ABC’s Favorite Reads 2013, part 5: Maarten, Steven, Tom

It’s my favorite part of the blogging year: our favorite reads! The ABC staff has looked through all the books and magazines they’ve read over the past year, or games they played, or stationery they used, and picked out their top 5 (or 4, or 8). Every single item in these posts comes highly recommended, and we hope to add some ideas to your 2014 reading list.

Of course, we always love reading tips ourselves, too, and so we hope you will send in YOUR favorite reads of 2013 to us. They don’t have to be books published in 2013, just read in 2013. Please mail your Top 5 (and why these books were so good) to by December 31st, and don’t forget to include your home address so we can send you an ABC gift certificate in the new year as a thank you. As has become a tradition, your Top 5s will be published in January.

This fifth Favorite Reads post comes courtesy of


Our Maarten-of-the-no-lists

Once again, true to form, I ‘refuse’ to make a list per se. A book can of course be good, even better than another one, but since I read different genres, no hierarchical list is possible.

So here are a few books I’ve read this year that deserve mentioning.

To start with different genres of fiction, I cannot ignore a couple of my favourite writers. Good old Remco Campert’s latest – hopefully not last! – Hotel du Nord was again impressive. A beautifully written story about a man who wishes to escape (his) life, which is, as we all know, impossible.

My other great hero Neil Gaiman, who surprised us by dropping by the store, has had a great and deserved success this year with his The Ocean at the End of the Lane (ebook here). I still haven’t figured out how he does it, creating such a rich and often scary atmosphere, where you accept all the strangeness that is going on, with such ostensibly simple language.

My ‘classics’ of this year are The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (ebook here), one of those fantastic adventurous children’s stories that are even more fun for grown-ups; and that brilliant portrait of the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby (ebook here) [I read this edition, with Redford and Farrow on the cover], by F.Scott Fitzgerald. I read it because of the new film, but it should be no surprise that I didn’t want to see the movie after I finished the book. I mean, what’s there to add…

In the category non-fiction a couple of books have made it to this non-list, for different reasons. Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers (ebook here), by Mary Roach, is already more than 10 years old, but this funny, gore-y, and surprising tale of what could happen to our bodies other than interment – e.g. transplant donor, forensic research, crash test ‘dummies’! – is still very interesting and entertaining, without being disrespectful of the dead.

For its sheer beauty, but also for the subject matter and all the so-called ‘useless facts’ I’d like to mention two books about topics I didn’t know I was interested in. Taxidermy, by Alexis Turner, about, duh, taxidermy, and The Secret Museum by Molly Oldfield, about a search for a few of all those items that are not on display in museums.

And of course, as I almost always say to almost everybody, people should read – no must read! – the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the best magazine in the world: the Fortean Times!!


Entertainment Weekly
Your weekly dose of pop culture infotainment. Relatively light on gossip and high on actual information.

The cozy SciFi magazine that never ceases to embarrass when someone’s head is once again partially blocking the F, making it seem like an E. (SciFi Now is also pretty good.)

There are all sorts of magazines aiming at specific parts of the games-market (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft) but EDGE is the best all-rounder. Contains previews, reviews, columns, and in-depth articles on the games industry

It’s the gay magazine with the most of its title, at least since BUTT became a less frequent publication. All the snark that’s fit to print. If you’re of a more serious mind, go for The Advocate.

Mental Floss
The number one source of information for insatiable trivia junkies.

Blogmistress’s note: you can check our magazine database, and whether your magazine has arrived in one of the stores, here.


Dutch Ditz: Manners in the Netherlands – Reinildis van Ditzhuyzen
Intended for Expats, this book describes how to deal with the Dutch in social matters as well as in your professional life. It makes a very interesting read, also for Dutch readers. One of the author’s conclusions may surprise quite a few locals: the Dutch look so laid-back and informal but when push comes to shove the adage is ‘Sorry, I can’t do that for you, rules are rules!’. And there are strict rules for virtually everything in the Netherlands … Flexibility and providing excellent customer service are therefore not among the strong points of the Dutch. This book will explain how to behave at a Dutch birthday party or how to deal with your Dutch co-workers.

A Young Scoundrel – Eduard Limonov
Limonov is a Russian/Ukrainian author who is now also a politician. This is part two of his autobiographic trilogy. The ‘scoundrel’ from the title is the author himself who describes his adolescent years in a Soviet city. He is a hoodlum trying to establish a career as a poet. An amusing – if not politically very correct – read.
Blogmistress’s note: unfortunately this book is out of print.  It’s currently unavailable via our supplier of second-hand books, too, but it might become available in the future.

De kroon op de vuurpijl – Heidi Aalbrecht and Pyter Wagenaar
A hilarious collection of mixed-up expressions in the Dutch language found on Twitter. The result is in an abundant display of of sentences based on mangled constructions like ‘Met blote handen op een verjaardagsfeestje aan komen zetten’ en ‘Iemand op handen en voeten dragen’.

The Apartment – Greg Baxter (ebook here)
Written in a rather introverted style, this book relies on atmosphere rather than action. At times the result is a trance-like reading experience. An American who was in the military in Iraq wanders around seemingly aimlessly in a European city of which the name is not revealed – nor the country in which it is situated. The American meets a local girl (who happens to be of Dutch descent) who shows him around some local places. He decides to stay on and rents an apartment. He has no plans for the future and comes across as rather apathetic. The book has an open ending.

I.M. – Connie Palmen
One of the Netherlands’ best-known authors decided to write a book about her relationship with the flamboyant Ischa Meijer, a journalist, author and television personality who died in 1995. Palmen draws a convincing psychological portrait of her lover, who at times comes across as a grown-up child. As she and Ischa are becoming more and more intimate she succeeds in baring his soul and slowly begins to find out the motives behind his sometimes rather strange behavior.