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Kreis 6 English book club

Find out about our upcoming books and remind yourself of some of the things we learned in book club. Not sure what to read? How about getting some inspiration from this article recommending 15 short novels only one of which we've read so far.

2024 Dates

Monday 8th January - A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Tuesday 5th March - Our Souls at Night hosted by Simone at Dept@Agency, Badenerstrasse 415 (Nearest tram stops are Albisriederplatz and Letzigrund.)

Monday 13th May - Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe at Helvetas, Weinbergstrasse 22a

Tuesday 2nd July – Baumgartner by Paul Auster. Venue to be confirmed

Tuesday 10 September – You are Here by David Nicholls (longer than our usual ones). Venue to be confirmed

Monday 4 November

Upcoming book club

Tuesday 10 September

Something lighter this time, the new book by David Nicholls entitled You are Here. It's a long time since I read 'One Day' and I hope this book is just as good.

Tuesday 2 July

We've decided to read Baumgartner by Paul Auster. If you want to have an idea about the book before you start reading, check out this review in The Guardian. Alternatively, this interview with the author makes fascinating reading.

Possible books

As usual we'll decide together which book we want to read next. Here are some ideas.

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (379 pages)

  • James by Percival Everett (320 pages)

  • The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy (187 pages)

  • Soldier Sailor by Claire Kilroy (233 pages)

  • Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo (307 pages)

  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (240 pages)

  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (386 pages)

  • Hamnett by Maggie O'Farell (384 pages)

  • More by Molly Roden Winter (304 pages)

  • The Hapless Child by Edward Gorey (64 pages)

  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (389 pages)

What we've talked about

Monday 6 May

We've decided to read Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe.

Here are a few of the things that cropped up in the lesson:

  • a thing which/ a person who

  • unbearably hot

  • every 7 years (not all 7 years)

  • the difference between a spoiler and a teaser

  • pulling down houses/ knocking down/ demolishing them

  • word transformation from imply to implicit

  • legitimate

  • being multi-talented / multi-faceted or having many strings to her bow

  • the pronunciation of subtle (don't say the b)

  • the difference between who and whom

Tuesday 5 March

We'll be discussing 'Our Souls at Night' by Kent Haruf.

Turns out that everyone enjoyed this book and the venue was great for pairwork. Some questions to think about further to push your vocabulary. Feel free to add your comments in the Whatsapp group!

  1. How would you describe the relationship between Carl and Gene?

  2. How would you describe Gene's treatment of his mother?

Monday 8 January

Over the festive period, we'll be reading a classic - 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens.

This proved to be quite a challenging read due to the old vocabulary and long sentences. In terms of vocabulary, it's a good idea to use your knowledge of English, German and French to guess the meaning of new words - but you can also ignore them. It's not necessary to understand the meaning of every word. Try choosing one or two tricky sentences in the book so that we can discuss them together.

Break down long sentences into smaller chunks and disregard extra information sandwiched between commas - you can come back to it later, once you have understood the main idea.

Here are a few of the words and phrases from the book - blithe, dead as a door nail, ironmongery, tight, mean, thrifty, frugal, miser(ly) and contagious. And a few others that cropped up in the discussion - explicit, catalytic converter and kitsch(y).

Finally, here's a link to the Goodreads' review of A Christmas Carol which includes a summary of Charles Dickens' life and writings. Definitely worth reading.

The Booker Prize

There are some great novels in the list of past Booker Prize winning books. My personal favourites include recent books such as Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and Milkman by Anna Burns and older novels, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel and Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. I must admit there are a few Booker prize winners that I couldn't get into at all - but I won't mention any names. There are also quite a few that are on my reading list - including Amsterdam by Ian McEwan and Disgrace by J M Coetzee. Perhaps I should try to tackle some of the books shortlisted for the 2023 prize. If you want to know a bit more about them, read this summary in The Guardian. And if you want to know who won, check out this article.

2023 Dates

Monday 16 January

Monday 6 March

Monday 8 May

Tuesday 4 July

Thursday 14 September

Monday 6 November

Monday 6 November

In November we'll talk about our relationship with technology after reading The Appliance by J O Morgan. This was one of the books recently discussed on Literaturclub.

