Recent books… with a China theme
Since last month I don’t have an apartment in Shanghai anymore but I still work there. How do I do it? Well, I take the train from Suzhou every morning, and every evening I take the train back. This is only a temporary situation, as I am supposed to start working from home in January. (I might write a post about my daily commute if I am inspired).
One of the upsides of this new arrangement is that I have one hour to read in the train every day. I am reading much more now! The Kindle Paperwhite that C. bought me for my birthday last September might also have something to do with it.
I like marking the books I am currently reading in Goodreads. WordPress even has a widget you can show in your blog! You can see it here somewhere in the right margin. And I noticed that I have read several books related to China this past year and wanted to share them here.
So, these are the books that I have read this year and that have something to do with China.
Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang
Two comic books retelling the story of the Boxer Rebellion which took place in China at the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th. The story is told separately by two sides of the conflict: the Boxers, who were opposed to foreign imperialism and foreign missionaries, and the Christians (foreign and Chinese) who were the target of their attacks. The main book is Boxers, Saints is way smaller and not so interesting but it is a good complement and allows you to see both sides of the story.
Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China, by Leslie T. Chang
The books follows the lives of several young female workers in the factories of Guangdong. Most of them came from the inner, poorer provinces and didn’t have the chance to study past secondary or high school, so they started working young and saving money. The story of these girls resonated with me as they reminded me of an ex-colleague from my previous job. She had a younger brother and the family didn’t have enough money for the two kids to study. In these situations, it is always the son who will be chosen to follow his studies. So my colleague came to Suzhou and started working in factories and then was upgraded to quality control. Later she started attending evening lessons (remember that workers in factories usually work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week), taught herself English and got a better job, in an office, dealing with customs and logistics. The last thing I knew was that she was now learning Japanese, to have more chances to be hired by one of the many Japanese enterprises in Suzhou.
Pearl River Drama: Dating in China – A Memoir, by Ray Hecht
Ha! Does the name of the author sound familiar? You might have seen him around here! Ray compiled his Dating in China series from his blog and made this book.
Life and Death in Shanghai, by Cheng Nien
The true story of a wealthy, educated woman that lost absolutely everything and went to prison for more than 6 years during the Cultural Revolution. She was a truly fascinating character and the story is absolutely devastating. A must read. (I think it would be a great movie, but I’m not so sure China would be very happy about it. According to this old piece of news from 1993, Chen Kaige was thinking about filming it but dropped the idea).
The Martian, by Andy Weir
If you have read The Martian, you know China plays a small part in it! I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to watch the movie,which will be finally released in a couple of weeks here in China.
South China Morning Blues, by Ray Hecht
Ha! Ray again! This is his last book, which has been just published. It tells the lives of different characters, some expats, some Chinese, living in Guangdong. It was the second book I read on the Kindle and I enjoyed it a lot, especially the first half. If you have spent some years in China, like me, you will feel like you have really met the characters in real life!
The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin
I have never read much sci-fi. I don’t know why, it just never found the way to my shelves. I wanted to read this book because the author is Chinese, and I was curious about Chinese sci-fi (not that I can really compare it with the “foreign” one, ha). Besides, it won a prize this year, the movie is in the works and C. is addicted to it. So… I couldn’t put it down. Totally recommended. I will start the second part of the trilogy soon (The Dark Forest), and the English translation of the third book won’t be published until April next year. Argh! If I am too impatient I might try to read it in Chinese. (First I might need a crash course on physics in Mandarin!).
My Kindle still has a lot of free space! What books would you recommend me? My to-read list currently has all the Game of Thrones, The Curse of Chalion (Autumn’s suggestion), The Secret History of the Mongols and Tiger Tail Soup.