perfect ending. Having been a part of Eleanor & Park’s life, at the end of the book it’s time to let go, to let them pick up their lives and live it. Whether it’ll be happily ever after, struggling or something in between. In my mind both Eleanor and Park do live on, they’re 17 years old now and it’s only the beginning!
Even though I graduated high school many years ago, I had a great time reading this book. I liked how the story was ornated with many 80’s links but at the same time felt like it could have taken place today. If you, like me, are a hopeless romantic, have an appreciation for good music and comics and a weakness for the unpopular kids, this is a book you shouldn’t miss. Eleanor and Park became a part of me while reading the book and stayed in my mind many weeks afterwards.
written by Bear Grylls, published by Transworld Publishers
genre non-fiction / self-help, 284 pages
Since my boyfriend kept mentioning this book I decided to give it to him as a birthday present. Not having any clue who Bear Grylls is and what the book’s all about. But as soon as I bought it, I realized I’d love this book as much as my boyfriend would.
The 284 pages are filled with 75 precious life lessons, personal experiences and hard-earned wisdom. Written down by a man who not only knows how to stay alive in extreme circumstances, but also knows how to translate these experiences into the most down to earth, to the point and valuable life lessons. A book that had to be read!
Even though I’d not yet heard of the man, it turns out that Mr. Grylls is one of the most well known people around the world, when it comes to survival and outdoor adventure. Starting with training martial arts as a child, Bear joined the British Special Forces as a young man. While serving the 21 SAS he gained many experiences, perfected his skills and trained his heart and mind.
Over the years Bear Grylls has written 20 books and this one is an insider’s guide on how to follow your heart and live an empowered, effective, fun-filled life. As a former member of the SAS, Bear knows first handed how hard life’s challenges can be and how good it feels to keep holding on and to not give up.
A book filled with so many useful lessons can be hard to summarize. Picking my 5 favorite lessons might give you an idea why I loved this book and its author so much. So here they are :
And because it’s incredibly hard to pick only 5, I decided to give a little encore :
Do you get what I mean? It all sounds very logical and sometimes even funny. But we all struggle with motivation or inspiration sometimes. According to Bear, champions never stay down for long. That’s why we need to keep feeding motivation into our brains and souls every single day, that’s what this survival guide is all about.
Having read quite a lot of self-help books, this one is definitely one of the quickest and easiest reads of all. The 75 chapters are very short and concise, they all add a new lesson or insight and together they add up to one overall story. It’s a book that can be read in just a day or two, or to have laying around to pick up every now and then for just that piece of advise suitable for your specific situation or mood. If you’re in an instant need of motivation, this book will be the perfect cure!
– Bear Grylls
written by Katarina Bivald, published by Boekerij
genre fiction / novel, 399 pages
When stumbling across the dutch translation of the ‘The readers of Broken Wheel recommend’, the book cover was reason enough for me to start reading right away. Even though people always say you should’t judge a book by its cover, this one (just like the english versions you can see below) was a perfect representation of the story and its atmosphere; a sweet and funny story about a tiny American town, books, love and friendship. Just like I expected by judging the cover, I fell in love with the readers of Broken Wheel at once!
When Sara, a young Swedish woman who just lost her bookselling job, arrives in Broken Wheel (Iowa, USA) to visit her old and fellow book loving pen pal Amy, it turns out to be the day of Amy’s funeral. Being Amy’s guest, the residents of Broken Wheel decide Sara has to stay and welcome her as their guest.
Finding it hard to just relax and enjoy Broken Wheel’s hospitality, Sara soon finds a way to contribute to everyone’s wellbeing. After discovering Amy’s book collection she decides that opening a book shop will be the perfect way to honor Amy and to give something back to the generous people of the town. With everybody helping her to make the bookshop a success, the project brings the whole community back together.
Sara’s enthusiasm and conviction that there is a book for everyone, helps them to open up their hearts for books, for each other and for themselves. Broken Wheel and Sara turn out to be a match made in heaven.
