NEW ASIA BOOK--HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Jan 27th, 2010, 01:42 PM
  #1  
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NEW ASIA BOOK--HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Just finished this fascinating new boof and give it my highest recommendation:




http://www.amazon.com/Nothing-Envy-O.../dp/0385523904
ekscrunchy is online now  
Jan 27th, 2010, 01:59 PM
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What a great opportunity -- thanks. This boof is now on my list.

The only 'glimpse' I have ever had into life in North Korea came from the documentary, "A State of Mind,"that follows two young gymnasts who are training for the Mass Games.

What are you reading next?
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Jan 28th, 2010, 02:40 AM
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Marya: I just finished another excellent book about Zimbabwe, written by the son of white farmers who, remarkably, still remain on their land in the NE of the Country around Mutare. (Similar area, I think, to the family in MUKIWA and A CROCODILE EATS THE SUN)

Here is the book; lots of humor interspersed with the horrifying tale; recommended.


http://www.amazon.com/Last-Resort-Me...4678582&sr=1-1


Here is a review of the North Korea book I mentioned, along with reviews of two other new ones about that country.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/books/27book.html

I just re-read, FINDING GEORGE ORWELL IN BURMA. Very good!

I need some tips for books to take on the Pandaw cruise; I want to bring about 10 books (2 week cruise) and leave them there when I am done.
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Jan 28th, 2010, 02:58 AM
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Can't you just see the OP scattering boofs hither and yon in homage to Hansel and Gretel?
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Jan 28th, 2010, 08:02 AM
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How odd - that's the (library) boof I'm reading right now!

Also just bought "In the Footsteps of Marco Polo" which looks good. http://www.amazon.com/Footsteps-Marc.../dp/0742556832
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Jan 28th, 2010, 11:42 AM
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If LAST RESORT is even close to as absorbing as WHEN A CROCODILE EATS THE SUN, then I am very eager to get hold of a copy.

As far as reccos for the cruise/EKS Floating Library, I assume that you want titles that are available in paperback so that they will be light to pack and easy to leave behind. What other specifications -- should no one title be a great big brick of a book or does that matter? Are you looking for Asian-themed reads or something else or a mix? Both fiction and nonfiction?

Much of what I have read recently probably goes on the "Don't Bother" list, but I may have some ideas.

thursdaysd -- I have one of the other Marco Polo books sitting on my pile -- MARCO POLO: FROM VENICE TO XANADU.
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Jan 28th, 2010, 11:46 AM
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eks, I have a whole list of Burma books I bought and read before my trip to Burma. (It's posted as Kathie's Burma Bookshelf) I should also add to it the additional books I've found since. There is so much excellent literature abaout Burma!
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Jan 28th, 2010, 11:55 AM
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Marya: Maybe not quite as good as Crocodile but also less sad. Still very, very good. I would almost say essential.

Yes, I need to take paperbacks and would prefer Asia themes for the Eks Floating Library, but will consider anything. Nothing to difficult to read or scholarly. But no junk. I like memoirs. The boof I mentioned in the OP, and the Godwin books and the Last Resort are just my style.

Hopefully, people will be willing to swap and will have books (in English) on the cruise. I don't care if the books are long. Do not particularly like short stories. I like true crime, too. When the book combines true crime and a faraway destination--bingo!! (Think White Mischief)

Kathie: Your list is terrific! I referred to it and have order a couple of books to take along. I think that I can buy some inexpensive paperbacks in Rangoon, right? (Maybe not too many of the books about Burma, though--correct?)
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Jan 28th, 2010, 01:07 PM
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eks: have you read "Ultimate Journey" by Richard Bernstein? Memoir and travelog.
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Jan 28th, 2010, 03:19 PM
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I didn't see inexpensive paperbacks in Rangoon, but I didn't go to a bookstore. We bought a couple of books about Burma when we were there... one on some Bagan Temples and one of historic photos of Burma. I have heard others say they found some good books on Burma in bookstores in Rangoon.
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Jan 28th, 2010, 03:37 PM
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Have any of you read "Burmese Nights" by George Orwell? He was a British police officer of some sort in Burma. How he arrived at "1984" I don't know.
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Jan 28th, 2010, 03:38 PM
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What is a "boof"?
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Jan 28th, 2010, 05:05 PM
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Indianpearl- a boof is a book. This stems from a thread that I started a while back with the misspelled title of a Boof Report. Somehow, the word has taken on a life of its own and perseveres over time. I suspect that it has something to do with how goofy the word boof sounds as opposed to the seriousness of books. Feel free to adopt it as your own. The OP has.
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Jan 28th, 2010, 05:06 PM
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old in-joke among Fodor's friends. Means book. Sometimes these posts need translators.
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Jan 28th, 2010, 05:28 PM
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Indianapearl:

“Boof” is Fodorspeak for book. There are regional dialects even in cyberspace, I guess.

