one month in



The 12 books I’ve read in 2017

In 2017, I challenged myself to read a book every month. Despite of always lacking a bit behind, I managed to do it and hereby present you my favourite quote from and opinions on them.


January: Une femme au telephone

“To love is to suffer and I am too cozy at my age.”

This was one of the first books I ever read in French (that was not by Amélie Notomb). The idea is actually quite cool: you just see one side of the dialogue of a woman on the phone. Everyone who’s far away from someone they love will be able to relate to some of the scenes.


February: Our Game by John le Carré

“A dead man is the worst enemy alive … You can’t alter his power over you. You can’t alter what you love or owe. And it’s too late to ask him for his absolution. He has beaten you all ways.”

I don’t even know how I got to read this book, it was written in 1995. Maybe I took it as my free book at a WH Smith’s. However, it starts with a police interview of friend of professor Dr. Larry Pettifer: Tim Canmer, who was the professor’s handler when they worked for a British Intelligence Service. The atmosphere stays tense throughout, which I actually enjoyed more than I thought. The relationships and actions between the characters, especially Cranmer’s love interest Emma, were interesting to follow. What


March: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.”

A huge book this year as it was turned into a TV show and people found an access applicable to today’s time. I love dystopias, in this one we follow the journey of handmaid Offred (Of Fred, because they echo men’s names) through a brutally terrifying world. Women live to procreate and have little freedom, they are not even allowed to read. The most memorable scene for me was the description of how all of this started, when Offred thinks back to her old, free life with her husband and daughter and how quickly all of it changed.

April: On The Sublime Subject Of Ideology by Slavoj Žižek

“Ideology is not a dreamlike illusion that we build to escape insupportable; in its basic dimension, it is a fantasy-construction which serves as a support for our reality itself; an illusion which structures our effective, real social relations and thereby masks some insupportable, real, impossible kernel.”

I was kind of pulled into the whole Zizkek-versum earlier this year, first through his interesting presentation style (sniffing while talking) on YouTube and then through facebook groups that focus on memes about him. To give the whole thing a bit of fodder, I dove into the book. I’ll be honest, despite this allegedly being one of his easier books, it is sometimes quite difficult to follow. The tension is, however, regularly loosened by throwing in amazing pop cultural examples for the arguments he is making.

May: Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami

“Bumpers are for bumps.”

(translated from German by me)

No year is complete without a Murakami, and as May was my birthday, it was a good occasion for this short beauty. If your mysterious boss offered to give you anything you wanted for your birthday, what would you wish for? A 20 year-old waitress tells the story of one of her weirdest birthdays to the first-person narrator in this short book. In a second part of the book, Murakami talks about his own birthday. Both parts are very different and equally enjoyable.


June: Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,”

I’ll be honest, I got this one because there was a free deal for the Kindle eBook. I am very glad, however, that I downloaded it on that day, because I like reading about contemporary figures. The whole book gives a good overview on how Elon got where he is and disenchants him a little, as the struggles are not left untold.


July: The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth

“Poetry is much more important than the truth, and, if you don’t believe that, try using the two methods to get laid.”

Even though this book traumatised me a bit by teaching me about the etymology of avocados, it made my linguist heart bloom. I loved this book, because not only did I learn so many new things about words and the world (the true origin of the word Nazi), there also was barely any page that did not make me laugh or at least breathe through my nose a little bit. I recommend this to everyone who is slightly interested in words.


August: Swing Time by Zadie Smith

“Nostalgia is a luxury.”

I usually really like Zadie Smith’s characters, but in this one it didn’t really click. Yes, there is a lot of social commentary wrapped in a snappy way, but sometimes the characters behave a bit …out of character. We see the nameless (I actually had to look this up, but she doesn’t have a name) protagonist grow up with her friend Tracey in the tense field of family relationships. Their ways part when Tracey, who is a dance prodigy, goes to dancing school. We know little about what happens in between, but in her thirties, the protagonist becomes the manager of pop star Aimee. Aimee wants to build a girl’s school in West Africa in order to, as she says, do something good with her fame. The stories of home and being away, intertwined every now and then and relate past, present and future of the girls.


September:  Frappe-toi le coeur by Amélie Nothomb

“To set up his reign, jealousy has no need for a motive.”

Amélie Nothomb is one of the reasons I learnt French. This year’s novel of hers is a very reverse Oedipus-tale about mother, daughter and jealousy. What I loved was probably also that I saw how much my French had improved and that I could enjoy how Nothomb plays with language.


October: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

“Actually, the problem is that I can’t lose my mind,” I said. “It’s inescapable.”

As someone who lives on the internet, you cannot miss out on a John Green novel. Like John le Carre’s novel, the plot is driven by a missing person. Aza Holmes and her best friend Daisy hear about the disappearance of a billionaire. He just so happens to be the father of one of Aza’s acquaintances and love interest during the book, Davis Pickett. But Aza also struggles with OCD, she has a callous on her finger that she repeatedly re-opens to squeeze out a possible infection. What I especially enjoyed here were the lights and metaphors around them.

November: Hühner Voodoo by Hortense Ullrich

“Too bad, there are some things you just need to accept. But do you? No, you don’t!”

