Posts Tagged With: Books

Palace Gardens (Or: The last embrace of summer?)

The Netherlands is enjoying a last minute fling with summer today, with temperatures over 80F. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but here it is! I decided to take a stroll over to the Palace Gardens, which I’ve already blogged about a few times over the years (2012 and 2016).

Palace Gardens / Paleistuin in The Hague

It was lovely to sit in the sun and just read a book. Today I started a book by Neil Gaiman – The ocean at the end of the lane or De oceaan aan het einde van het pad in Dutch, as that was the language I was reading it in. It’s about a man who goes back to where he lived as a child to attend a funeral. While there he gets lost in his memories of his childhood.

One interesting and unexpected thing was that the book begins with a preface which reads “Ik schrijf in mijn eigen taal. Dat is Engels. Ik ben er erg dol op. Het is een goede, soepel taal, waarin ik kan uitdrukken wat ik te zeggen heb. …” Or, translated: “I write in my own language. That is English. I am very fond of it. It’s a good, flexible language where I can express what I need to say.”

I thought that was quite strange, and wondered if that preface was in every version of the book. But no, he goes on to say that his sister-in-law lives in Utrecht (a city in central Netherlands) and he brings his family to the Netherlands as often as he can to visit. He goes on to say that you don’t need an English/American upbringing to read this book, and since it is now translated into Dutch you can read it too (of course the preface was translated as well, since he doesn’t speak Dutch). Kind of cool.

The only small downside to going to a park to read is that sometimes you can get distracted and not be able to focus on the story. Especially when what you are trying to read isn’t in your native language… When I arrived, I chose a nice sunny bench, at the end to give others plenty of room to also sit down (the benches generally fit three adults). I’m at the far left, with no benches to my left. To my right, there are another three benches, all grouped right next to each other.

After a while, a man sat down on the other end of the bench I was at. No problem at all; he was just watching his kid. About five minutes later a woman sits down next to him, so I promptly and politely moved my backpack to the ground so she definitely had enough room. And then they began to talk. Argh.

Oddly enough, I had no problem when the conversations happening were at the next bench (about five feet away), but one foot away was a bit much. Especially since they were tourists speaking English, which meant hearing one language and reading another. I was pondering my options – 1) suck it up and keep reading 2) go find another bench 3) leave. But after a few minutes they all got up and left. Yay.

So I kept reading, having a personal goal of getting to 100 pages. I did that, and was at page 103 when two more people sat down at “my” bench with a few other folks in their group standing around them. And they began to talk loudly. Arghhhh again. This time I gave up – I was past my goal anyway – put my bookmark in place, stood up and left immediately.

I don’t know. Maybe I expect too much. It is a communal park after all. 🙂

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Wabi Sabi (Or: Reading on a rainy day)

The weather here has been absolutely dreadful. Monday morning I made the mistake of wearing my lighter jacket, not realizing how bad the wind would be. With the windchill, it was about 0C/32F. Brrrr! I made coffee the second I got home, let me tell you. And now it’s Wednesday. The weather is a tiny bit better, but not really. It’s still cold, windy and rainy.

One fun thing to do on days like this is to read. My current Dutch novel is Wabi-Sabi by Francesc Miralles. Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy of accepting your imperfections and making the most of your life. But that’s not why I grabbed the book. I grabbed it because it starts with a cat!


One note about the various editions: the Dutch version I am reading seems to be two books in one, totaling around 400 pages. If you’re instead reading it in English, you should look for Love in Lowercase to read the first half. Let me tell you: if the book had that title and this book cover instead I wouldn’t have given it a try. I am not big on romances.

But to me, I just saw the cat. Which is funny, since I am not a big cat person. I tolerate them, of course. I think they are darn cute. I love how soft they feel to the touch. But I don’t really trust that they won’t go berserk at a moment’s notice and claw me for no reason. I love reading about them, though. Also try The Guest Cat by Takeshi Hiraide.

This book is pretty easy to read in Dutch. The font size is big enough (not any of that annoying fine print sized font) and the author has a habit of writing 3-4 page chapters. You won’t hear me complaining about that. I do remember one time I found a book in Dutch online, thinking it would be a great read. I checked it out from the library without opening it until I got home. Imagine my disappointment when I saw the abysmal font size and the lack of paragraph breaks (seriously, I found a page with no paragraph break on either the left OR the right side). That one quickly went back to the library unread.

