Sunday 22 May 2022

This page is sponsored by the American Book Center and covers books about the Netherlands and expat life plus translations of Dutch-language literature and Dutch children’s books. If you are bookworm, why not sign up for ABC events?

The Twin: The beauty and sadness of the platteland

The Twin: The beauty and sadness of the platteland

Is The Twin about a man caring (poorly) for his dying father while dreaming of another life in Denmark? Or about a man constrained by the responsibilities of family and rural life? Or is it about a man who really likes donkeys? Dutch writer Gerbrand Bakker’s debut novel The Twin (Boven is het stil in Dutch) is about all of those things. Published in Dutch in 2006 and in English in 2008, it won the €100,000 International Dublin Literary Award,... More >


Will: A difficult but authentic look at history

Will: A difficult but authentic look at history

Jeroen Olyslaegers

Considering its impact on history and the scar it left on humanity, it is unsurprising that so many books have been written about World War II and its aftermath. This time, we are focusing on a book about the Belgian experience, which is very relevant to the Netherlands as well. Many war books focus on the heroic acts of brave resistance fighters, or the horrors and torment of victims. But few dive into the day-to-day lives of those neither hero... More >


Herman Koch’s The Ditch is good but not great

Herman Koch’s The Ditch is good but not great

In his 11th novel, Dutch bestselling author Herman Koch skewers the polite racism and classism of Dutch society but fails to bring the plot to satisfaction. The Ditch follows Robert Walter, the fictional mayor of Amsterdam, who at the outset of the novel becomes convinced his wife, who originates from an unnamed ‘southern’ country, is cheating on him with one of the city’s aldermen. Walter concludes this based on little more than a fleeting interaction, but the thought consumes him.... More >


A mystical journey to Suriname, and the superpower of the Jaguarman

A mystical journey to Suriname, and the superpower of the Jaguarman

The superpower of the Jaguarman

Raoul de Jong was 28 when he first received word from his long estranged father. A note, purporting to be from his father’s girlfriend, appeared in the letterbox of his antikraak flat in Rotterdam with the words: ‘I am looking for my son’. After dispelling initial suspicions of a malicious ploy by his junkie neighbours, De Jong discovered not only was the contact genuine, but his father – now a volunteer at an Christian book shop in Amsterdam – was... More >


The Sisters of Auschwitz is a gripping true story about World War II

The Sisters of Auschwitz is a gripping true story about World War II

It’s a pity that the English language publishers of Roxane van Iperen’s ‘T Hooge Nest (the high nest) decided to change the name into The Sisters of Auschwitz, because your expectations are already set by the time you pick up the book. And the Auschwitz connection, with the fleeting mentions of Anne and Margot Frank and all its grim reality, is only a minor part of the story. For this is the story of a house and its occupants, and... More >


Where tolerance finds its limits: Murder in Amsterdam

Where tolerance finds its limits: Murder in Amsterdam

Ian Buruma

Published in 2006, Murder in Amsterdam explores the relationship between immigration in the Netherlands, particularly from Turkey and Morocco, and the 2004 murder of film director Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh – 47 years old at the time of his death – was the great-grandson of Theo van Gogh, brother of famed Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Born and raised in The Hague, he first worked as a television producer and director and later became a newspaper columnist and author.... More >


Let’s Talk Dutch: Dutch culture explained in typical words & expressions

Let’s Talk Dutch: Dutch culture explained in typical words & expressions

By Lucy Deutekom

Lucy Deutekom says in the introduction to her self-published book ‘Let’s Talk Dutch’ that her aim is to provide the reader with a deeper understanding of Dutch society by explaining common sayings and expressions. She does this by combining odd bits of history with facts and figures about subjects such as Dutch directness, cycling and dairy products with a sprinkling of phrases with an explanation of where they come from. Een tandje bijzetten (add a tooth, meaning to put in... More >


The Discomfort of Evening: a moving, but difficult read

The Discomfort of Evening: a moving, but difficult read

By Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Unflinching, sometimes grotesque, this prize-winning novel follows Jas, a 10-year-old growing up on a dairy farm in a strict Protestant household. When tragedy strikes, the family unravels and Jas blames herself, leading to increasingly harmful behavior.  Published in Dutch 2018 and English in 2020, The Discomfort of Evening became the first Dutch novel to win the International Booker Prize, (and only the third Dutch nomination. Dutch literature stalwarts Tommy Wieringa and Harry Mulisch have previously been nominated.) The author, Marieke... More >


The American Netherlander: 25 years of expat tales

The American Netherlander: 25 years of expat tales

Greg Shapiro

‘If you are looking for an official guide to Dutch culture, this is not it,’ writes comedian Greg Shapiro, in the introduction to his new anthology, The American Netherlander. ‘But if you are looking for one man’s completely subjective and utterly biased impression of Dutch culture, then you have come to the right place.’ Shapiro’s new book, celebrating his 25 years in the Netherlands, combines the best of his two previous sold-out tomes. It’s an easy to pick up collection,... More >


All you need to know about Dutch biking culture: The Cycling Paradise

All you need to know about Dutch biking culture: The Cycling Paradise

Think of the Netherlands and once you have got through the tourist board cliches, bikes are bound to be on your list. There are, after all, more bikes than people, so they are very difficult to avoid. The Cycling Paradise takes a broad look at the Dutch cycling phenomena with lots of jolly pictures of people on bikes – in the snow, with their dogs, carrying a mattress or just getting from A to B. Newcomers will appreciate the advice... More >


