Warnings in June 2009

I was walking out of Mackers the other day when I got a text message from an older friend saying that he was in a place just down the road with a book he thought I would like to borrow. I was hesitant for I hadn’t read a book in a while, but I thought I would give it a go. It was a hard cover copy of The Man Who Loved China by Simon Winchester, and I got into it right away. It is about Joseph Needham, the man who chronicled all of China’s inventions and it made me feel more than inadequate. For when I say that he chronicled all of China’s inventions, I mean that he did all of them with almost genius work. I was disappointed to see that the last fifty or so pages of the book were the glossary, notes, bibliography, and index. Then I got another text from another younger friend saying that he had a box of books to drop off at the office. A couple of days after finishing the Winchester masterpiece, and I was hungry for something else. I immediately got into Lords of the Rim by Sterling Seagrave. This time the book was about the whole history of overseas Chinese people. Talk about a comprehensive read. He goes back to before the Han Dynasty and tracks their movements until the present day. Then while sitting in a café reading the news on the internet, I ran into a woman from the international school, and she recognized me as being the MORE magazine guy and asked me if I had read Mark Kitto’s newly released book China Cuckoo. I hadn’t, so she said she would drop off her copy in a day or two. Now I know Mark Kitto, so this might be a bit biased, but I think that anyone and everyone who does business or even tries to live here should pick up his book.

Finally, noticing I was in a book reading mood, another friend of mine offered me his copy of The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb which is about “the impact of the highly improbable” to quote from the book’s cover. He warned me that it would be a tough read, but I thought I was up to the task. Where as I got through Mark Kitto’s book in only three sittings, it took me over three weeks to get through this one. With phrases like “idea starved autodidact” and words like “bildungsphilister” what would anyone expect? I was not up to the task, but somehow fought my way through it, and was relieved at the end to find the last sixty or so pages were the glossary, notes, bibliography, and index. And now after reading the book review in the Taxi Read section of this month’s magazine, it looks like I’m now after a copy of Paul French’s new book. What better a way to enjoy the month of June than to get to an outdoor café, and read the afternoon away.

By Tim Hoerle