Guus Bosman

software engineering director

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Books & literature


Books I'd like to read

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

Individual books:

  • Silk Road by Frankopan
  • Bono Memoirs -- Surrender
  • The Screwtape Letters
  • Embarrassement of Riches, Schama
  • The Wealth and Poverty of Nations
  • A book by Neil deGrasse Tyson, not sure yet which one
  • History-Western-Philosophy-Bertrand-Russell

Books I've read to the kids: voorlezen.


Nederland Leest books

Here's another list of Dutch books that I'd like to read:

  • 2022: Yvonne Keuls, Mevrouw mijn moeder
  • 2021: Adriaan van Dis, De wandelaar (January 2023)
  • 2020: Judith Koelemeijer, Het zwijgen van Maria Zachea (January 2023)
  • 2019: Jan Wolkers, Winterbloei
  • 2018: Je bent wat je leest, verschillende schrijvers
  • 2017: Isaac Asimov, I, Robot and De robot van de Machine is de mens - Ronald Giphart
  • 2016: Morten - Anna Levander, Heer van de vliegen - William Golding, Liefde en schaduw - Isabel Allende
  • (February 2023)

  • 2015: A.L. Snijders, Nederland leest de mooiste korte verhalen (February 2023)
  • 2014: Maarten 't Hart, Een vlucht regenwulpen (in progress)
  • 2013: Godfried Bomans, Erik of het klein insectenboek (September 2022)
  • 2012: W.F. Hermans, De donkere kamer van Damokles (November 2012)
  • 2011: Remco Campert, Het leven is vurrukkulluk (January 2023)
  • 2010: Jacoba van Velde, De grote zaal (December 2012)
  • 2009: Hella S. Haasse, Oeroeg (January 2023)
  • 2008: Harry Mulisch, Twee vrouwen (December 2010)
  • 2007: Theo Thijssen, De gelukkige klas (read in 2012, loved the book. Didn't write a book review)
  • 2006: Frank Martinus Arion, Dubbelspel (January 2023)


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.


NRC Top 10 Dutch books 2007

In 2007 an internet-based poll resulted in a top 10 of most popular Dutch books "of all times". It gives a good snapshot of popular books and I decided to read all the books on the list.

On this page I maintain an overview of them, with a link to a short review for the ones that I've read.

  1. Harry Mulisch, De ontdekking van de hemel (1992)
  2. Kader Abdolah, Het huis van de moskee (2019)
  3. Multatuli, Max Havelaar (didn't finish it)
  4. J. Bernlef, Hersenschimmen (November 2012)
  5. W.F. Hermans, De donkere kamer van Damokles (November 2012)
  6. W.F. Hermans, Nooit meer slapen (December 2012)
  7. J.J. Voskuil, Het bureau (November 2012)
  8. Nescio, De uitvreter, Titaantjes, Dichtertje (July 2012)
  9. Gerard Reve, De avonden (December 2012)
  10. Thomas Rosenboom, Publieke werken (January 2023)

De donkere kamer van Damokles

After finishing Het Bureau I fell into a deep hole, literature wise, and needed another "fix". I had never read anything from W.F. Hermans so I read this book, his most famous work.

I don't read reviews or background articles before I start a book, since I like to make up my own mind and to be surprised by the story. This is one of those books where it is especially important not to know anything about the plot.

Almost to my surprise, I greatly enjoyed this book. I was skeptical after the first 10 pages but the book became a real page-turner. I understand why this is such a popular novel.

I am looking forward to read Herman's next book on my list, Nooit meer slapen (Beyond sleep).

W.F. Hermans

Het Bureau

Het Bureau is a series of seven books that describes several decades of the life of Maarten Koning. It is an autobiographic book based on the career of the author J.J. Voskuil at the national research institute for Dutch language and culture.

I read the first book during my trip to Menlo Park and finished the final book a month later. I greatly enjoyed these books and it become one of my all-time favorite works. Het Bureau is a little like a "soap for intellectuals", describing the life and the career of an academic working on Dutch folk culture and mythology, and the bureaucratic entrails of a stuffy research institute that nobody takes very seriously.

The story is slow, but very carefully crafted. The people in the book involve into very rich characters. I enjoyed the descriptions of Amsterdam and the Dutch country side. Meneer Beerta has become one of my ever favorite characters in Dutch literature. The book is almost boring at times, but very addictive, and sometimes very funny -- the part about the “dorsflegel” was hilarious.

I especially enjoy reading about the board meetings (“de Commissie”). They are short but full of political intrigue. When I read about the interaction between Maarten and his subordinates, it makes my blood curl. They flat-out refuse the work assigned to them, undermine his work and pretend to be out sick all the time.