This book turns out to be one of the loveliest feel good books I’ve read in a long time. The story is both sweet and funny and despite the predictable ending, it never gets boring or lengthy in any way. I loved how we get to know more about Amy and her villagers through Amy’s letters to Sara and how the characters evolve during the book. It’s simply impossible not to fall in love with this town, just like Sara did. On top of that, the many references from famous books helped reminding me how much I love reading books!
written by Inez van Oord, published by Kosmos Uitgevers
genre nonfiction / lifestyle, 263 pages
As long as I can remember, magazines always attracted my attention. Especially beautifully designed magazines, combining pretty pictures with interesting stories and topics. Being the founder of some of the most successful Dutch magazines, I’d heard of Inez van Oord before. I’d read her magazines and more recently found articles about her; about her life and the brave decisions she’s made. When I found out Inez had written a personal book about life, I just couldn’t wait to check it out.
Inez’ natural talent for identifying trends helped her to translate the elements that are missing in life, into magazines that can count on big fanbases. Her magazines Seasons (about living a pure and natural lifestyle) and Happinez (about living a spiritual and mindful life) are great examples of following your guts and making dreams come true. But despite her former success, Inez’ third attempt to set up a new magazine called ‘Humanize’, unfortunately didn’t work out the way she’d envisioned and left her with one question : What to do now?
That’s when creativity kicked back in and Inez decided to write the book she’d been thinking about for many years; a book about living life and finding your balance. The book that has been declared the best spiritual book of 2016. With this book, Inez got back on track and shows once more that following your dreams and guts can make you a very happy and successful person.
Having a lifelong fascination for circles (hence the typical Happinez cover design), this time Inez refers to life itself as a circle. A circle like a compass; a compass with ‘Mind’ as North and ‘Body’ being South, ‘Self’ as East and ‘Others’ being West. A compass to help us find our own balance within those four poles. A compass that can guide us back to the centre of it all, back to the essence of what makes life worth living.
The book is a quick and easy read and the illustrations that complement the stories make reading it even more enjoyable. The book can be divided into two parts. In the first section Inez explains the four quarters of the compass and links them to her own professional and personal life. She tells about her career in the magazine world, how it started and took shape, her struggles and successes. The second part of the book focuses on the reader. Inez hands us tools to help us find our way back to the centre of our own compasses.
To be honest, I read this book mostly because of the first part in which Inez tells about her career. The second part I’m sure can be very helpful for a lot of people, but I think I’d already found my answers to those questions via other ways. Nevertheless I loved reading this book, because it’s a good example of how the most honest and personal stories often are the most inspiring and can help others to make their own decisions.
written by Gretchen Rubin, published by Harper Collins Publishers
genre non fiction / self help, 292 pages
The first time I came across this book in a store I had just finished reading ‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion. Having loved reading Simion’s novel I felt drawn to ‘The Happiness Project’ immediately, hoping it would tell a similar story. But it did not.
Actually this is a totally different story and not at all what I expected, but it turns out that I like it even more!
One morning like many others Gretchen Rubin, a NYC-based writer and mother of 2 young children, has the sudden realization that she’s in danger of wasting her life. She feels like the years are passing her by and decides it’s time for a change. Not because she isn’t happy, but because she knows she can be happier.
Knowing nothing will change unless she makes it change, she decides to dedicate a year trying to be happier and starts her own happiness project. A project that results in a blog, a website and eventually turn into a book. The book that I’ve been reading, several times.
– Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen’s happiness project can be divided into 3 stages. First comes the preparation stage, a moment to identify what brings you positive feelings (such as joy and happiness) and what does bring negative feelings (such as guilt, anger and boredom). After that you focus on the making of resolutions, concrete actions that’ll boost your happiness. Goal of the final stage is the keeping of your resolutions.
