Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

You Review a Local Author: Ready, Steady, Go Dutch – Dutch News & Access

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Reviewed by Patricia Kooyman

Ready, Steady, Go Dutch is not really a book but rather a collection of snippets from a survey among expats living in The Netherlands.

I like the idea of gathering experiences of people with very different backgrounds going through the same experiences, but if you publish such a collection and ask to be paid for it I would have expected you to do some work on it. As it is, it is really only that – a collection of snippets. Very few editorial comments, hardly any synthesis, and the main conclusion? “How you react to the peculiarities of the Dutch way of doing things reflects your own origins”. Now THAT’s an eye-opener!

Yes, some people love a certain fact of life in The Netherlands while others hate that same fact. That would hold for ANY country.

I find some snippets have been formulated rather judgmentally, and I don’t think that’s due to my being Dutch. There are quite a few things in the way ‘we’ run our society that annoy ME on a daily basis, and most of those are indeed addressed in this book.

If you search hard you can find a few useful practical tips hidden in between lots of rather incoherent and not always very logically arranged snippets. Fortunately these are not completely anonymised, so you quickly realise that Victoria thought life would be the same all over the world (and maybe would have done better not to relocate instead of whining about differences between her childhood paradise and real life) whereas French is really trying to give some helpful tips and to enjoy life in a different country. But if you’re looking for practical information you will easily find many websites and forums that offer up-to-date info with useful ‘live’ answers to your particular personal questions. Some of those are listed at the end of the book. And if you’re looking for a relaxed and fun introduction to all that is different to foreigners coming to The Netherlands buy The Undutchables instead. Which fortunately is also in the list of recommended books.

Reviewed by Linda Radwan

Ready, Steady, Go Dutch was a fun book to read. I was amazed at the various experiences of people coming to the Netherlands and their view on the Dutch world. I have to say, being a foreigner myself in the Netherlands makes it easier to relate to some subjects. Yet with most of the subjects I could not relate at all. I think it also depends from which country you originally came from. If you came from the U.S., for example, it is normal to think that the Dutch customer service is low while my experience is that the Dutch customer service is quite high but that is in comparison to my own country. Also the idea of Dutch people being more laid-back in work is strange to me, having experienced nothing more than a truly hardworking, sometimes harsh mentality and exaggerated eagerness to stay late and finish one’s own work. But, once again, it depends from which country you came from.

So in conclusion, I liked the book.  It was fun to read but I could not relate to most of the quotes. Perhaps that is not necessary but I would have liked more similarities that could have made me nod eagerly or make me laugh and think ‘Yes, that is exactly what I thought as well!’. I would have liked to identify myself more with the rest.

If you want to have an idea of what it’s like to live and work in the Netherlands then this book can be confusing because of the different opinions. But if you would like to know what people from different nations and cultures have experienced while living in the Netherlands then this book, thought up by Robin Pascoe and Deborah Valentine, is perfect.

You Review a Local Author: Books with an orange connection, reviewed by ABC customers.

Robin Pascoe is the founder of and presented her book at the first Meet My Book! event this past January.

A large part of the profit from Ready, Steady, Go Dutch will go to volunteer organisation ACCESS to help it continue providing information and advice to expats in the Netherlands.

You Review: Mastering the Art of French Eating – Ann Mah

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Review by Anouschka van Leeuwen

For the food lovers out there, the title of this book should ring a bell, because it is a reference to Julia Child’s famous book in which French cuisine is made accessible for mainstream Americans. Ann Mah, like Julia Child, is the wife of a diplomat, and together with her husband she comes to live in Paris for four years. This is heaven to her, until her husband is called away for a year, leaving Ann alone to discover France.

Out of her love of French food, and as a way to pass the time, Ann sets out to discover the origin of some of France’s most famous dishes. Each chapter in the book is about Ann’s travels to a specific region in France in order to uncover the history of a recipe. Along the way she makes new friends and tries to find her place among the Paris community.

Although each chapter is centered around one dish, they are not to be read as stand-alone stories. An equally large part of each chapter is spent on Ann’s personal musings, or “lessons in love”, as the subtitle of the book depicts. Thus, the reader gets to learn interesting facts about French history, presented through the eyes of an American woman who is essentially an outsider to French culture. I felt like I was travelling alongside the author, sharing in her surprise and sometimes dismay about some of France’s customs. Because of the high information density, I found the best way to enjoy this book was to read one chapter every few days. When I turned the last page, I felt content not only because I had learned a lot, but also because I had read a nice and elegantly written story.

