Non-fiction books – religion, society, history and cultural history

Navid Kermani: Ungläubiges Staunen. Über das Christentum © C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2015

Navid Kermani
Ungläubiges Staunen. Über das Christentum

In the beginning was wonder. That is the pre-Socratic answer to the question of the primal impulse of philosophical thinking. Yet wonder also stands at the beginning of religion. It is in the divine that the believer finds the object of his wonder. Thus, the title of Navid Kermani’s new book itself plays associatively with fundamental questions of human existence – and stereotypical attributes. If a committed Muslim takes it upon himself to argue about Christianity, the traditional interpretation is that this can only be mere presumption, the presumption of an “unbeliever”. Both elements of this interpretation are wrong.More ...
Victor Klemperer: Man möchte immer weinen und lachen in einem. Revolutionstagebuch 1919 © Aufbau Verlag Berlin, 2015

Victor Klemperer
Man möchte immer weinen und lachen in einem. Revolutionstagebuch 1919

For Klemperer, writing was not just part of his vocation as a literary scholar; it was a constant part of his everyday life. His diaries from the Nazi period are gripping, unique documents about how Jews were stripped of their rights and persecuted in Germany, about the war’s effects on the population and the Hitler regime’s anti-intellectual policies. When the Aufbau Verlag achieved this publishing feat in 1995, it had a forceful effect; the double volume weighing two kilograms became an international bestseller. (...)More ...
Ralf Konersmann: Die Unruhe der Welt © S. Fischer Verlag Frankfurt am Main, 2015

Ralf Konersmann
Die Unruhe der Welt

The curse "You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth" was the second expulsion that irrevocably brought unrest into the world as the pervading force that shapes culture and civilisation. In his genealogical exploration of this state of being, Ralf Konersmann tells the biblical story not in relation to crime and punishment, but to a sense of being that now seems self-evident. So self-evident that the question no longer arises as to why people give up peace and quiet to seek their happiness in an active life, work and constant change, and to value the possible world more than the existing one. (..)More ...
Tilmann Lahme: Die Manns. Geschichte einer Familie © S. Fischer Verlag Frankfurt am Main, 2015

Tilmann Lahme
Die Manns. Geschichte einer Familie

“Later, people will write books about us – not only about us individually". That was a diary entry made by the eldest son, Klaus Mann, in the summer of 1936. Later, that’s now. (…)
For what we now have in front of us is a family saga consisting of fame and ambition, luxury, envy, hypocrisy, excess, contempt, love and bitterness. An author who does not lose his patience or his neutrality in view of the self-reflections of those concerned and their constant willingness to deceive others and themselves needs to be sympathetic to them, but also unwilling to be taken in by them himself.More ...
Neil MacGregor: Deutschland. Erinnerungen einer Nation © C.H. Beck Verlag Munich, 2015

Neil MacGregor
Deutschland. Erinnerungen einer Nation

Why is the “Iron Cross” a symbol of the German soul? And what does Kant have to do with drinking beer? In providing answers to such questions, the Director of the British Museum tells the story of Germany in an entirely new way. (...) In a conversational tone, MacGregor leads his readers from Charlemagne to contemporary Berlin, not in chronological order, but through associative digressions, catching hold of artefacts which in their turn represent leitmotifs and qualities of what it means to be German. Not “of Germany”, because that was a fragmented entity of small states for more than 1000 years. (…)More ...
Karl-Heinz Meier-Braun: Einwanderung und Asyl: Die 101 wichtigsten Fragen © C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2015

Karl-Heinz Meier-Braun
Einwanderung und Asyl: Die 101 wichtigsten Fragen

Upon being awarded the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament in 2004, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan drew attention to a serious omission on the part of European politics. Annan urged the elected representatives to finally take action for a new migration management. He impressively recalled the lack of perspectives of many migrants, the atrocities of human smuggling and the risk posed to the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees by overly restrictive practices. “This silent human rights crisis”, said Annan, “shames our world” and the situation is all the more tragic given that Europe urgently needs immigrants.More ...
Ulrich Menzel: Die Ordnung der Welt. Imperium oder Hegemonie in der Hierarchie der Staatenwelt © Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin, 2015

Ulrich Menzel
Die Ordnung der Welt
Imperium oder Hegemonie in der Hierarchie der Staatenwelt

Braunschweig political scientist Ulrich Menzel has succeeded in doing two things - outlining a hierarchy of the world of states, and illustrating and verifying this theory by reference to a range of examples, from the Song Dynasty in China and the Ottoman Empire at the hub of three continents to the present-day United States. Such an enterprise has its price and that price is that the book is well over a thousand pages in length, which may deter some curious individuals from reading it. Anyone who works through the abundance of material, including statistics and graphs, will benefit greatly from so doing, however.More ...
Bruno Preisendörfer: Als Deutschland noch nicht Deutschland war. Reise in die Goethezeit © Galiani Verlag Berlin, 2015

Bruno Preisendörfer
Als Deutschland noch nicht Deutschland war. Reise in die Goethezeit

It was with great pleasure that Bruno Preisendörfer searched for all kinds of materials and sources from the Goethe period, approximately 1770 to 1830, that have nothing to do with the “mind” but with everyday life. In the proliferous correspondence which at that time had to substitute almost all feelings and conversations, Preisendörfer’s focus is on the nondescript passages between oaths of allegiance and declarations of friendship and love that deal with clothing, food, bedcovers, obtaining candles and water.More ...
Andreas Rödder: 21.0. Eine kurze Geschichte der Gegenwart © C.H. Beck Verlag Munich, 2015

Andreas Rödder
21.0. Eine kurze Geschichte der Gegenwart

The project could not be more ambitious. Rödder has undertaken no less than to characterise our postmodern world at the beginning of the twenty-first century, its contradictory tendencies and breath-taking changes that often only raise questions without providing any reassuring certainties. The perspective is global, but naturally there is a strong focus on European-Atlantic culture. Germany, too, uncertain of itself as usual, and overwhelmed by the great currents of history, is presented in every chapter in a distanced, rather relaxed, cheerful, even laid-back and completely non-polemical way as an exemplary case of the fantastic upheaval in all dimensions.More ...
Karl Schlögel: Entscheidung in Kiew. Ukrainische Lektionen © Carl Hanser Verlag Munich, 2015

Karl Schlögel
Entscheidung in Kiew. Ukrainische Lektionen

This new book by Karl Schlögel on Ukraine is the outcome of a trauma that is shocking not only Russian and Ukrainian society, but also the German fraternity of experts. Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and installation of rebel people’s republics in eastern Ukraine have opened up a deep divide between Russia and the West, torn families apart, redefined Russians as Ukrainians and made German academics carrying out research into Russia despair about their research subject. (…)
Donetsk and other Ukrainian cities had already suffered greatly under Soviet power and German occupation – Schlögel recalls that the death toll in Ukraine was even higher than that in its Russian "brother nation".More ...