Since all the great truths about happiness have already been laid out, Gretchen didn’t expect her findings to be new. But as for many changes, the difficulty lies within the action, not within the knowledge. Her methodical approach for putting her happiness ideas into practice in her life (including resolutions, commandments, secrets of adulthood and a scoring chart) makes it very easy to start of on your own project. Conquering your own idiosyncratic faults and limitations, changing your own life.
Gretchen Rubin shows in a very effective and enjoyable way, how to change your life, without changing it. Reading about her happiness project, her personal insights and experiences, is not only fun and interesting but also inspires you to start your own happiness project or just stick to some resolutions that you’re willing to keep.
To learn more about Gretchen, the Happiness Project and other projects she’s working on, have a look at her website.
written by Cheryl Strayed, published by Luitingh-Sluithoff
genre Memoirs / non fiction, 384 pages
With a fascination for traveling, especially in combination with soul searching and the contemplation of life, my boyfriend chose very well to give me the book ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed as a birthday present. Having seen the movie shortly after it came out, I hadn’t read the book yet. And as soon as the wrapping paper came off I couldn’t wait any longer and started reading immediately.
It’s the summer of ’95 when 26 year-old Cheryl makes one of the biggest and probably most impulsive decisions of her life. Four years after losing her mother, Cheryl finds her family scattered and her marriage broken. Accidentally coming across a book about the Pacific Crest Trail at a gasstation, she decides this is what she wants to do, this is what she needs to do. Not knowing what she is getting herself into, her adventure starts then & there.
With nothing left to lose, Cheryl sells most of her belongings and without any experience or training starts her 3-month journey. During those months she hikes 1700 km / 1100 miles from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to end at the ‘Bridge of the Gods’ in Washington State, all by herself.
During the book, we get to know Cheryl as a strong and independent woman, who’s determination helps her to heal her broken heart and become the woman she wants to be. The book presents a mixture of all the emotions, pleasures and terrors she has to overcome during her solo hike. We are there with her when she feels lonely, when she meets wonderful people, when she feels overwhelmed and when she’s terrified. Cheryl shows us a wonderful and inspiring example of how you can’t always control your circumstances, but can control the way you’re dealing with them.
Even though I read the Dutch translation, it’s obvious to me that Cheryl is a very good story teller. I loved how she intertwined passages from her past into the story of her hike, without becoming unnecessary personal or emotional. We get to know Cheryl and her situation very well and therefore get even more respect for the guts she shows and the choices she has made.
What I loved about the book was that it immediate takes you into the mindset and atmosphere of travel, the feelings of adventure, despite the discomfort and loneliness. This book resurrected in me the itch to travel again, starting on my couch reading lovely books like this one.
written by Annejet van der Zijl, published by Querido
genre literary nonfiction, 280 pages
During an interview on the Dutch television last year, Mrs. Van der Zijl – one the most famous authors of literary nonfiction in the Netherlands – mentioned that she just finished writing this book. She told the presenter how she, like most people, always is searching for something. How the writing of her books, the searching for the stories, keeps bringing adventures, new worlds and beauty into her life. This interview made me curious to read her newest work, a book about the amazing life of a beautiful woman.
Being the first biography I’ve ever read, ‘De Amerikaanse Prinses’ (the American Princess) totally blew me away. Allene Tew (1872-1955) was a woman who used her limitations as a motivation to give shape to her own life and managed to live the lives of many people in one single lifetime.
Growing up in Jamestown as a descendant of the first settlers in America, Allene was raised in an entrepreneurial environment. This childhood in combination with her good looks and adventurous character, were all that was needed for a life like no other.
Reading her story, we not only get to know a lot about Allene, her family, her friends and the social scenes she was being a part of. The book also tells us a lot about our history and gives an overview of the world as it was during Allenes life; the First and Second World War influencing daily life in both Europe and America, industrial revolutions, technical discoveries and developments and social changes making enormous differences to the lives of the people during the different eras of Allene’s life.
An informative and fascinating biography that tells us the story of a woman that was decades ahead of her time. A woman who despite many disappointments, sadness and difficulties, never let go of her dreams and ambitions. A strong and independent woman who, thanks to her resilience and perseverance, never lost courage and always kept moving on. A woman who can still be an example for women today!