Ekscrunchy:

Coming up with Asian-themed memoirs that you have not already read is rather a tall order, I’m afraid, since you obviously have a voracious appetite for books. Kathie and Craig and others have provided a great list for Burma -- I have been taking notes.

As to China fare, I think that you have rounded up and read all the usual native-born and ex-pat suspects such as Jung Chang (especially WILD SWANS), Nien Cheng (LIFE AND DEATH IN SHANGHAI), Peter Hessler, et al.

You probably know Ha Jin's work.

All true so far?

Since you enjoy memoirs, let me relentlessly plug two of my favorite recent reads about China even though we discussed them awhile back because you may have missed them: John Pomfret's CHINESE LESSONS and Michael Meyer's LAST DAYS IN OLD BEIJING.

Lisa See's books are extremely light fare but shed light on interesting aspects of Chinese culture such as "secret women's writing" and opera. SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN, ON GOLD MOUNTAIN (Chinese-American setting in California), and PEONY IN LOVE appealed to me more than SHANGHAI GIRLS. See’s books are ultra-light vacation reads.

There are better reccos than I can provide on SEA, Japan etc., elsewhere on this board, so moving farther afield...

AFTER YOU, MARCO POLO by Jean Bowie Schor is very dated (mid twentieth century) but highly enjoyable. Like Rory Stewart (THE PLACES IN BETWEEN) and Helen Thayer (WALKING THE GOBI), she was an intrepid spirit whose adventures (in remote places like Afghanistan) might charm you.

I tend to like books whose narrative traces an up- or down-river journey. Edward Gargan's THE RIVER'S TALE: A YEAR ON THE MEKONG and Simon Winchester's THE RIVER AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD come happily to mind, as well as something by a fellow named Dogster. Perhaps you can write your own after your Pandaw experience!

A few years ago, I delighted in reading Jill Kerr Conway's three-volumes -- THE ROAD FROM COORAIN, TRUE NORTH & A WOMAN'S EDUCATION -- so if you are in the mood for the memoirs of a strong Australian woman educator who relocated to the USA where she led a respected women's college (Smith), you might enjoy her work. I suspect that you have read her already though.

You are interested in Africa so I'll ask if you know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's work. Her HALF OF A YELLOW SUN is a novel that brings to life the Biafran independence movement of the late 1960s and teaches something about Nigerian life and politics. Other African titles that would appeal to a memoir lover include KAFFIR BOY by Mark Mathabane and DON'T LET'S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT: AN AFRICAN CHILDHOOD, by Alexandra Fuller. Oh, and did you ever read Bryce Courtenay's THE POWER OF ONE (set in South Africa in the early to mid twentieth century)?

Moving to northern Africa, have you ever dipped into Naguib Mahfouz's CAIRO TRILOGY (PALACE WALK, PALACE OF DESIRE & SUGAR STREET)? It requires a big investment of time but is very worthwhile.

OK, I have gotten so far afield of Asian memoirs, that I am going to take complete license here.

A deceptively simple yet powerful story arising out of America’s tortured heartland can be found in Kent Haruf's PLAINSONG. It is a bittersweet story about people who have been terribly bruised by family and an insensitive culture but who struggle to build community one relationship at a time. Very moving. I heard about it years after its publication simply because it was reported to be on Obama’s 2009 summer reading list.

You may want some perspective on wild, untamed America while you sit gazing out upon Burmese riverbanks. Some wonderful recent books about “home” available in paperback include Al Gore’s splendid THE ASSAULT ON REASON, Paul Krugman’s THE CONSCIENCE OF A LIBERAL, and Gillian Tett’s FOOL’S GOLD: HOW THE BOLD DREAM OF A SMALL TRIBE AT J P MORGAN WAS CORRUPTED BY WALL STREET GREED AND UNLEASHED A CATASTROPHE. All are very accessible to the lay audience, includimg an audience member on holiday.

Gore, I think, reads better than he comes across on television and his argument is key to understanding so much of what is wrong in our culture. To me, this is a brilliant book. One knows how well Krugman – another hero -- writes for non-economists (i.e., most of us) from his (and here’s my bias) magnificent “New York Times” columns. You probably know Tett as the global financial markets writer for the London “Financial Times” -- the British version of her book curiously has a different subtitle that doesn’t invoke JPM. If you are already understand the financial derivatives market and are easily conversant with terminology like ‘collateralized debt obligation’ and ‘super-senior risk,’ then you don’t need Tett, but I certainly did.

