Road Trip Reading

Long hours spent in the car means long hours spent reading. Here is a list of the books that the five of us read on this year’s road trip:

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Vergese

Cutting for Stone

Guadal-canal Diary, by Richard Tregaskis and Mark Bowden

Guadalcanal Diary (Modern Library War)

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Walls, Jeannette (2009) Hardcover, by Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Walls, Jeannette (2009) Hardcover

Looming Transitions: Starting and Finishing Well in Cross-Cultural Service, by Amy Young

Looming Transitions: Starting and Finishing Well in Cross-Cultural Service

Mexico Set, by Len Deighton

Mexico Set

Midnight in the Pacific: Guadalcanal–The World War II Battle That Turned the Tide of War, by Joseph Wheelan

Midnight in the Pacific: Guadalcanal--The World War II Battle That Turned the Tide of War

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrick Bachman and Henning Koch

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

On China, by Henry Kissinger

On China

Sipping Saltwater: How to find lasting satisfaction in a world of thirst, by Steve Hoppe

Sipping Saltwater: How to find lasting satisfaction in a world of thirst

The Tombs of Atuan (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 2), by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Tombs of Atuan (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 2)

We’re on the home stretch today: home in time for supper! Thanks for tagging along! I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip!

Farewell to a Great Story-teller

One of my favorite American authors, Pat Conroy, passed away on Friday. Here’s how NPR reported it:

Pat Conroy, the beloved author of The Great SantiniThe Lords of Discipline and The Prince of Tides, has died. Conroy — who announced last month that he had pancreatic cancer — died Friday night at his home among his family in Beaufort, S.C. He was 70 years old.

Pat Conroy was a master storyteller, blending the raw material of his difficult family life with the landscape of coastal South Carolina. In 1986, Conroy told me that the reason he wrote was to explain his own life to himself.

If you haven’t read his books, yet, I highly recommend them. These are my favorites:

The Prince of Tides: A Novel

The Prince of Tides: A Novel

The Water Is Wide: A Memoir

The Water Is Wide: A Memoir

Beach Music: A Novel

Beach Music: A Novel

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Reading Up on South Africa

Books: The Last Five and the Next Five

In a slight variation of the “books I read this year” type post, here are 2 lists: the last five books I read in 2015, and the first five books I intend to read in 2016.

The Last Five (starting from most recent)

Looming Transitions: Starting and finishing well in cross-cultural service, by Amy Young

Looming Transitions: Starting and finishing well in cross-cultural service

This one was written by my good friend and former teammate in China. Three years ago we were sitting in a Starbucks in Beijing talking about books that were bouncing around in our head, and I commented that I’d have to kill myself is she published hers before I published mine. Don’t worry; that’s not a promise I intend to keep. If you have, are, or will be making a transition, then this book is for you!

The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died, by Philip Jenkins

The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died

I love all things Middle East and Central Asia and Church History, and here they all are in one book!

The Little Book of the Icelanders: 50 miniature essays on the quirks and foibles of the Icelandic people, by Alda Sigmundsdottir

The Little Book of the Icelanders: 50 miniature essays on the quirks and foibles of the Icelandic people

I read this on my flight to Reykjavik earlier this month, which means I chuckled all the way. If you’re headed to Iceland for any reason, this is a fun little primer.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

What can I say? It’s a bittersweet novel set in Seattle as the Japanese were being rounded up and sent to internment camps.

China’s Urban Christians: A Light That Cannot Be Hidden (Series: Studies in Chinese Christianity), by Brent Fulton

China's Urban Christians: A Light That Cannot Be Hidden (Series: Studies in Chinese Christianity)

This was written by my colleague at ChinaSource. If you want to have your perceived notions of the church in China challenged, read this!

The Next Five

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, by Dava Sobel

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

This one just sounds so interesting!

The Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels, by Janet Soskice

The Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels

This one is in keeping with my interest in all things middle east and Central Asia! It also comes highly recommended by my brother-in-law and niece.

Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers, by Simon Winchester

Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers

With a subtitle like that, how can it be anything but a great book? Also, as a general rule, anything written by Simon Winchester is worth reading.

