The 5+1 Book List from Zhu in 2018

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I love reading. For me, education has two ways: socialisation and reading. I read books every day before I sleep, regardless rain or shine. When I am busy, I read one page or one paragraph. When I have ample time, I read by chapters.

I am sharing the selected 5+1 books I have read in 2018 to help you expand your reading list. May my audience stand on the shoulder of the greats, for a deeper and broader world.

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  1. 1. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

Many may linger their impression of Truman Capote on Tiffany’s Breakfast. After all, this is his most commercially viable piece, which has also gained fame with the film Audrey Hepburn played. Nevertheless, the best work of Capote in the writing world should be In Cold Blood.

In Cold Blood was first published in 1966, as the yearlong play of a real case murder. In the 50s, a pair of murderers had brutally killed a family in a small town in Kansas. The case had become a huge national news. Countless detectives and writers chased the case to the town to try to figure out any fingerprints the criminals had left. Nobody found any trace of the murderers. When everyone was in despair of losing any possible indication of who and where were the killers, they were eventually arrested at where they committed the crime.

I finished In Cold Blood when I was in Esfahan, Iran visiting Sahand. Capote’s pen has been powerful like the hanging knife falling sharp onto the ground. His description of the plots before the murderers started the move and the social environment during their action have been seamless and flowing, as if I were a part of the crime or even being killed. After finishing the book, I couldn’t dare to sleep in the big house of Sahand’s grandma, as if I could see tragedy fallen on me as well. I moved to live with his family and felt peace eventually.

To capture the case, Capote visited Holcomb, Kansas, before the murderers were captured. He eye witnessed the unfolding of the case after the murder. Capote also interviewed many neighbours that were involved with the case, which included the murderers themselves. Despite the final count has been suspected inaccuracy to make the story flow, his story has endowed the killers sympathy. Capote’s own journey has also been made into a film. In regards to crime, it cannot be simplified or sentenced into a black and white situation in many cases, but people are indeed killed.

The murdered family was an exemplary group respected by everyone in their town. They fought hard for their wealth and lived a comfortable life. After their tragic death, neighbours signed, “If such nice people can be killed brutally like this, what are we striving for in this world? It makes us feel what we have earned so hard in life can all evaporate in one day like this.”

Cr: @Goodread

2. Travel with Charlie – In Search of America, John Steinbeck 

Similarly, many may associate Steinbeck solely with his best work during the Great Depression: Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice And Man, whereas Travel with Charlie is also one of his most acclaimed works.

Steinbeck wrote Travel with Charlie when he already gained world-wide reputation in the later age of his life. Similar to how The Old Man and the Sea was written by Hemingway when he was old, Travel with Charlie was crafted in a more slow-cooked temperament and less the sharpness of criticism.

In this journey, Steinbeck brought his pal dog Charlie, rented a car, and started his blogging through the US continent. Steinbeck could have been the travel influencer of year 60s, but the only difference was that he gained a Nobel by his “blogging”. Through this journey, the New Yorker Steinbeck saw a vase America and noted down his pondering over the definition of America, which is still extremely relevant today. I am recommending to the audience that wants to know more about America, since sometimes its own citizens may not know enough.

Cr: @Pinterest

3. Founders at Work – Jessica Livingston

The book is a long book, but I am truly a big fan. I have bought 3 more of the books as gift for my cofounder, boyfriend, and best friend. It is an Amazon 5-starred book.

The reason I love the book lies in the raw emotions and stories of entrepreneurs, who are now CEOs and millionaires of big tech companies, at the beginning of our digital age. These true stories are much different from the later legends we are familiar with; however, these stories are the real ordinary case of starting something. There is never from rag to rich in one night over nothing – what’s behind is years of menial work put into an abyss-like project.

For example, when Hotmail just started, the founders debated largely over if they could use “Sent by Hotmail” at the end of each email sent through the platform. Today, such practice is normal; just think about every email sent by iPhone will have a “Sent by iPhone” at the end. At the time, doing so could incur big consequence of encroaching the privacy of others or being considered as unwanted advertisements. Hotmail could have died from a simple decision. In the end, the founders decided to go with the risk and prompted suffix. This gave Hotmail a wild fire growth.

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Many things we considered normal today took a big bucket of sweats of some entrepreneurs a while back. This is the real case of Founders At Work.

Cr: @Readooze

4. Therese Raquin – Emile Zola 

Therese Raquin is the first celebrated work of the French literature heavyweight Emile Zola. It told a murder story stemmed from an affair.

Zola’s life has seen enough ups and downs. His wife also had an inspiring life. I will talk about their stories in the later article.

Therese Raquin is celebrated for its dense essence consolidated in one short book. Zola’s book explored the depth of physiological transition of people. Through Therese Raquin, he illustrated the mighty details of the emotions of the murderers and ways these emotions influenced the physics of the people involved. Despite the writing can be a bit excessive, not as haunting as Edgar Allen Poe, the book has shown a good part of Zola’s excellency.

I finished the book as a part of my French class. My mind continued to wander in the class as we read and as I thought of many. things I could refer to in the society. It is a small book that can be finished in a few days, for Zola’s fans.

Cr: @Things In Me

5. 7 Years in Tibet – Heinrich Harrer

The book told the story of mountaineer Heinrich Harrer at the end of World War II of his accidental journey in Tibet, which was at the end of its last governance and into the hand of the new Chinese communist rule.

The book illustrated a pristine and rural Tibet before its modernisation. The author’s story with the young Dalai Lama has been celebrated in the world for the friendship. 

While Tibet’s case has different perspectives, the book is an interesting record of what has happened last century. Recommend to the culture lover. For interested audience, you can also watch some scenes from Brad Pitt’s 7 Years in Tibet, which can help you visualise an untouched Tibet, stripped of its old and cruel religious ceremonies that killed many commoners. (The current Chinese government banned many cruel religious practices, such as taking skulls of the people or children to be used in religious practice, which were rampant in the prior Tibet world).

Cr: @Pinterest

6. From the Seine to Firenze (Fr) – Huang Yong Yu 

The extra book is for my readers that have French or Chinese capability. I tried to find the book in English, but it does not seem to have one. The book is originally written in Chinese. There is a French version Carnet d’Un Peintre Chinois: De Seine a Firenze.

Huang Yong Yu, an older writer and one of the most celebrated writers and painters of the Chinese art world, is not commonly known to the young people. Before reading the book (in Chinese), I did not know him. The book is beautifully penned. His expedition through Paris to Florence called forth much memory of mines, as if I was a part of his painting brushes going around the Parisian green river and Italian orange roofs with him. The book is short but filled with the vibrance observed by an Eastern painter in his journey painting landscapes in Europe.

From later research, I also learned that Huang Yong Yu loves luxury cars and always exclaims that “I am a young man!” at his age. He is currently in his 90’s. Young at heart, Huang Yong Yu writes and paints things that are fun. Accompanied by his wife from their 20’s, the writer presented us a world from the pure eye of a child.

How many people can turn life into something fun like him?

Cr: @Amazon

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