In case you’re wondering what my grandmother breaking her hip has got to do with a blog post on book titles for the Bored to Death book club, I strongly suggest you keep on reading, for the mystery will be unraveled…

This summer my poor old granny made a wrong move, fell over and, as if it were a twig, broke her hip in two. She had to be hospitalized, had to have surgery and then had to rehabilitate in a nursing home in Kralingen. It soon became clear that she couldn’t go back to her old home, because no matter how hard she trained with the physiotherapist and no matter how many times she refused to acknowledge it, she wouldn’t ever be able to climb her steep stairs again.Het kan niet altijd kaviaar zijn

So mom decided to move granny to a wonderful new apartment close to her own home and she summoned us to help her. The amount of objects a person can collect in one lifetime never ceases to amaze me, and my grandmother turned out to be more of a hoarder than we all thought she was. My mom gave us all our separate tasks and that’s how I became Chef of the Bookshelves.

I know I was supposed to dust off all the titles, put them in boxes as quick as possible and then put them back on their shelves as soon as they arrived in granny’s new home, but I just couldn’t help myself and had to have a closer look at most of the books I encountered. You know that sense when you’re in a library or a bookstore and you have the feeling that there are thousands of stories waiting for you to discover them? That’s exactly what I experienced at that moment, because all the titles in my granny’s bookcase looked so strange to me…

De man die de oorlog zou winnenI had never heard of about ninety-five percent of the books and they looked as if they must have been published years and years and years ago. Vintage, to say the least. We all know that, according to the saying, you shouldn’t be judging a book by its cover, nor by its title, but it wasn’t easy to ignore them in this particular case. After spending so much time in her house as a child, it now occurred to me that my grandmother’s book collection consisted of a huge amount of remarkable specimen.

There was a book called De man die de oorlog zou winnen (The man that would win the war) with an illustration of a rather suspicious looking fellow on the cover. Which war would the title be referring to? It didn’t immediately see him win any war, unless he was a double agent and saved the day by doing lots of shady things.

Another title that caught my attention was De kat in het paviljoen (The cat in the pavilion), with no images at all. Was this book really about a cat sitting in a pavilion or was it a metaphor for something else? What makes you want to read a book like this if you can’t deduct anything from its title or cover?

Tel tot vijf en sterfAnd what to think of Tel tot vijf en sterf! (Count to five and die!). That’s a harsh one isn’t it? Still, the cover wouldn’t reveal anything about its contents, nor the kind of genre it belonged to.

This all made me wonder why we pick out books to read in the first place. There are millions of publications by now and we don’t have time to read them all in one life, so how do we make our selections? While I usually stick to the classics, my granny had obviously chosen the more obscure path.

Last but not least I found this brilliant book called Het kan niet altijd kaviaar zijn (It can not always be caviar). What do you think? Can’t it? And if so, then why not?


Nina is a Rotterdam based journalist and editor. She is the author of 100% Rotterdam, writes for De Buik van Rotterdam and has her own blog: The Ubiquist. Nina discovered Bored to Death’s Free Library almost a year ago and loves the project so much that she started writing about it. You can read about her experiences in the Tales of the Free Library.

1 Comment

  1. Es muss nicht immer Kaviar sein. Dat heeft even alle Duitse nostalgie knoppen bij mij aangezet! echt een klassieker als je in Duitsland bent opgegroeid (tenminste in mijn tijd….) – heb hem denk ik zo’n dikke 30 jaar geleden gelezen. Dankjewel!