Sonia Vandepitte in 21 books


There are so many books that I can enjoy – they draw me into a story, they bring me a new insight, they offer me a different perspective. The books I have collected here are books that have played an important role in my life. They are not necessarily books that I definitely want to reread or recommend to others. They are books that have a strong associative meaning for me. Some of them have shaped my character, or their words have given me courage, or comfort, or even developed certain fears, and others have nourished my industry, my service, my resilience.
They also quickly taught me the difference between reality and fantasy – no, gnomes don't really exist, but you can fantasize about them. Or they showed me the difference between fact and fiction – no, this didn't really happen, but it could have happened. It is mainly that fictional world that I have been looking for and am still looking for when I want to read. That portion of fiction probably plays a role in processing reality. The stories make me think about life, assess situations, respect, accept, appreciate and even admire other people and being different. Many building blocks of my empathy come from those books. Other books have shown me in a more direct and explicit way what is good for me and how I can act. And still others play a very unique role. Here they are, in the order they crossed my path in life:
  1. Dick Bruna, The bird.SV1.jpg
    1963 Ostend
    I'm getting my first book. I can already read. Yes, I'm going to kindergarten.
    Did this book lead to me being called a heron, an industrious kingfisher, an owl, a sociable weaver, a white raven? Only in my dreams can I fly…

  2. Membership booklet Sea-Scouts and Sea-Guides of Belgiumsv2.PNG
    1966 Ostend
    This is not a book you will find in the library 😊. When I was eight years old, I made a promise with those words. They are words that have lodged themselves deep into my brain. They guide my actions – unconsciously – probably every day.

  3. A school atlas that also includes a map of the USSV3.jpg
    1967 Ostend
    Over there, on the other side of the Ocean, Papa, you fell into the water and the waves took you away. We are relieved - it is no longer possible that you would hurt us. But I don't understand: you could swim, and you were so kind to me that evening?

  4. Aldous Huxley, Brave New WorldSV4.jpg
    1975 Ostend
    What a nasty world is described here. I don't want to participate in this. I'm not going to study maths or physics, even if I get the school award for best student for these subjects.

  5. Stijn Streuvels, De VlasschaardSV5.jpg
    1976 Ostend
    I love reading and I really appreciate the descriptions of nature and weather – it's as if I'm standing in that storm myself. Yes, old-fashioned style, but I don't seem to find this problematic (although I seem to be almost the only one in my class). Should I study Germanic languages? “Sir, will I be able to do that?” “If you work, you will succeed.”

    2020 Sint-Martens-Latem
    Today I live close to the river Leie. For the nature guide course I chose the Vlasdijkje in the Latemse Meersen. During corona times I am starting to grow roots there - for the first time in my life.

  6. William Wordsworth, Poetical works.SV6.jpg
    1976-1979 State University of Ghent
    For Professor Schrickx we have to translate many romantic poems. Wordsworth is my favourite – for me his poetry is the most transparent – and I recognize myself in the descriptions of nature's effect on feelings.

  7. Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary.SV7.jpg
    1976-1979 State University of Ghent
    What a rich source of information. Fellow students come to me for the meaning of words that they cannot find in their dictionaries.

    1990 Sint-Martens-Latem
    In the 1990s, this dictionary was on the family table. The Women (yes, this dictionary is female-made), as we've started calling them, help us solve the Guardian Weekly cryptic crosswords, in an era before the Internet was so well developed.

  8. Jean-Paul Sartre, La Nausée.SV8.jpg
    1976-1979 State University of Ghent
    This is the kind of book that terrifies me mentally. I can't cope with the negative flow of thoughts in it. It takes me along and drags me into a lonely, endless search for values in life and I encounter a lot of misunderstanding. The arms race is reaching unprecedented heights.

    2023 Sint-Martens-Latem
    Today I would like to try rereading this book again - I think I am mentally strong now. But I understand so well today's young people who are looking for a meaningful future and struggle to nurture hope.

  9. Knut Hamsun, PanSV9.jpeg
    1976-1979 State University of Ghent
    Like Wordsworth, a romantic that I like. He leads me to the Norwegian mountains, to the land of the fjords, my dreamland - but not from my loneliness.