The book was completed with pictures of Allene and her family during different life stages.
Reading this book was an absolute pleasure. Not only is Allene Tew’s life very intriguing, the way it was written, with all the background information, was as beautifully as the story itself. It could easily have been an overkill of information, a complex and exhausting book to read, but it was not like that at all. As soon as you start reading this book, you just want to know what is going to happen, how the life of this woman evolves, how she deals with the difficulties that come her way and how she keeps standing strong, no matter what.
– Annejet van der Zijl
“Maybe Allenes biggest achievement – even more than her wealth, her titels, her many houses and her imposing guestbook.
Was that she, despite what she had experienced and endured, had never lost the ability to enjoy her life and be grateful for it.”
– Annejet van der Zijl
written by Giulio Cesare Giacobbe, published by Mana
genre educational, 160 pages
As a yoga and pilates practitioner, I’ve always considered following meditation lessons as well. But I either couldn’t find the time or the right meditation class to actually do so. When my colleague, who’s an even more fanatic yogi, told me about this book, about the lessons it teaches you and how much it had brought her, I simply couldn’t wait to read it and start the course myself.
Giulio’s son Yuri was a Bodhisattva, a reincarnation of the Buddha. When Yuri was only 27 he past away and transferred his buddhism to his father. A man who unlike his son, considered himself to be an old sinner. But Giulio changed into a buddha. He found enlightenment and realized that it’s possible for everybody to become a buddha too. Buddhism no longer was just a theory to him, it became something real and finally resulted in this book.
Even though what you’re reading now is a book review. It would be more correct to call this a short course for getting a buddhist state of mind, in the form of a book. The book not only provides us with a clear and easy to understand explanation of the base principles on which a buddhistic mindset can be build. These principles have also been translated into a 5 week course that can be followed and completed by everybody who’s open and willing to do so.
It is not a book about religion. It’s a book about a psychological method with a practical goal; to end your mental suffering and achieve a permanent state of serenity. Perhaps this all might sound complicated or maybe even a bit far fetched. But don’t worry, it really isn’t. The writer explains the essence of a buddhistic mind in a very clear and easy to understand way. And the five assignments derive from this explanation very naturally. Really everybody can do this.
Reading the book is only the beginning. The writer proposes you first read the book completely, before starting the assignments that each take at least a week. I’ve read the book twice but haven’t finished all the courses yet. I prefer to take more time for each assignment and really let it sink in. But I’m sure that in some weeks, I as well will reach the ultimate goal and become a buddha. Wouldn’t you like to give it a try?
written by Eva Daeleman, published by Manteau
genre autobiography, 239 pages
My friend Katrien, with whom I travelled through Australia after meeting her in New Zealand, told me: “I’ve read an amazing book and you just have to read it!” And so I did. I read this Dutch – Flemish actually – book and have to admit; after reading Eva’s travel stories, I can’t wait to book my next journey. Adventure is calling, again!
Eva Daeleman, a 24 year old Belgian radio and tv presenter, decides she needs a break from the rat race her ‘perfect life’ has become. She wants to travel, alone. And so her adventure takes-off. An adventure that will last 7 weeks in Vietnam and Thailand and many, many more weeks back at home.
Only minutes after arriving in Vietnam, Eva finds out that traveling alone is something completely different to being on a holiday. Quickly Eva ends up in her own personal roller coaster, consisting of a spinning head, a bleeding heart and a country that’s so different from home. During her journey, many tears will be shed and courage and insights will be gained.
At the same time Eva discovers that traveling alone brings many joys and pleasures. Next to getting to know herself better than ever, she meets interesting people and makes new friends for life.
A journey that starts chaotically; with Eva’s thoughts and feelings almost exploding within her. A journey that ends peacefully; as the weeks pass by, Eva starts to finally find confidence, peace and pleasure with who she really is.
