Straight from the shelf – Friday Book Club

A lot of the new blogs I’ve read this week assign topics to particular days of the week.  I really like this idea and so I thought I’d add a regular book review on Friday. Since my reading lists for my PhD have become bigger and bigger I find myself reading a lot less just for fun. As a result I won’t have enough new books to talk about here every week but I have read tons of interesting stuff over the last 26 years. So, I’ll choose three books with a fixed topic each week. Since I’ve been up north at the coast last weekend, this week’s topic will be ‘The Sea’! (all links from goodreads!)


1. Underwater to get out of the rain by Trevor Norton

I’m not an avid reader of non-fiction books but over the last two years there have been a few (not work-related) I really liked. ‘

‘Underwater to get out of the rain’ is a highly entertaining  volume of connected essays in which the author – a renowned marine-biologist – tells about his love of the sea and the shores and waters he visited to pursue his interest and studies. Norton takes the reader from Wales to Scotland, from Spain to North America, from Asia to North Africa and back to Britain, all the while mixing  anecdotes and descriptions  of life near and beneath the waves with interesting scientific facts about jellyfish, limpets, the tide and people connected to the oceans.

My favourite place has always been the coast of the North Sea and nearly all the vacations of my childhood were spent either at the North Sea or the Baltic Sea. Since then I’ve been to the coasts of Scotland during winter, followed the coastline of Brittany for a short week in summer and spent a horrible but nonetheless memorable week on Sylt one extremely stormy september.

Norton does a good job to share his passion about the sea with this book and I’ll be looking for his other works for sure!


2. The rider on the white horse (original: Der Schimmelreiter) by Theodor Storm

‘Der Schimmelreiter’ was first published in 1888 and is one of the best known works of Theodor Storm.  It is basically a ghost story set in North Frisia (Germany) and tells the tale of Hauke Haien, a former  local dykereeve, whose unfortunate decisions and obsession compared with nature’s forces ultimately lead to fatal events during one terrible storm flood. Tortured by his past, the ghost of Haien is known to haunt the dyke riding his white horse.

Nearly all of Storm’s novellas and poetry are set in North Frisia and he is a master of capturing the bleakness and harshness of that landscape.  ‘Der Schimmelreiter’ is a dark tale of  men’s arrogance and ultimately his  helplessness in the face of nature’s overwhelming forces as well as the tragic story of a person driven to ruin by his obsession.

I was lucky I didn’t read this book in school (it’s a favourite school reading in Germany) as one tends to dislike a lot of books read in school (I still can’t stand Thomas Mann). Years ago I spent a stormy week in late September on Germany’s northernmost island, Sylt. Lying in my bed with the wind howling around the building after watching the sea swallow up a sizable beach during high tide made reading this book an intense experience. When I later went for a walk at the shore I could imagine seeing Hauke Haien’s ghost on his white horse riding on the crest of the dyke… So, if you haven’t already read it, save this one for a stormy autumn or winter evening!


3. The celtic ring by Björn Larsson

‘The celtic Ring’ is, above all, a thriller. There’s a murder, secret societies, conspiracies and two men from Sweden sailing across the North Sea mid-winter. But apart from the very gripping plot, Larsson lets his narrator express an encompassing awe and respect for the sea. Ulf, the first-person-narrator lives on his sailing-boat  and throughout the story experiences both the liberating and the dangerous face of the ocean, the open horizon and the destroying force of the water. Overall, both an exciting and poetic book!


Have you read any of the books above? Did you like them? Do you have a favourite book about the sea?

Please leave a comment!


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