Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Category: books

Books I have read in 2019

I first saw The Schopenhauer Cure in Luxemburg, Torino, next to a dozen other books by the same author. Irvin Yalom is a psychiatrist who turns philosophy into a work of fiction. Arianna gave me this book towards the end of 2018. For some reason, I remember reading it on two distinct occasions: in a café on the hill leading up to the Sacré-Cœur during a cold December night; and at the RER stop in Gentilly, on my way to the Maison Doisneau on a grey January afternoon. I would suggest this book to those who are curious about psychotherapy, meditation, and pain.

Arnold Odermatt, worked as a photographer for the Nidwalden district police in Switzerland from 1948 until his retirement in 1990. He was initially trained as a banker and took up photography as a hobby. His work, which I discovered at Images Vevey, is gracious and ironic. I read and smiled over On Duty in Arianna’s temporary apartment in Marcadet, Paris, courtesy of Mavi. In the future I would like to add to my humble collection his other books, Karambolage and Off Duty.

At some point in January I had to go back to Switzerland, but all trains were full. I remember reading La photographie sociale at 6 in the monring inside Coffee & Friends (a cozy café in the train station of Geneva) after a seven-hour bus ride. This little book is one of the gems of a wonderful collection by Photo poche, Actes Sud. (In Italy, these books are available as Fotografia Contrasto and can be easily found in most museums).

I read most of Waiting for the Barbarians on the train to the Diagonela; then I lost it, found it, lost it again, found it again, and finished it once and for all. I am happy to keep it on my shelves because it reminds me of Florence: I took this book when I left the apartment in Via Ponte alle Riffe, where we (Ada, Dani, Jonas, and I) originally found it in 2013, abandoned there from the previous tenants. The story is not really Florence-like, though: harsh, matter-of-fact, existentialist, with a desolate atmosphere of imperialist denial and defeat. It reminded me of Il deserto dei tartari and Mad Max – weird combination, ain’t it?

Waiting for the Barbarians.jpg

I listened to The Human Stain following Alkistis’ suggestion to dig a bit into the work Philip Roth. I started in Cuba, in 2018, during my wacky journey with Thomoose. However, the general mood of the vacation did not bode well with this book. I stopped for a few months and then resumed. I listened to it mostly on the plateau next to Neuchatel while training for the Marcialonga. This is why it reminds me of these valleys. Ironically, one of the most iconic scenes of the movie is set in a place that could very well be La Sagne, Eglise. This is a difficult book with some truly extraordinary pages. I recommend it highly, although it takes some time to get into the flow. It is a story about public morality and political correctness.

Back in Trento for a couple of days after the Marcialoga I read Il gusto del cloro (which reminded me of Turin, when I used to go swimming quite often ), 100 Brani di musica classica da ascoltare una volta nella vita (this, too, I had first seen it in Luxemburg, Torino), and another book on classical music, Twentieth-Century Classical Music: A Ladybird Expert Book (I remember buying it at Shakespeare and Co.). What a waste, having moved out of Florence where in Winter I could – and often did – go to classical music concerts at La Pergola every Sunday evening. I did not understand a thing, sometimes I fell asleep, but I enjoyed every single session. These are simple books that you can read in-between breaks. Did I learn something new? Probably not, but I felt more intelligent while reading them.

In March I listened to The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception. This is my fourth Emanuel Carrere book, and hopefully not the last. The story is relatively short, so it only took me one lonely, pleasant day skiing in Les Portes de Soleil. (Sometimes you have to take yourself out on a little date on the snow). This book is mesmerising; but if you want to get into the heclectic prose of Emmanuel Carrère I would humbly suggest to start from some other books he wrote.

In March I went to Brussels where Arianna and I were elegantly hosted by Delina and Giacomo. During our short stay I bought some high-quality bande dessinée: Le Chat, Tome 21 : Chacun son chat (you gotta love Belgian authors); and Egon Schiele (beautiful: brought me back to the exhibition I had seen with Arianna in 2018, Schiele and Basquiat, Fondation Louis Vuitton).

In early April, before spending a few days in Iceland, I wrote to Leonardo, a talented writer and avid cycling fan whose work I throughly enjoy. He answered promptly and most kindly with a list of readings. I only managed to read one: The Good Shepherd. This slim book tells the story of a man who goes looking for lost sheeps together with his dog – Leo – and his wether – Gnarly. The book smells like snow. In case you want to read other Icelandic books, you can start from Leonardo’s own book, Il libro dei vulcani d’Islanda, Luce d’estate ed è subito notte, or the other suggestion by Leonardo: Sotto il ghiacciaio.

