Archive for the ‘Blog For Us!’ Category

ABC Customers’ Favorite Reads of 2012

Friday, January 11th, 2013

First of all, a little late, happy 2013! And what a cracking start to the new year we will have, since so many of you have sent in your favorite reads from 2012.  Thank you so much for all this literary inspiration – I hope that whoever looks through this list, and the ABC Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2012, will find plenty of new books to try out in the next twelvemonth.

I’m happy to report that this post is ginormous, so I just want to take this space to highlight all of you who took the time to send in titles: Marjolein Balm, Retno Trimbos, David Swatling, Anne Marie Klaarhamer, Jonathan de Souza, Keefe Cordeiro, Marianne van der Wel, Bryna Hellmann, Jeroen van Trierum, Kiki van Gurp, Giny Backers, Maya Katerberg, Luke Sondelski, Mique Capel and Michelle Meewezen.

Thank you once more for your lists.  We are so lucky to have customers like you!


Visiting the other Anne Frank House

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

The flat in South Amsterdam where Anne Frank and her family lived for nine years before going into hiding at the Secret Annex on the Prinsengracht was open to the public for one day on Saturday, 10 December, 2011. Friend of the ABC Ellyn Cook was there and shares the experience.

“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” – Leonardo da Vinci

The second floor flat in Amsterdam South where Anne Frank and her family lived prior to going into hiding.

The second floor flat in Amsterdam South where Anne Frank and her family lived prior to going into hiding.

The Franks made their home in a three bedroom flat on the second floor of number 37 Merwedeplein. Here they lived from December 1933 until July 6 1942, when they were forced to leave the flat and go into hiding at the Secret Annex on the Prinsengracht (Princes’ canal), now the Anne Frank House Museum.

Merwedeplein in Amsterdam

For sixty years tenants came and went until, in 2004, the flat was purchased by the Ymere housing association, restored in 1930s style and refurbished with furniture from the Department for Cultural Heritage to recreate the look of the Franks’ home; a feat requiring extensive research and greatly assisted by the Anne Frank Foundation and Otto Frank’s own photographs.

Wallpaper detail in the hall of the Frank family's flat. Photo Credit: Luuk Kramer Fotographie Amsterdam

One Saturday in December 2011, the flat was opened to the public, for just one day. I just had to take a look inside

Looking from the Frank's living room into the dining room in their flat in South Amsterdam. Photo Credit: Ellyn Cook

Swing left from the landing at the top of the entry stairs and you enter the bright dining room, used as a bedroom for Anne’s grandmother who joined the family here from 1939 until her death in January 1942.

The wooden-framed window overlooks the square, inviting one to peer to the street below. Indeed it was leaning from this window to watch a wedding party below that Anne was captured, in the only known film taken of her, on 22 July 1941.

The view from the living room of the Frank family's flat. Photo Credit: Luuk Kramer Fotographie Amsterdam

The large adjoining living room echoes with the animated Saturday discussions long gone, brought to life by Miep Gies in Anne Frank Remembered,

‘At these Saturday gatherings we all sat around a large round dark oak table in the Franks’ living room. The table was filled with coffee cups, creamers, Mrs Frank’s beautifully polished silver, and delicious home made cake. Everyone talked at once.’

Across the intricately painted hall, near the bathroom with (original) bathtub and hot running water – each of these a luxury in the 1930’s – lies the smallest bedroom, that of Otto and Edith Frank. It is a modest square room with doors to the balcony but it’s winter and the heavy green curtains are drawn.

Adjacent is the bright blue kitchen with original 1930’s tiles  - here donated from neighbouring properties – of the sort that surrounded Edith when she was working on the cakes so admired by Miep.

Kitchen at the Frank's flat at the Merwedeplein. Photo Credit: Luuk Kramer Fotographie Amsterdam

In Anne and Margo’s bedroom hangs a letter from Anne to her grandmother in Switzerland, invaluable to the refurbishment process:

‘ We have a commode, a washbasin and a wardrobe, opposite which is mother’s desk that we have made into a lovely writing table’.

A replica of the writing desk stands at the window before us. It was seated here that Anne began writing in the diary she received for her 13th birthday, on 12 June 1942, a month before the family fled.

