Thursday, July 12, 2012

...the reading list gets longer...

Sometimes we read to prepare for an experience.  Sometimes we read to understand an experience.  Earlier in this blog, I posted titles that were recommended to us, and those books truly proved beneficial in framing the context of the society and culture of modern China.  Here are the links to those blog posts if you don’t want to wade through the 3 dozen other entries J.
Since that time, the reading list keeps growing and I want to highly recommend 4 books whether you have been to, are planning to go to, or are simply interested in China. 
1. Several years ago, Ben knew the Simons family, who lived in Lexington while Carolyn, a psychologist, was finishing university.  We were delighted to meet up with her and her husband, Dave on our first weekend in Beijing!  They are both now retired, and were visiting their son, Craig, his wife, Jen Lin Liu and their beautiful baby daughter. Craig and Jen are both authors and we were glad to chat with them for a few minutes in their apartment.  Then, we meandered through the nearby hutong to a cooking school owned by Jen.  The school’s head chef cheerfully allowed us to step inside the restaurant/kitchen which is designed for small dinner parties and classes.  Jen’s book, Serve the People, provides unique insight into the cuisine of China, the culture of cooking throughout the regions, and the pages are seasoned with simple, authentic recipes. 
Jen Lin Liu's book, Serve the People, is a very interesting read about Chinese cuisine.
The chef at the cooking school Jen owns and operates in a trendy Beijing hutong.

Dave & Carolyn treated us to lunch
at a Vietnamese restaurant.
En rte to the cooking school.

2. & 3. We learned that Craig Simons was part of the team of Peace Corps volunteers who taught in southern Chinese schools with Peter Hessler, another well-known author.  One rather rainy afternoon, we took the subway to the embassy area of Beijing where we found a well-known ex-pat bookstore, The Book Worm.  We enjoyed coffee, wifi, and purchased Peter’s book, River Town, which we intended to read on the trains & planes during our trip back to KY.  We are currently reading a 2nd book written by Peter Hessler, Oracle Bones.
4. Upon our arrival at Kelly’s Courtyard Hotel in Beijing, we ate breakfast with a German couple who loaned us the book, China Road, by Rob Gifford.  This well written account chronicles the author’s experiences travelling across the China equivalent of Rte. 66.  Here, Ben is reading a few chapters in the courtyard while our room was being prepared. 

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

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