Reading the world, one country at a time

JISHOU, HUNAN — Now here’s an idea I wish I had had: choose a book from each of the world’s nations (plus a few extra locations), read it, and write a short review. That’s what Ann Morgan of the UK just finished doing. Since she is literate only in English, French and German, Morgan asked help from readers of her blog to find English translations. One contributor even wrote a book for her blog, to fulfill the mission. I wish I had that kind of time, to just sit and read. Color me green with envy. The Atlantic has an interview with Morgan, and here is a Public Radio International report. I was curious to see which books she read from countries I’ve lived in, or have an interest in. So, here’s what I found. From China, she read Banished!, by Han Dong, rather than a work by Nobel Prizewinner Yan Mo. Han’s novel is about the Tao family, who are forced to leave Nanjing during the Cultural Revolution. As for Yan, I’d recommend Red Sorghum, his first novel, which was also turned into a film. But I have to confess, I have only seen the movie version as yet. ...

One for you bibliophiles, and English teachers, too

JISHOU, HUNAN — My quietest oral English class surprised me last Thursday. They went totally ga-ga over the paperback novels I brought into class. And I fell in love. I had a shelf full of used paperbacks I and my friend Janice have picked up at thrift stores. Looking at them, I figured it was high time to hand a few out, because they were gathering dust sitting in my office. So I picked four that I thought would be appropriate in terms of reading level, and brought them to my sophomore oral English class. This is the all-girl class: 40 English education majors who as a group are the quietest English majors I have had so far. (There are signs of this situation changing, however.) So, I walked into class and plunked the books down on the lectern. Since we are having an in-class English speech contest soon, the students thought the books were the prizes. I said, no, I just brought these in to share with some of you. Pandemonium. Hands flew into the air. Some girls got out of their seats advancing toward the lectern, still with their hands in the air. I had a brief feeling ...
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