Archive for the ‘Biographies’ Category


Prize draw winners: Shopaholic, Stephen Fry + Plenty More

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Win a copy of Shopaholic to the Stars winners: Marleen Blom, Liselore van der Zweth, and Cynthia Kaspers

Q: Which movie star would you like to dress and why?

“The moviestar I would like to dress is Brad Pitt, so I can look at him all the time! haha”

“I would dearly like to dress Jemima Kirke. Her bohemian look is so carefree, yet so gorgeous! It would be hard to improve upon it, but I would be sure to find boho gems such as kimonos and one-of-a-kind accessories :)

Bella Thorne, because of her beautiful red hair, a challenge I think to give her a nice makeover without changing her hair color.”

Win a copy of More Fool Me by Stephen Fry winner: Jasmina Suljanovic

Q: If you could pick the next book that Stephen Fry reads, what would it be and why?

“It is very hard to recommend a book to read for someone who, I presume, knows (of) pretty much everything I’d think he’d find interesting and thus has probably read every book I can think of. I first thought of The Undutchables by Boucke and White, so he can read about us crazy Dutch people. Then I thought, isn’t there a book in English about our Dutch renaissance man, Boudewijn Buch, but the only book I found was in Dutch. Then again, maybe he’d like to read some fiction, to wind down a bit.
So the book I pick to recommend to Mr. Fry that he might like to read next is To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. I picked this book because it combines several areas of interest he has. It takes place in the near future, which Mr. Fry with his love for gadgets and new inventions might like. But it also takes place in the past, because in the near future they have invented time travel. So, the main characters travel back to a period I believe Mr. Fry likes, which is the Victorian age in England. And as a bonus it contains a theme Mr. Fry has used himself, that is, changing the past through time travel. Coupled with suspense and humor, I think this is a book he might like to read next.”

“If I could recommend Stephen to read anything it would be Brodeck’s Report by Philipe Claudel.  This book is about us, the way we are, the way we sometimes forge our own past to be forgiven, about the way we treat each other. This book is about hate and how much pain we inflict in the name of that hate. This book is about society that does not accepts anyone that is different. This book is about the guilt.  This book had me at the opening line: ‘My name is Brodeck and I had nothing to do with it.’
If he did not already, hope one day Stephen will read it.
Philippe Claudel is an amazing writer, and not only that, he is painter, director (I’ve Loved You So Long and Tous les Soleils, translated into English as Silence of Love), screenwriter. He also worked in prison as a teacher and his experience from working in prison helped him in writing Brodeck’s Report. I hope more people would be interested in reading this book and others by him.”

“I’d pick the sharp and hilarious Watching The English: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior. I’d love to know what he thought of the book!”

“Stephen Fry should read Hella S. Haasse. She’s the grand old lady of Dutch literature.  For me her masterpiece is In a Dark Wood Wandering, a historical novel-biography of Charles d’Orléans.  But her works set in the Dutch East Indies are more part of our own heritage.”

“If I could pick the next book that Stephen Fry should read, I’d pick To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. It’s truly mesmerising.”

“I feel the next book Mr. Fry reads should be The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.  Like Mr. Fry, Oscar Wilde was a witty gentleman who liked to comment on (or rather: make fun of) British high society. The Importance of Being Earnest deals with people who try to get out of all sorts of social events they find boring, by using manipulation and lies. Mr Fry confessed to have used cocaine in order to deal with such boring occasions in the past, but maybe he could learn a few white lies from this book instead? Besides, Mr. Fry is a busy man and the book happens to be very thin, leaving Mr. Fry enough time to make more entertaining episodes of QI and interesting documentaries – which is good for all of us!”

“What I think Stephen Fry would like to read next is not easy to say. He probably has read anything that I would suggest.  If he has not read it already, I think that he would enjoy The Lotus Eaters by Tatiana Soli. The story around the journalist in Vietnam is so well told and beautiful that I can’t imagine him not enjoying reading it. If this quiz is intended for offering suggestions to him, I hope he does read this one.”

