Peter Buwalda’s endless reading list – Khalid & Sophie


reading time 3 minutes


Writer and columnist Peter Buwalda joins us tonight to talk about his love for books. Even his house was selected for his enormous book collection. “It is a kind of old warehouse loft with extra high ceilings, so that it can accommodate a bookcase with 20 shelves. They are still being painted, but when it is finished and the books are in it, it will be very nice to sit in front of it and look at it. to look.”

But it doesn’t just stop there, right? I hear that you keep a growing computer file of 4,000 books that you have read or want to read.
There are now 15,000 titles, of which I have 8,000 and have now read about 3,000 of them. A sad balance. I must say that that is not very much. There are book collectors who have much more. I’m not done yet. I would prefer to live to be 150, I don’t see any other reason to grow old.

3000, not much? Already 2950 more books than most people read in their lives.
Haha, yes, that’s up to them. Well, you hear a lot about dereading these days, but looking at the sales figures of books, it was no better in the 50s or 60s than it is today. With the exception of a reading peak in the 1990s, reading has always been an elitist hobby. There will always be people who want to read. But I haven’t always been a big reader either! Between the ages of 14 and 18 I was busy with completely different things. There should actually be a moment other than those teenage years when you are bombarded with literature. Take George Orwell’s 1984. You shouldn’t approach a 15-year-old with that. You have to have a certain intelligence to understand a story – or no intelligence, that might not be the right word. You have to be ready for it.

Buying books is very fast, reading books is slower, writing books is a factor of 1000 slower.

Peter Buwalda

Does that also apply to writing? Your first book, Bonita Avenueyou didn’t write until you were 38.
I didn’t always want to be a writer either. I was especially interested in novels by others. They can be so impressive that you don’t associate yourself with them. When you listen to Mahler or Beethoven, you don’t immediately think: I’m going to make a symphony, do you? It takes a certain courage to make that step from reading to writing. And time. Buying books is very fast, reading books is slower, writing books is a factor of 1000 slower.

What makes a book impressive? And of your 3,000 books read, what are the 3 most impressive ones that everyone should add to their reading list?
I call a book a masterpiece if I no longer understand how someone could have invented it. In my collection there are about 100. A top 3 is actually impossible. Well, I can name 3 that I dug up from the depths of international literature and that now come to mind, even if I feel bad for not mentioning all the others:

– Günter Grass – The Tin Drum (Germany, 1959)
This is a mind-bending masterpiece. Compelling and overwhelming. Hard to say why it’s so good. No, it can’t be captured in a short piece, so I’ll leave it at that.

– Louis Paul Boon – De Kapellekensbaan (Belgium, 1953)
The originality of the story and the tone of the writer are decisive here. Boon’s tone cannot be confused with anyone else’s: direct, folksy, vulgar, ‘down to earth’ and at the same time extremely well-read and intelligent. Someone who understands the world very well.

– James Agee – A Death in the Family (USA, 1957)
Agee’s tone is very precise. For example, there is a passage in which a family travels by car through the United States to a relative who lives far away in a forest. The way that ride is described is so precise that you wouldn’t even be able to experience it yourself. You realize that you have a very careless view of the world when you read this.

And finally, there is another book from Dutch literature that I would recommend to everyone:

– Wessel te Gussinklo – The assignment (1995)
Again, the tone is actually brilliant. It is about the inner world of an outsider with big plans and ambitions, which fail due to his lack of connection. Peerless.

We also stopped by Peter’s new house to see this bookcase in person!

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