When I started reading this book, it was a bit hard for me to get used to the short sentences and ever changing subjects that fill the pages. But after getting used to her writing, reading her story gave me the feeling that I was there, in Eva’s head, during her journey through Asia.
What I loved about the book is Eva’s openness and honesty. Especially considering the fact that she is a famous person and has to deal with people’s opinions and criticism every single day. I think the fact that a celebrity who’s life seems to be perfect, is willing to open up and show the world her deepest insecurities, is probably the most valuable aspect of this book.
What I did miss was a deeper layer to the story. To me it maybe was a bit too personal, like reading someone’s diary instead of a well thought out story. Nevertheless did I have a good time reading this book, especially because her struggling while traveling alone was very recognizable to me and I’m sure to everybody who’s ever traveled on his/her own.
– Eva Daeleman
“I feel like the earth is disappearing from under me.
Like a fish on the land, longing for water.
Just one drop. One drop of recognition.
Everything is different here, including me.”
– Eva Daeleman
written by Griet op de Beeck, published by Prometheus
genre psychological novel, 272 pages
Griet op de Beeck is a very famous Belgian writer. Her novel ‘Kom hier dat ik u kus’ (So I may kiss you) was a major success and also her debut novel ‘Vele hemels boven de zevende’ (Beyond cloud nine) was very well received. Hearing so many positive responses made me curious for her work and I decided to start with her debut.
The main character of the story is Eva, a 36-year-old strong, single, loyal and loving woman. The people surrounding Eva are mostly her family, friends and some clients from work.
Eva’s older sister Elsie is trying to escape her not-so-happy marriage by starting an affair with Casper, a friend of Eva whom she meets at the opening of his exhibition. Elsies daughter Lou is, just like Eva, very good at observing people and situations. Which makes her a sensitive and shy girl and gives her trouble making friends at high school. Jos, Eva’s father, is having a hard time hiding his alcohol addiction and keeping a secret he’s been living with for many years.
Five very different characters. All looking for love and happiness but struggling with the fear of change, fear of hurting others and fear of hurting themselves. The question is; will they have the guts to follow their hearts and make the jump. Or will they continue living their lives the way they always have.
The theme and the characters of this story are very real and recognizable; everybody knows how it feels to struggle with these questions. The unexpected ending of the story was in a way very sad but also very courageous and exactly what the story needed.
This is one of those books that you read within just a couple of hours but that will stay with you for a much longer time!
“How to actually live life, I don’t really have a clue, but I’m pretty good at pretending that I do.” – Eva
written by Iris Hannema, published by Arbeiderspers
genre non fiction / travel, 213 pages
As a digital nomad, the Dutch Iris Hannema travels the world while writing articles for newspapers and magazines such as National Geographic. The combination of a job as a (traveling) journalist/photographer, her humour and adventurous mind, makes that she ends up in unfamiliar places and the craziest of circumstances. Therefore this young woman has countless of stories to tell and already published two books that are filled with her experiences. Stumbling across her first book ‘Miss yellow hair, Hello!’ in the local library left me with no other option; this book had to be read.
If you want to read a book about traveling, the real traveling, ‘Miss yellow hair, hello!’ is the book you should read. This collection of short stories that take place all over the world, might be the ultimate inspiration source to go and explore the world yourself, or it might help you to decide to rather stay home and enjoy all the comforts that come with that.
There really isn’t a subject that has been overlooked in this book. Iris dares to share with us very personal and sometimes even shameful experiences and is brutally honest about the pleasures and pains traveling can entail. She is funny and practical and shares handy tips and tricks that we might be thankful for one day, when we find ourselves somewhere far from home. The addition of the pictures she took during those travels and refers to in some of the stories, only makes reading her stories more fun and real.
I think her Dutch mentality can easily be detected while reading the book. Iris is in no aspects subtle or subdued and goes for what she wants, the good way or the bad. That might seem a bit offensive to some readers, but I personally thought her way of dealing with the diverse and absurd situations was not only amusing, but mostly very human.