The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance, by David Herlihy

The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance

In 1880, a cyclist set out to ride around the world and disappeared somewhere in Turkey. Sounds like a fantastic story!

In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, by Michael Meyer

In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China

I lived in Manchuria (northeast China) for 8 years, so there’s no way I cannot read this book. Besides, the author is a fellow Minnesotan!

What are you reading these days?

Related Posts:

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My Favorite China History Books

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Road Trip Reading

Reading Up on South Africa

Iceland Reading

When I travel, especially to new places, I like to read up on the places I am visiting. Since I’m headed to Iceland today for a short visit (IcelandAir had a package deal that was too good to pass up), here’s whats on my kindle for the trip:

Iceland, Defrosted, by Edward Hancox

Iceland, Defrosted

The Little Book of the Icelanders: 50 miniature essays on the quirks and foibles of the Icelandic people, by Alda Sigmundsdottir

The Little Book of the Icelanders: 50 miniature essays on the quirks and foibles of the Icelandic people

A Girl’s Ride in Iceland, by Mrs. (Ethel) Alec-Tweedie

A Girl's Ride in Iceland

Watch this space for my own stories and photos.

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Four Days, Four Books

Road Trip Reading

Road Trip Reading

As of Friday evening, we have put 2500 miles between us and The Twin Cities. And that doesn’t include the 110-mile ferry ride we took today from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port aux Basque, Newfoundland.

You may be wondering how we keep ourselves occupied for so many hours in the car. We all like to read, so when we’re not enjoying the scenery, we usually have our noses in books.  Here’s our “road trip reading list:”

I am reading The Iambics of Newfoundland: Notes from an Unknown Shore, by Robert Finch. From the Amazon blurb:

“In these evocative sketches, stories and essays, nature writer Robert Finch explores the people, geography and wildlife of this remote but lovely corner of Canada. Beloved nature writer Robert Finch spent the greater part of a decade travelling around Newfoundland, the remote island “at the edge of America”. Between the icy cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean, the lush valleys and barren drifts, he collected intimate stories of birds, moose and foxes – and of the people who share their space. In detailed essays, he evokes a landscape of raw beauty.”

The Iambics of Newfoundland: Notes from an Unknown Shore

Next up is Standing Into Danger, by Cassie Brown. From Amazon:

“In the snowy predawn of February 18, 1942, a convoy of three American ships zigzagged up the North Atlantic toward Newfoundland, heading for one of the worst disasters in naval history. The ships were under radio silence to protect their position from the threat of German U-boats. A storm was raging, visibility was zero, and the currents had turned wildly unpredictable. With only unreliable soundings to guide them across the jagged ocean floor, all three vessels ran aground on the sheer rock coast of Newfoundland.”

Standing Into Danger

Then…The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A Novel, by Wayne Johnson. From Amazon:

“A mystery and a love story spanning five decades, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is an epic portrait of passion and ambition, set against the beautiful, brutal landscape of Newfoundland. In this widely acclaimed novel, Johnston has created two of the most memorable characters in recent fiction: Joey Smallwood, who claws his way up from poverty to become New Foundland’s first premier; and Sheilagh Fielding, who renounces her father’s wealth to become a popular columnist and writer, a gifted satirist who casts a haunting shadow on Smallwood’s life and career.”

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A Novel

My brother-in-law is reading the novel The Shipping News, by Annie Prioux. From Amazon:

“Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a “head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair…features as bunched as kissed fingertips,” is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle’s Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family’s unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives.”

The Shipping News

My sister is reading Orphan #8: A Novel, by Kim van Alkemade. From Amazon:

“In this stunning new historical novel inspired by true events, Kim van Alkemade tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before.”

Orphan #8: A Novel

And finally, my mom is working her way through The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown. From Amazon:

“For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.”

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

We all put our books down this afternoon as the ferry pulled into Port aux Basque so we could get our first glimpse of Newfoundland.

port aux basque newfoundland

port aux basque

It was a great ferry, except for the fact the air conditioner was broken and today was one of the hottest days they’ve had in these parts all summer.

A Conversation with Peter Hessler

One of my favorite China writers, Peter Hessler, recently sat down with a reporter for Xinhua, China’s official news agency, to talk about his books, as well as the joys and challenges of writing about China.