Anyway: the theme of this book so far is sort of the butterfly effect (an idea that a small change can cause something much bigger to happen). The cat stops by, and ends up staying. Because of that, the main character meets his next door neighbor, ends up going to the vet, sees a love he thought he’d never see again, etc. It’s very enjoyable so far.

Ah, and it’s raining again.

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Dutch reads (Or: What have I read in Dutch in 2018?)

2018 was definitely the year of reading for me. In total I finished 19 books in Dutch and 11 books in English. Thanks in part to a re-read of the Harry Potter series, I must admit. The Dutch translations clock in at just over 3,000 pages for seven books!

Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore. Also a hefty read, it came in at just over 1,000 pages for the Dutch translation and was thus split into two parts. The best part? The Dutch translations were released in December 2017 and January 2018, whereas the English translation was not released until October 2018. One of those times knowing another language besides English has been beneficial for reading.

Continue reading
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Another lazy library day (Or: On to the next book)

What can I say? Sitting in the library café in the morning sipping an iced coffee is the best.

Reading Haruki Murakami at the library

A lovely Saturday morning at the library

This morning I finished part 2 of Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatorea book first mentioned in the last post. It is about a painter, estranged from his wife and temporarily living in an old house in the mountains as its caretaker. The original owner, famed painter Amada Tomohiko, suffers from dementia and resides in a nursing home.

The story unfolds with the ringing of a bell… the simple ringing of a bell. Somehow ringing from beneath a burial mound, beneath countless immovable rocks, at the edge of an old shrine. But when the bell is dug up by the narrator and his rich neighbor, strange events begin to occur and Amada Tomohiko’s past is uncovered, bit by bit. Sweeping the narrator up in its wake.

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Days off (Or: Musings in the library)

This past Friday was my birthday. And what better way to celebrate that then taking the day off from work? I am currently in the middle of reading Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore, a novel published over two volumes (about 500 pages each!).

Thus Friday morning was a treat to myself: I went to the central library, ordered an iced coffee, and sat down in the café to read the second volume. In Dutch.

Two reasons that I mention that it was in Dutch:

  1. For some reason this novel won’t be released in English until October. Part 1 has been out since November in Dutch, and part two has been out since January. It’s crazy (but cool) to know you are reading something — and can read something — that hasn’t even been released in English yet.
  2. At some point during the morning I realized that there was a conversation going on to the right of me, at another table. Two women were talking in a mixture of Dutch and English, but since I had my headphones in I hadn’t realized right away. After a few minutes and based on the content of the conversation, I realized that it was probably a taalcoach and taalmaatje (language coach and student) from SamenSpraak.

And it was at that moment when I realized I have come a long way in the last five years, from barely knowing any Dutch to being 700 pages into what is effectively a 1,000+ page novel.

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Random reads (Or: An exercise in Dutch)

Last month I posted my reading list for th first half of 2016. So far, July is going even better! I have read about 560 pages (around 18 a day, but I have a hard time sitting down and reading on a daily basis so it is much more varied than that).

Here is a look at some of the books I’ve read in Dutch (or am reading) this month:

1) Never let me go (Laat me nooit alleen) by Kazuo Ishiguro (English | Dutch), a dystopian science fiction novel which follows the lives of three students at a boarding school. But these students (and their classmates) are in fact clones, raised for the sole purpose of providing organs to others once they graduate.

2) The guest cat (De kat) by Takashi Hiraide (English | Dutch), a short book (~160 pages) about a cat who visits a young, work-at-home couple on a daily basis. Free to come and go as he pleases, the cat quickly becomes the centerpiece of their lives, even though he is only a guest.

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3) Player One (Speler een) by Douglas Coupland (English | Dutch). I just started this one. It follows four people at airport bar over 5 hours as a worldwide disaster begins outside — Karen, who waits on a perspective internet date; Rick, a bartender who no longer drinks; Luke, a pastor who fled with his church’s savings; Rachel, who has trouble connecting with others; and a mysterious voice known only as “Player One”.