This book is easy to read because of the variety of stories and the personal tone of voice. Iris turns out to be a raw and realistic traveller and isn’t scared to share with us the funniest, dirtiest and sometimes painfully honest details of the crazy reality a traveller has to deal with. I really liked that she makes fun of herself and dares to acknowledge some of her weaknesses (especially when it comes to men) and at the same time turns out to be a very brave and adventurous woman.
written by Colm Tóibín, published by Penguin
genre novel, 252 pages
The first time I saw Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn, I was looking into the books of a bookshop at Dublin Airport, while waiting for my plane to go back home. I was immediately drawn to the title, as only a few weeks earlier I had spend a couple of weeks in Brooklyn, celebrating Christmas and NYE with the man I was dating at the moment, a man who lives in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is a novel that follows the life of Eilis Lacey. The story takes off in Ireland in the 1950’s. Eilis, a young girl living with her mother and older sister Rose in the small town she grew up in, studies bookkeeping. Despite her excellent qualifications she cannot find a decent job and when her sister Rose arranges an opportunity for her to leave Ireland and go work and live in Brooklyn, Eilis knows that there’s no other option than to go.
For Eilis, who is leaving her home and family for the first time, crossing the ocean and moving to a big city on the other side of the world is a big adventure. Even though her new life is quite different from the life she had in Ireland and despite feeling homesick every now and then, Eilis starts to feel more at home as the months pass. And when she finds love with Tony, her future in America certainly begins to take shape.
Devastating news from Ireland forces her to go back home, where Eilis awaits an alternative path for the future. Thorn between two different lives and responsibilities, Eilis once more has to make a major decision; will she go back to Brooklyn or stay at home where new opportunities are rising…
I can only say that I loved this book from the moment I started reading it. Not only does it tell us the story of a young girl coming of age, dealing with new responsibilities and falling in love for the first time. It’s mostly the adventure of a life time, all the insecurities and opportunities that come with emigrating to the other side of the world, that makes this story so appealing.
Even though it is a short read, you get to know Eilis very well. And as the story moves on, you notice her changing from a unselfconscious young girl into a smart and confident young woman. The story is very moving and stays with you for a very long time.
written by Mitch Albom, published by Doubleday
genre autobiography, 192 pages
A friend of mine recommended this book to me, he said it’s one of the most wonderful and inspiring books he’s ever read. I ordered the book online and after receiving it, read it within just a couple of hours. Morrie had come into my life, and he never left.
This book is the final thesis Mitch Albom writes for his old professor Morrie Schwartz. Unfortunately Morrie has ALS and knows the end of his life is nearing as his body is getting weaker every day. Despite this horrible disease Morrie focuses on the little joys that are left in his life, he surrounds himself with the people he loves and feels blessed for having the time to say goodbye.
One of his visitors is Mitch, a former student who accidentally hears about the circumstances of his old professor when Ted Koppel of ABC-tv’s Nightline interviews Morrie for the first time. After the show Mitch travels to West Newton to say goodbye to his ‘coach’, as he used to call Morrie, not knowing that this visit will be the start of the last class Morrie will teach, once a week by a window in his home study, discussing ‘the Meaning of life’. For this class no books are needed, the lessons are taught from experience. The class meets on Tuesdays.
The book is easy to read, but so full of life lessons that you might like to take a little more time to process all of Morrie’s wisdom. Many quotes will stick with you for a very long time. The book is very personal, actually it’s Mitch telling about Morrie, the progress of the illness and what that means to Morrie’s everyday life. At the same time Mitch tells about his own life, about choices he has made and new insights he gets during the classes with Morrie. He describes very personally how the disease and Morrie’s dysfunctional body bring them closer every lesson.
Even if you’ve never met Morrie, reading the book gives you the feeling that you get to know him and that you want to get to know him, learn from him, his positivism and wisdom. He was and still is a teacher. Have you ever had a teacher like this?
– Morrie Schwartz