Back in Paris at the end of April I went for the first time to Arianna’s new apartment, which is also a little bit mine. Nearby we found a good bookshop, Librairie l’Humeur Vagabonde, and we bought Un anglais dans mon arbre and Orwell. Both of them are elegantly drawn, but not particularly original in their story telling techniques.

In May I spent one happy weekend in Rome with Arianna. I was amazed by the exhibition dedicated to Mapplethorpe at Galleria Corsini, where the provocative pictures were thematically blended with other paintings in the crowded galleries. Shortly after I read Mapplethorpe Rodin that, I believe, I found in one of the boîtes d’echange in Neuchâtel.

There are a few books that I read in my Swiss apartment and on the lake shore sometime between late May and early June: Adieu La Suisse ! Construction Et Deconstruction d’Un Mythe (I saw this book at the museum in Winterthur and bought it shortly thereafter), Marx, Freud, Einstein: Heroes of the Mind (this was Arianna’s gift from Shakespeare and Co) and La ragazza con la Leica. I had great expectation on this latter volume, but it turned out to be boring, unexciting. It was a disappointment. Gerda Taro, whose story inspired this book, truly was an exceptional character.

During a short visit to Florence in June I discovered a strange place: Galleria Immaginaria. I was walking in via Cavour and looking for a quiet spot to work and I bumped in this gallery, wine place, and bookstore. The guy who was there invited me to stay ‘but I have to leave. Here, take my keys. My colleague will be back in half an hour‘. And he left. I was slightly worried this would turn out to be some sort of an insurance scam, but I went with the flow and stayed, a lonely kid managing a shop he just discovered. The colleague who arrived half an hour later was happy to find me there and invited me to a full Chianti tasting, which they have on the menu. In exchange I bought from their library I colori nell’arte. Sweet book. If you visit this place, remember the door is made of glass – I did not realise it and smashed right into it upon leaving the place fully drunk.

In late June I read L’ombra del vento at the Circolino. It was a suggestion of Fabio. Probably a younger version of myself would have liked this book better. Then, just before traveling to Portugal, I read Donna di Porto Pim; in the Azores I read Viaggio in Portogallo; and upon returning from Lisbon I read Poeti di Lisbona. If you have to choose, read Tabucchi and some of the poems written by Pessoa.

 

Ricordo di aver letto Cacciateli!: Quando i migranti eravamo noi nei giorni in cui ero a Murren. Del libro mi ha colpito la desolante descrizione delle domeniche svizzere per gli immigranti italiani, nella quale mi ritrovo ancora oggi. Però nel complesso non raccomanderei questo libro, a differenza di un altro lavoro di Concetto Vecchio, anche quello molto personalmente sentito, che invece regalerei volentieri ad amici e conoscenti.

On the train before my hike on the Pale di San Martino with Giallu I read this collection of essays by Susan Sontag. It is one of the greatest classics in the field of photography. You are likely to find a copy in the bookshops of all photo-museums and exhibitions. For me, this is one of those books that I could easily read over and over again because of its depth and beauty. I was genuinely happy to able to recognise most of the examples used by Sontag, mostly because of the many photography books that I have skimmed through over the last three years. I reckon the essays might not be as interesting for those of you who do not care that much about photography.

On Photography.png

Back in Paris in October, I remember reading the following three books. First, a short but powerful collection of essays: Sull’Iliade. This is a poetic and profound text for all my friends who like epical tales like I did as a kid. Second, quite unrelated, Modigliani: Prince de la bohème. Bought it in Madrid at the market next to the Buen Retiro, I read at Le Village in Place Michael Petrucciani. The third book is another comic text on an artist from the twentieth century: Capa. L’étoile filante. I must have bought it in Brussels. This is a good one, although I recommend Capa’s own ironical autobiography or his and Magnum’s biography by Russel Miller.

Speaking of Magnum, in October I read Magnum Mountains, which I bought at the related exhibition in Le Locle where I went with Arianna on a grey Swiss Sunday. Around the same time in Switzerland I read Dalla mia Terra alla Terra and Quino’s Manger. Quelle adventure, which I bought in a little Neuchâtel bookshop when Iris came to visit me.

I found the book below in an exchange box in Neuchâtel. I have not read many female Italian writers, so I jumped right into L’indomani. It is a short story, intimate, melancholic. A few months later, in the same exchange box, I was to find another book that probably speaks more to my feminist conscience – more on that at the end of this verbose text.