“If I could pick the next book that Stephen Fry reads, it would be Wolf In White Van by John Darnielle.  I’m extremely eager to read it (it was just released only days ago). John Darnielle plays in the band The Mountain Goats, and he’s one of my favourite lyricists. His writing is realistic and very strong, but humorous and unique as well. I can’t wait to see him work his talents in a different medium.”

“As a wild admirer of everything Stephen Fry, based mainly on his humour, intelligence and brutal honesty, I would suggest he delve into the magnificent world of Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey. Showing true intellect and creative mastery, Fforde’s novel unfolds a narrative within a world in which social hierarchy is determined by your propensity to perceive colour. Besides a romantic journey which travels into revolutionary waters, Shades of Grey is a fascinating read that pulls you into Fforde’s fictive reality as well as reconfigures ideas about the world you find yourself in today. Would recommend it to anyone!”

The Island at the Center of the World should be the next book SF reads in order for him to ask quite interesting facts about New York on the N-series of QI!”

Ebook available for To Say Nothing of the Dog, Brodeck’s Report, Watching the English, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Lotus Eaters, Shades of Grey, and The Island at the Center of the World.

Win a copy of Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi winner: Bertil Videt

Q: Besides Ottolenghi’s titles, what is your favorite cookbook?

“My favorite cookbooks have everyday recipes rather than complicated ones and a lot of beautiful food photos to inspire you more and give you an idea how the food should look like.  With that, my current favorite cookbook is The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.”

“My favourite cookbook (of the moment) is without a doubt Pushpesh Pant’s India Cookbook. Although there are quite a few recipes that have wrong measurements or fail to adress vital steps in the cooking process ;-) , our home has been smelling like an Indian spice shop for months and the family (kids included) are loving our frequent excursions to India.”

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. The reason I love this cookbook is because besides cooking my greatest hobby is (vegetable) gardening. I absolutely love nature, and all that nature has to offer us, not only in the kitchen. To me a quintessential part of ‘learning how to cook’ is also understanding the vegetables we use better: what season do they grow in? What ‘family’ they are part of and what goes well together? Even though I am not a vegetarian I love this cookbook, because it challenges me to explore and experiment. What appeals to me about Madison’s book is that she also looks at the more ‘unconventional’ components of vegetables such as flowers. I love trying new things when I cook, and love to be surprised by tastes that go well together. Learning about food helps me to learn more about the world and also about the human body.”

“Ok yes, I love Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. Sami Tamimi is great too, but no one ever mentions him?  My next favorite cookbook is Food of Life by Najmieh Batmanglij. My mother is Italian and remarried my stepdad who is Iranian when I was just a wee thing. She used it to connect with his family and culture and I use it now when I’m feeling homesick (living as an expat in Amsterdam).”

“Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef. It’s the first cookbook I got as a teenager, and it was the one that started my passion for cooking, and reading cook books for pleasure!”
Blogmistress’s note: The Naked Chef is currently not available (why Penguin? WHY?), but the follow-ups The Return of the Naked Chef and Happy Days with the Naked Chef are.

Terre a Terre: The Vegetarian Cookbook by Amanda Powley.”

“Oh that is such a tough question! It depends a bit on what I’m cooking/baking? I have a Turkish cookbook by Jale Balci which has simple menus, 3-4 dishes per menu, lightness based on the season. They are not what you would call fancy as Ottolenghi dishes would be, but they can wow unsuspecting guests.  When it comes to baking, I really like yogurt cake recipes from Smitten Kitchen’s website, though I do have one of those 500 muffin recipes cookbooks to go to as well.  As you can see, I’m also terrible at choosing favorites :)

“My favorite cookbook is the first one I ever bought and aptly describes how I (still) am: Clueless in the Kitchen by Evelyn Raab. Though I have used other cookbooks, I will never forget what got me in the kitchen in the first place.”

