Guus Bosman

software engineering manager


Books & literature

Out of Order

books

This is a short book by the first female Judge on the Supreme Court. It was interesting to read a little bit how things work behind the scenes, and to read more on the Court’s history.

I read this book on the flight from DC to San Francisco.



Book details:

   Out of Order by Sandra Day O'Connor.

De Koperen Tuin

books

When I was in my last year of highschool, or the year before that, I read De Kellner en de Levenden. I was very impressed by the book and the author.

A few years ago I brought a pile of second-hand books from the Netherlands in my luggage; mainly Vestdijk novels. I just finished De Koperen Tuin and I loved it. Very impressive author.



Book details:

   De Koperen Tuin by Simon Vestdijk.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

books

This was a terrific book, and what a story! I didn’t know anything about Lewis and Clark, except the fact that they made a big journey to the West Coast. This book does a great job bringing that experience to life, and place it in its historic context. Highly recommended.



Book details:

   Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose. ISBN: 978-1847397638.
   I read this book in English.

The Alchemist

books

After our visit to New Jersey I caught a cold and I was looking for some easy reading. Yesterday I read The Alchemist after seeing it mentioned several times in a Quora thread.

It was a nice book to read and brought me into another world for a few hours.

I didn’t care much for the life-philosophy described in the book. Not only is it a scientifically lazy way of looking at the world, with seeing “omens” everywhere, but it was also presented in a fairly obnoxious way. Too much speechifying, too much elaborating by various characters in the book. It reminded me of the Celestial Prophecy that I read years ago, although The Alchemist at least has some literary qualities which compensates for the medieval worldview.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the life of the shepherd boy and his travels through Spain and Africa and I can see why it is such a bestseller.



Book details:

   The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
   I read this book in English.

Dutch books translated into Bulgarian

books

For our Bulgarian-Dutch-American family, hunting for translated books is a fun past-time. I’ve been trying to find Dutch literature and children’s books in Bulgarian.

Literature

  • Simon Vestdijk’s De Koperen Tuin is available for sale as Медната Градина.
  • Славата на Холандия - Ян Де Харток, Holland’s Glorie by Jan de Hartog
  • Нещо Сладко - Ян Волкерс Turks Fruit by Jan Wolkers
  • Задната Къщата - Ане Франк Het achterhuis by Anne Frank
  • Скитникът - Adriaan van Dis De Wandelaar

Райна Стефанова has translated several books into Bulgarian.

Children’s books

  • The Kikker books by Max Velthuis (Макс Велтхаюс). I ordered several of them through http://www.helikon.bg/
  • In 2012 three Dick Bruna books were translated in Bulgarian. I was able to order them from the Utrechtse Kinderboek winkel, who have a dedicated page to translated Dutch children’s books.
  • In 1997 Annie MG Schmidt’s Minoes was translated and published in Sofia as Минуш - момичето-котка. It is no longer available.
  • In 2004 Annie MG Schimdt’s Pluk van de petteflet was translated as Малкият Плюк от голямата къща. It is no longer available.

Nooit meer slapen

books

After reading De donkere kamer van Damokles I was looking forward to this book, the 2nd one by WF Hermans on the list with 10 most popular Dutch books, and the book did not disappoint.

The style of the book was quite different than the magic realism in the previous one. This one felt like a biography at times and was very realistic. The main character makes a trip through Norway and the cold and rain are palpable. It serves as a good reminder never to visit the northern part of Norway.

The book became quite a page-turner in the end. Enjoyable.



Book details:

   Nooit meer slapen by WF Hermans.
   I read this book in Dutch.

De grote zaal

books

The book has obvious parallels to Hersenschimmen, the story of a man with Alzheimer’s. De grote zaal precedes it — it was published in the 1950’s but then somehow forgotten. It’s good that the book got more attention in 2010 again, it is worth reading.

The text is very clean, very straight which makes a pleasant read.



