Year of the Dragon

Readings that explore China in an era of change.



Out of Mao's Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China

By Philip P. Pan


Pan, former Beijing Bureau chief for the Washington Post, looks beneath China's flourishing economy to examine the dark underside of its growing wealth. Published two months before the 2008 Summer Olympics, the harrowing account debunks popular myths about China in the 21st century. From the unmarked graves  in Chongqing housing the dead of the Cultural Revolution to the funeral of a politician who supported the Tiananmen protesters, Pan visits the places that the Chinese government would rather forget and finds a country simultaneously defined by and at odds with its past.



China in Ten Words

By Yu Hua


A "tiny lexicon" that seeks to capture the entirety of China in ten phrases, Yu Hua's first work of nonfiction to be translated in English is revelatory  (he is also the author of the exuberant, bestselling novel  Brothers). "Disparity" addresses China's income inequality, a threat to the "harmonious society" the country's leaders boast of. In "Bamboozle," he casts light on the rampant forgery, fraud, and chicanery that are becoming endemic as both rich and poor are motivated to ignore the law. And a century of sloganeering, propaganda, and censorship lend special meaning to "Grassroots," "Leader," and "Revolution."



No Enemies, No Hatred

By Liu Xiaobo


As Liu Xiaobo was announced as the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, the writer languished in Jinzhou Prison, serving an eleven-year sentence for "incitement to subvert state power." The title of this collection of essays and poems is taken from his saint-like plea for mercy -- included here --  toward those who interrogated, indicted, and imprisoned him. Whether addressing peasant land disputes or internet censorship, Liu serenely calls on common sense and decency, and asks us to appreciated freedoms too easily taken for granted. Keep an eye out for his collection of poems, June Fourth Elegies, arriving  in April.



Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

By Jung Chang


Jung Chang examines three generations of women in China -- her grandmother, her mother, and herself -- and documents the staggering change the country has undergone over the course of their three lives. Her grandmother had been a warlord's concubine with bound feet; Chang's mother became a loyal Communist, only to run afoul of  the Cultural Revolution. And Chang herself became a member of the Red Guard that wreaked havoc during that period, before fleeing the country in 1978.  The author translates her family history of suffering and endurance into a panoramic, irresistible story.




By Ha Jin


This National Book Award-winning novel follows a young doctor, Lin Kong, as he tries desperately to secure a divorce from the wife chosen for him by his parents, so that he can marry the woman he loves. But the burdens of obligation to family and the onus placed on adultery by the Party force him to hang suspended in a state of purgatorial stasis, unable to love, unable to let go. Ha Jin crafts a gorgeous allegory about Party ideology, Chinese culture, and the toll both exact from the human spirit.

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.