“My favorite cookbook, besides the ones by Ottolenghi, is  The Jewish Kitchen by Claudia Roden. I have the two editions with the different covers and she even signed them for me at a book meeting!”
Blogmistress’s note: I think the entrant meant The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden (of which there is a US edition as well as a UK edition) or The Jewish Kitchen by Clarissa Hyman.  If there is indeed a Jewish Kitchen by Claudia Roden then it is no longer in print, alas.

“It’s hard to pick one! I use all of my cookbooks whenever I need inspiration or just want to cook my favourite dish. But If I would have to pick one, then it would be 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know.  It is my go-to cookbook for basics but also for great recipes like No Guy Required Grilled Steak, Forget the Mistake You Made at Work Margarita and Bribe a Kid Brownies.”

“Besides Ottolenghi’s titles, my favorite cookbook is Jamie’s America.”

“Besides Ottolenghi’s books I love one Dutch cookbook named 5 ingrediënten. The thing I love about this book is that it is simple, no fuzz and every recipe only holds 5 ingredients, so no long shopping lists or missing out on ingredients and the recipes are easy to adjust when you are a vegetarian (like me).”

“As a new vegetarian, I certainly have appreciated Ottolenghi’s Plenty. Another book that has been helpful is Anna Thomas’s The Vegetarian Epicure. It helped me prepare meals not only without meat, but also delicious and nutritious. Looking forward to trying out some of Ottolenghi’s new recipes.”

“My favourite cook book, beside Ottolenghi, is Mad (food) by the Danish chef Henrik Boserup.”

Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen.”

“My favorite cookbook is the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. I know everything in it is unhealthy, I KNOW, but it’s got a lot of those comfort recipes that are kind of old classics. :)

Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals.  Got me through university in a healthy, fit and tasty way!”

“Other than Ottolenghi, I like the New Basics. It’s a pretty standard/classic but always has great background info and lovely (and useful) illustrations. Their turkey and stuffing recipe is the BEST EVER and works great with Ottolenghi veggie dishes!”

“I would love to win Ottolenghi’s new cook book Plenty More, as I am very eager to try it. I absolute love his cook book Plenty, it is my favorite. I have many cook books, but actually I only use 4 of them: my favorite Plenty, but also Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moscovitz, Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon and the Dutch Plant Power by Lisette Kreischer. As you can see: all focused on a plant-powered kitchen, centered on veggies!  I am also very much looking forward to Sarah Britton’s (from My New Roots) new cook book.”

River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  Hugh is just so passionate about vegetables (and so am I). This book is such eye candy (the photographs and layout are beautiful), it is easy to read and packed with relatively simple recipes for real people with normal kitchens. Real food is the future!!”

Fast, Fresh, Simple by Donna Hay, simple delicious recipes that can be whipped up with minimal fuss, truly a working dad/mom’s go-to guide after a long day of work, and you still want to nutritionally feed your family.”

“Just as Ottolenghi emphasizes vegetables, Janet Fletcher does the same in Pasta Harvest, my very favorite cookbook!”
Blogmistress’s note: Pasta Harvest is currently not in print, but can be ordered through our supplier of second-hand books.

“Tessa Kiros, Ciao Bella (English title: Venezia: Food and Dreams).  Excellent book with great treats from Venice.”

“My favorite cookbook is Matt Preston’s 100 Best Recipes.”
Blogmistress’s note: We can’t get this delectable book, unfortunately.  All too often this is the case with books from Australia, New Zealand and Canada.  UK and US publishers, get on the ball!

“As difficult as it is to choose an alternative to Ottolenghi’s selection…I have one work that comes to mind immediately:  Vefa’s Kitchen, by Vefa Alexiadou – a comprehensive Greek culinary resource.  It’s a great complement to Ottolenghi’s work, and for me personally a nostalgic journey back to my early years living in Crete.  I traveled to London last year and visited his restaurants – a wonderful experience. And he is also such a lovely man…with a connection to Amsterdam as well!”