Exact replica of the desk at which Anne Frank began her diary at the Merwedeplein flat. Photo Credit: Ellyn Cook

Today, her diary continues to educate millions about the Holocaust. As Ernst Schnabel put it in The Footsteps of Anne Frank,

‘Out of the millions that were silenced, this voice no louder than a child’s whisper… It has outlasted the shouts of the murderers and has soared above the voices of time.’

On leaving the house I remember that it is by this front door that the summons ordering Margo to report for relocation to a work camp in Germany arrived. Now as then, there is a moment of deep, uneasy silence. Today the flat has a new purpose, it is a writers’ house. Leased to the Dutch Foundation for Literature it is a place where foreign writers who are persecuted in their own lands can come to work in freedom. In 2006, Maarten Asscher, board member of the Foundation, noted,

‘It is of rare historical symbolism that writers can finish their work at the exact location where Anne Frank started her diary.’

Here flows more than memory, here hope lives on.

Anne Frank at her writing desk in the family's South Amsterdam flat. Photo Credit: AFF Basel and AFS Amsterdam.

With grateful thanks to Ymere, Het Nederlands Letterenfonds (The Dutch Foundation for Literature), and Bookshop Jimmink.

Further Reading

Further information about Anne and Margo’s childhood on the Merwedeplein can be found in: Childhood Friend of Anne Frank by Hannah Goslar and Leslie Anne Gold My Name Is Anne, She Said, Anne Frank: The Memoirs of Anne Frank’s Best Friend by Jacqueline Van Maarsen Het andere huis van Anne Frank: Geschiedenis en toekomst van een schrijvershuis is sadly out of print. If you’d like a copy, ask us to find one for you via our Used and Rare Books Service – they have plenty!

YOUR Favorite Reads of 2011

Friday, January 6th, 2012

We asked for it, and you sent them, in droves: Your Favorite Reads of 2011!  Thank you so much for sharing your favorite reads with us (and that so many of you took the time to write your favorites down!).

Now, I know this is one *massive* post, but sometimes, spending quality time pondering highly recommended titles all gathered together can be the best half hour of your day.  If you want short cuts, though, click on their names for the favorites of Patty Friedrichs, David Swatling, Katherine Matthews, Keefe Cordeiro, Jonathan de Souza, Gabriëlle Linger, Retno Trimbos, Sara van Bussel, Marjolein Balm, Natalie Gerritsen, Em Angevaare, Oona Juutinen, and Ellyn Cook.

Here’s to 2012 holding as many good reads as 2011.  :-)


Essay: The Course in Miracles and the Advaita Vedanta

Monday, September 19th, 2011

The Course in Miracles and the Advaita Vedanta: When Mystical Christianity meets Non-duality

“In order to find out who you are, You must disappear”. This is one of the most remembered quotes from Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, one of the enlightened Masters in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, a philosophy within the Hinduism that points directly to the “Self” as the source of “I am” the underlying field of awareness which is the primal field or source of creation. By realizing the Self, Advaita practitioners awaken to this unfathomable field of Awareness.

Advaita Vedanta teaches that is through a process called self-enquiry that the Self can be realized. Self-enquiry is encouraged as an inner process of enquiry or investigation in which the fundamental question is contemplated: “What am I?” Realizing the “I am” consciousness, according to Advaita is the sure path to unlock the mystery of existence and to unleash the indescribable gifts of utter Peace, Freedom and Joy in a pure state of Oneness.

Oneness is referred to as “Non-duality”, which in sanskrit is known as “Advaita”. This philosophy is contained within two jewels of the Vedic Scriptures: The Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Both scriptures are available in English and some of the most handy translations are given by Eknath Easwaran.

But, what is the relation between the Advaita Vedanta and the Course in Miracles? Well, for both the Advaita Vedanta and the Course in Miracles, Truth is contained and realized in a state of Oneness, which in the Course in Miracles is known as “the Atonement” and one which is shared in the “Sonship”.

In order to be established in the state of Oneness, according to the Advaita Vedanta one must awake to the pervading field of Awareness. For this to be attained, the Self must be realized. The Self is the essence, the primordial nature of “I am”, our true identity in other words. Similarly, in the Course in Miracles we learn that “the goal of the curriculum, regardless of the Teacher you choose, is know thy-Self”. …”There is nothing else to seek.”