Should you want to do some follow-up homework based upon Maud Martha, here are a couple of suggestions.

  • Write about the 7-year old you in the style of chapter 1 in Maud Martha

  • If you were going to write a book similar in style to Maud Martha, which events in your life would you choose to include?

Thursday 14 September

For our September book club we'll read Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks.

If you need any more ideas for summer 'reading', how about a spot of poetry? Ideally listening to it via YouTube, Spotify or an old-fashioned CD. Perhaps something by Kae Tempest or some William Blake. Possibly a Shakespeare sonnet read by Patrick Stewart or if you want something easier you could try W H Auden's 'This is the Night Mail' or Philip Larkin's 'This be the Verse'.

Finally if you have a spare 20 minutes, try watching this video about Shakespeare by Ben Crystal - it will give you an idea of how Shakespeare's words would have originally been spoken - and the overall theme of the talk may resonate with you, in connection with tonight's book. (Feel free to skip the first couple of minutes!!)

Happy reading and listening!

Tuesday 4 July

For our next book club we'll be discussing a book-length essay by Kae Tempest, On Connection. You can read The Guardian's review of it here.

I was worried that nobody would like my suggestion of Heartburn but actually it seemed to get the thumbs up. I'm going to read the introduction now to find out more about the author and the reaction to the book.

The small amount of feedback I gave included worth + 'ing verb (it's worth reading the introduction), contentious and controversial, unnerved, crossing a line (not a border) and being stitched up. I suggested that you check out some of these words or expressions on Skell or Ngrams.

8 May

We're moving from rural Ireland to urban USA for the next book club. We'll read Heartburn by Nora Ephron which has just been re-released in a 40th anniversary edition. I won't say too much about it for those of you who don't want any spoilers.

Can you remember what you learned tonight? Here's a quick reminder

  • third conditionals

  • idioms with worms

  • male and female animal names such as ewe and ram

  • religious terms

  • Irish words

6 March

For our March book club we'll be reading Small Things like These by Clare Keegan. The book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and is set in Ireland in the 1980s.

In tonight's session on Vesper Flights we agreed that the vocabulary in the book was overly challenging but that the author had important messages worth sharing. If you haven't managed to read the whole book (nobody did), we recommend at least reading the following essays.

  • High-Rise

  • Vesper Flights

  • In Spight of Prisons (I'm not sure why it's spelled this way, rather than 'spite')

  • Eulogy

  • What Animals Taught Me

  • Birds, Tabled

  • Winter Woods

If you would like to know what 'murmuration' means, you can listen to this Word of Mouth podcast. And finally, if you want to know how trees secretly talk to each other, this very short video is perfect - I can highly recommend it.

16 January 2023

We're going to start the new year by reading about the natural world. Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald is a collection of essays about a range of subjects. Like our previous book, the essays are about love and loss.

Based on this review from The Guardian, the books come with a short manifesto which we'll be able to discuss when we meet. Here it is:

“To understand that your way of looking at the world is not the only one.

To think what it might mean to love those that are not like you.

To rejoice in the complexity of things.”

Here is quick summary of what we discussed in the Dorothy Gallagher book club

  • using the I form in journalism - is it egotistical/ irritating when author's do this?

  • authenticity

  • navel-gazing

  • polar bear (not an ice bear)

  • the desire (rather than the wish)

  • don't seek perfection

  • passages and preface (pronunciation)

7 November 2022

For the final book club of the year, we'll talk about 'Stories I forgot to tell you' by Dorothy Gallagher a short book about "irredeemable loss and unending love" (goodreads).

Mrs Caliban proved to be a great choice as almost everyone enjoyed it (or at least parts of it) and we were able to discuss it all evening. Personally I found the ending so intriguing that I had to re-read the book almost straight away and will almost certainly read it again.

In terms of language, we discussed verb patterns, paying attention to the verbs 'explain', 'avoid' and 'make'. The feedback session also covered:

dependent on

dependence (noun) rather than dependency

people not persons

look out for yourself/ look after yourself/ look for yourself

Finally, I recommended buying a dictionary app for your phone such as the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary.