After reading about Mordillo’s death I recovered some of his books at my parents place, and a bought a couple others from second-hand retailers. These are strongly recommended to all the readers of this blog: All’arrembaggio, Lovestory, and Football.


When I went to visit Alberto in Milan, I had a couple of hours to kill, so I visited the Mondadori store in Piazza Duomo and bought Storia d’Italia in 100 foto. My suggestion, if you go to Milan, is to visit the Hoepli bookstore instead. Do not read these random books put together rather haphazardly.

Di ritorno a Parigi in ottobre, mi sono letto d’un fiato le Settantacinque poesie di Kavafis, un regalo di Arianna. Valgono per questo libro le stesse cose che ho scritto per Sull’Iliade e, non a caso, quelle che scriverò poi per le Memorie di Adriano. Un tuffo elegante nelle gioie e nelle contraddizioni della cultura classica. Negli stessi giorni ho letto anche L’arte di essere fragili: Come Leopardi può salvarti la vita. Era sulla mia lista dai tempi di Torino, dopo aver ascoltato un volontario che ne leggeva alcuni paragrafi al circolo per i non- vedenti. Sono rimasto piuttosto deluso: ho trovato il libro ripetitivo e, a tratti, stucchevole quanto il blog che state leggendo. Magari le condizioni non hanno aiutato: lo ho letto nel treno notte verso Parigi, un’esperienza particolare. Ricordo di essere salito pensando a Grand Hotel Budapest. Prendo una birra nel vagone ristorante con Jack (autore di questo bel podcast). Poi lui mi saluta: buona fortuna e buona sopravvivenza. Cosa avrà voluto dire? Prendete anche voi un treno notte e lo scoprirete. En Cuisine avec Kafka. Letto a Reinitas, simpatico, snello.

It is time for the book of the year: Mémoires d’Hadrien. This was a present from Eliana. I started it in 2017 when I was doing research for my Ph.D. thesis in Spain. I dropped it half-way through, because I became unable to find any pleasure in reading. I started again this year, when I found a used copy in this little bookstore next to our house in Paris. I read it and read it all over again. This is a wonderful work, historical, philosophical, poetic, all at the same time. I highly recommend it to all of you, my dear readers, and I suggest you find a version that has the author’s notes with it. Yourcenair’s diary is as poetic as her prose. There is one example that I have posted in a separate space. It is a long quote, but it is magnificent.

Mémoires d'Hadrien.png

I bought Koudelka: Zingari: bought in Milan when I was with Anna, Jonas, and Irene – right after visiting the Museo del Novecento. This is not an expensive photography book as others. Get a copy. It is a wonderful collection of portraits made in different European countries. I read in Paris together with other photographic classics: Bill Brandt: Shadow & Light; Sebastiao Salgado’s Kuwait, a Desert on Fire and Terres de café, voyage au pays de l’arôme.

La prima guerra del football: ho letto questo libro a Trento, in maniera intermittente, tra giugno e dicembre. Mi ha fatto pensare a Giacomo Zandonini e alle sue avventure con Francesco Bellina. Particolarmente belli i racconti sull’Algeria, Nigeria, e Sudafrica.

Chiudo l’anno con due libri in italiano. Il primo è L’inverno del disegnatore, riprendendo in mano un fumettista strepitoso. Questa storia relativamente è corta; come per tutti gli altri autori che già conoscevo non è la migliore, ma disegnata benissimo e con un taglio storico originale. Se però volete conoscere Paco Roca iniziate con i suoi libri che ho letto nel 2016. Il secondo libro, che si legge piuttosto in fretta, lo ho trovato una delle bussole di scambio libri a Neuchâtel. Invoglia a cercare antichi testi arabi di letteratura erotica.

 


Read my ‘books I have read‘ posts from 2018, 20172016201520142013.

Carnets de notes

Les règles du jeu : tout apprendre, tout lire, s’informer de tout, et, simultanément, adapter à son but les Exercices d’Ignace de Loyola ou la méthode de l’ascète hindou qui s’épuise, des années durant, à visualiser un peu plus exactement l’image qu’il crée sous ses paupières fermées. Poursuivre à travers des milliers de fiches l’actualité des faits; tâcher de rendre leur mobilité, leur souplesse vivante, à ces visages de pierre.

Lorsque deux textes, deux affirmations, deux idées s’opposent, se plaire à les concilier plutôt qu’à les annuler l’un par l’autre ; voir en eux deux facettes différentes, deux états successifs du même fait, une réalité convaincante parce qu’elle est complexe, humaine parce qu’elle est multiple.