“Not really a cookbook but The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz is to me a great inspiration to experiment to ferment, bake sourdough bread and to preserve the crops of my kitchen-garden.”

“My favorite cookbook is Recettes pour bien vivre by Manfred Meeuwig because it has wonderful Dutch recipes from times gone by and proves that Dutch cuisine used to be fantastic.”

“Approximately 15 years ago I bought Marion Cunningham´s The Fannie Farmer Baking Book (at ABC of course). It´s a passion of mine to bake every cookie and cake in my household and I can state that every recipe out of this cookbook is correct en very tasteful.  What´s extra nice about this book: it has a fantastic Index. An individual ingredient can be traced to a fantastic recipe.  In the course of these 15 years it has become my baking bible with lots of personal notations.”
Blogmistress’s note: The Fannie Farmer Baking Book is currently not in print, unfortunately, but The Fannie Farmer Cookbook is.

The Joy of Cooking is one of my most favorite cookbooks. It’s so comprehensive. You can find plenty of exotic recipes, yet the clear instructions and explanations make it perfect for beginners. My copy is falling apart and splattered with sauces and batter, but I love it because I really learned how to cook with this book.”

“Without a doubt, my favorite other cookbook is one of the two old-fashioned Dutch recipe books from my grandmother: the Kookboek from the Amsterdamse Huishoudschool. This book has all the classics, most of them I will never make, but every time I need just a basic recipe or information about a technique, I’ll automatically grab this book.”

“Besides Ottolenghi, I love Appetite by Nigel Slater and Flour by Joanne Chang.”

“My favorite cookbook is the original vegan cookbook by the Post Punk Kitchen: Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskovitz.”

“Besides Plenty More my favorite cookbook is The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken. A classic for all the great amateur chefs out there (ha-ha).”

“Aside from these, my most referenced cookbook is Tiptopf, which is actually a classic Swiss school book with basics on ingredients, nutrition and cooking styles. It’s a must in all Swiss house holds!”

“Besides Ottolenghi’s titles, my favorite cookbook is The Wagamama Cookbook by Hugo Arnold.  Wagamama is a lovely Asian restaurant in Amsterdam, that my boyfriend introduced me to.”

The Burger Kap-ow!

“My favorite cookbook is Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry.  She was ahead of her time by making this book.  All of the recipes are very inspiring, fool proof and you can taste all around the Mediterranean.”

Veganomicon!”

Ebook available for PlentyThe Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Clueless in the Kitchen, The Book of Jewish Food, 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know, The Vegetarian Epicure, Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, The New Basics Cookbook, River Cottage Veg Every Day!, The Art of Fermentation, Flour, Vegan with a Vengeance, I Hate to Cook Book and Veganomicon.

Win a copy of More Fool Me by Stephen Fry!

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Are you going to Stephen Fry’s Pathé Special on October 1st?  He will be introducing More Fool Me, the latest instalment of his memoirs – and undoubtedly wax wonderfully poetic about any range of subjects that might strike his fancy that evening.  If you have a ticket, we’re sure you’ll have a grand time; here are a host of videos of what he was like when he visited us for The Fry Chronicles to give you an inkling.

Our lovely friends at Penguin have given us a copy of the special slipcased edition of More Fool Me, to give away to one of you.  All you have to do is answer the following question:

If you could pick the next book that Stephen Fry reads, what would it be and why?

Mail your answer to win@abc.nl by October 8th. Please include “Stephen Fry” in the subject header.

You Review: Georgie & Elsa – Norman di Giovanni

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Reviewed by Ana da Silva

The great writer George Luis Borges was married for the first time at the age of 68 to Elsa Astete Millán, a widow 11 years his junior. Georgie, as he was known to friends, was impotent and legally blind (yet highly concerned about the looks of his girlfriends). Elsa’s interests included fur coats, perfumes and makeup, and she wanted nothing to do with the literary circles to which Georgie belonged. Why the two married is unclear; Georgie blames his mother, his mother blames Georgie and so forth.