5 September 2022

At our next book club we'll be talking about B-movies and horror stories after reading the novella Mrs Caliban by Rachel Ingalls which is a 'quirky tale of middle-aged angst' (Goodreads). As I mentioned last night, Caliban is one of the central characters of Shakespeare's The Tempest - a play concerning the theme of nature vs nurture. Are people born bad or do they become bad because of their upbringing? Anyone wanting to read more horror should perhaps try Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a short novel written in Lake Geneva during an unusually rainy summer.

In terms of language from last night, we briefly talked about the following:

nothing fazes her

she hasn't experienced any real hardship

discriminated against



impressive (not impressing)

& reminiscent

4 July 2022 2022

For our book in July we will read Bernardine Evaristo's Booker prize-winning novel Girl, woman, other. Almost 500 pages long, you'll probably need to start reading it very soon!

Following last night's discussion about A Life's Work I thought I'd draw your attention to this article from The Guardian which I used in one of my conversation classes. The male author favourably compares motherhood memoirs to those produced by fathers and provides a long list of other books to read on the topic, including the seminal work by Adrienne Rich, Of woman born. As I mentioned last night, it's available at the Zentral Bibliothek.

In terms of language from last night, we briefly talked about the difference between bring and take, learned some vocabulary and did a word transformation exercise.

Here's a quick reminder of some of the words that cropped up:

due date


going into labour


express milk with a breast pump

withered/ wilted leaves

fantasy/ imagination

trainers (UK)/ sneakers (US)

remind/ remember (it reminded me...)

volition - similar in meaning to the noun will for example 'I did it of my own volition'

Finally, speaking of imagine... Katrin recommended the Yoko Ono exhibition at the Kunsthaus.

2 May 2022

We've decided to return to a novel rather than short stories albeit an autobiographical one.

We'll be reading A Life's Work: On Becoming A Mother by Rachel Cusk for the book club in May. The book is a brutally honest account of pregnancy, childbirth and the early months of motherhood. It's an interesting read with some fabulous yet challenging vocabulary and novel metaphors.

Should you need some help with the author's choice of words, you can check out the set I've created on Quizlet. I'm certain that it won't contain all the words you don't 'know' but it's a start.

See you on 2nd May, hopefully in person at the book shop.

7 March 2022

We'll be meeting again on Monday 7th March to discuss Whatever Happened to Interracial Love by Kathleen Collins. Hopefully by then nobody will be in quarantine or isolation, we won't have to wear masks and life will be the way it used to be. I guess that I'm just dreaming. Anyway, back to the book, it's another collection of short stories so there's no pressure to read them all. Hopefully we'll all enjoy the stories and will have lots to discuss when we meet. Otherwise, I will inflict some more grammar on you! See you all in March, hopefully in person again

10 January 2022

I'm back at home after another stimulating book club where we discussed how memories are formed and retained, and the importance of family. We were all shocked by Lemn Sissay's story of abandonment and intrigued about what happened next. I came home and watched the TED talk mentioned at the end of the book to see if I could find out more. It encapsulates the key elements of the book in just 15 minutes but gives only a slight hint about the author's life beyond the first 18 years. Probably the TV documentary, Imagine, will shed more light on the subject and hopefully it will be repeated so I'll be able to watch it. If anyone wants to read some other books about adoption and or losing family then I can recommend Jeanette Winterson's 'Why by happy when you could be normal?', the film 'Philomena' starring Judi Dench, or 'Educated' by Tara Westover. For our next book we decided to read a short story collection by A.L. Kennedy entitled 'We are attempting to Survive Our Time'. As it's short stories there is no pressure to read the whole book. We'll meet in the new year on Monday 10th January at the usual time of 7.30pm to discuss some of the stories. If you are reading 'Inappropriate Staring' and want to know what a chough is, you can find out here.

Have a great Christmas everyone and see you in the new year! Click here to find the dates for the book club and here if you want to read some of my recent blog posts about cycling and hiking in Switzerland. Finally, during class I mentioned how useful the Skell website is when finding out about words (what they mean and how to use them). You can read more about it by clicking on this blog post. Would you like to maintain and improve your advanced English skills by taking part in the book club? Send a message via the contact form on the home page if you would like to join us.


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