Logbook of the Low Countries

Logbook of the Low Countries

You could be forgiven for thinking this is probably not something you'd buy on impulse. After all, it sounds like the sort of dusty old title you might stumble across in a secondhand bookshop. But for any history buffs out there, don't stop reading just yet! Because Dutch economist and history connoisseur Wout van der Toorn, has poured his heart and soul into Logbook of the Low Countries, and appears to have compiled almost every single historical episode afflicting the Lowlands, and set it against major historical events that occurred in the rest of the world. Example: If you've ever wondered what else was going on in 1793 when the Southern Netherlands had once again been conquered by a pesky Austrian regime then I'm chuffed to enlighten you, that Dutch suppression commenced in the same year that Louis XVI and his ('Let them eat cake') Mrs, were being guillotined in Paris! Going back as far as 150,000 BC (when Northern Europe was still connected to Scandinavia by glacial ice apparently), it stomps along right up until 2010, with the election of Mark Rutte, the first Liberal Prime Minister of the Netherlands for nearly a century. Let's be honest about this, Logbook of the Low Countries will not appeal to everyone (although frankly, we could all learn quite a bit from the knowledge it imparts), but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading. This is a beautifully produced book in hard cover, illustrated with some lovely old maps, and full of historical facts that will certainly titillate anyone with an interest in history. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl www.shelleyantscherl.com  More >




Amsterdam Foodie

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Holland Cycling

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Explore the Netherlands the Dutch way - by bicycle. Includes where to go, planning your trip, tips and info. More >


Dutch Wannabe

Dutch Wannabe

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Kristen in Clogland

Kristen in Clogland

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A Wanderlust For Life

A Wanderlust For Life

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Amsterdamian

Amsterdamian

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Logbook of the Low Countries

You could be forgiven for thinking this is probably not something you'd buy on impulse. After all, it sounds like the sort of dusty old title you might stumble across in a secondhand bookshop. But for any history buffs out there, don't stop reading just yet! Because Dutch economist and history connoisseur Wout van der Toorn, has poured his heart and soul into Logbook of the Low Countries, and appears to have compiled almost every single historical episode afflicting the Lowlands, and set it against major historical events that occurred in the rest of the world. Example: If you've ever wondered what else was going on in 1793 when the Southern Netherlands had once again been conquered by a pesky Austrian regime then I'm chuffed to enlighten you, that Dutch suppression commenced in the same year that Louis XVI and his ('Let them eat cake') Mrs, were being guillotined in Paris! Going back as far as 150,000 BC (when Northern Europe was still connected to Scandinavia by glacial ice apparently), it stomps along right up until 2010, with the election of Mark Rutte, the first Liberal Prime Minister of the Netherlands for nearly a century. Let's be honest about this, Logbook of the Low Countries will not appeal to everyone (although frankly, we could all learn quite a bit from the knowledge it imparts), but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading. This is a beautifully produced book in hard cover, illustrated with some lovely old maps, and full of historical facts that will certainly titillate anyone with an interest in history. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl www.shelleyantscherl.com  More >


Angel of Amsterdam

Finally, we have an English-language edition of prize-winning Dutch author Geert Mak's Angel of Amsterdam.  Mak is one of the finest of Dutch authors and the book provides unique glimpse into and better understanding of this fascinating city. First published in 1993,  The Angel of Amsterdam:  Seven City Stories introduces a large, varied cast of loyal Amsterdammers, dating from 1275 to approximately 1990, all boasting a unique attachment to the city. All seven stories are independent essays, connected only by being set in Amsterdam.  Readers familiar with the city will be able to identify neighbourhoods, buildings, and the names of historical figures. The first story, ‘A City in Blue’, is a modern-day description of Amsterdam from an aerial perspective. This is followed by, ‘Stone and Earth on the Burgwal’ which delves into the history of the city via the artifacts found in a house being renovated by the narrator.  The third story considers the mitigation of staunch religious standards as people from isolated rural areas move to the city seeking better opportunities. Rembrandt is the central figure in ‘The Forgotten Girl, the City and the Painter’ – with his changing fortunes reflecting the changing values of Amsterdam society in 1600s. The last three essays focus on population groups not generally photographed for Amsterdam tourist guides.  “Making Tracks around Central Station’ follows prostitutes, pimps, and homeless people with chronic substance abuse issues or mental health problems.  The narrator spends time with these individuals, learning how and where these people survive in the city. Similarly, ‘Three Afternoons with Henk Plenter’ sees the narrator accompanying a public health inspector responsible for investigating complaints regarding bad smells.  The cause of the stench often related to an individual, sometimes dead, but often suffering from an untreated psychiatric illness and abandoned by family, friends, neighbors or social services. Overall, this book of short essays provides an interesting insight into Amsterdam’s history, and the social fabric that make it the colorful city it is today. After 20 years, it is a little dated and may benefit from the addition of a present day story to add relevance for newer residents of the city.  Yet The Angel of Amsterdam remains a fascinating commentary on the city and its inhabitants. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


