Guus Bosman

software engineering director

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Here I keep track of some of the books that I've read, often with a short review and some personal thoughts. These are only a selection since I read a lot more books for work.

I like to read book in their original languages where possible: French, German, Dutch, English and I even read three books in Bulgarian. Here is the list of books I'd like to read. See also books about technology or management, and my all-time favorite books.

I'm an engineer, and enjoy science fiction novels. Some of my favorite authors are Vernor Vinge, Terry Pratchett and LE Modesitt Jr. No overview of my reading habits would be complete without mentioning The Economist -- I love that magazine.

Books below are in order of date read; this overview starts in October 2002.


Travels with Charley: In Search of America

I started reading Travels with Charley after I was recommended a new book by Geert Mak, based on John Steinbeck's journey through America. I love Steinbeck, and this book was great as always. I had never heard about this book before but apparently it was a big hit when it was released, and rightly so.

It's the story of his journey through the States, to see America 'one more time' -- the author was an advanced age when he made the trip. At times melancholic, the book provides a heartwarming insight in what it is like to get old and to travel back to places where one has been before and to see how things have changed through time.

It's interesting that the author is looking back at his childhood in the book, but that the book itself shows its age as well. For example, Steinbeck brings many books and encyclopedias with him in his car -- where now a laptop or smartphone would get access to all that information and more. And halfway the author talks about Time magazine as a "bulwark" -- Time, which is now essentially digital only after huge losses on the print edition.

Never mind the age difference, and the fact that this is a 50 year old book, the book makes you relate to the author. The beautiful prose helps, but the wisdom of the author is even more important. He reflects how "the good old times" always seem to have been the generation before the previous. Something which is still true and I have written about myself.

Finally, this is a quintessential American book and the author loves his country. It is great to see more perspectives on how things "used to be" . A book I'd like to read is "Can't go home" by Tom Wolf.

Unexpected, for me, was his trip to the South and the violent racism that was still rampant then. Of course, this was 1960, a time the civil rights movement was in full swing, but it's hard to belief that that period is only 50 years ago.

Marvelous book, by a humble but highly skilled author.

John Steinbeck

His Excellency: George Washington

This is the third book I read from Mr. Ellis, after Founding Brothers and American Creation, and it was excellent as always.

I didn't know much about the early life of Washington, and this book gives a good overview of his life as well as his career. It highlights the greatness of the man, without ignoring his weaknesses and gives a realistic portrait of a true hero.

I read this after Nadia and Milan left and Jaap was here.

Terrific read.

Joseph J. Ellis

Het succes van tweetalig opvoeden

My mother requested this book from the library in Middenmeer for me, and my father brought it to the States when he was here for a month long visit.

It is a very nicely written book on the current knowledge on dual language children. It refers to modern research but also has a lot of practical examples and ideas. The suggestions are straightforward: be consistent, one parent one language, and make sure there's enough 'supply' of each language for the child.

The book describes that there are often two challenging periods: during the 3th or 4th year when the child realizes for the first times that it's speaking a different language at home then at school, and during puberty. Obviously, the 'problem' during puberty is less significant as by that age it is very unlikely for the child to forget the language.

It's encouraging to read again that children have no trouble at all learning an extra language or two, provided that the encouragement and language supply is there. Sometimes I worry a little about Nora -- will she have a hard time starting school because she doesn't know English yet? -- but the book reinforces that kids will have no problem quickly learning the main language, and that in fact the biggest challenge will be to maintain their minority languages.

In addition to general information on dual language acquisition, the book describes foreign language education and multilingual schools in the Netherlands, which was interesting to read also.

Well written, recommended.

Elisabeth van de Lenden and Folkert Kuiken

Жените на варшава

Това е третата книга който съм четал на Български. Надя и Милан ме подадох този книга, който има две история – Мъже и Жените на Варшава. Започвах с миналото новелата.

Живот в пустинната е описан много добре. То ме напомни малко на Холандската книга Nooit meer slapen в който герой пътува в студената Норвегия. Тук, разбира се, пустинната не е студено но супер горещо.

Интересно е че авторът избирах пиле като символ на лошо духът който иска да хвана овце -- и хора.

Георги Марков

The Alchemist

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.

Paulo Coelho

Nooit meer slapen

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.

WF Hermans

De grote zaal

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.

Jacoba van Velde

De Avonden

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.

Gerard Reve

Max Havelaar

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.



This book about dementia made me sad. It was often painful to read but it is a beautiful work.

Maarten Klein, the main character, grew up in the Netherlands and thinks back to his childhood and early years in the northern part of North-Holland, near where I was born. He now lives an hour outside of Boston with his long-time wife Vera.

Maarten suffers from Alzheimer's disease and he is slowly losing his mind. The first-person perspective show how invasive the disease is. Through flashbacks and lost-and-then-found memories we learn about his life, his relation with Vera and the impact of the disease on their relationship.

Painstakingly beautiful.