Category Archives: Announcement

June – final meeting report

June was the last meeting of this Informal Reading Group (IRG).  We discussed the last section of “The Book Thief”.

One of the questions we discussed was the one so many people have asked: why does God allow such cruelty and suffering to happen? Isn’t this proof that God does not exist? An answer is hinted at in “The Book Thief” : silence;meaning, there is no God. Do you have an answer to this question?

Many thanks to the reader who suggested this book.

And many heartfelt thanks to all of you who have participated over the years, and, with your charming personalities, good humour and intelligent comments and questions, have helped to make this a stimulating and enjoyable group.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I hope you did too.

So, farewell to all of you, not only those who were present at the June session, but those who have come and gone over the years. You are not forgotten.

This blog was started in March 2009. You can visit the archives on the left-hand sidebar. Some of the original members also started their own English blogs. You can see them listed in the sidebar, too. Check them out when you have time.


This blog will stay up. I may add to it later.

Best wishes to you all and thanks again.


May meeting report

Dear Readers,

For those of you who were unable to attend today, I announced my retirement from this reading group. I will continue until we have finished discussing our present novel, “The Book Thief”.

There are various reasons for this decision: partly my health but mainly because I feel it is time for me to move on and do other things. It has been a most enjoyable journey through English literature with all of you.

Our next meeting will be June 27th, and we will discuss from Part 6 “Death’s Diary: Cologne” (p. 334 in the version we are using).

I hope to see you again at the end of June.

May meeting

After a 2-month hiatus, our May meeting will take place on May 23rd at the usual time and place. I look forward to seeing you there.


We’ll be reading and discussing from “The Whistler and the Shoes” (Part 5, p. 284).

I’m blogging about writers talking about writing over on my other blog, “Accurate Maps“. I also took up a challenge – to write 1,000 words minimum every day on my blog, and to read 1 short story, 1 poem and 1 essay a day. You can read more here.

January meeting report and February announcement

Our January meeting was held on January 17th.  We finished reading part 3 and read up to “Pages in the Basement” (p. 126) in part four.

We discussed the unexpected side of Rosa’s nature: Rosa is a good woman in a crisis! The image of the young thief Arthur Berg holding his dead sister remained in the memory of many readers. We also discussed the meaning of “Mensch”: origianlly a German word (as in “Saumensch”) it was borrowed into Yiddish. See the Wikipedia entry here: Rosa is (unexpectedly!) a Mensch.

Next time  will be Feb. 21st (not 14th as we agreed at January’s meeting due to scheduling conflicts). Another group is using the room until 3 pm, so earlycomers may have to wait a little.

We will start reading/discussing from “Pages in the Basement” which is nearly the end of Part Four, and continue into Part Five.

I look forward to seeing you all there. Until then,

Happy New Year

Best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous year.






“There is never a stop to the sunrise. Sunrise happens all day long. Somewhere on this earth the sun is rising. Somewhere on this earth the sun is setting. That was just where YOU were. It never stops. It keeps happening all day long. And what is your night, somewhere is daylight.”

December meeting report

At our December meeting, we discussed most of part 3 – up to the end of “Attributes of Summer”.

Next time (January 17th), we’ll discuss from “Aryan Shopkeeper” and as far into Part Four as we can.

Some topics discussed today:

  • Stalingrad. From Wikipedia: “Marked by fierce close quarters combat and direct assaults on civilians in air raids, it is often regarded as one of the single largest (nearly 2.2 million personnel) and bloodiest (1.7–2 million killed, wounded or captured) battles in the history of warfare. It was an extremely costly defeat for German forces, and the Army High Command had to withdraw vast military forces from the West to replace their losses.”
  • false dichotomy (or false dilemma): Either you’re with us or ...”

November meeting report

Updated Nov. 2nd

At our November meeting, we discussed part 3  2 of “The Book Thief”. It was a very lively discussion and the time went by very fast.

Our next session will be the first Wednesday in December, when we will finish discussing part 3  2 (from Hitler’s Birthday) and go on to talk about  part 3.

