Once upon a time, in China, poem researchers visited villages to take note of their "poems, songs and feelings". They were welcomed by villagers with wine and treats, for villagers knew they were there to listen and then "turn into words the history of a people".
The American journalist Barbara Demick followed six North-Korean citizens over a period of 15 years and tells their stories in Nothing to Envy. The stories are of hardship, hunger, obedience and, ultimately, escape of probably the most closed regime in the world.
As children, we all heard stories of those mysterious times when animals could speak. And we all learned something from them. As adults, though, not so much. Pepetela's A Montanha da Água Lilás (The Mountain of the Violet Water, in English) is, to me, a fabulous fable about modern times. I would dare to say: about how mankind got to where it is today.
Hong Kong, 1995, two years before the handover to China. In The Unwalled City, Xu Xi captures real lives, dilemmas and ambiguities of Hong Kong people, set in an East meets West reality, and about to experience something that will alter their fate forever.
Have you ever wondered about that first tiny moment that led an acclaimed writer to start writing books? Hear the Wind Sing, by Haruki Murakami, feels like a special crystal ball: it allows you to go back to where the author's career began, but it also acts as a classic future-telling crystal ball, as you get to identify the preliminary traces that would later on mark the author's writing.
Funny, cynical, critical and, apparently, a faithful portrait of what is happening in modern age China. Leave me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu, by the author Murong Xuecung, reflects on the dramas of three sordid characters living in today's Chengdu, one of China's most populated city.
The Noise of Time, by Julian Barnes, is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. Powerful in telling. Powerful in writing. Powerful in truth. The book tells the story of Russian composer Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich (1906-1975) and the relation between art and power.
It is definitely one of the best books I have ever read about this part of History of China. Fortress Besieged, by Qian Zhongshu, follows the adventures and misfortunes of Fang Hung-chien, set in eve of the Sino-Japanese War.
How to Babysit a Grandma, written by Jean Reagan and illustrated by Lee Wildish, bets on a humorous role reversal to tell the oldest tale of love between two generations — that of grandparents and grandchildren.