In short, Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris offers a surprisingly entertaining mix of food, history, and romance. I think it is necessary that you enjoy all three of these genres to fully appreciate the book, so not everyone will like it – but if you are one of those people, you are in for a treat!

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

ABC’s Gift Ideas: Travel, True Crime, Young Adult Fiction

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

The gift-giving season is upon us – hooray!

The ABC Staff has rummaged through their sections and order lists, and come up with another year’s worth of wonderful gift ideas for you: from fiction to history to cookbooks to children’s books to travel to non-books and onwards.

In a series of blog posts and recommendation lists throughout the coming month, you will find what we think will make great gifts, whether you celebrate Sinterklaas, Christmas or just like giving books to people. And since we’re a bookstore, these posts will be alphabetical by subject. :-)

Today we’ve reached the end of our alphabet and you’ll find gift ideas for Travel, True Crime and Young Adult Fiction as picked out by section buyers Tom, RonG and PeterL. Bear in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg – come to either one of our stores to browse many, many more titles in any of these subjects.

We are ready as ever to be your personal shoppers again this year, and hope you will find our selections useful and inspiring!

You can find our gift ideas from previous years here (scroll down a bit pas 2013), and be sure to have a look at our ABC Favorites, too.


You Review: The Sea Inside by Philip Hoare

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Reviewed by David Young

The Sea Inside is a difficult book to categorise – travelogue probably comes closest, although it’s more a kind of stream of consciousness meditation around Philip Hoare’s passion for the sea and the creatures who live in it. He begins in the UK, finding poetry even in the unpromising surroundings of the Fawley Estuary (best known for its oil refinery and petro-chemical plant), before exploring more exotic parts of the world.

Along the way he allows his meditation to take him wherever it will, so the reader is treated to digressions on Ceylonese tea planters, the fate of the Tasmanian tiger and Maori curiosities among others. Throughout it is clear that he has done his research thoroughly (and not just passively – he swims with whales and dolphins and helps to dissect a porpoise) and is a superb story teller, bringing historical events and characters vividly to life.

A recurring theme is the damage humans have inflicted on many sea and other species in the pursuit of food and/or profit, often bringing them to near or total extinction. The delicate balance between man and his environment, and the consequences when that balance is disturbed, is graphically illustrated.

Water and the sea play such an important role in all our lives, but are often overlooked or underestimated. What the author does is to remind us of their importance in an engrossing, enriching, often poetically insightful way. I for one shall never look at the sea through the same eyes again.

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

Staff Review: In the City of Bikes by Pete Jordan

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Reviewed by Aviva

Pete Jordan is a bike enthusiast who has lived and cycled in a number of cities in the US. When he came to the Netherlands, sight unseen, to do a degree in urban planning, he found himself surrounded by a cycling culture beyond his wildest dreams. In In the City of Bikes: The History of the Amsterdam Cyclist, Jordan tells the story of his family’s immersion into this culture, and the history of the bike and cyclists in Amsterdam decade by decade. His love for his subjects, both personal and historical, shines through and the massive amount of time his must have spent in archives researching his subject truly payed off. The chapters covering the Second World War alone are worth the price of the book, which is not to say you won’t be entertained and charmed by all the other chapters.

I will admit that I read Jordan’s earlier work, Dishwasher, and wasn’t that impressed, but if this book is any indication, he seems to have matured into a fantastic storyteller and found his voice as a travel writer. It’s hard to imagine anyone writing engagingly for 400 pages about anything as specific as the history of biking in Amsterdam, but this is exactly what Pete Jordan has accomplished. In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist is a well-researched, entertainingly-written love letter to city of Amsterdam and its two-wheeled inhabitants.

As a committed pedestrian, I have cursed the lawlessness of Amsterdam’s cyclists on numerous occasions. After reading this book, though, I can’t help but admire the democratized anarchy of the two-wheeled Amsterdammers and what they represent. One of the reasons I picked this book is because I will soon be leaving Amsterdam, and reading it made me realize I’ll miss it even more than I thought.