Some matters we discussed in the November session were

  • the Reichstag fire of 1933 (see also Goring’s commentary and  as archetype
  • false flag attacks
  • synasthesia (in Japanese 共感覚): there are examples of this throughout the book. Two examples we read today was “music has the colour of darkness”, and “speak colours”.
  • the burning of synagogues and writing slurs on Jewish shops in Nazi Germany:
    • By 1934, all Jewish shops were marked with the yellow Star of David or had the word “Juden” written on the window. SA men stood outside the shops to deter anyone from entering.
    • Krystalnacht – The Night of the Broken Glass. In November 1938, a Nazi ‘diplomat’ was shot dead by a Jew in Paris. Hitler ordered a seven day campaign of terror against the Jews in Germany to be organised by Himmler and the SS. On the 10th November, the campaign started. 10,000 shops owned by Jews were destroyed and their contents stolen. Homes and synagogues were set on fire and left to burn. The fire brigades showed their loyalty to Hitler by assuming that the buildings would burn down anyway, so why try to prevent it? A huge amount of damage was done to Jewish property but the Jewish community was ordered to pay a one billion mark fine to pay for the eventual clear-up. Jews were forced to scrub the streets clean. (From Jews in Nazi Germany)
  • German reactions to the Treaty of Versailles which ended WWI
    • How did Germany react to the Treaty?
      • Reactions to the Treaty in Germany were very negative. There were protests in the German Reichstag (Parliament) and out on the streets. It is not hard to see why Germans were outraged. Germany lost 10% of its land, all its overseas colonies, 12.5% of its population, 16% of its coal and 48% of its iron industry. There were also the humiliating terms, which made Germany accept blame for the war, limit their armed forces and pay reparations.
    • The German feelings of betrayal after WWI
    • The Hitler Jugend
    • Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics:
      • Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the sprint and long jump events and became the most successful athlete to compete in Berlin. (From Wikipedia
      • .. Nazi Germany used the 1936 Olympic Games for propaganda purposes. The Nazis promoted an image of a new, strong, and united Germany while masking the regime’s targeting of Jews and Roma (Gypsies) as well as Germany’s growing militarism.  (From The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936)

October meeting announcement

Our next meeting is Oct. 4th.  For next time, we will read up to the end of Part One – The Gravedigger’s Handbook.

At our next meeting, nstead of reading through this part, I suggest that we each choose one or two sections or images or ideas to read aloud and discuss.

Below are some questions that might help you organize your thoughts.

  • Summary. How would you briefly summarize the main points of this section?  If you had to tell someone what this section is about in less than a minute, what would you say?
  • Insights. What were the key insights you gleaned from this section?
  • What were your main disagreements with the author (if any)? Reading is an active exercise, and disagreement is part of what stimulates our own growth and development.
  • Holes. What did you feel was missing from the section? No book is perfect.
  • Takeaways. What did you “get” from this section? Try to list two or three things you learned .
  • Snippet. What are the sentences or images or events that you found most memorable?

September meeting report

At our August meeting, we read and discussed chapter 1 – “Arrival on Himmel Street” up to chapter 2 “Saumensch” of “The Book Thief”.  The page references in this blog are to the 10th anniversary Black Swan edition  of 2016.

For next time, we will read up to the end of Part One – The Gravedigger’s Handbook. Next time will be Wednesday October 4th.

Some of the ideas and themes we discussed in our August meeting were:

  • the final solution, an expression which now has only one, stark, meaning for all Jews and Europeans everywhere.
  • “the nothingness of life moving on with a shuffle” (p.28) is perhaps a reference to Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” speech in which he says

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause”

August meeting report


At our August meeting, we read the Prologue of “The Book Thief“.

Our next meeting will be on September 6th, where we will read and discuss chapter 1 – “Arrival on Himmel Street” up to chapter 2 “Saumensch”.

Many thanks to Okuda-san for making all those copies at the last minute.

Our August meeting will be held on Aug. 2nd at the usual place and time. We may have a few new people joining us today.

I apologize for not contact you all earlier. I was very busy with classes and final exams until Monday 31st.

As for the choice of book, not everyone commented, but it seems “The Book Thief” is the popular choice, so we will go with that.

Could those people who have the book “The Book Thief” make a copy of chapter 1 in case people attend who do not have a copy of the book? I only have a digital version of “The Book Thief”.

I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.