Travailler à lire un texte du IIè siècle avec des yeux, une âme, des sens du IIè siècle ; le laisser baigner dans cette eau-mère que sont les faits contemporains ; écarter s’il se peut toutes les idées, tous les sentiments accumulés par couches successives entre ces gens et nous.

Se servir pourtant, mais prudemment, mais seulement à titre d’études préparatoires, des possibilités de rapprochements ou de recoupements, des perspectives nouvelles peu à peu élaborées par tant de siècles ou d’événements qui nous séparent de ce texte, de ce fait, de cet homme; les utiliser en quelque sorte comme autant de jalons sur la route du retour vers un point particulier du temps.

S’interdire les ombres portées ; ne pas permettre que la buée d’une haleine s’étale sur le tain du miroir ; prendre seulement ce qu’il y a de plus durable, de plus essentiel en nous, dans les émotions des sens ou dans les opérations de l’esprit, comme point de contact avec ces hommes qui comme nous croquèrent des olives, burent du vin, s’engluèrent les doigts de miel, luttèrent contre le vent aigre e la pluie aveuglante et cherchèrent en été l’ombre d’un platane, et jouirent, et pensèrent, et vieillirent, et moururent.

Marguerite Yourcenair, Mémoires d’Hadrien / Carnets de notes de Mémoires d’Hadrien

Books I have read, 2018

I remember reading Annie Ernaux’s Memoria di ragazza on the train during a long, romantic night ride between Stockholm and Kiruna. Outside it was snowing. I felt like I was part of a Swedish noir movie. Next to me, Giallu, and Nicco were muttering indistinct phrases while Jasper was listening to Bubble Butt. We had decided to split two beds and two seats. It all went smoothly until Giallu was locked out of his cabin. The thought of that still makes me smile. The book, which I had bought together with Anna in a little library of Rovereto that we had previously discovered thanks to Martina, is honestly not great. I like its reflexivity and the way in which you can reconsider your own past. It is a bit too depressing for my taste, though.

Memoria di ragazza.png

Between January and February I read one book that had been given to me as a present by Martina during 2016: Jimmy Nelson’s Before they pass away. I remember seeing it in Iris and Erik’s apartment in Rotterdam when I was there six months earlier. Big book. Around the same time I also devoured Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography. I am going to read more books on geopolitics in the next few years.

Between February and March I listened to Emmanuel Carrére’s Limonov through Radio Rai’s podcast Ad Alta Voce. Boy, what a good experience this was. Credit goes to Martina, who had recommended me the podcast – and the book: I remember I first saw it in her house, when she gave it to Fabio. I spent two weeks listening to it. Most vivid in my memory is the four hour non-stop session on my way to Zinal with Jean-Thomas and Elie. I also remember I stopped going to the office by bike around that time so that I could walk down slowly and listen to Limonov. This book left a trace.

Limonov.jpg

Definitely less impactful was Jack London’s Martin Eden. I wanted to read a big, classic book again after my entertaining experience with Il Conte di Montecristo. This has not matched my expectations, though. My second weekend in Zinal, this time with Annique and Eva, I read William Boyd’s Sweet Caress. I had previously bought the book in Zurich. Another book by William Body, Any human heart, is definitely one of the best reads I have ever had. Not this one, though. I should have seen it coming: the name of the author is written in way bigger characters than the title of the book on the cover page.

Back in Neuchatel I started a new audiobook, courtesy of Radio Rai: Umberto Eco’s Il nome della rosa. I had read this great piece of art as a kid but I had forgotten everything. When Pedro hosted me for the second time in Madrid in 2017, I remember buying a Spanish copy of the book for him that I found in a second-hand market in El Retiro. It was a beautiful sunny day. This is an extraordinary book that everybody should read twice in their life.

Il nome della rosa

I like to think of my spring in Paris together with Robert Doisneau’s Paris. When the first sun started to kick in in Neuchatel, I followed Francesca’s advice and I read Primo Levi’s, Il sistema periodico. My image of this book is that of the little cabins in Neuchatel’s harbor.

On my way to Cuba I decided to bring two books only: Eduardo Galeano’s Bocas del tiempo (strongly suggested by Jean-Thomas, who had loved the book when he read it in Argentina) and Alessandro Raveggi’s Panamericana (I had read about it somewhere and got curious). When I ran out of books, because we spent too much time reading due to the rain, Thomoose passed me his copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Oh what a pleasure to read it under the sun in El Varadero like a capitalist tourist.