4) The Dog Stars (De Hondsster) by Peter Heller (English | Dutch). I haven’t started this one yet. “Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley.” Hmmm….

And on to August!

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13 1/2 pages (Or: Reading habits the first half of the year)

Earlier in the year I upgraded my library card to the ‘Sterpas’ (Star pass) and decided to start reading more Dutch fiction. The upgrade wasn’t required but I do like keeping a book for four weeks instead of three. I am pleased to say I have read 2,468 pages since the beginning of the year, at a rate of around 13 and a half pages per day. I tend to prefer psychological novels (at least in Dutch). For this type the emphasis is on inner thought and reflection rather than on outward dialogue (Wikipedia: Dutch | English).

Here are the books I read in the first six months of the year, in order:

Vonne van der Meer, De avondboot – 302 pages. It’s actually book two of the Eilandgasten trilogy.

Vonne van der Meer, Laatste seizoen – 192 pages. This is book three of the Eilandgasten trilogy (I’ve linked to the entire work above). I don’t believe it’s been translated into English — only into German, unfortunately.

Eilandgasten trilogie book cover

Robbert Welagen – Het verdwijnen van Robbert, 160 pages. A pretty intriguing read – a man decides one day to get up and leave his old life, without warning. The title translates to “The disappearance of Robbert”.

Continue reading

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Rrrollend Den Haag (Or: Food trucks… and books)

Yesterday Marco and I had a quick look at the Rrrollend food truck festival at the Lange Voorhout (next to Buitenhof).

The first thing you see when you enter the festival is stacks of books, which caught my eye enough to take a few photos of them:

Books at Buitenhof Den Haag 2

And Buitenhof above:

Books at Buitenhof Den Haag 1

And just the books:

Books at the Rrrollend Food truck festival Den Haag

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A world of books (Or: A new library card)

It is time to renew my library card. Over here in the Netherlands, library card fees are not part your property taxes so you have to pay for one separately. On the plus side, it is pretty inexpensive to get a library card – children’s passes are free, with additional discounts based on age (it’s cheaper if you are 18 to 25 or over 65, for instance).

I’ve always been in love with libraries. I can still remember as a kid checking out 15-20 Hardy Boys mystery books at a time (I never got into the Nancy Drew mystery books, unfortunately). And amazingly, not having that many late books. After that I moved on to the Science fiction / fantasy books section for adults, so my time in the children’s department was over.

Here in the Netherlands I’ve had a basic pass for the last three years – I remember feeling antsy waiting for enough identification proof to come in to be able to get one (like in the US, you need to prove you live where you say you live, so I needed to wait for something to be mailed to me with my name and address on it).

This year, I decided to go with one of the options above the basic one. I went with a Sterpas (Star pass):

Sterpas library card (The Hague)

The main difference is how many books you can check out at a time (12 books versus 18) and how long you can have them (3 weeks versus 4, with two renewals regardless of your card type). To be honest, it’s not like I ever expect to need more than 12 books at a time – I’m not a kid anymore – but the four weeks lending period is nice. There’s a few other benefits, like maximum 18 free reservations (yes, it’s not free in this country like it might be in parts of the US) and free movies/games/etc, rather than paying a euro and a half per piece.

Sterpas library card (The Hague) and website

Library card with the library website behind it

If you’re living in the Netherlands and looking to learn Dutch, keep in mind the Central Library of The Hague has a pretty big collection to help you out. It’s now on the 2nd floor, by the escalators. I’ve previously written about the “Leer Nederlands” collection.

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Grand opening (Or: Paagman bookstore on Lange Poten)

As mentioned in a previous blog post, Paagman has officially opened on Lange Poten. Lange Poten 41 was previously a film house, a store called Liefhertje, and a Mercendes Benz store.

Paagman bookstore Lange Poten 1

There are two levels. Like the previous Paagman, the secondhand books are on the upper floor.

Paagman bookstore Lange Poten 4

The roof is rather stunning – so let’s show another picture.

Paagman bookstore Lange Poten 3

And below is a view from the second floor, overlooking the entrance.

Paagman bookstore Lange Poten 2

Of course, if you’re visiting this bookstore, don’t forget to stop in at the American Book Center a few shops down!

Here are more photos of the new bookstore (article in Dutch).

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