The book has a nostalgic mood occasionally. It is interesting to read how things were done in an office in the 1960’s. All letters, for example, were typed on a type-writer with overlays for the archive. It is interesting to see how cars get more and more common, and throughout the years more and more employees at Het Bureau get a car. The main character despises cars and doesn’t hesitate to make his opinion known.

The main character is not exactly an optimistic person. "Hij besefte plotseling hoe weinig er van het verleden was overgebleven en hoe uitzichtloos de toekomst was tegen de achtergtrond van de zich opstapelende, zinloze verantwoordelijkheden.” (“He realized how little of his past remained, and how pointless the future was against a background of steadily increasing but futile responsibilities”).

Maarten Koning is cynical about his profession and his fellow researchers.

“Maar ik maak geen indruk! Daarvoor praat ik veel te snel en veel te ingewikkeld. Als je indruk wilt maken, moet je wachten tot iedereen moe is, en dan moet je heel langzaam iets ontzettend banaals zeggen. Dat begrijpen ze en dat wordt het!”

“But I don’t make a strong impression! I speak too quickly and too complicated. If you want to make a good impression you should wait until everybody is tired, and then very slowly say something very mundane. That will be understood, and then implemented!”


'Er komen daar natuurlijk allemaal natuurkundigen, chemici, biologen, geologen. Wat moeten die met de Nederlandse volkstaal en volkcultuur?' 'Dat interesseert ze juist!' zei Balk apodictisch. 'Eindelijk eens echte wetenschap!' - hij lachte met een grimmig sarcasme. Voor wat wij doen, heeft iedere intellectueel belangstelling. Dat geeft die bètamensen juist status! En anders prikkelt het het snobisme!' - hij glimlachte gemeen.

Balk is right about that, I greatly enjoyed reading about the scientific work that is being done in Het Bureau and how the ideas about the field change through the years. I subscribed to Quotidian, a new magazine about the study of everyday life.

When I was in high school I had heard about new parts of the book being published -- the publisher managed to stir up quite a hype around these books -- and it was a lot of fun to read old newspaper articles and interviews with characters from the book afterwards.

On a final note -- this is the quintessential Dutch book. If you want to understand more about Dutch culture and history, and your Dutch is fluent and you don't mind reading 5,500 pages... this is the book for you.

J. J. Voskuil

Het Diner

Sasha pointed me to a glowing review in The Economist of a new book by Dutch author Herman Koch. The book hasn't yet been released in the U.S. but I read the Dutch version on my phone.

This book is a real page turner and the story captured me from the first chapter. The book is well written with very credible characters -- yet completely unpredictable.

Herman Koch

How language comes to children: from birth to two years

This book describes the current scientific understanding of how children learn a language in their first two years. It is a thorough book but very readable. It is a translation from a French book.

The book is full of fun facts:

  • Babies will babble in a lower pitch to their father than to their mother.
  • Babies at 8 to 9 months already have a feel for which words "sound right". American babies were less interested in Dutch words such as "zwetsen" and "vlakte" which contain "zw" and "vl" sounds that don't appear in English words.
  • Fairly early on, baby babbling will pick up the melody of the mother language. So French babies babble differently than American or Chinese babies, and adults can often tell what a baby's mother tongue is.

I was mostly interested in the developments during the first year, since Nora is now almost 6 months old. Still the remainder of the book was interesting as well, with several case studies of children in France and the USA and every child's language style.

The book is not primarily about dual language kids but the author enjoys pointing out the cultural differences between various countries. French children for example, know more food-words at an early age, Swedish kids more words for activities and American kids more nouns.

I picked this book when I went to the Arlington library with my parents.

Bénédicte de Boysson-Bardies

De uitvreter, Titaantjes, Dichtertje

This is a collection of 3 short stories by Nescio, dating from the early 1900's. I loved the book.

There is a lot of analysis available in other places of the various themes in the book. For me the most powerful were the melancholic sadness and the beautiful descriptions of Holland in earlier times.

The book mainly describes the bourgeois class but also talks about to the lower classes and farmers ("de pummels"). Lovely, lovely!

This book was a gift to my parents, from November 15, 1991 when my father had broken his leg. He brought it to Arlington when he came to take care of Nora.


Terug tot Ina Damman

My experience with coming of age books has been rather mixed. I disliked A Catcher in the Rye and especially Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I borrowed this book from my parents because years ago I enjoyed another Vestdijk book a great deal. And indeed, Vestdijk managed to write a book about a 15 year boy that is touching, funny, and interesting.

Simon Vestdijk


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