  10. Leif Ryvarden & Per J. Tømmeraas, Alta-Kautokeino vassdraget.SV10.jpg
    1980-1981 University of Oslo
    I got a scholarship to study Norwegian in Norway for a whole year. There are many protests in Oslo against the construction of a dam on the Alta River in Kautokeino. It was opened in 1987. I see a beautiful book about Kautokeino’s history, culture and nature in the store. I can only buy this if I economise on something else. I don't eat chocolate for a whole year and in June I have the money to take the book to Belgium.

  11. Kafka, Der ProzessSV11.pngs
    1981-1984 Bruges
    How complicated our society has become. A nightmare for some – often – even today. If I can recognize and name difficulties as kafkaesque, the pain is somewhat alleviated by the gallows humour that the memory of the book gives me. But what an ingenious invention for those in power to be able to maintain their position: divide and rule, I see in it.

  12. M. K. Ghandi, An Autobiography, or The Story of My Experiments with Truth.SV12.jpg
    1981-1984 Bruges
    What a brave person. He just continues to believe that peaceful protest can bring about change. What an example. What mental capacity.

  13. Hermann Hesse, Narziss und Goldmund.SV13.jpg
    1981-1984 Bruges
    Another romantic, seeker, nature lover. I recognize myself and long for a love like the one I see described between Narziss and Goldmund.

  14. Tolkien, The Lord of the RingsSV14.jpg
    1981-1984 Bruges
    This book is able to draw me into its fantasy world. The language and songs bring the world to life. I read the book during a summer trip to Norway, together with friends who already know the book. They recognize all kinds of landscapes from the book there. I want to embrace Frodo's courage and perseverance. And I also wished I could copy him. But I feel like a lost Ent and am looking for my family.

  15. Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson, Relevance theorySV15.jpg
    1986-1987 University College London
    This is not an easy book for me, Deirdre. You need to explain quite a few things. But your patience conquers me and I am able to see how I can combine the theory to my empirical work on causal constructions for my PhD. More importantly, I can now understand much better how misunderstandings come about. Sadly, not so many people truly understand the theory.

  16. Benjamin Spock and Michael B. Rothenberg, Dr Spock's Baby ad Child Care.SV16.jpgs
    1990 Sint-Martens-Latem
    I try to calm a crying baby on my arm while walking in the living room or kitchen or bedroom - standing still or sitting is not possible. I have a great hunger to read, but only Spock's words soothe the baby - can I believe in those words myself and find comfort in them so that I can pass that calm onto the baby? It works time and time again. And I accept my hunger for another book.

  17. Connie Palmen, De Vriendschap.SV17.jpg
    1990 Sint-Martens-Latem
    Palmen presents a childhood friendship in such detail that I immediately recognize it and feel transported into the past. The time I spent with my best friend is so precious, so full of positive emotion. I meet her again at a school reunion and she tells me that she is reading De Vriendschap. We look at each other and know. We never plan to meet, but I know.

  18. Theodor Zeldin, ConversationSV18.jpg
    2000 Sint-Martens-Latem
    This is a gem of a book. The publication itself with the drawings, but especially the images used to describe a deep conversation between people. How beautiful can this be. What an added value to really get through to each other in a conversation.
    Maybe this also helped me become a sociable weaver?

  19. Yuval Noah Harrari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.SV19.jpg
    2018 Pennine Way
    Gert reads this book during our walk through the heart of England. He talks about it. It worries me: our complex world is not well put together. My generation saw the height of democracy and prosperity in our area when we were children. With that in mind, we have raised the next generation. But are they ready, and perhaps more importantly, is the rest of the world ready? It is now clear to me that I must reduce my ecological footprint – every day.

    I would like to present Books 20 and 21 together: they are the books of today and of my future, because my life does not end now or here. And in a quarter of a century I hope to add another part to the present set of books.

  20. Esther van Gelder and Norbert Peeters, Flora Batava. 1800-1934: De wilde plant van Nederland.SV20kl.jpg
    I have opened this book from time to time to supplement my study of the plant world this semester and it will also be very useful when I lead groups of people in nature reserves. The drawings are very inspiring and reflect the rich biodiversity of our area. The book has been called the longest-running declaration of love for Dutch flora.

  21. Bernard Andrès, Automates pour Harpe.SV21.jpg
    I hope to be able to play this music myself in a not too distant future.