The above is all so grim that I am going to close by heading straight to Paris and the French countryside because that is what so many Americans with stress and heartbreak do, no? (Plus, you recently posted on Paris.) First of all, make certain that you haven’t missed SUITE FRANCAISE by the tragically killed Irene Nemirovsky. (I am betting a great deal on your having read it though.) If you didn’t catch THE PIANO SHOP ON THE LEFT BANK: DISCOVERING A FORGOTTEN PASSION IN A PARIS ATELIER when it came out in 2001, you may like to look it up. It is a delight for anyone who loves Paris and classical music. I suspect that its quiet charms would appeal to you. If you are at all curious about why Muriel Barbery’s THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG was such a ‘succes fou’ in Paris, have a look. It is not great literature, but it provides some very stimulating insight into both archetypally Parisian philosophic habits of mind and the cultural turmoil roiling just barely beneath the surface of that glorious city.
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Jan 28th, 2010, 05:47 PM
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"First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers" by Loung Ung

This book will probably make you cry, but it was really good.
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Jan 29th, 2010, 03:23 AM
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Thursday: I have not read ULTIMATE JOURNEY and will check it out today.

I have a copy of BURMESE DAYS by Orwell to take along. Supposedly, many Burmese believe that his trilogy--BURMESE DAYS, ANIMAL FARM, 1984--tells the story of modern Burma.

Marya: Yes. Like HA Jin very much. I bought WILD SWANS before going to China and could not really get into it, but I do have it here and if you recommend, will look at it again. Have read CHINESE LESSONS on your recomMendation, I think, but have noT read LIFE AND DEATH IN OLD SHANGHAI OR LAST DAYS IN OLD BEIJING.

I LOVE books that follow rivers. Speaking of Africa, there are two about foreigners traveling up the river from Kinshasa. I loved EAST ALONG THE EQUATOR by Helen Winternitz and there is another one I have to look up for you. Rory Nugent also wrote one about Zaire..

Love those Alexandra Fuller books. Do you know she now lives in Wyoming?

I have to eat now and will come back to reread and absorb all the great info here..many thanks to all who responded!
ekscrunchy is online now  
Jan 29th, 2010, 04:03 AM
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Another river book: "River Town - Two Years on the Yangtze" by Peter Hessler.
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Jan 29th, 2010, 05:18 AM
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I agree that Jung Chang's writing style in WILD SWANS can be off-putting. The book is sometimes overwritten, sometimes repetitious. I am a huge fan of the device of using three generations of women in one family in China as a way of telling the story of tumultuous cultural change though. The grandmother was a warlord's concubine with bound feet, the mother was a relatively privileged Maoist, and the daughter/author was the first person from the PRC to go to the UK (1978) and earn a doctorate (in the very early 1980s). Pretty dramatically effective scaffolding on which to hang a big story. You might want to give it another try.

Nien Chang's book is a wonderful choice for a memoir lover. She was a British-educated (LSE) privileged citizen of Shanghai and widow of a Shell Oil executive who was serving as an advisor to Shell when the Communists consolidated power. You can imagine how someone with her class background might have been treated by the Red Guard... This is a book about which you can use the terms "riveting" and "harrowing" with great confidence. Her story is a very painful one but gives you tremendous insight into the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution and tremendous respect for her. She finished out her life in Washington, D.C., and just died a year or so ago. Highly recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Life-Death-Sha...4773656&sr=1-1

Thursdaysd's suggestion of Peter Hessler's RIVER TOWN is a superb one. His account of teaching English for a couple of years in the mid-to-late 90's in Fuling will get you way off the conventional tourist track. You probably know Hessler as a gifted "New Yorker" writer. His wife, Leslie Chang, wrote FACTORY GIRLS about the migration from villages to city in contemporary China, otherwise known as the "greatest migration in human history."

Meyer's LAST DAYS IN OLD BEIJING is another good choice for a lover of memoir. It also catches China at a time of transition. You really feel that you are living in the hutong along with fellow westerner,Meyer, so if you are at all intrigued by what is left of those old communities in ever-modernizing Beijing, have a look.
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Jan 29th, 2010, 12:55 PM
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Marya: Many, many thanks! I will put both the Meyer and the Nien Chang book on my list.
I have read Peter Hessler's China books and liked them immensely. And FACTORY GIRLS was quite good, too.

Please continue to post your ideas...I am now off to Amazon!

Oh--forgot about CHINA ROAD--very, very good. Maybe I've already mentioned this one....


http://www.amazon.com/China-Road-Jou...4802087&sr=1-1
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