Georgie & Elsa, by Norman di Giovanni, is supposed to be an intimate account of the life of the brilliant Georgie and the classless, greedy wife who holds him back. Di Giovanni makes it clear early in the book that he did not intend to write yet another Borges biography nor to analyze Borges’s writing but rather to look into the couple’s life. However, much of the book is about Borges and his writing, so much so that late in the book the author mentions the superiority of his Borges biography over just about all other biographies on the great Argentine writer.

On the other hand, on several occasions in Georgie & Elsa the reader is presented with useless facts that attest to the writer’s desperation to prove that he and he alone was truly involved in the couple’s private life and, above all, Borges’s. For example, at one point di Giovanni uses a few pages too many describing in prose lists of items Elsa asks him to buy for her and later he dedicates many more pages to the history of Borges’s military hero ancestors. These boring bits fail to add much to the story, though they do begin to paint a picture of the author as a boastful yenta.

If read as a take on a great author as simply human, the book is overall enjoyable if rather forgettable.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Ebook available for Georgie & Elsa.

You Review: Signed, Sealed, Delivered – Nina Sankovitch

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Review by Anouschka van Leeuwen

In her previous book, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, Nina Sankovitch took the reader along on her year-long project of reading one book a day, explaining what emotions the books triggered and how they related to her own life. Signed, Sealed, Delivered has the same spirit: this book is again a personal tale. After the discovery of an old box of letters, Sankovitch is inspired to look for the significance of written correspondence. Her findings result in a book, that like its predecessor, mixes the genres of non-fiction and memoir. Unfortunately, I found both of these aspects a bit disappointing.

Concerning the author’s personal reflections, I found that the initial story of the discovery of the old letters was a nice introduction to the book’s subject. However, after a while the author’s sentiments became a bit irksome to me. For example, Sankovitch often expresses how she wishes that her children will write to her once they leave for college so that she will have a memento of their love for her. Although touching, after a few times these motherly sentiments started to become repetitive and did not have any added value to the main subject of the book.

At times, I found that this melodramatic tone made me wish that Sankovitch had tried to approach the subject from a more theoretical perspective, which brings me to my second concern. When I started the book, I had expected something along the lines of an essay explaining the appeal of letter writing. Instead, the majority of the book consists of examples of both famous and non-famous letter writers and receivers.

This is not to say that the book was not entertaining. On the contrary: the example stories are often compelling and sometimes even taught me a thing or two (like the history of Heloise and Abelard and how letter writing played a role in their lives). Still, I felt like the author missed out on the opportunity to delve deeper into the psychological aspects of written correspondence, especially in this digital age. Each chapter centers around a particular function that letters may fulfill, and in between the stories, Sankovitch sometimes drops a line that summarizes the effects that reading or writing a letter can have. I think I would have liked it better if these reflective parts had taken up more space in the book.

To summarize, I have mixed feelings about this book. Being an avid letter writer myself, I have enjoyed the numerous tales that illustrate the appeal of letters. On the other hand, readers who are expecting a philosophical or psychological account of letter writing should realize that Signed, Sealed, Delivered is not intended as such. Instead, it should be seen as a compilation of the most romantic or otherwise touching stories in the history of the handwritten letter.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

No ebook available for Signed, Sealed, Delivered, but there is one of her earlier book: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.

Pulitzer Prize Winners 2014

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Congratulation to everyone who won a 2014 Pulitzer Prize last night!  The full list can be found here; the winners in the Letters and Drama categories are:

Fiction: The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt *
Drama: The Flick – Annie Baker
History:  The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 – Alan Taylor
Biography or Autobiography:  Margaret Fuller: A New American Life – Megan Marshall
Poetry: 3 Sections – Vijay Seshadri
General Nonfiction: Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation – Dan Fagin

* True story:  I saw my very first goldfinch yesterday morning as I was on a run!  I should have kept running to the nearest bookie, obviously.  :-)  Very pretty and quick bird, and very striking, too.