Must Eat Amsterdam

Calling itself 'an eclectic selection of culinary locations', Must Eat Amsterdam is not intended to be a comprehensive restaurant guide to Amsterdam, but rather a highlights tour, showcasing the best the city has to offer. Author Luc Hoornaert has an interesting background. He’s the owner of SWAFFOU (Sexy Winemakers Association Fighting For Overall Understanding), a website devoted to wine education as well as Swaffood, which sells high end Japanese ingredients. He’s also the author of the Must Eat series of books, which cover New York City, London and the Netherlands and now have a specific title for Amsterdam. The photos are by Kris Vlegels and they are mouth watering. He captures from brilliant shots of the chefs and owners of the various restaurants as well, along with some interior photos of some of the locations. It’s a stylish little book with a brief introduction and photo (along with contact details) of each restaurant included. It then highlights one dish from the menu along with a photo and offers a description of the restaurant, the chef, the menu and the ambiance as well as some quirky facts about the place. The book itself is organised by location, breaking down Amsterdam into its geographic components (Centre, West, East, South and North.) The bulk of the selection are unsurprisingly located in the Centre with South also having a good showing. Usefully, each location also includes their average price, ranging from under €12.50 to over €40 for a main course and a drink. The locations range from food stalls to high end restaurants and nearly everything in between. Cheese shop Abraham Kef makes the list as does &Samhoud Places. Cuisine varies from croquettes to seafood and from Surinamese to Spanish. There is no ranking system for any of the restaurants included in the book and each review is written with such gusto, that it is hard to imagine any as falling short. Unfortunately, the author gives us no criteria for any any restaurant was included in (or, for that matter, left off) the list. Overall, it’s a pleasant little book that leaves the reader hunger and with a list of must try places in Amsterdam. It would be a good edition for the bookshelf of any foodie living in the country, as well as a reasonably good list for any tourist.  More >


Why the Dutch are Different

At the risk of sounding like an uneducated pleb, I confess that being asked to review yet another book dealing with the history and culture of the Netherlands did not fill me with unabated excitement. A quick flip through the pages revealed the inclusion of the obligatory topics found in every book about the Netherlands – the Golden Age, water, windmills, land reclamation, bikes, drugs, Anne Frank and prostitution. Yet by the time I reached the last page of the book’s introduction, my hesitation had disappeared, and I eagerly sat up late into the night reading Why the Dutch are Different, laughing often and enjoying the  ride into the history of my adopted homeland. The Audacity to Go Searching Why the Dutch are Different provides the answers to all the questions I had but didn’t dare ask in my quest to understand what was going on around me in the Netherlands. New author, Ben Coates, is the Englishman brave enough to venture into the midst of the Dutch people, ask the questions, do the research, drink the cheap cocktails and wear the tiger outfit to Carnival. He unearths what the natives think about issues like immigrants, social security, Geert Wilders and Zwarte Piet. By connecting the dots of major historical events - up to and including present day events - the reader is presented with a clear explanation of what it means to be Dutch. The contents of the book are far reaching, albeit manageably sorted into seven chapters. In each chapter the author travels to various Dutch cities, attending local events. Each event is supported by historical background information with a modern day commentary.  An analysis of Dutch tolerance of prostitution, drugs, religious and political beliefs, is both interesting and accessible. A day spent researching and celebrating carnival in the southern cities of Maastricht, Eindhoven and Breda includes a discussion on the impact of religious divides on the Dutch people and country.  Attending Amsterdam’s museum night leads to a discussion about the Golden Age. Taking a picnic in Drenthe incorporates a discussion about the Nazi occupation during WWII and the Dutch response to protecting its Jewish citizens. So – Why are the Dutch Different? The answer seems to be hidden in how Dutch history has shaped the country's present position. There are many obvious factors like water management; windmills; an addiction to dairy products; biking; and the over-popularity of business meetings. A deeper understanding of the country and its people is a prerequisite to truly feel at home in the Netherlands. I can thoroughly recommend this book. Ana McGinley Why the Dutch are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands by Ben Coates. Published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing  More >