In June I read Daniele del Giudice’s Staccando l’ombra da terra. This was a present by Giulia. Yes, yes, yes – a very good book.

Staccando l'ombra da terra.jpg

In July I celebrated the Tour de France by reading two books by Bidon: Il Centogiro and Se qualcuno viene mi fa piacere. Leonardo Piccione’s career as a writer is quickly taking off and I will forever pride myself with the discovery of his talent before he became known to the big public.

In August I read Emmanuel Carrére’s Il Regno. I remember going through it on the Lake of Molveno, together with my dad who had read it a few months earlier. Two other books I read in July: Paolo Soglia’s Hanno deciso gli episodi, and Augusto Pieroni’s Leggere la fotografia. Not quintessential.

In Croatia I read Emmanuel Carrére, D’Autres vies que la mienne. This is the second book in French I completed after Albert Camus’ L’Etranger, which I read last year. I was proud. This book is way too long though and I would only recommend the first one hundred pages of it. I also read a comic book by Vladimir Grigorieff and Abdel de Bruxelles, Le conflit insraeélo-palestinien, which I had bought in Brussels with Anna.

In early October I read Robert Capa’s Slightly Out of Focus. It was good to read it on the boat with Giallu, Nicco, and Jonas. I told Thomoose to read it. It is entertaining. You read Capa and you can never tell whether he is for real. He just goes like – hei, let’s have a good time. In late October, on my way to Kenya, I read Desmond Morris’ La scimmia nuda. This was a present by Eliana. Nailed it. It was a good coincidence to read it in the country that really is the cradle of humanity.

Between November and December I read Giuseppe Sciortino’s Rebus immigrazione. He was my professor at the bachelor’s in sociology. This is a small and lean book that I read during one train ride from Trento to Neuchatel.  Finally, in December I read Mary Ellen Mark’s On the Portrait and the Moment. This was my graduation present by Iris and Erik. They know how to make their pick. The most charming part of photography, for me, is portraits – of humans, rhinos and elephants. Landscapes are boring.

And this is the end. Reading back the post I realise that my book choices are closely tied to the people I know and the place I visit. I do not do this on purpose. But it feels right.


Read my ‘books I have read‘ posts from 2017201620152014., 2013.

Books I have read, 2017

January. Cold, grey, busy Torino. After celebrating NYE with my dear Canadian friends, I fall sick. Marco, Leila and Etta come to my rescue. On Sunday January 6 I move into my new apartment where I will soon be rejoined by Niels. The place is full of books and I profit from it. I read The elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, To the heart of the storm by Will Eisner, The hundred-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, and Novecento by Alessandro Baricco. The first is the subtly humorous story of concierge Renée Michel and her strategies to conceal her intelligence. I am not really fond of it; and I am not hooked by Jonasson’s book either. In the end, I drag along with the former and I leave the latter unfinished. Of these four, I would therefore highly recommend only Will Eisner’s comic novel on 1920s Germany and Alessandro Baricco’s short piece on Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon Novecento. Good stuff.

In February I am often on the move. There are two books, in particular, whose memory remains inescapably linked to the rail-tracks. The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian tells the story of the individuals behind the commercialisation of citizenship by a global business elite. I spend most of my time writing about citizenship as part of my research, so it is not a surprise that I find this story a compelling read. However, it is probably the other book I read while train-spotting that I would recommend to you, my friends: The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World by Matthew Stewart. What an amazing story this is! When I read a manuscript, I have the habit of underlining the sentences that strike a chord with me; but with this book it does not make sense, for I find myself underlining everything. It is a bit of a heavy story to read, but it talks about philosophy through the virtues, vices and ideas of two opposite characters.

In the rare moments I am in Torino with some spare time away from my monstrous Ph.D. thesis, I volunteer to read at the Mauriziano Public Hospital. This is possible thanks to a fantastic association. Initially I am a bit lost: I stopped reading short novels when I was a child. So in the first week I only include in my repertoire two books by Stefano Benni: Baol and La Grammatica di Dio. The following week I add a series of books that I collect through life’s best strategy for survival: asking around. Our coordinator Sara puts me on the right track with Francesco Piccolo’s Momenti di trascurabile felicità; the unconventional librarian of the café where I go to write together with Teresa sells me Andrej Longo’s Dieci; and the infallible librarians of my favourite place in the city give me Julio Cortazar’s Historias de cronopios y de famas and Daniil Kharms’s I am a Phenomenon Quite out of the Ordinary. All these books are extraordinary, in their own way.

