Favourite books of 2017:Staff picks

Li Shiyu China Plus Published: 2017-12-28 15:30:40
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Originally aired on December 26th, this small segment of Studio Plus was edited for the weekly literary program Ink&Quill. 

As 2017 comes to a close, it's high time we wrap up this year by talking about our favourite reads in the past twelve months. 

Therefore in this episode of Book Chat, our producer Shiyu will be joined by Ningjing and Sirui - two bookworms with their own unique understanding of literature, to discuss some of the best books they came across in 2017.

Please be aware that not all the titles listed below were published this year. They were chosen simply because they reflect the zeitgeist of our time.

Favourite books of 2017:Staff picks

Since the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster declared “feminism” its Word of the Year, why don’t we revisit Canadian writer Margret Atwood’s 1985 landmark feminist novel, The Handmaid’s Tale? Set in Gilead, a patriarchal, totalitarian society that has overthrown the US government, the regime deprives women of rights, independence and individualism, in the face of severe environmental problems and plummeting birth-rate. Those who are defined as fertile are forced to become surrogate moms for powerful men and their barren wives. Though a speculative fiction, this dystopian story provides a chilling, way-too-familiar portrayal of sexism and misogyny that many women are facing today.

Currently an associate professor at Nankai University, Xiong Peiyun is one of the most recognized columnists in China. Best known for his humanistic spirit, prudential attitude, and moderate yet penetrating insights, this multi-award winning writer has delved into the twists and turns that China has experienced in its transition period. In his latest essay collection, Mercy and Roses, Xiong dedicates his writing to those who are fighting a lone battle in the time of great uncertainties and discusses how the intrinsic capacity of an individual can overcome all the difficulties of our time.

Born into a poor farming family by the end of the 19th century, William Stoner has become a teacher in English literature at University of Missouri, a career path that deviates so much from his parents’ expectation. Yet as years go by, his life turns out to be a string of disasters, miserable failures and disappointment. An unassuming and taciturn character, Stoner is unpopular no matter dead or alive. Quiet, low-burning and utterly realistic, John Williams’ novel Stoner has received its long overdue commercial success in recent years after being overlooked for almost half a century. 

Chinese language might enjoy an "Everest-like status" to some native English speakers. Yet Swedish sinologist Cecilia Lindqvist is not afraid to tear down this formidable Great Wall. In her internationally acclaimed book, China: Empire of Living Symbols, she only introduces some two hundred Chinese characters. In this enlightening and insightful volume, those seemingly peculiar-looking, staid letters come to life and unlock those fantastic stories that they have long concealed. Approachable, detailed and beautifully written, China: Empire of Living Symbols won the August Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Sweden. Recognized by British historian Michael Wood as one of the ten best books on China, its Chinese edition was chosen in 2015 as one of the most beautifully written books of the year. 

The name Constanstinople may fail to ring a bell among many readers. From the mid-5th century to the early 13th century, it was the wealthiest and largest city in Europe and a key stronghold in the advancement of Christianity. The capital of the once mighty Byzantine Empire, it was taken by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Then it became Istanbul, a name that is still in use today. In his celebrated work, 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West, British historian Roger Crowley gives a comprehensive and impartial account of both sides of the battle. Highly approachable for any casual reader, it would definitely help you better understand the world today.

To be honest, too often, the selections of literary greatness exclude poetry, since our book editors are more into fiction and non-fiction personally. Yet  The Poetry of  Ishikawa Tabukobu touches us deeply by its simplicity and stark sincerity. Though passed away at the prime age of 26, Tabukobu has been hailed as a national poet of Japan and best remembered for his tanka, which literarily means “short poem” in Japanese. 

Favourite books of 2017:Staff picks

As the computer program AlphaGo defeated Ke Jie, the world’s number one Go player earlier this year, even the least tech-savvy individuals have to admit that technology has evolved better and faster than ever before. But what is coming next? Will AI steal our jobs? And what should we do if one day manmade machines do outsmart us? To answer all these burning questions, Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick at Wired, one of America's leading magazines on techno-culture, presents his New York Times bestseller: The Inevitable: Understanding The 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future.

Twelve-year old Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan share a passion for basketball. Their father was a former basketball pro who quit because of some health problem. Apart from basketball, the boys’ life at school is just like that of every other kid. They have secret crushes over girls and small troubles at school. The twins also learn to come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price. A 2015 Newbery Medal Winner, The Crossover was written in a unique verse style, which mixes poetry and hip-hop. A perfect holiday choice for young readers who love basketball and music, the book will be more enjoyable if you read it aloud. 

Garden roses are one of the most popular groups of flowering plants around the globe. But when and how did human start to cultivate these fragrant flowers? Then The Bible of Roses is the perfect book that you are looking for. An introduction on roses both culturally and botanically, it not only includes the realistic paintings of roses collected in the classic book Roses from the 18th century, but also explains the religious and historical meaning of roses in European culture. Many of the roses recorded in the book have already died out today. 

Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade is packed full of wit and humor about many every day topics, such as, how to use a changing room, how to appear taller, how to manage socks and how to be deep. It’s everyday stuff where you see it, you think it, but you don’t usually share it. It's the perfect book to take on a journey as it was written in short sections and would be easy to dip in and out of. 

We would also love to hear the books that delight you the most. So if you want to share your thoughts, you are always welcome to leave messages on our Facebook page: China Plus- or simply drop us an email at: inkndquill@qq.com

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