The Harbour Master

The latest novella from British author, Daniel Pembrey, is a thriller set in modern day Amsterdam. The Harbour Master escorts readers into the seedier parts of the Dutch capital in this fast-paced tale of prostitution, murder, human trafficking and police corruption. Amsterdam police detective, Henk van der Pol, is on the downhill run towards his retirement. During an early morning patrol, he discovers a woman's body floating in the Amsterdam harbour. Henk becomes overtly suspicious of the police investigation into the case, and is soon denied all access to information about the dead woman and the cause of her demise by his superiors. Fortunately, Henk is able to identify the tattoo on the corpse'Ž“s ankle before he is barred from the investigation. The tattoo directs him to Amsterdam'Ž“s underbelly, the red light district, where he uncovers an unhealthy relationship between the pimps, prostitutes, police and politicians. This discovery places Henk and his family in peril, and entails Henk fighting for their safety without the support of the local constabulary. The Harbour Master is a fast, tight and suspenseful read. The economical format of the novella demands the removal of all excess fodder from the narrative. The characters are swiftly introduced, developed and connected to the plot. Henks'Ž“ colleagues, both old and new, are smoothly incorporated, with dialogue and action congruous to the specific character and situation. The relationships linking Henk, his wife, and their daughter are flawlessly executed. A good example is the description of Henk's daughter, Nadia, receiving a surprise visit from her father at the café¸ she works in. Her discomfort, apparent in what she says and how her movements are described, makes the reader feel like an eye witness. Pembrey shows great skill as a crime fiction writer. His understanding and portrayal of people, places and situations is remarkable. The Harbour Master is a highly recommended addition to this popular literary genre. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


NLXL – possibly the biggest book about the Netherlands you have ever seen

The Netherlands might like to consider itself a small country - a kleine kikkerlandje, as the Dutch are so fond of saying - but this is one mighty big book. Karel Tomei's NLXL weighs in at a whopping 3.5 kilos but is such a joy to look at that you will forget the weight on your knees. The book draws on the tradition of birds eye view paintings in which the world is captured from the skies: the intricate patterns of reclaimed land crisscrossed by ditches, the contrast between bulb fields and a golf course, great swathes of sand with a city in the distance, a drone's view of a busy cafe terrace, the intricate carvings on the roof of a cathedral. But it's the landscape that really rules NLXL - the Netherlands might be oh so very flat, but it still has amazing variation in its countryside - from the seaside dunes to the southern heaths, from the the seals sunning themselves on a sandbank to intricate cityscapes. NLXL will make a stunning, if heavy, present for anyone who loves the Netherlands in all its variations. You can buy NLXL at all good bookshops and online from Xpat Media   More >


Holland Handbook

Now in its 19th year, this richly illustrated handbook offers 256 full-color pages of essential information for the expatriate on all aspects of living and working in the Netherlands such as: career, fiscal issues, health care, housing, insurance, international education, registration and telecommunications. Buy this book  More >