A classic of Dutch literature: Beyond Sleep

A classic of Dutch literature: Beyond Sleep

Willem Frederik Hermans

Beyond Sleep (Nooit meer slapen) is a holy grail quest written in 1966 by classic Dutch author Willem Frederik Hermans. The book, which follows geology student Alfred Issendorf from Amsterdam to the Norwegian wilderness in search of proof of meteor impacts, is widely considered part of the Dutch literary canon Alfred travels to Norway to track down aerial photographs that would show telltale meteor craters, a theory put forth by his advisor, before joining a fieldwork expedition in the region.... More >


The Netherlands at its best: throughout the year

The Netherlands at its best: throughout the year

Frans Lemmens

Can you have too many coffee table books of photos of the Netherlands? Probably not. Frans Lemmens‘ beautiful book is a photographic journey through the country over the space of a year, taking you from sandbanks in the Wadden Sea to the vineyards and marl mines of Limburg. You will find all the cliches – tulips, windmills and cheese, as well as snow and skating –  alongside Kings’ Day and Pride. But you will also come across the Netherlands’ industrial... More >


The Rhine: a pleasant trip along one of Europe’s greatest rivers

The Rhine: a pleasant trip along one of Europe’s greatest rivers

By Ben Coates

Ben Coates says he got the idea to write about Europe’s perhaps greatest river while skating on it one Dutch winter. He overpaid for a pair of skates, headed out to the nearest canal and saw the Netherlands in an entirely different light. The Rhine traces the, well, the Rhine from its mouth on the Dutch coast to its source, Lake Toma in Switzerland. The book is part travelogue, part history book and part social commentary as author Ben Coates... More >


The Discovery of Heaven: A real Dutch Dutch classic

The Discovery of Heaven: A real Dutch Dutch classic

By Harry Mulisch

When I told Dutch friends of mine that I was going to tackle the Dutch classic The Discovery of Heaven (De ontdekking van de hemel) by Harry Mulisch they were not supportive. ‘It was the worst book I read in high school,’ one told me. ‘You should make an appointment with your therapist, you’ll need it,’ said another. Published in 1992, IT was voted the Best Dutch Language Book Ever in 2007 by readers of the NRC newspaper. When Mulisch... More >


The Dutch in the Early Modern World: a history of a global power

The Dutch in the Early Modern World: a history of a global power

Gijs Rommelse and David Onnekink

Using a metaphor of birth to adulthood, Gijs Rommelse and David Onnekink outline the history of the Dutch Republic, a critically important part of the Dutch identity. It’s an academic work, written with academics in mind, but if you want a detailed analysis of this period of Dutch history, with insights into society and culture, as well as historical events, The Dutch In The Early Modern World is for you. The book counts the birth of the Dutch Republic from... More >


A surreal exploration of the Dutch asylum system

A surreal exploration of the Dutch asylum system

Two Blankets, Three Sheets takes its title from what refugees at Dutch asylum centers are given upon arrival: two blankets, three sheets, one towel, one pillow, and one pillowcase. The book, which is hard to put down, is the surreal story of an Iraqi man who claims asylum in the Netherlands and shows the indifference of bureaucracy and the effect that has on a human being. The author, Rodaan Al Galidi, escaped Iraq in 1991 to avoid being conscripted into... More >


World War II in Dutch literature and non fiction: 12 recommended books

World War II in Dutch literature and non fiction: 12 recommended books

World War II in Dutch literature and non fiction

On May 5, the Netherlands celebrates 75 years since the end of the Nazi occupation. Here is a selection of books which focus on very specific Dutch experience during World War II, stories of everyday life, of great heroism and of tragedy. Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II Several biographies have chronicled Audrey Hepburn’s stardom, but none has covered her intense experiences through five years of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. According to her son, Luca Dotti, ‘The... More >


Money for nothing: Do three books about ‘niksen’ make a trend?

Money for nothing: Do three books about ‘niksen’ make a trend?

Various authors

Just when you thought it was safe to sit on the sofa and stare into space for a bit, three books about doing nothing come along at once. Niksen, at least three different publishing houses would have us believe, is a Dutch lifestyle trend which the rest of us in this busy, busy world would do well to take on board. We’ve had Hygge from Denmark and the art of Japanese tidying up, so why not something about doing nothing... More >


A comprehensive guide to Dutch words in English: Cookies, Coleslaw, and Stoops

A comprehensive guide to Dutch words in English: Cookies, Coleslaw, and Stoops

Cookies, Coleslaw, and Stoops

We’ve all heard that the words cookie and coleslaw originated in Dutch. But did you know brewery and pinky are also of Dutch origin? And both Broadway and Wall Street owe their names to the Dutch as well? In her book Cookies, Coleslaw, and Stoops: The Influence of Dutch on the North American Languages, Nicoline van der Sijs,  professor of historical Dutch linguistics at Radboud University, examines the impact that Dutch people and the Dutch language have had on the... More >


India and the Netherlands – Past, Present and Future

India and the Netherlands – Past, Present and Future

By Venu Rajamony

Venu Rajamony, the Indian ambassador to the Netherlands has produced a colossal coffee table book in India and the Netherlands – Past, Present and Future. It is a lavishly illustrated encyclopedia of the cross-cultural legacy between the two countries, highlighting their economic and cultural ties – right down to yoga and museum treasures. In his introduction, the ambassador says that the book has been inspired by his two years of living in the Netherlands ‘and the desire to shed light... More >