Already quite a bit of reading, eh? Keep in mind that I am finishing my Ph.D. thesis and I am lonely. Reading is a way to keep my brain going.

In March I leave the apartment. I am officially homeless. In the mountains of Trento I read Martina’s present: Le otto montagne by Paolo Cognetti. This is a simple, fetching book about silence, loneliness, and wilderness. In the same period I read another book that was given to me as a present from Dani, although it had arrived to me through the outlandish hands of Giallu: Tim Krabbé’s The rider. Here again, my friends, what an amazing book this is! If you want to understand how I felt when I was racing my bike back in 2016 you have to read this story. Let me transcribe the incipit here.

Meyrueis, Lozère, June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafés. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.

In April I hail to Spain for a series of interviews that are part of my Ph.D. thesis in Madrid and Andalusia. In those pre-depression day I read another book courtesy of Martina: Joshua Foer’s L’arte di ricordare tutto. I finish it, but, for once, I would rather have not.

In May I fall into a depressive anxiety. June, too, is a ghastly month. Giallu, who sacrifices much of his well-being to stay close to me, lends me Cormac McCarthy’s All the pretty horses. I dig into it. I read the book sitting on Ponte Santa Trinita unbothered by the gallivant tourists wandering around me. If you do not care about getting this book, try at least to listen Calexico’s homonymous song.

All the pretty horses.jpg

In July, again, I am unable to read. But August is the month when I rebound. During some of the most beautiful days of my life high on the mountains I read Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. Back home, I read another book from Martina (La casa, written by an old acquaintance of this blog: Paco Roca). She, and he, nail it. Then, on the shores of the lake of Caldonazzo I read a book that will have important consequences my way of living. Magnum: Fifty Years at the Front Line of History. The reason why I read this book is that during the last few months I have visited two Magnum exhibitions: one in Torino, together with Guillaume, upon my very last day before moving out (a sunny day, dawn of Spring time, an yet a feeling of twilight as I bid farewell to the place); and another in Cremona, alone, after interviewing a doctor in the historical city centre. These were remarkable exhibitions that made me think of how photography can be an extraordinary tool to decipher certain customs and conducts that we take for granted. So I read this book and now I just cannot stop. (Note: since August 2017 I visited more than ten photo exhibitions and read countless photography works).

September. I move to Neuchâtel. Fall is coming and I find it fitting to read another book from Martina (You & a Bike & a Road, a comic book by Eleanor Davis), one from J.H.H. Weiler (Un’Europa cristiana), and, as I said, many classics of photography. In my trips to Paris I read Astérix chez les HelvètesAstérix en Hispanie, and Concita de Gregorio’s Cosa pensano le ragazze. I also read Albert Camus’ L’Etranger – in French! I am rushing through now: I realise this post is already too long. Mercifully the best books of the year are already behind us.

In December I spend a few days in London with Francesca, Marco, Camilla and Isabella. In the occasional breaks from baby-sitting I read Darina al Joundi’s Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter. Wonderful present from Giulia. If you want to read about undaunted women in Lebanon, this story would make. I also read 101 Things to Learn in Art School, finally succumbing to a book I have seen in all the bookshops of the exhibitions I visited during the year. (This was The Photography Gallery‘s one: I spent three  hours reading in their cafeteria). Not amazing.

My year comes to an end with an eclectic dab, combining Banksy’s Wall and Piece and Hergé’s Tintin in Tibet. Okay, this is really it. You might have expected a grand finale for this post, but I have used all my creativity and spare time to write it. Let us wrap it up and go.

… but in case you are still looking for something good, pore over my ‘books I have read‘ posts from 2016, 2015, 2014., 2013.

Update, March 2 2018.

Grazie Lore, un gustoso viaggio nel passato recente.

Ecco qui un simpatico aneddoto:
Il libro del Krabbé non era inteso al principio come un regalo, ma come un prestito.
Tuttavia, io sono ancora in possesso del “cavalli selvaggi” di gianlu che considero ormai come un ostaggio.
Si tratta quindi di un chiaro caso di stallo alla messicana letterario.