(translated from German by me)

Hortense Ullrich is one of the first people who really made me enjoy books. When I was a teenager I loved her “Freche Mädchen, Freche Bücher” books about the teenage struggles of a girl called Jojo. I was excited to finally read one of her adult novels, which has a title that translates to “Chicken Voodoo”. The quirky protagonist Gwendolyn Herzog has no more money – yet, she has life experience and neverending brazenness to get through life. Just some of the things she easily handles are: getting her unhappy wannabe-bride niece reasons to live, opening a psychiatric office, and removing a curse from one of her clients. A real page-turner and fun read, not least thanks to its witty dialogues.

December: Science in the Soul by Richard Dawkins

“Nature, fortunately or unfortunately, is indifferent to anything so parochial as human values.”

What can I say, I am a Dawkins fangirl. Since I finished all the greatest compilation videos of his debates (here are some of my favourites), I was happy this book was released earlier this year with 41 bite-sized writings, perfect to read on the go. Firstly, it was hard to choose a quote, because to me, Dawkins is infinitely quotable. Also, I love the alternation of difficult passages on evolutionary mechanisms and some easier-to-read bits, in a way interludes, ranging from anecdotal to sarcastic. Finally, I think this could be a good starter if you haven’t read anything by Dawkins and you want to read shorter bits (but if you have time maybe just stick to The Selfish Gene).

Phallic Phrases I: I want you to know…

I want to start this series on my blog as I often jot down phrases that stay in my mind for a while. Phrases that impress me or just make my mind wander and wonder about their origins and meanings.

“I want you to know…” is one of them. It appears in so many songs and often sounds romantic, loving even. But can you really make someone else know something? You can teach people, that would be the best way to achieve this goal. But more often than not, this phrase is used when the other person is not “teachable” – due to absence or unwillingness, for example.

Is it, therefore, selfish, to want somebody to know something? We all know the feeling, from political debates or when we fail to bring situational comedy across. We want people to understand our point of view or make them understand how funny that joke was, if you were there. Or, as the phrase often appears, the other person is supposed to know that they were loved.

The question here is why they did not know it. Do they refuse to listen/accept it? Or did the utterer of the phrase fail to express it at the right time?

Or, as the phrase is directed at someone of the moment of utterance, is it the first time that it’s being told? Why is that phrase in front needed, then?



  • The Reason (Hoobastank);
  • I want you to know (Zedd ft. Selena Gomez);
  • Call me maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen);
  • countless books and movies

Verdict: Powerful phrase, yet little to no giveaway to speaker’s actions and intentions.

PewDiePie using words – or how local are our moral codes?

So, if you are even mildly active on the internet, you might have seen that PewDiePie is under attack again*. Why? He said the “N”-word in a live stream.


It is fascinating to see all the reactions – barely 24 hours have passed, and already you could write several books about the case. People either protect him, saying it happened in a moment of rage – or are really upset about everyone who would let this pass as an excuse. So far, so forseeable.

Controversy?! – $$$let’s get the traffic$$$

Of course, media outlets do what they get money from. They write about it, awaiting people from both sides to make videos about their articles and starting comment wars below the articles. It’s an easy topic to have an opinion on (or at least declare that you should not have an opinion on because of your ethnicity, which is an opinion in itself). That’s why controversy hits Felix Kjellberg the hardest – his name generates a lot of search traffic which translates to money for media outlets. (This also explains how all the articles above are only cookie-cutter copies of one another without adding any other thoughts. You only need the keywords, original thought is basically worthless.)

Why are people’s reactions so strong?

But the media outrage can only live thanks to the many, many little wars going on all over the blogosphere. Many creators on YouTube have blamed PewDiePie for the so-called “Adpocalypse”, where advertisers started to withdraw from YouTube. A lot of people who had achieved their dreams of living off YouTube had to give up on this dream – or at least have it a lot harder now. Some might fear it getting even worse now.

Other than these very personal reasons, the underlying war between Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) and the opposing “red-pilled” Anti-SJWs has been a big topic and common theme for many weeks now. We have a chicken and egg problem here – did people care first or are their reactions only fueled by the media? Or, do all actors in this debate actually fight to settle a bigger question:

Who owns morals on the internet?

Since the internet is mainly English-speaking, it makes sense that a lot of it is rather americanised. PewDiePie, however, is from Sweden and lives in the UK. Of course, Europeans do not proudly go around throwing this word in everyone’s face. It does, however, definitely not bare the same gravity as in America here. Firstly, the whole discussion “hard r” vs “soft r” seems kind of bizarre to evaluate morality from my standpoint. Secondly, race is a way bigger issue in the USA than anywhere on my continent. The whole debate about it is rather alienating for Europeans.

That is why all articles and videos are centered around the whole race topic and opens up the discussion whether your language alone actually makes you a “bad person” or racist. I’m a hobby-linguist and believe in the power of language -yet, to me, it seems that this belief be stronger and more polarized in the US than anywhere else – as the sheer debate about those words is lead quite radically.


Either, you are on the moral high ground, never having said them – or you think that this overly tough policing on language is harmful in itself. Maybe, as an American, the word would not simply slip out. It did happen to PewDiePie – and if you re-watch the video, you’ll see that he apologises right away. You can see this attempted balancing act between both moral codes playing out within him.

The internet brings all people together and our local moral codes blur into this very multi-faceted debate with very little attention on the point that in the USA, this word probably means more than in Europe. That’s why this debate is even more heated. It is not simply about the race war – it is about morals themselves.


*I wrote this article after watching Sargon of Akkad’s video on the issue who provided these links in his caption.