(if you receive this post by email and cannot view the video, click here.)

Hessler’s books are all worth a read:

Rivertown (2001)

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (P.S.)

Oracle Bones (2006)

Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China

Country Driving (2010)

Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip

Strange Stones (2013)

Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West

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Sailing the Mountaintops

 

 

 

 

 

Beijing – Bursting at the Seams

A couple of weeks ago, Xinhua News Agency announced that the population of Beijing was more than 21 million:

Beijing’s population reached 21.15 million at the end of last year, 2.2 percent up on 2012, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics announced Thursday.

 

Permanent residents in the Chinese capital increased by 455,000 since the end of 2012.

 

Xia Qinfang, deputy head of the bureau, declared that Beijing’s population includes 8.03 million migrants who have been in the city for over half a year.

 

Beijing’s population has been growing more slowly since 2011, Xia said.

In case you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around what that means, perhaps this video clip of a subway station at rush hour will help:

(video by Beijing Cream)

Beijing hasn’t always been this crowded, though. Consider this chart showing the population growth since 1953:

cox-beijing-f2

 (image source: New Geography)

So, when I moved to Beijing in 1998, the population was just over 12 million, and when I left it was 20 million. That explains so much!

And if you’re want to read up on my adopted hometown, here are four of my favorite books on the history and growth of Beijing:

The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed, by Michael Meyer

The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed

Beijing: From Imperial Capital to Olympic City, by Lillian M. Li, Alison Dray-Novey, and Haili Kong

Beijing: From Imperial Capital to Olympic City

 

City of Heavenly Tranquility: Beijing in the History of China, by Jasper Becker

City of Heavenly Tranquility: Beijing in the History of China

Peking Story: The Last Days of Old China (New York Review Books Classics) by Kidd, David published by NYRB Classics (2003), by David Kidd

Peking Story: The Last Days of Old China (New York Review Books Classics) by Kidd, David published by NYRB Classics (2003)

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite China History Books

xichang city gate

To wrap up my week of posts on Chinese history, here are TEN of my favorite Chinese history books:

The Boxer Rebellion: The Dramatic Story of China’s War on Foreigners that Shook the World in the Summer of 1900, by Diana Preston.

This is a riveting account of the madness that engulfed northern China at the turn of the century. 

City of Heavenly Tranquility: Beijing in the History of China, by Jasper Becker

A great overview of the history of Beijing. I found it particularly interesting to read about the city in the early days of the People’s Republic of China. 

 God’s Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong XuQuan, by Jonathan Spence

This book tells the story of Hong Xuquan, a mid-19th century drifter who becomes convinced he is Jesus’ younger brother. Convinced that God has called him to overthrow the Qing Dynasty, he launches the Taiping Rebellion, which kills 20 million people. 

The Great Wall: China Against the World, by Julia Lovell

What we know as The Great Wall is actually a series of defensive structures that were built over thousands of years. This book helps set the record straight on many mythical stories about the Great Wall. 

 Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine, by Jasper Becker

In the late 1950’s Chairman Mao The Great Leap Forward, a collectivization campaign designed to speed up industrialization. It led to a famine that killed 30 million people. This book is the story of that famine. 

Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China, by Peter HesslerThunder Out of China, by Thoodore H. White and Annalee Jacoby

Hessler uses the ancient oracle bones used for divination as a platform to explore the connections between ancient and modern China. 

Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now, by Jan Wong

Canadian-born Jan Wong went to China as a committed Communist in the 1970’s. This is her story of her journey from euphoria at participating in the revolution to disillusionment as she watched the assault on Tiananmen Square in 1989. 

The Search for Modern China, by Jonathan Spence

A good old-fashioned history book. Modern China, here, refers to the period from the 1600’s onward.

The Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History, by Joanna Waley-Cohen

This is a fascinating look at the history of China’s interaction with the outside world over the centuries. Hint — it began much earlier and was more extensive than most people think. 

Stillwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945, by Barbara Tuchman

This is a fascinating look at the American involvement in China in the first half of the 20th century. 

For a great list of NOVELS set within Chinese history, check out this list by my friend Amy, over at The Messy Middle.

What are YOUR favorite Chinese history books?