April books 2023

In April I mostly read non-fiction books. That wasn’t necessarily planned, and I must admit that I struggled sometimes to concentrate on, say, 16th century history after a long day at work and then writing my thesis. Nevertheless I didn’t want to give up on my daily reading time. I did enjoy all of those books despite being tired and cranky after all! To strike a balance in the future, I took an Adler-Olsson thriller from the open bookcase with me.

I read these four books in April.

12. Bowie: Die Biographie – Marc Spitz

I tend to find music journalism somewhat pretentious, nevertheless I enjoyed this biography. This is mostly because I find David Bowie as an artistic persona intriguing. Marc Spitz mostly stays away from psychologial analysis, which is a good thing judging from the few times he doesn’t. Instead he concentrates on Bowie’s development as an artist, the ideas and concepts that influenced his work, and his effect on music over the decades. Life as art, as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane or the Thin White Duke, calls back to the legacy of Oscar Wilde and dandyism after all, and we all know that I can’t stay away from anything Oscar Wilde.

13. Christendom Destroyed: Europe 1517-1648 – Mark Greengrass

I’m slowly reading my way through the Penguin History of Europe Series. “Christendom Destroyed” is the volume about the early modern era between the beginning of the reformation and the Peace of Westphalia. It analyzes the effect the religious devisions and the resulting upheavals and bloody wars had on every aspect of life in the 16th and 17th century, and how this destruction of the unity of Christendom lead to the emergence of “Europe” as a geographical, political and philosophical concept. While I mostly read the book for fun, it turned out rather helpful for my thesis as well – some of the ideas and concepts that came up in these two centuries are the basis for discourse in the 18th century.

14. Weibliche Unsichtbarkeit – Marylène Patou-Mathis

In this book, author Marylène Pathou-Mathis examines how women have been made invisible in history because of androcentric scholarship. I was looking forward to reading about this from the perspective of a prehistorian scholar. Since we don’t know much about prehistory the problem of bias in scholarship is all the more egregious. For example, skeletons have been assumed to be male only because the burial objects (swords etc.) around them were thought to belong to a man. While I do understand it was necessary for the argument of male bias to give an overview over Western science history I really wish she’d have abridged these chapters to be honest. The parts about prehistory and prehistorian methodology were really fascinating and informative, though, and I wish they’d had more room in the book. Plus, I kept waiting for Patou-Mathis to address the issue that the binary construction of gender is also one of the biases in the scientific community that needs to be reexamined.

15. Fremd – Michel Friedman

“Fremd” (= Foreign) gutted me in a way I don’t think I’m ready to talk about yet. Friedman talks about being the child of parents who survived the Holocaust. After the end of the war, the family lives in France but then moves to Germany – the country of the murderers. While his parents are immersed in grief, he struggles to find his place in life. Written in free form poetry, Friedman describes the existential feeling of not belonging yet wanting to belong. It was partly brutal to read, but at the same time it felt very cathartic and comforting to have someone put very precisely into words what, as the child of a migrant, I’ve felt all my life as well. I’m really, really thankful for this book.

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