The cupola of the Bonnefanten Museum only gets a new artwork once every couple of years, so when one of your favourite contemporary artists turns it into something new, you got to go and experience it!
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!
The story in short
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!
Why you should read this book
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.
“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice.
She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice.
It was supposed to make you feel something.”
A survival guide for life – How to achieve your goals, thrive in adversity and grow in character
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!
The story in short
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 :
Be the most enthusiastic person you know. Enthuasiasm sustains you when times are tough, encourages those around you and rapidly becomes a habit.
The will to win means nothing, without the will to train. Or as Winston Churchill put it: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
To get, you first have to give. A beautiful lesson Bear learned as a child from his mother. Please make sure to read this chapter in the book, I loved the explanation.
No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. The real value of a team is the people and the relationships between them.
It’s all about that little bit extra. Reaching our summits only requires us to hold on that little bit longer than most people are prepared to endure.
And because it’s incredibly hard to pick only 5, I decided to give a little encore :
You’ve got two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. Listen twice as much as you talk, don’t listen to reply but listen to understand.
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.
Why you should read this book
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!
September 17th 2016 ’till February 27th 2017 – MoMu, Antwerp BE featuring works of: Rik Wouters, Walter van Beirendonk, Dirk van Saene, Bernhard Willhelm and others
Right before the closing of the exhibition, my friend Katrien and I decided to pay a visit to ‘Rik Wouters & het huiselijk utopia’ (Rik Wouters & the private utopia) at the MoMu in Antwerp.
‘Reading Woman’ by Rik Wouters (1913), picture by Ronald Stoops
The recurring theme of domestic intimacy on the post-impressionist paintings by Rik Wouters was the foundation on which the exhibition was build. Contemporary trends of people searching for domestic intimacy, restoring contact with nature and the current popularity of crafts, linked the exhibition with the utopian ideas of Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden. A book published in 1954, introducing a non-industrial, natural lifestyle as an alternative for an over-stimulated consumer society (of which a book-review will follow soon).
Impression of ‘Rik Wouters & het huiselijk utopia’
The exhibition also featured works of contemporary artists and fashion designers. A beautiful homage to a painter who died 100 years ago.
The readers of Broken Wheel recommend / De boeken van Sara Lindqvist
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!
The story in short
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.
cover designs of the english versions
Why you should read this book
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!
Als jouw leven een cirkel is waar sta jij dan? / If life was a circle, where would you be?
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.
The story in short
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.
Why you should read this book
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.
starring Jeroen Krabbé, broadcasted by AVROTROS (Dutch national TV)
launched in 2017, 8 episodes of app. 35 minutes
Two years ago the Dutch national television broadcasted the same documentary series presented by Mr. Jeroen Krabbé (a well known Dutch actor, director, presenter and painter), portraying the work and life of Vincent Van Gogh. A series I absolutely loved because Van Gogh is one of my all-time favorite painters and getting an insight look into his life, the places he lived and visited, background stories of the people he hung out with and the environments that inspired his art, was an absolute pleasure.
In this year’s series Mr. Krabbé takes us on a trip through France, Spain and Italy, following the footsteps of the richest, most famous and maybe even most talented painter that has ever lived; Pablo Picasso.
Throughout the series we get to know Picasso, the development of his art, the women that inspired his work, his homes and different lifestyles he’s led. An extraordinary man, who’s lived a fascinating life. An artist that changed the style of art as easily as he exchanged women. A man who’s had a massive impact on all who surrounded him and leaving behind the most amazing artworks man has ever made!
short trailer with highlights of ‘Krabbé zoekt Picasso’
The series consists of 8 half an hour long episodes, in which we follow Picasso’s life chronologically. Starting off getting to know Pablo as a child, followed by the different stages of his life and the women he spend them with. Ending with his death that was followed by a five year long tragic fight over his enormous heritage by his many descendants, ex-lovers and family members.
episode 1 1881-1905 : De jeugd van een genie / The childhood of a genius
The Journey takes off in Malaga, where Pablo Picasso lived as a child. Pablo’s fascination for bullfighting can allready be seen in the artwork he’s made in his childhood. We follow the young painter to Paris where he moves into the artist residencies Bateau Lavoie. There he meets one of his first big loves; Fernande Olivier.
episode 2 1904-1908 : Het leven krijgt kleur / Life gets colourful
In the second episode we see Picasso’s paintings evolve from pink and optimistic, inspired by his love for Fernande, into abstract art. During their summer in the Spanish mountain village Gósol, the color Iberic orange catches his eye and he starts painting abstracted, mask-like faces, which for example to can be seen on ‘Demoiselles d’Avignon’.