Dealing with the Dutch

If you'Ž“re moving to the Netherlands then be warned, Lowlanders can be a bit blunt. In fact it'Ž“s fair to say that in business, as in daily life, brutal honesty and constructive criticism are dished out liberally as par for the course - which can be a bit of a shock to the system if you haven't lived or worked alongside them before. The Dutch are a self-confident, pragmatic, and exceedingly efficient race and these qualities combined with their shrewd nose for business can sometimes make for an off-putting combination. In Dealing with the Dutch, author Jacob Vossestein has created a manual for anyone who wants or needs to understand the general mentality, in order to forge good professional relationships and successfully conduct business with the Dutch. As a human geographer and social anthropologist with nearly 30 years experience as a cross-cultural trainer, Vossestein knows more than most about the Dutch psyche and how to communicate effectively with his fellow countrymen. But surprisingly for a native, Vossestein also shows a finely-tuned awareness for the less appealing Dutch characteristics, and this is what makes his book so valuable. Every quirk, trait and habit is scrutinised and what you get is a fully comprehensive guide to just about every strand of the nation'Ž“s collective personality, including their beliefs and value system. Despite the dull and dreary picture on the book'Ž“s cover, it is anything but, and contains plenty of humorous observations and comments by other foreigners that will make this useful for anyone moving to Holland. Indeed the tone of the author himself, is refreshingly self-deprecating which makes you want to read on and discover more about this tall and distinctive race of northern Europeans who are often understood by misleading stereotypes and little more. Vossestein has included so much information about the entire Dutch nation its geography and provinces, including the regional nuances of people living in different parts of the country, that Dealing with the Dutch succeeds in being entertaining, enlightening and credible, all at the same time. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl books@dutchnews.nl  More >


Sunshine Soup

The life of an expat wife in a far-flung destination has all the classic ingredients for a jolly good chick-lit novel and who better to pen the story than someone who'Ž“s lived the life and turned it into an art form? Sunshine Soup: Nourishing the Global Soul, is the first foray into fiction for renowned author, publisher and Expat Entrepreneur Jo Parfitt, and tells the story of a group of friends (and trailing spouses) living in Dubai in 2008. Maya leaves behind a successful catering business to follow her husband'Ž“s career to the Middle East and quickly discovers that no amount of shopping and manicures can replace her life-long passion for cooking, and losing the professional identity she has worked so hard to achieve. Even domestic salvation in the form of Annie the housemaid eats away at Maya'Ž“s self-esteem as she begins to feel usurped in the very place she has always found sanctuary and fulfilment her kitchen. But before long Maya finds kindred spirits in other expat wives and soon discovers new and exciting opportunities in unexpected quarters in a storyline that trots along at a satisfying pace. If you'Ž“re a fan of this genre then Sunshine Soup will certainly gratify, and typically with any of Jo Parfitt'Ž“s offerings, you get more than just a book and here she'Ž“s included twenty recipes at the end in a nice nod to the main character, Maya (the anchovy and lemon dip incidentally, is quite delicious!). Sunshine Soup is a fictional account of the realities of life for many women living overseas, but ultimately it'Ž“s a tale of friendship, culture shock, grief and temptation against an exotic backdrop with a cast of characters who will resonate with expat women everywhere. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl  More >


Old Heart

Old Heart is a novel about Tom Johnson, an 85-year old American widower who embarks on a mission to find Sarah van Praag, the Dutch woman he fell in love with during WWII. Tom’s journey takes him back to Veldhoven, a small town close to Eindhoven in the southern province of North Brabant, where he had been stationed during the war. In doing so, he eludes his adult children, Brooks and Christine, who have their own motives for wanting to see their father relocated in a local retirement village. His relationships with all family members are beautifully detailed throughout the novel. Old Heart is about love, loss, aging, relationships and self-discovery. It is a story of Dutch people and culture, from an American perspective.  Ferry’s portrayal of Veldhoven and its inhabitants rings true, a consequence of him having lived in the town as a Fulbright exchange teacher in 1991-2. As a novelist the author displays remarkable talent in transposing the story through timeframes, continents and narrators. Ferry refuses to take the easy path by jumping to fairy tale conclusions. Every character is complex and their negative attributes are clearly displayed. This full exposure gives the characters substance and the plot credibility. At no time is the reader presented with a stereotypical ‘sweet old person’ character – often found in books and films, but never found in real life. Old Heart requires the reader to question the idea that making decisions and taking chances is something older people are incapable of doing. Setting the tale in the Netherlands, both in the present day and during WWII, offers a Dutch cultural and historical perspective, which is softly differentiated from that apparent in North America. Old Heart is a thought-provoking and entertaining novel. Highly recommended. Ana McGinley  More >