Un abbraccio

Daniele

L’ombrello vagamondo

Fabio, che oltre ad essere un amico d’infanzia fu anche una delle prime persone a comparire su questo blog con una bella tripletta (qui, qui e qui), ha appena pubblicato il suo secondo libro. Si tratta di una raccolta di racconti sulle mirabolanti e picaresche avventure di un ombrello vagamondo. Io gli faccio pubblicità, perché Fabio scrive in maniera schietta, sarcastica ed elegante: guardate che non è facile.

ombr

Trovate il libro qui: potete comprarlo online, oltre che in tutte le librerie del Trentino. Io, che ho appena ordinato alcune copie, mi auguro di ritrovare il Fabio che conoscevo in questa sua raccolta di racconti.

Books I have read this year

There is a story that kept me busy for a large part of Winter and early Spring this year. I started reading it at the same time as I began my bike trainings, which explains why it is one of the things that I associate most closely to my first race, the Strade Bianche in Siena. I arrived in town the afternoon before the race. After having collected my equipment at the historical fortress – the race number, the chip, all that stuff – I rode to my hotel, which was located outside the city centre. It was then that I got completely lost, riding in the dark in the middle of a three-track speedway under a violent thunderstorm. When I arrived to the hotel, at 7PM, I was soaked and tired. I spent the next four hours reading about the betrayal of Edmond Dantès. It was the best possible way to prepare for the race. In the following months I brought the book with me to Spain and to Switzerland and I finished reading it only days after the Gran Fondo of Fiesole. The book is Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.

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Looking back at them now, I realise that most of the books I have read this year are classics that have been translated into a language that is something else than English. Ernest Hemingway’s The sun also rises/Fiesta in Italian was a wise choice after the fiasco of For whom the bell tolls. Shakespeare’s King Lear/Rey Lear and Macbeth in Spanish were odd experiments, but good experiments nonetheless: I bought these two pieces when I was in the Canary Islands and read them in the local language. Jorge Luis Borges’ El Aleph in original Spanish was a luxury I allowed myself during a one-week long stay in Madrid. Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s White nights translated in Italian remains a majestic novel, but reading it in this moment of my life I found it remarkably unremarkable. On the other hand, Pushkin’s The captain’s daughter, also translated in Italian, made me happy – and intrigued.

Of these books, I would strongly recommend two: El Aleph, which is a collection of stories that are both beautifully written and philosophically meaningful; and The captain’s daughter, because it is one of those stories that makes you wonder.

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The only book I have read in English, then, is George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. I did not know what this story is about – so I can tell you now: it is about the experience of a man, probably Orwell himself, who lives as a homeless in Paris and, yes, London. After reading the book I started working with homeless people myself.

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Poi, come ogni anno, ho letto una serie di fumetti realizzati da autori molto conosciuti, ironici, leggeri, eppure -come si evincerà dai titoli di cui sotto- dediti a temi piuttosto pesanti. Ecco la mia lista: Kobane Calling di Zerocalcare; La terra dei figli di Gipi; Lo scontro quotidiano di Larcenet; Il faro di Paco Roca. Sono meravigliosi e vi consiglierei di comprarli tutti.

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Parlando di fumetti, ho scoperto un piccolo volume di Giovanni Marchese: Leggere Hugo Pratt. Credo di averlo preso la prima volta alla biblioteca delle Oblate e lo ho letto tutto in una volta, mentre pranzavo da solo. M’è piaciuto così tanto che poi lo ho comprato per scribacchiarci sopra.

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Other than fictional stories, the ones listed below are the books I would recommend if you had some time to dedicate to history, law, philosophy, and economics respectively. David Gilmour’s The pursuit of Italy is a book I read upon arriving in Torino, the cradle of Italian risorgimento. It deserves to be read because it is a well-crafted history of Italian regions and how they came together. Letters to a young lawyer is a collection of commentaries by Alan Dershowitz, whom I discovered through my president’s course on reading the bible. The individual behind this book might be flawed; but the writer is genius. Stephen Holmes and Cass R. Sunstein’s The cost of rights is a simple and convincing book, but to be fair – it is very repetitive. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics is a book that has been greatly embellished over time and still makes for an entertaining read.

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Finally – two Winter reads for this wicked Winter period. Haruki Murakami’s South of the border, north of the sun/A sud del confine, a ovest del sole and Jón Kalman Stefánsson’s Luce d’estate, ed è subito notte/Summer Light and Then Comes the Night. I wanted to read something warm in the cold, and these books were for me.

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Read my post on books I have read from 2015, 2014, and older.

Thirteen books from 2015

How much did I read this year? I suppose there are different ways to answer this question. I could count the number of pages; or the number of books; or the number of authors. But the thing I do is count the number of friendly faces that come to mind when recollecting the books I read over the months. Just like I did last year, I have now tried to associate each book read in 2015 to one or more persons I know. Based on this scientific method, I have estimated that in the year that is about to finish I read a lot.