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon | Picasso, 1907
episode 3 1908-1915 : Over vriendschap en concurrentie / Friendship and competition
Back in Paris Picasso’s friendship with Braque results in one of the most renewing and controversial artforms of the entire art history; Cubism. His cubistic and semi-abstract work is inspired by both his luxurious life with Fernande and his secret love affair with Eva Gouel. When Eva dies in 1915, Picasso becomes deeply depressed.
episode 4 1915-1927 : l’Epoque duchesse / The era of the duchess
It’s 1917 when poet Jean Cocteau askes Picasso to design costumes for the legendary Ballets Russes. Pablo travels to Rome and immediately falls in love with ballerina Olga Koklova. They get married and move to Paris. On his wife’s request, Picasso paints her portraits in a very classical and romantic way.
episode 5 1927-1936 : Twee vrouwen / Two women
The 17-years-old Marie-Thérèse Walter, with whom Picasso has an 8 year long secret love affair, is the inspiration for many surrealist paintings and sculptures. When Marie-Thérèse gets pregnant of their daughter Maya, both Picasso’s affair and marriage end and the painter finds himself in a deep personal crisis once more.
episode 6 1936-1940 : Dora en de burgeroorlog / Dora and the civil war
When the Spanish Republicans ask Picasso to create an anti-Franco artwork as their contribution for the World Exhibition of Paris in 1937, the bombing of Guernica becomes the theme for this massive artwork. Picasso’s new mistress Dora Maar photographs Picasso during the creation of Guernica, one of the most famous anti-war artworks.
Mr. Krabbé & Picasso’s Guernica, 1937
episode 7 1940-1953 : Het naoorlogse gelukkige gezinsleven / Pastwar happy family life
During World War II Picasso meets his new wife, the 40-years younger law student and artist Francoise Gilot. After the war they live a happy and quiet family life with their kids Claude and Paloma in the South of France. Their happiness ends in 1953 when Francoise, with their children, leaves Picasso because she can’t take his continuous cheating.
episode 8 1953-1973 : Op leven en good / On life and dead
In 1961 Picasso marries the 46-years younger Jacqueline Roque. They move to Mougins where they live a very isolated life and Picasso starts art battles with masters like Rembrandt, Velazquez and Manet in his studio. The artist works passionately until he days in 1973.
Why you should watch this series
Pablo Picasso was a genius artist, living a fascinating (love)life which resulted in the most amazing artwork. Mr. Krabbé’s is an excellent storyteller and his enthusiasm for the painter and the artworks is very contagiously. I’m actually pretty sure that if you wouldn’t really be that interested in the work of Picasso, you’d still have a great time watching this series. (Please note, the series is presented in Dutch).
For those of you who can’t get enough of getting an insight look into the lives and artwork of the most fascinating artists, I’ve got some really good news to share. For the next series Mr. Krabbé will follow a painter that left behind everything to be able to totally focus on his art; Mr. Paul Gauguin!
For more information or to watch the episodes, have a look at the npo website.
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!
The story in short
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.
“One of the best ways to make yourself happy, is to make other people happy.
One of the best ways to make other people happy, is to be happy yourself.”
– 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.
Why you should read this book
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.
Wild. From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
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.
The story in short
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.
Cheryl Strayed near the PCT in Old Station, California, July 1995
Why you should read this book
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.
*Picture in header is still from the movie ‘Wild’ based on this book, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, released in 2014 by Fox Searchlight Pictures
When I was in Barcelona last summer I visited the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona. Originally designed and build for the Barcelona International Exposition of 1929, the pavilion got disassembled shortly after the expo was over. When years later the building not only became a key piece for Mies van der Rohe’s career, but also for the understanding of modern architecture, the building was reconstructed at its original location in 1986.
The pavilion still breaths a modern atmosphere, even though the design has almost been a hundred years old. The minimal, simple and transparent design combined with the beautiful materials that were used and the history of the project, makes this building an absolute must-see, even if you’re just slightly interested in architecture or design!
Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, Barcelona
For opening hours and more information, check the Fundació Mies van der Rohe website.