Book details:

   De grote zaal by Jacoba van Velde.
   I read this book in Dutch.

De Avonden

books

This is an enjoyable book, even though the subject is a lonely adolescent who has a very cynical outlook on his life. I don’t usually care for coming-of-age books — I hated the Catcher in the Rye — but Frits Egberts, the main character in De Avonden, is likeable. This is a post-war classic in Dutch literature and while I have read about the book, I never the story itself.

The main character is a clumsy boy, 23 years old, who still lives with his parents. He’s not too happy about living with them, and criticizes them in his thoughts. The father is hard-hearing and rather clumsy and detached. Seems like the parents don’t have the greatest relationship with each other either (“‘Dat is nu een intellectueel’, zei zijn moeder.”)

The book is well-known for its emphasis on the physical, and the low ambitions of the main characters. This is contrast to the prevailing (pre-war) literature which often was, if not moralizing, then at least hopeful and with characters “fit and of good characters”. The World War murdered the illusions of young people, as an award description for this book would say. In De Avonden the conversation is often about bodily functions, hair loss, diseases or even torture. I skipped over the more egregious descriptions of animal cruelty.

Details of life after the World War are interesting. My father was born in 1949, so he could almost be one of the babies figuring in the book. At one point the light in the house goes off, and won’t go on until they deposit a guilder coin in a box in the hallway. Coal is expensive and people are careful not to heat the house too warm. At one point, Frits is eating slices of bread with gravy, something pretty similar to the horrible but efficient dinners that Maarten Koning in Het Bureau would make for himself when his wife wasn’t home.

The book showcases a lot of traditional Dutch food. At the end of the story, before New Year’s Day, Frits mother is making appelbollen. Sure enough has lots of comments on her cooking and he tries to eat one when it’s still very hot. Here are some more dinner descriptions in the book:

  • “‘s avonds vlees, aardappels en veldsla; pudding van rijstgries, met bessensap, na”
  • “als dessert was er gele vanillepudding met beschuiten jam en chocoladehagelslag in lagen er in verwerkt”
  • “Zijn moeder bracht vijf kleine chocoladepuddingen binnen, elk in een theekopje. Ze kiepte ze een voor een op een schoteltje. ‘Gelukt’, zei ze.”
  • “Hij schepte zich uit de schalen op. Er waren aardappelen, ingemaakte tuinbonen, appelmoes en varkensvlees. ‘Ik vind, dat het weer verrukkelijk is, moeder’, zei hij, ‘vooral de jus.’ ‘Doe daar niet te gek mee alsjeblieft’, zei ze, ‘want meer dan in de kom is er niet.’”

I read this in the first week of December, which is kind of appropriate since the storyline starts on December 22nd and has its finale in New Year’s Eve, 1946.



Book details:

   De Avonden by Gerard Reve.
   I read this book in Dutch.

Max Havelaar

books

I did not finish this book and do not intend ever to do so. It is too boring!

I realize that the book had an important influence on the relation between Indonesia and the Netherlands, and that it exposed the cruel treatment of people of Indonesia by the Dutch, so it is an important political document. Having said that, it is very slow and boring and I don’t want to spend more time on it.

I read the book for 30% and then I gave up. Probably the first time I gave up on a classic.



Book details:

   Max Havelaar by Multatuli.
   I read this book in Dutch.

Books I'd like to read

books

Books I’d like to read, from various lists:

Individual books:

  • The Screwtape Letters
  • Embarrassement of Riches, Schama
  • The Wealth and Poverty of Nations
  • A book by Neil deGrasse Tyson, not sure yet which one

About me

I’m a software engineering manager in Arlington, Virginia. I love technology and working with people to build great software.

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Random facts

I was quoted in The Economist and my site was posted on Slashdot. I speak English and Dutch fluently, and pretty decent German, French and Bulgarian. I founded Dutch in America.com which has more than 3,300 Facebook fans.

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