These are the titles, then. Whilst I am only going to mention a couple of the people I thought of when scrolling through the list of books, many others might recognize themselves in the titles that appear beneath.

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In the first period of the year – the cold, long, tiring winter months – I read a collection of three books from Italo Calvino. The first on the list is the first novel he wrote; the third is, up to day, the book I would recommend to those who do not know him yet.

 

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In the Spring months I was really into mountain-related reads. If you are, too, then these are all exceptionally good books – the first of the three being very relaxed and similar to Thoreau’s Walden; the other two more erratic.
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I remember reading the two books above in a timid April sun of Piazza Santo Spirito. I already encouraged many friends to give a try to the first of the two. As for the second, which is a book on Tuscan cyclist Gino Bartali, I can say that today I got lost in Chianti with Giallu and we ended up breaking the tyre of the car. We were lucky enough to find Alvaro, an old mechanic who used to work for Gino Bartali: while fixing the tyre, he spoke about him as “a truly good man“. (This, in turn, made me think of an old interview with Giacinto Facchetti, another sportsman. When, as a player, he was asked what he wanted to do after retiring he replied he was going to try to be a man). If you read the book you will understand why elderly people here remind Bartali as a good man rather than as one of the greatest cyclists of all the time.

 

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In the Summer months I read two books left me from the brother who continued shape my life from afar – I shall also add a third book to this list, a collection of letters he gave me in March and I read throughout the year. I would assume these three are among his dearest books.

 

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And then. Since I was back in Florence in late September I have read only two books – but of remarkably high quality. The characters of these books have a certain depth and I realized it was really hard to get away from them after having finished their romantic, erratic, naive, contradictory life-stories.

Stuff I have been reading in 2014

Seriously? Last time I wrote about the books I read was one year ago. Since then I have bought a lot of books, I have started many of them, and I have finished only a few. I think we are still talking about a dozen or so. Would it make sense to list them all? No, it wouldn’t. So I will only cite the three books that one way or another have had the greatest impact on this little mind since it moved down to Florence.

The book number one – in strict chronological order – should be Open, by Andre Agassi. Yes, it’s a best-seller, but unlike other best-sellers it is well written and it gave me that little incentive to start playing tennis consistently. I had rarely played before, maybe ten times in my whole life if we exclude the countless hours I spent bouncing a ball against the wall of my house back when I was a kid. (That, I in restrospect, can be qualified as low-quality squash at best). So I read Open by Agassi and it made me appreciate some distinguishing qualities of tennis, namely the feeling of being completely lonely on the court, the pressure and psychological challenge with your opponent, the fear. I started playing right after finishing the book and made it a habit to go twice a week with my loyal companions – Martin, Martjin, Pierre, Fabio, and Giallu. I haven’t improved much (guess I am not up for the psychological challenge yet?), but I am enjoying every part of it.

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Then came another book about sport, endurance, psychology, and distress. Contrary to what you might think, The Damned Utd is not about Manchester United. Instead, this is a brilliant story about Brian Clough’s brief spell as manager of Leeds United football club in 1974. The book, that was suggested to me by Old Tom, is quite crisp. After reading it I watched the movie and realised that I genuinely liked the actor, Michael Sheen. I therefore started watching all his other productions, including the highly ingenious TV series Masters of Sex, and I am currently planning to watch the Blair trilogy. In the end, because of one single book I spent dozens of hours in front of my laptop. Not necessarily good, but certainly fun.

After two entertaining books it is time for something a bit more depressing. Ill Fares the Land is the last book published by Tony Judt before dying at the age of 62. Written under the debilitating effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Ill Fares The Land is the political manifesto of one of the greatest contemporary historians of our time. This is a compelling read advocating a return to social democracy. I have been recommending it to virtually everybody. Unlike Postwar, the 1000-page Judt’s masterpiece, this is a book everybody can finish in a couple of days. After finishing it I moved onto The Memory Chalet and Reappraisals, thus continuing my personal discovery of this outstanding academic who writes marvellously about things that I find passionating.

 

Suicidal bunnies

Last week Dani passed me a little comic book by Andy Riley. The author sketched about fifty cartoons, each of which shows one or more white rabbits in their creative attempts to end their lives using a variety of items. There is something viciously inspiring about it.

Talking asymmetry

Right column: books I bough in the last 30 days.
Left column: books I finished in the last 30 days.

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