The all pervading field of Awareness pointed to in the Advaita Vedanta is none other than “The Kingdom of Heaven” in the Course in Miracles. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven”…”But seek this only, because you can find nothing else”. If nothing else is to be found , then the Kingdom of Heaven must be the underlying field of existence or pure “Awareness” that the Advaita Vedanta points to as well.

But, what keep us from realizing the Self or from awakening to the Kingdom of Heaven? Identically, both teachings assert that the sole obstruction to that is the Ego, which is the false idea of what/who we are and through which we, for the most part, experience the world. Since for both teachings the ego does not really exist, because is just a thought powered by our belief system created around it in our minds, the ego can and it must disappear.

The disappearance of the ego for both the Advaita Vedanta and the Course in Miracles requires a resolved determination to undo and to unlearn all our dearest beliefs that support and sustain the ego existence. Mere curiosity, or scattered attempts to “question everything you learned about yourself” (from the Course in Miracles), will not be enough to dissolve the ego.

In order to go through the process of dissolving the ego, the Advaita Vedanta stresses the importance of finding a Teacher. In the Course in Miracles, the Teacher presents himself already as the “older brother” Jesus Christ.

The promise of both Teachings (Advaita and the Course in Miracles), is that the ego can be dissolved -It’s just a thought!- in an instant. Furthermore, the Course in Miracles explains that the notion that this is a “process” that “takes time” is but an Illusion because time is nothing but the outward projection of the Present into the future by the false idea that there are obstacles to learning that need to be removed “in time”. “Fear not this Holy instant in which you remember what you have always been”: -says the Course in Miracles-, Unbounded Truth beyond belief, timeless and changeless, free from the ego, indestructible and beyond measure.

Two clear paths that lead to one clear indivisible Truth by departing from a limiting and unbelievable ego. This is the heritage that Masters and Sages alike embodied and reminded us about and whose promise of attaining it is total Freedom from the World. Only one choice is to be made in this moment of now, says the Course in Miracles: “Would you be hostage to the ego or host to God -Truth-?”

By Oscar Petit, member of ABC’s Spiritual Book Club

If you have an essay or a story about books you simply need to share with the rest of the world, please email it to us at  We also welcome Top 5s, a digital snoop around your bookshelves, your Book of Revelations, and more, in return for book vouchers. See the original post for all the details.

The Book of Revelations: Gabriela Heldova

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Everyone has read one: a life-changing book.

A book so profound, so full of information, so touching to you at a particular moment in time that it has altered your life for the better forever. A book that gave you hope when you had none, or gave words to feelings you couldn’t express, or made you realize there was a whole unexplored side to you. A Book of Revelations, as it were.

Do You Read Me? reader Gabriela Heldova explains why A New Earth by Echkart Tolle is her life-changing book – the very first book where she could agree with everything written in it.

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle really significantly touched my heart and helped me in more deeply understanding our reality, who we are, and our awakening. I found in this book very deep wisdom and a clarity in explanation about crucial aspects: our ego, our identification with the ego and its identifications with forms, breaking free of the ego, the present moment, finding our true nature, who we truly are, and awakening to our inner purpose. Eckhart Tolle’s words are very comprehensible and clear; simple but strong in meaning and depth.

I always have many questions, doubts and disagreements about every book I read, but this is the very first book where I agree with everything written.

This book helped me recognize moments when I identify with my ego and by recognizing it ‘the game is over’ ;) . It helped me to understand the present moment and to try to live in it and live my inner purpose.

It is difficult to put in a few sentences the whole abundance of the wisdom and the urgent importance of the message in this book. Therefore I wish that all people would read this A New Earth and then to implement the wisdom in it in their lives.

From the book: “Joy is the dynamic aspect of Being. Joy does not come from what you do, it flows into what you do and thus into this world from deep within you… Nothing is going to make us free because only the present moment can make us free. That realization is the awakening.”

Do You Read Me? would love to hear about the books that made a fundamental difference to you. You can send in a short text, or else make a short film, much like the ones on, and send it to In return, we will give you a book voucher for your efforts.

If you have written something about books, or magazines, or anything else we sell, really, you’re welcome to blog more for us, too, for book vouchers. See the original post for all the details.


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